PROTESTANT REFORMATION

“So deeply rooted in our hearts is unbelief, so prone are we to it, that while all confess with the lips that God is faithful, no man ever believes it without an arduous struggle.”

                                                                                                John Calvin

“For what is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”

                                                                                                Martin Luther

“If there is any sense remaining of Christian civilization in the West, this man Luther in no small measure deserves the credit.”

                                                                                                Roland Bainton

 

GOD, WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING? AN HONEST CONVERSATION

Excerpt from my forthcoming book:

Pascal had much to say about diversions in his classic book, Pensées.  Pascal wrote how diversions can be greatly multiplied if you are wealthy.  More money equals more things to get distracted by.  This is still true today, but there are plenty of things all of us Americans, irrespective of income, can get diverted by.  For example, most of us have computers which can transport us to all kinds of worlds which then can keep us from thinking about the most important matters of life.  We may not feel very rich, but from a global or historical vantage point we are fabulously well off.  Most of us take things like air conditioning, quality water, and consistent electricity for granted.  As Bill Ball told a Sunday school class I was teaching, “Kings of the past would have been thrilled by owning a used Vega car and having unlimited access to petrochemicals.” 

THE ART OF IMPERIOUS IGNORANCE

D.A. Carson in Themelios, April 2017:

The words are in quotation marks because they are borrowed from Mike Ovey’s column in a recent issue of Themelios.

This is the stance that insists that all the relevant biblical passages on a stated subject are exegetically confusing and unclear, and therefore we cannot know (hence “imperious”) the mind of God on that subject.

The historical example that Ovey adduces is the decision of a church Council during the patristic period whose decisions have mostly been forgotten by non-specialists. At a time of great controversy over Christology—specifically, over the deity of Christ—the Council of Sirmium (357), which sided with the pro-Arians, pronounced a prohibition against using terms like homoousios (signaling “one and the same substance”) and homoiousios (signaling “of a similar substance”). In other words, Sirmium prohibited using the technical terms espoused by both sides, on the ground that the issues are so difficult and the evidence so obscure that we cannot know the truth.

Sirmium even adduced a biblical proof-text: “Who shall declare his generation?” they asked: i.e., it is all too mysterious. Nevertheless, the orthodox fathers Hilary of Poitiers and Athanasius of Alexandria assessed the stance of Sirmium as worse than error: it was, they said, blasphemy. They decried the element of compulsion in Sirmium’s decree, and insisted that it was absurd: how is it possible to legislate the knowledge of other people? But the blasphemous element surfaces in the fact that the decree tries to put an end to the confession of true propositions (e.g., the eternal generation of the Son).

Practically speaking, the claim of dogmatic ignorance, ostensibly arising from Scripture’s lack of clarity, criticizes Scripture while allowing people to adopt the positions they want. This art of imperious ignorance is not unknown or unpracticed today. 

OUR DEEPEST DESIRES: INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR

 

Image result for Our deepest desires ganssle

 

I met Greg Ganssle thirty-seven years ago. I was a senior in college and Greg was a young Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU) staff member. We were on the North Myrtle Beach summer project. Greg was the kind and patient (!) discipler for eight of us guys.

Greg has a long-standing interest in philosophy so he eventually got his PhD from Syracuse. He teaches at Talbot School of Theology. Greg writes both scholarly and popular books. His latest, Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations frames this interview.

Moore: Is your goal in this book to demonstrate that the Christian claims are true, or have you staked out different territory?

Ganssle: David, I am not trying to show that Christianity is true. I think most people think something like the following: “I am pretty sure Christianity is false, and I am glad.” I am trying to get at the second part of the claim. I want people to see that, if they think about what they care most about, they will see that they want the Christian story to be true.

Moore: It is all too rare to find Christians who do a good job of shrewdly sneaking up on you with their creative and clever arguments. For me, the writings of Augustine, Pascal, Newbigin, Chesterton, and Lewis are examples worth following. Tim Keller is a good modern-day example, but he is always invoked in this regard, which makes me believe the landscape of the “creative and clever” is far from glutted. Why is there a dearth of this kind of approach to Christian persuasion?

Ganssle: This is a good question. I think many times we speak and write as if the most important thing is convincing someone of the truth of our position. Thus, we tend to focus on arguments and evidence. What we often fail to see is that people are often not persuaded by our presentations. We don’t pay enough attention to identifying the things that constitute a person’s real objections to the gospel.

Moore: I’m sure you know some happy non-Christians. They have meaningful work, good relationships, and are content. My next-door neighbor is like this. How does your book help us address folks like those?

Ganssle: I make the distinction between local meaning and global meaning. On an atheistic view of reality, there is no global meaning. The universe does not care if you are fulfilled. The fact that there is no global meaning, however, does not mean that the atheist cannot find local meaning. Many of our family or friends find real meaning in the people they love, the work they do, and the things they care about. 

Moore: Let’s assume the trinity is the correct view of God. Do Christians have an advantage over Jews and Muslims in articulating the beauty and coherence of what they believe?

Ganssle: I do discuss this in the book. One advantage is that on the distinctly Christian picture of God, relationships are part of God’s very nature. God is his own community, so to speak. The fact that our relationships are so fundamental to our lives, then, makes sense. It reflects one aspect of the deepest reality.

Moore: You have some wonderful things to say about goodness and beauty. Why does it seem that many are not so interested in such things. And to be frank, beauty is not high on the list of many so-called Evangelical Christians in America. Why the lack of interest?

Ganssle: There is a long historical answer to this question. With the rise of the Enlightenment, the discussion about God has centered on truth. Believers have entered this conversation and aimed to articulate a compelling case for the truth of Christianity. In the middle ages, truth was linked to goodness and beauty as the “transcendentals.” These were grounded in the very nature of God. I think believers today are recovering a thicker vision of both goodness and beauty, and this trend will solidify our witness to unbelievers as well as our own delight in God and the world he has made.

Moore: What are a few things you would like your readers to take away from your book?

Ganssle: For those who are not yet believers, I would hope they would be prompted to think deeply on their deepest desires and how the Christian story provides a solid base for these. For those who are believers, I hope they gain a deeper appreciation of their own faith. In addition, I hope they become more adept at holding forth the gospel as a vision of life that is intrinsically attractive.

 

THOUGHTS ON THINKING

Think wisely.  There is much to know in a thousand plus worthy subjects.  Make your primary pursuit Scripture.  After that, you will have to choose wisely where your efforts go in what you study.  Yes, all truth is God’s, but that does not mean it is equally valuable.

Think deeply. For subjects worth studying, push yourself.  Most of us can go deeper than we realize.

Think in community.  We all need others.  We need their perspective and to hear how they process important truths.

But never forget that all this thinking well is pointless if it does not motivate us to love God and others more.