Summary of “The God Who is There” FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

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One of the most influential Christian thinkers of the latter 20th century is Francis Schaeffer.  His works I’ve found to be thought provoking, uncomfortably challenging, and deeply personal.  The wisdom with which he writes on ultimate issues and cultural contexts is refreshing.

So for the next few months I’ll be posting summaries of his writings that I trust will strengthen, challenge and transform the way you think and live.

In his first book The God Who is There, Schaeffer starts with the issue of absolute truth.  He argues that absolute truth is grounded in the “God Who is There.”  Thus to deny His existence has resulted in a despair that has decimated the West for the last 120 years or so.  This despair is visible in the areas of philosophy, art, music, general culture, and even in theology.

Shaeffer says that this line of despair  arises when absolute truth is jettisoned.  According to him, this truth is grounded in God, and when he is denied, there’s an “upper and lower story” that unfolds.  First, there’s the Upper Story or Above the Line where faith that is not open to verification resides and this “faith” gives meaning to ones life.   Second, there’s the  Lower Story or Below the Line where rationality resides.  Here the world of facts exists where reason and knowledge are attained through science by man’s ability to reason.  Thus, man as the measure of all things, is reduced to being a chance machine without purpose or meaning in life.  This view of knowledge and human nature results in despair.

Shaeffer notes that the Christian Worldview radically differs from the mechanistic worldview that brings despair.  For it answers man’s deepest longings and needs consistently with how his “mannishness” expresses itself.  This is not a world of wishful thinking, but one of reality for God exists!  This means that mankind is not here by chance, but by design for they bear the image of God.

Shaeffer goes on to explain, that because of man’s alienation from God, self, others, and nature, humanity has true guilt.  God’s solution to man’s plight is Christ Jesus who rescues from God’s wrath.  This work of Christ purchased our redemption in real space, time history and is not a a myth, but a reality.  Depending on man’s response to Christ Jesus, either joy or despair is increasingly deepened in the human experience.

Therefore, the Christian’s approach in life when relating to others must be one of understanding the human plight and compassionately championing absolute truth which is grounded in God.   There must be the awareness that to “take the roof off” or demonstrate the irrationality and contradictions lived by a modern person is very painful.  And yet, the believer is to compassionately allow the existential impossibility of living out the modern person’s worldview be felt.

Shaeffer moreover holds that true biblical Evangelism must start in Genesis 1-3 which is the basis for understanding the Gospel of Christ.  For it is here that the Bible says, “In the beginning God…”.  That is, we must start with God to understand all of reality for He, not humanity, is the measure of all things.  From here, the believer must then be prepared to clarify what true-truth is; what real guilt is; that Christ must be truly treasured and that disciples must be truly made. 

Shaeffer, thus encourages believers to be in word and prayer, to be in community with outsiders and insiders—God’s people.  And to remember the indispensability of being in a community where the Bible is being faithfully taught as objective truth rather than some twisted theology foreign to the text of scripture.     

Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 10: A WORD TO NOT BACK DOWN

A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool. If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.”  (Vv.2-4)

 To be a fool is not difficult, but to be wise that is another reality altogether.  When I considered verse 4 at first glance immediately I thought of the subject’s intellectual view which the ruler at first impulse vehemently rejects.  Here, the Preacher encourages the subject to stay his ground, to not back down from his ideational position.

Here, the characteristic of courage before a sovereign (these are King Solomon’s words) can affect the outcome of a subjects request in his favor.  Perhaps that is an aspect of what this text is teaching.  Again, another angle here may be the battle field for to panic in the midst of lethal peril assures defeat, but where cooler heads prevail (generally) victory is within grasp.  Assuredly many other angles can be applied here that I have missed perhaps even misinterpreted the text.

Nevertheless, as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I note the following: First, for the Christian who loves Jesus, the Truth must be prized above the approval of men even a raging king.  Here, courage is necessary for the power a ruler has to wield us harm is real, not an illusion for you might meet your death.

Second, courage under fire is not easy, but is nevertheless the high road to victory under opposition from powerful people, not the converse.  Third, whether an actual battlefield or a metaphorical one of ideas is raging, don’t back down even though you be outnumbered.  Fourth, persuasion does not come from a slothful soul but from the diligent who is trained in righteousness for the watching world to consider and does affect both enemies and allies.

LORD, give us courage under fire when it comes to living out the truth of what it means to be in this world but not of it as your ambassadors.  Whether we be outnumbered and are dwarfed by our enemies resources, grant us boldness before those who mock, blaspheme and hate your name.

(SDG)

WHAT’S SO “GOOD” ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY? Perspectives on the Work of Christ

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What’s so good about Good Friday?  This question deals with what Jesus of Nazareth accomplished over 2000 thousand years ago on Calvary’s bloody cross.  On that hill far away, the Son of righteousness fully satisfied God’s justice and love.  Since its inception, the Church has celebrated the grueling, horrific death of an innocent man who by virtue of his ontological status (His nature as the God/Man) secured rescue from God’s just white hot wrath toward rebels born of Adam.

But how can this be good?  One could argue, and many have, that this act was unjust, cruel, and an act of child abuse (i.e., the heavenly Father sent his one unique Son to die for those who hate God).  Who would ever treat their own sons and daughters in such a way by ordaining them to be brutally murdered by the Jews and the Romans on Calvary’s cross?

God did.  He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who makes covenant with His chosen ones and does nothing wrong.  He’s the God who sets the standards of what is true, beautiful and good.  He’s the God of creation who spoke the worlds into existence out of nothing, sustains its order, and is taking history into a glorious reality never before known or imagined.  To read the full article, click on What’s so good about Good Friday?

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES 31-34 “ARE YOU EVER AMAZED BY GOD’S MERCY?”

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The heart of man is deceitfully wicked above all things who can know it?  Other than the LORD God, the scriptures constantly remind me of how deep human depravity goes.  For example consider King Hezekiah who demonstrated his faithfulness to God by destroying the idols in the land, then re-instituting the nurture and care for God’s ministers and reviving the worship of Yahweh in Israel.  Nevertheless, this king still had to deal with his own pride which set him against the LORD God 2 CHRON: 32:23-26:

And many were bringing gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem and choice presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter.  24 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill; and he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord spoke to him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. 26 However, Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.

Manasseh, who succeeded Hezekiah, returned to the idolatrous ways, formerly practiced in Israel and skillfully rebelled against God (33:3-9).  It was only after Manasseh humbled himself that he showed himself to be faithful to Yahweh 2 CHRON. 33:10-16:

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. 12 When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.  14 Now after this he built the outer wall of the city of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance of the Fish Gate; and he encircled the Ophel with it and made it very high. Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah. 15 He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. 16 He set up the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it; and he ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.  For under Josiah’s reign there’s a devotion to the LORD God (34:1-13) where the reading of the Torah warns of the coming Babylonian captivity that he would not experience because of his devotion to God but many in Israel would have to endure(34:14-21, 27-30).

God’s mercy is daunting like His wrath.  What a God!  What a patient Creator!  Why don’t we trust Him?!  It’s because of sin.  This menace has blinded God’s people since time and the “Fall” inaugurated it.

LORD, your patience and mercy are stunning.  To consider your dealings with sinners like us through immeasurable grace makes the heart glad.  So may we consider your attributes, and reflect on them as we live out the rest of this journey on until the new heaven and new earth arrive.

(SDG)

2 CHRON: 23-27 “WHAT DOES DOING EVIL IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD LOOK LIKE?”

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The kings of Israel and Judah serve as an example of what God loves and hates, and depending on how their lives are bent—either toward Him or away—the scales of justice will accordingly be swayed.

In these chapters of the Chronicles we see more of the same old song and dance of one king doing what is right in the sight of the LORD and one king doing what is evil before the Creator.  God honors obedience and punishes idolatrous hearts.  Few kings of Israel from the start to the end of their reign sustained a faithful dedication to the God of the covenant.  Why, because the Spirit of the LORD did not reside in their souls (only few under the Old Covenant experienced this).  It’s under the New Covenant, inaugurated by the blood of Christ, after the Day of Pentecost, that God unleashed His Spirit for “new birth” to be realized in the saints.

Yet, New Covenant people also sin and at times horribly.  Paul, as he’s unpacking the meaning of the Gospel and its implications, addresses this in Romans 6-8 especially in 7 does he consider the war of sin within believers that the non-believer does not experience.

I’ve had my share of dark times and hardness of heart toward the things of God caused by my own idolatrous battles in the soul.  Such downfalls often affect our desire to keep on living.  I know that’s been true in my journey, how about you friend?

Sometimes the obvious is hidden from us, which among other things, reveals the foolishness within.  The Chronicles are coming to a conclusion and several themes are stark.  In space time history kings, kingdoms, and God’s activity is not unlike what we today experience.  In the Ancient world, they did not have the “news” sources and means of dispersing the latest happenings as we obviously do today, and yet today with so much access to information events and their meanings are too often heralded in a slanted, ambiguous, emotional way that leaves the hearer in a stupor.

If you are like me, it’s difficult to trust what the media, papers, and talking heads bring to us daily.  The fact remains that after the “Fall” in Genesis humans are bent to suppress the truth of God (which is all that is true) in unrighteousness.  When the text says, “Let God be true and every man a liar” so be it!  Why can I trust this statement?  Because in every book of the Bible, especially in the Chronicles, the writer recounts the names of kings, their deeds, their triumphs their defeats and then there’s always God in the background who is constantly weaving His divine sovereign will through the significant choices of image bearers.  It’s amazing to me.

Moreover, it’s very obvious that the land and worship are intricately connected.   Depending on the peoples response to God, be it favorably or negatively, what follows is either blessing or cursing, the latter of which is the result of idolatry in Israel.  This roller coaster ride evidenced in redemptive history (as is witnessed in the Old Testament) is a warning to the listening ear to beware, lest the same peril and perdition take place in our individual lives.

The Scriptures are clear that Israel’s faithfulness more often than not waned miserably as she went from idolatry, to captivity, only to be rescued by God’s tender mercies because of the covenant He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  All this is a sober reminder that as Israel’s choices, whether negative or positive, correspondingly impacted the community.  So do mine and yours friend.  Often when we make a mess of things, God is there to clean up the mess through either rescue or judgment.  That’s sobering.

(SDG)

Available Now in Summary_”A HISTORY OF APOLOGETICS” by Avery Dulles

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Available now in summary form is A History of Apologetics by Avery Dulles who deftly provides a view into the great minds of Christendom’s past so that we may presently be more faithful to our generation with the real Gospel of Truth that alone rescues sinners from eternal peril.

There’s a treasure trove of wisdom the church has at its disposal that is too often neglected either through: ignorance (i.e., people don’t read Church History), or perhaps through spite (i.e., Protestants and Catholics refuse to appreciate one another’s contributions), even a lack of evangelistic urgency (i.e., Believers don’t really care to share their beliefs because of fear, indifference, etc.), perhaps because of an unbiblical view of the life of the mind as it informs our daily living (i.e., a Fideistic bent).  This book is one more aid to remedy the 21st century plague in the Church of anti-intellectualism.

Summary of Chapter 5: 19TH CENTURY_ CATHOLICISM_[Pgs. 158-201] With PostScript

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CATHOLICISM IN FRANCE: 1800-50 [Pp.171-179]

Cardinal César de La Luzerne (A.D. 1738-1821) in his Pastoral Instruction on the Excellence of Religion; lays down the principal of showing Christianity’s beauty because its knowledge was so odious to non-Christians.  Here, the Cardinal focuses on the aesthetics of religion.

Francois René de Chateaubriand (A.D. 1768-1848) in his Beauties of the Christian Religion uses aesthetics as a means to do apologetics.  He held that Dogmas and Doctrines find their beauty in their mystery; Christianity stimulates the poetic and drama; Fine arts and literature are depicted in the music of the Gregorian chant, seen in the art of Raphael and Michelangelo; and the liturgy is also beautiful.  Through his use of the arts, Francois used this apologetic as an attempt to reach his culture.

Vicomte Louis de Bonald (A.D. 1754-1840) a French nobleman; held that the essential truths needed to live a human life are beyond the reach of rational inquiry, but have been revealed by God since the dawn of time.

CATHOLICISM IN GERMANY: 1800-50 [Pp.179-181]

Johann Sebastian von Drey (A.D. 1777-1853) was the founder of the Catholic Tubingen School.  In his Apologetics as a Scientific Demonstration of the Divinity of Christianity, he understands apologetics to be a mixed discipline of philosophy, philosophy of religion especially, and it’s material contents from the history of religions.  In this work he focuses on the General philosophy of revelation; the Tradition scope in revelation; and the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.  His work is valuable for its recognition of Christianity’s historicity, the multi-facets of the revelation, and the organic view of tradition and the Church.

CATHOLICISM IN SPAIN AND ITALY: 1800-50 [Pp.181-183]

ENGLISH SPEAKING CATHOLICS IN ENGLAND: 1800-50 [Pp.184-189]

 John Henry Newman (A.D. 1801-90) was the leading Catholic apologist of the 19th century and one of the greatest of all times.  A cautious and critical thinker, he was at all times concerned with the criteria of religious knowledge.

In his An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman gives reasons for why the Roman Catholic Church is the successor of the early Church.  Newman seeks to show that the Catholic Church has followed an organic development that is proof of its continuity with the past to biblical revelation.

In his An Essay on the Development of a Grammar of Assent, Newman seeks to diagnose how man comes to his convictions of knowledge and understanding especially in religious matters.  Understanding the subjective element in all religious inquiry, he casts his apologetic in an autobiographical scheme.   He approaches the Christian evidences with a whole set of presumptions and hopes to provide the clue to complex materials of religious history.

ENGLISH SPEAKING CATHOLICS IN THE U.S.: 1800-50 [Pp.189-191]

CATHOLICISM IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE: FRANCE AND BELGIUM; VATICAN COUNCIL1850-1900  [Pp.191-195]

Vatican Council I (A.D. 1869-70) took up the relations between faith and reason, where primary focus was given to the conflict between science and religion.

Abbé Paul de Broglie (A.D. 1834-95) was professor of apologetics at the Institut Catholique at Paris.  In his Positivism and Experimental Science, he dealt with the theory of knowledge.  While affirming the contributions metaphysics made to the apologetic enterprise, he understood that it was the most difficult of the sciences and as such, he avoided that approach.  Instead, Abbé used purely inductive arguments that were universally recognized historical facts where he argues for Christianity’s transcendence and it’s divine origin.

CATHOLICISM IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE: GERMANY 1850-1900  [Pp.195-196]

PROTESTANTISM: GERMANY 1850-1900 [Pp.197-198]

Albrecht Ritschl (A.D. 1822-89) was a liberal theologian who understood that the kingdom was a communion of love, as the heart of Jesus’ message.  This message is self-authenticating and therefore needs no apologetic.

Julius Kaftan (A.D. 1848-1926) in his The Truth of the Christian Religion, Julius uses a teleological approach to his apologetic for Christianity and that if we have not revelation, it’s hard to make sense out of human history as a whole or even understand the questions of origins.

Hermann Schultz (A.D. 1836-1903) in his Outlines of Christian Apologetics, Hermann rests his defense of Christianity on ethical grounds.  The purely ethical content of the Gospel could never be overthrown by scientific discovery.

PROTESTANTISM: THE ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES 1850-1900 [Pp.198-201]

J.B. Lightfoot, the English scholar who wrote Essays on the work of ‘Supernatural Religion, and used his massive understanding in the area of origins to decimate his British opponents.

Darwin’s: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection brought about many conservative pens in response to his views; Charles Hodge the theologian form Princeton, Mark Hopkins, William Gladstone who wrote The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture, Princeton’s President James McCosh who penned Christianity and Positivism.

Alexander B. Bruce (1892) wrote Christianity Defensively Stated, where he

sketches out the Christian worldview of origins and compares them to other systems.  In it, he deals with Wellhausen’s theory of the Old Testament and with the authorship and historicity of the New Testament Gospels.  His approach is more Biblical than epistemological.

CONCLUSION

During this period apologetics came to the forefront as a distinct theological discipline.  Moreover, the relationship between apologetics and philosophy cannot be separated, and the rise of the scientific era brought about new challenges that had to be met head on.

MY THOUGHTS_POST-SCRIPT Sergio R. Tangari

There’s a treasure trove of wisdom the church has at its disposal that is too often neglected either through: ignorance (i.e., people don’t read Church History), or perhaps through spite (i.e., Protestants and Catholics refuse to appreciate one another’s contributions), even a lack of evangelistic urgency (i.e., Believers don’t really care to share their beliefs because of fear, indifference, etc.), perhaps because of an unbiblical view of the life of the mind as it informs our daily living (i.e., a Fideistic bent).

To the believer, remember that the Great Commandment to Love God and neighbor includes the Mind, not just the Heart.  If you don’t get better at thinking, you are neglecting what Jesus clearly modeled of how to love God with thought, argumentation, and wit.

To the skeptic, remember that you just like any other creature will decide to ultimately believe and obey someone’s word.  Because of the claims of Christ (I.e., the uncreated Creator, who is the self-existent One who took on humanity so that God’s wrath would pass over us, the only redeemer of humanity and all others are imposters), and because of the stakes that naturally flow from his claims, it seems prudent and to your advantage to consider out said claims.

How is this done?  First begin with reading the primary source documents (the Old and New Testament) and give primacy to the eyewitness accounts, rather than those who many years later claim to know, but are ignorant about the Man Christ Jesus.

Second, find believers that appreciate your skepticism and won’t be afraid to consider the questions raised, but instead these people engage honestly, cogently and recognize they too don’t have all the answers.  These persons have a knack to be both logical and visceral, clear headed and tender hearted.

Third, understand that your time like everyone else’s is limited, so consider if on your journey time is being wasted and remove said obstacles (e.g., endlessly listening to social media forums that are given to ad-hominem attacks, rather than arguing about ideas).

Fourth, if you think these people are hard to find, or don’t exist when it comes to talking about ultimate issues…they do, and they are out there.  But please don’t kid yourself through the empty rhetoric of the day that separates reason from faith, religion from science, the private from the public.    Those paradigms are bogus, irrational and keep you enslaved to actual lies that are parroted in the hallowed halls of academia, media, and pop-culture by people that don’t care (really) at the end of the day, to consider the God question, the meaning of life question, the life and death question, the Jesus of Nazareth question.

Reflections From 2 CHRON: 22 “AT TIMES OUR PROGENY WILL NOT LOVE YAHWEH & THUS BE LOST”

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The cause for much grief in a parents’ life is their children’s choice to reject the God of the covenant.  For children to depart from the faith in order to meander in the cesspool of temporary worldly pleasures not only pains the godly parent, it is a sign that they may not be in fact part of the covenant family.

Perhaps you have a son or daughter that has hardened their heart; confused and captivated by their passions such that they can’t see the difference between right and wrong.  Things may seem bleak, but there’s hope while they are alive and pray that parent must.

While King Jehoshaphat loved the LORD his son Ahaziah did not with a little help from his mother Athaliah (Vv.2-4).  He did evil in the sight of the LORD by forsaking Him which never ends well for finite creatures.  In fact the text says that the destruction which awaited this young man was from God:

Now the destruction of Ahaziah was from God, in that he went to Joram. For when he came, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the Lord had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab.”   

The house of Ahab, if you recall, forsook the ways of the LORD and turned Israel away to worship false gods—which is idolatry.  Here, Holy Scripture reveals that God was personally putting an end to the king’s life and to the house of Ahab.  The straying of Ahab away from the LORD did not happen overnight but gradually.

Often we find ourselves gradually straying away from the LORD but don’t notice it until we find ourselves in “the badlands” and the hunger to know and follow God is nowhere to be found.  The reason is because we have chosen to worship false gods by listening to false prophets that eventually leads to our eternal demise and damnation.

There are warnings in Scripture to guard against an unbelieving heart causing us to fall away from the living God.  The general principle in proverbs to “train a child in the way they should go and in the end they will not depart from it” is just that, general.  It does not guarantee a child won’t be forever lost.  And the ad hoc situation in the book of Acts where the jailer asks Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” and the apostle responds, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16) is just that, ad hoc, not a promise that because we are saved our progeny will be.

So what do we do?  While our children are alive: we need the LORD’s strength to walk in his ways; to trust in His truth, and to make our intercession on behalf of our straying sons and daughters to return home (i.e., to be in a right relationship with God).  May our children not perish but declare the mighty deeds of Yahweh.  May they understand what it means to walk in the fear of the LORD and adore Him, and may they be salt and light to those who previously were leading them astray.

(SDG)

EMMANUEL MEANS GOD WITH US—BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

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It’s the season once again to celebrate the birth of Christ the King.  To countless others, it’s an opportunity to give and receive gifts.  For still others, this season is cause for depression—a holiday reminding them of broken families and shattered dreams.  Again, to others the meaning of Christmas is not important, what’s vital is getting together with friends and loved ones, to enjoy a warm meal, pound down a few cold ones, and take the inebriation experience to the next level.

Last Thursday night I went to see my nephew Kai, perform before a live audience of proud parents, relatives, and friends.  The spectacle was celebrating the birth of Jesus with children’s voices filling the auditorium.  Through song and “sermonette”, emphasis was given to the name “Emmanuel” which translated means “God with us”.  The way it was emphasized perhaps missed the gravity of the reality.  Here’s what I mean.

When the emphasis is made that God is with “us”, with “me”, in “my heart”, through Jesus, while true, it can often miss the deeper, more basic reality of what it means for “Emmanuel” to be with us.

For God to be with us, implies that He is present, He is there; He is here.  It’s one of God’s attributes that no other creature can share.  Unlike His holiness which he promises to share with His people, God’s omnipresence is peculiar only to Him.  It means that God is everywhere, at all times, in all places, and simultaneously being non-spatially extended, incapable of being circumscribed because He is not physical, but immaterial.  God is spirit.

For God to be with us, also implies that He is present to lavish divine kindness toward His creatures.   This He does in many ways ultimately by rescuing God haters and transforming them into lovers of the Creator.

For God to be with us also means that he is present to punish the wicked.  Unwittingly, many think that Hell (i.e., the punishment awaiting the unrighteous who reject Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah and only Savior of humanity from sins and death’s grip) is the absence of God’s presence, but that’s impossible in light of God’s omnipresence.  My understanding is that what makes Hell, Hell, is God’s wrathful presence equitably distributed to each individual.

Theologically, this term is pregnant with meaning.  It speaks of the incarnation (i.e., the orthodox doctrine that Jesus is Fully God and Fully Man) which is foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to the called, Christ Jesus is both the wisdom of God and the power of God.  What makes Jesus different from all other figures of history (philosophers, educators, statesmen, “religious” figures, builders, etc.) is that he claimed to be the self-existent, uncreated Creator who upholds all of creation by the word of his power.  That’s who Emmanuel is.

The mystery of the babe in the manger who became a real human being without relinquishing his divine nature is the mystery being proclaimed through Christmas Carols, Children’s Choirs and this Holiday season.  Does Emmanuel mean that Jesus is in my heart?  Yes, but in this shallow theological era which we are presently experiencing in the history of the church, opportunities come once a year where the wonder of Emmanuel can be explained in a way that brings out the nuances explained above.

Why “go so deep” one may opine.  Keep it simple stupid.  I think there’s a place for that, but when we keep it so simple that we help people remain stupid about our amazing Savior, I don’t see Jesus honored, but belittled.  May Emmanuel, God with us, never become dull, but may the wonder of the Incarnation (Jesus Fully God/Man) ever be the hope of the church, and the rescue for clueless rebels who are a vapor away from eternity.

Summary of Chapter 4: FROM THE SIXTEENTH THROUGH THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES_Part 1

imagesThe sixteenth century saw primarily religious controversies within Christendom.  Protestants and Catholic controversies were over the Mass, indulgences, purgatory, the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.  The primary apologetical issue was the credibility of the Faith.

The seventeenth century saw much skepticism and religious indifferentism largely due to the Christian disunity.  The main apologetic focus (for Protestant and Catholic) was to show Christianity’s importance and relevance.

The eighteenth century manifested blatant attacks contra Christianity due to the Enlightenment’s appeal to the sciences in history to prove their case.  Hence, Christian’s apologetic focused on scientific historical evidences and also on the role of metaphysics in the debates.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS [Pp.113-116]

Martin Luther (A.D. 1483-1546) constructed no formal system of apologetics, although polemicized with the Jews.  Saw reason in two spheres.  The first sphere: reason is a a proper guide when used properly to sharpen man’s natural prudence and might even lead to a sort of civil righteousness.  In the second sphere: reason is incompetent and arrogant when concerned with divine things, it’s “the devils whore”.  Luther understood that reason prior to faith can only be used to raise objections and engender doubts.  But if it was submitted to faith, then reason was a useful handmaid to faith.  For Luther, the problem of faith and reason was not epistemological (i.e. how we know what we know), but rather soteriological (i.e., how one can be saved and know it).

Philipp Melanchthon (A.D. 1497-1560) was Martin Luther’s Systematizer.  In his Loci communes (A.D. 1521) he adopted a negative view of the autonomous use of reason and philosophy.  But philosophy was not only a great servant of the faith; it is also a propaedeutic device (I.e., preliminary instruction) for leading men to the gospel.

John Calvin (A.D. 1509-64) was the most systematic of the sixteenth century reformers.  In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (completed definitively, A.D. 1559), he saw several things:  First, by contemplating creation, man could arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence, wisdom, life, power, etc.  But man’s inherited depravity, unless aided by positive divine revelation, leads him only into idolatry.  Second, the witness of the Spirit is the primary and sufficient reason for admitting the origin of Scripture.

THE COUNTER REFORMATION AND BAROQUE SCHOLASTICISM [Pp.116-120]

Whereas those responding to Luther were mainly in Germany and the Low countries, Catholic apologetics in a more traditional style continued to be in Italy and Spain.

Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola (D. 1533) in the footsteps of his uncle Giovanni inveighed the philosophical errors of the Epicurean Aristotelians.

St. Robert Bellarmine (A.D. 1542-1621) was an Italian Jesuit and the greatest Systematizer of Catholic polemics against the Protestants. He wrote Disputations Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith against the Heretics of this Age.

Cardinal Caesar Baronius wrote Ecclesiatical Annals, intended to offset the propagandistic of the Lutheran account of Church history.

Francisco Suarez s.j. (D. 1617) wrote on the motives of credibility, putting primary emphasis on the inner qualities of Christian doctrine, its purity, and its efficacy in leading men to a higher moral life.

FRANCE BEFORE 1650 [Pp.120-123]

The chief apologetical questions focused on the dangers and values of doubt, tolerance, and religious indifference.

Philip du Plessis-Mornay (A.D. 1549-1623) was the leading Protestant apologist and Hugenot of the sixteenth century.  In his treatise On the Truth of the Christian Religion, he specifically emphasizes as method; one must find common ground by arguing from principles that are accepted by your adversary.

Moise Amyrut a Hugenot author, wrote A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which Accounts All Indifferent (A.D. 1631).

Catholic apologetics after Montaigne combines skepticism and fideism to pave the way for faith by exposing the feebleness of reason.

J.F. Senault in his L’ Homme criminel (1644) grounds his apologetic from an anthropological stance and prepares the way for Pascal’s existential logic of the heart.

FRANCE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY [Pp.123-133]

Blaise Pascal (A.D. 1623-62) after making breakthrough discoveries in mathematics and physics, he became convinced that the certainties of faith are unattainable, except to the heart that loves.  In his Pensées he covers many issues.  First, the psychological fabric of man mingled in a paradox of our pride and feebleness.  Second, he makes no effort to ground the faith metaphysically.

He thought even if one can prove God’s existence, all these arguments at best leads one to deism.  He instead proved the existence of God by referring to man’s unhappiness until he finds happiness in God (a la Augustine).

Third, Pascal makes an inventory of the various philosophies and religions, profoundly analyzes the relationships between faith and reason, and as Augustine, he finds a unity of the two in diversity.

Fourth, his biblical apologetic is profoundly Christocentric, arguing from miracles and prophecies.  For Pascal prophecies are the greatest proofs of Jesus Christ.  He also demonstrates a keen understanding of the human heart and a deep Christian spirituality in his apologetic.  His apologetic work outshines most in helping unbelievers come to the faith.

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (A.D. 1607-1704) in his Discourse on Universal History, he relies heavily on historical apologetics, specifically using prophecy.  He uses a more questionable approach were the desolation of the Jews is an apologetic strategy. He also impugns Protestants for their lack of unity and stability in his A History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688) and concludes that Catholicism’s constancy in doctrine, is never contradictory, and thus built on the rock.

Pierre Daniel Huet (A.D. 1639-1721) was an erudite man who became Bishop of Avranches.  He wrote several philosophical works on faith and reason.  His major apologetical work,  A Demonstration of the Gospel to his Highness, the Dauphin.  He viewed that all the Biblical books were written at the times to which they are attributed to their commonly supposed authors.

Jacques Abbadie (A.D. 1654-1727) was a Hugenot pastor who wrote Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion, where he demonstrates extensively God’s existence, the necessity of religion, the truth of the Jewish religion, and the truth of the Christian religion.  He displays a defiant attitude toward all those who oppose Christianity in his Treatise on the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, especially towards Mohammedanism.