True for You, But Not for Me?

Here’s how N. T. Wright, in his book Simply Christian, deals with the “It’s true for you, but not for me” dismissal of the Christian faith:

Saying “It’s true for you” sounds fine and tolerant. But it only works because it’s twisting the word “true” to mean, not “a true revelation of the way things are in the real world,” but “something that is genuinely happening inside you.” In fact, saying “It’s true for you” in this sense is more or less equivalent to saying “It’s not true for you,” because the “it” in question – the spiritual sense or awareness or experience – is conveying, very powerfully, a message (that there is a loving God) which the challenger is reducing to something else (that you have strong feelings which you misinterpret in that sense).

Religion and Science

Sometimes people ask if religion and science are opposed to each other. They are – in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hand are opposed to each other. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.

— William Henry Bragg, British physicist who with his son won the Nobel Prize for physics for their work in X-ray crystallography

A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.

— Albert Einstein

(Quotes taken from John Blanchard’s Has Science Got Rid of God?)

The Need for Apologetics

words deceiving

world dissolving

wicked acid rain

 

buildings crumbling

bridges falling

badly bleeding brain

 

vision fading

darkness growing

dim the Holy Sun

 

Christ is weeping

turning leaving

faith is on the run

 

numbness spreading

night expanding

feet on sinking sand

 

storm is raging

waves are rising

where is safe dry land

This article was written in springnote.

Discipling the Christian Mind

(Notes on a talk for the August 25, 2009 Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship summer camp at Humayan, Bago City, Negros Occidental, Philippines)

I.DEFINITION AND EXPOSITION

Discipling the Christian mind is simply disciplining and developing our mental powers, much in the same way you develop your body’s muscles, for the glory of God and for the sake of Christ (Matt. 22: 37; I Cor. 1:30, 2:16; Phil. 2:5). It involves developing our reasoning powers in the power of the Spirit so as to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong (Heb. 5:14), as well as to overcome opposing arguments (II. Cor. 10: 4, 5). It involves growth in spiritual wisdom (Prov. 4:7; Eph. 4: 17ff.; Jas. 1:5; Ps. 119:99), as well as the accumulation of useful knowledge.

II. EXPLANATION: WHY DISCIPLE THE MIND?

A) For our own benefit (Rom. 12:2; II Pet. 2:3, 4). Knowledge of God, of his ways, his character, his truth and promises, plays a major role in our spiritual regeneration and transformation.

B) For the benefit of fellow believers (II Tim. 3:15-17; I Tim. 4: 6).

C) For the benefit of non-believers (II Tim. 2:24; I Pet. 3:15; Jude 3).

III. QUOTATIONS

A) Charles Malik: “[The] greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity [Note: applicable to Filipino evangelicals] is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. But intellectual nurture cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and spirit. People who are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the gospel have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking… For the sake of greater effectiveness in witnessing to Jesus Christ Himself, as well as for their own sakes, evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence.”

B) J. Gresham Machen: “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the receception of the gospel. We may preach with the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.”

C) C.S. Lewis: “The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to a road, and it may be the appointed road for us… [A] cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now – not to be able to mee the enemies on their own ground – would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered… The learned life then is, for some, a duty.”

D) The Apostle Paul: “Do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature.” (1 Cor. 14:20)

E) Nicholas Wolterstorff: “The church needs scholars to assist her in the task of seeing precisely how the biblical vision applies to our present social realities and to assist her in the task of interpreting this social reality of ours.”

F) St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may be known: that is vanity. Others seek knowledge in order to sell it: that is dishonorable. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others: that is love.”

IV. PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS:

A) Daily Bible reading, Scripture memorization and meditation (Ps. 1:1-3; 119: 9,11)

B) Reading the great books, the classics (both secular and sacred) (Ecc. 12:11). We learn a lot from reading. We save time too, because then we stand on the shoulders of giants. Also the benefit of contact with great minds: “Iron sharpens iron.”

God, Man and Morals

Just a couple of chapters more and I’ll be through with Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy. I’m now in chapter 2 of the 3rd Book in the Trilogy, He is There and He is Not Silent, where Schaeffer describes man’s dilemma: man is noble and he is also cruel. How do you account for both his nobility and cruelty? But before we can answer that we have to reckon with the fact that man is finite and personal; that’s a given. But how did he begin, i.e., how did he come to exist? Well, one answer is he is the product of time plus chance plus energy plus matter, in other words, he had an impersonal beginning. But an impersonal beginning spells the death of morality. As Schaeffer explains:

If we accept the impersonal beginning, finally we will come to the place where man’s finiteness and his cruelty become the same thing… With an impersonal beginning, morals really do not exist as morals. If one starts with an impersonal beginning, the answer to morals eventually turns out to be the assertion that there are no morals… With an impersonal beginning, everything is finally equal in the area of morals.

I think what Schaeffer is saying is that without a personal Creator-God to give us existence we have no foundation for morality, there is no absolute standard by which we can distinguish right from wrong. Right cannot be better than wrong if both are simply the products of impersonal chance. Schaeffer goes on to say:

So we find man cast up with a feeling of moral motions which in reality leads only to a complete cosmic alienation, because if you begin with the impersonal, in the universe as it is, there is no place for morals as morals. There is no standard in the universe which gives final meaning to such words as right and wrong. If you begin with the impersonal, the universe is totally silent concerning any such words.

I am reminded by something Dostoevsky put into the mouth of one of his characters in his novel The Brothers Karamazov (I’m quoting from memory): “Without God everything is permissible.”

Lost But Not Nothing

I drank a cup of strong coffee tonight and thus could not sleep. It’s midnight yet I’m in no way drowsy, so I picked up my copy of the Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy. As I read the following passage made quite an impression on me that I simply had to post it here:

The Bible teaches that though man is hopelessly lost, he is not nothing. Man is lost because he is separated from God, his true reference point, by true moral guilt. But he will never be nothing. Therein lies the horror of his lostness. For man to be lost, in all his uniqueness and wonder, is tragic

(Inter-Varsity Press, 1990 ed., p. 268)

I guess if truth were to be told, all of us, at one time or another, have sensed the fact of our lostness without God, but we have come up with many ways to dull the pain. The thought that there is a God to whom we are accountable is too frightening and burdensome. Think of all the fun we would miss if God is really out there! Could it be that the denial of God’s existence is not really the result of an objective view of the pertinent evidence but simply the offshoot of the realization that God’s existence is a threat to man’s cherished freedom to sin with impunity?