Summary of CHAPTER 4: THE IMPROBABLE WORLD (Pgs. 56-70)

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CHAPTER 4: THE IMPROBABLE WORLD (Pgs.56-70)     

            In this chapter Postman points out that Technopoly has a vigorous ally called “social science”.   He uses a thought experiment to demonstrate that Americans will believe most anything that is preceded by “Studies show…” regardless of how ridiculous it may be.  This is done by stating a prestigious university, stating a study that “doctor so and so conducted” and the rest is assumed to be credible.

Like those in the Middle Ages who believed in the authority of their religion, Postman holds that twentieth century people believe in the authority of their science, no matter what.  The reason for this is that the world in which we live is for most of us incomprehensible and thus any new facts presented are uncritically accepted.  The reason for this is Americans have no unifying worldview from which to access logically truth from error, contradictions from realities.

The Scaffolding of the Old World Replaced by the Framework of Progress

The theological scaffolding that buttressed the belief system of so many and gave it a unifying Christian worldview—meaning to life, was supplanted in the Middle Ages by the instruments of Progress who replaced the theological with the scientific and technological with reliable information about nature and thus end ignorance and superstition.  These technocracies delivered real progress in pharmacology, sanitation, transportation, and communication.  These events were fueled by information—which became the god of culture reinterpreting the structure of nature and the human soul.

Information Glut

Like today, so it was back then that the flood of information was viewed as a friend, not a foe.  It was uncritically viewed as the key to solve human pain and suffering and yet the human plight really was not solved.  That is, very few personal and social political problems result from the lack of information.  Yet, information is what the progressive “Technopolist” affirms to be the “savior” of humanity.  But information “glut” as Postman puts it, does not aid us to reflect on the pros and cons of what’s ahead.  Information does not equal knowledge, knowledge does not equal wisdom and reflection is what’s required to distinguish these human realities.

The origins of information glut did not begin with the age of computers but with Gutenberg‘s old wine press which he converted into a printing machine with movable type.  Postman writes, “Fifty years after the press was invented, more than eight million books had been printed, almost all of them filled with information that had previously been unavailable to the average person…” Subjects like law, agriculture, politics, botany, linguistics, pediatrics, and more were available in book form.

In order to control the flow of said information schools became increasingly the bureaucratic structure for legitimizing certain flows of information and discrediting other aspects of it.  This impacted the areas of science, theology, philosophy and politics where the masses had access to knowledge that was historically unprecedented.

Whether the printed page came from Martin Luther (which spawned the Protestant Reformation), or it came from the likes of Kant and Hume (which sped up the “age of reason”), or it came from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (which caused the birth of a nation), no one can question its’ seismic effects on human history.

Moreover, when the printed page (through Newspapers) and the telegraph (with its Morse code) were combined, it removed space from the equation of getting information to the masses, converted it into a commodity (something to be bought and sold regardless of the usefulness or meaning) which resulted in the idea of context-less information.  Here, the fortunes accumulated by newspapers did not depend on the quality or utility of the information, but rather on the quantity and speed of getting it to the masses.

Again, the telegraph and printed page served to prepare people for the photographic revolution where a picture was worth a thousand words, and language was supplemented by new imagery as the dominant means for understanding and testing reality.

These three modes of information—the telegraph, the printed page and the photo) spawned a new definition of information, Postman writes:

“Here was information that rejected the necessity of inter-connectedness, proceeded without context, argued for instancy against historical continuity, and offered fascination in place of complexity and coherence” (pg.69).

These three stages in the information revolution were followed by broadcasting and fifth by computer technology.  Each communicated new forms of information, never before amounts of it imagined, and it increased the speed at which the information was distributed.

What does this mean?

So much information from so many angles through the above mentioned means around the globe (e.g., books, radio, television, advertisements, computer chips, etc.) finds its way into our homes.  Postman among other things concludes that:

“Like the Sorcerer’s apprentice, we are awash in information.  And all the sorcerer has left us is a broom.  Information has become a source of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental human questions but barely useful in providing coherent direction to the solution of even mundane problems…We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend…(without realizing it can also be our foe)” (Pg69-70)

The setting under which Technopoly flourishes is between information and human purpose; here information appears without discretion with no particular audience in mind and is disconnected from theory, meaning, or any design.

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Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD: Calvin On Predestination (Institutes)

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Calvin On Predestination (Institutes)[1]

The Doctrine of Election

In Calvin’s treatise On Predestination, he first addresses the doctrine of eternal election, where some are predestined to salvation and others to destruction.  He begins by affirming that neglecting this doctrine essentially impairs God’s glory and produces pride in the individual.  He admonishes both the inquirers and those shunning the doctrine of predestination, to stay within the bounds of scripture, rather than venture into what God has concealed, for everything we need to know is contained therein.  When God ceases revealing, we cease wanting to be wise.  Calvin understood that profane men would scoff and cavil this doctrine, but it is not to deter one from its inquiry.  For scoffers will always find something to poke fun at.

Predestination is the Eternal Decree of God

For Calvin, predestination is “the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man,” God testifying his election of Israel in (Dt.32: 8, 9; 4: 37; 7: 7, 8; 10: 14, 15; Ps.47: 4; 33: 12; 1 Sam. 12:22; Is. 41:9 etc.).  God also shows His rejection of Ishmael, Esau, Saul, and Ephraim (Ps. 78: 67, 68; 147: 20; Mal.1: 2, 3; Rom. 9:8; Gal. 3:16; etc.).   Though in the line of Abraham, they were rotten, not the remnant.  Hence, in God’s eternal and immutable council some were elected for salvation, and others to perdition.

Calvin makes a case for election from Scripture contra those who interpret election, as those who God foreknew would not be worthy of his grace.  His election is certainly not based on man’s inherent worth, for it precedes works.  As Paul declares God’s choosing us (i.e., believers) before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 5; Col. 1:12; cf., 1 Tim. 2:9).  Jesus himself explicitly demonstrates God choosing us not based on past merits, but on God’s mercy (John. 15:16).  Again, Paul shows that the origin and cause of election proceed not from works of merit, but from God’s good pleasure (Rom. 9:11).  Calvin disagrees with those that assign election to past or future works, for he understands that God finds nothing in man to show him kindness (Rom. 9:15).

Moreover, Peter accentuates God accomplishing the believer’s salvation by his own determinate foreknowledge in Christ’s death (Acts 2:23).   Election is further supported by the Father’s donation to Jesus, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me” (John 6: 37, 39, 44, 45; 17:9; 12; 13:18;).  These texts demonstrate God’s gratuitous adoption of those whom according to his good pleasure, he wishes to be his sons, because God is contented with his secret pleasure.  Calvin then considers the church fathers on this issue (Ambrose, Origin, Jerome, Augustine, and Aquinas) understanding that Augustine got the doctrine correctly in his later years and continues dealing with objections to his position.

Responding To Objections

Calvin deals with several objections to his view and responds accordingly.  He first addresses those who object that God makes anyone reprobate, and reminds his dissenters that Paul does not try to defend God, but simply reminds us that it is unlawful for the creature to argue with the Creator.  Calvin further shows that the reprobate, are those trees not planted by the Father who are doomed to destruction (Mt. 15:13).

A second objection is that it seems unjust and capricious for God to doom some to destruction before they have committed any wrongs.  Calvin’s response is that because of God’s ontological status (being righteous), he does not commit any lawlessness, and by the mere fact of his willing (in election), is necessarily right.  A further objection is that God seems to be a cruel judge by preordaining the reprobate’s sin.  But, Calvin defends the justice of God with Paul’s words, “…O man, who are thou that replies against God…” (Rom. 9:20-21).  This passage couches God’s infinite mind, to man’s finitude.  The last objection we will consider is the charge that Scripture nowhere declares that God decreed Adam’s fall.  Calvin responds that Scripture proclaims all mankind was in Adam, made liable to eternal death.  The decree is dreadful, but it is impossible to deny that God foreknew man’s end before being created.  To do so, is rash and not advised.

Election Confirmed by God’s Calling

Calvin deals with election confirmed by God’s calling and the reprobate bring upon themselves the righteous destruction to which they are doomed.  Calvin admits that election is God’s secret, but is manifest in his effectual calling.  He then deals with the metaphysics of said calling and concludes that it is founded on God’s free mercy.  He then illustrates aforementioned and understands that this calling is grounded on Christ.  He further considers objections to his position that the elect sometimes fall away and responds accordingly (e.g., the son of perdition passage, many are called but few are chosen, etc.)

[1] Calvin’s Institutes: Chapters 21-24, (This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Last updated on May 27, 1999. Contacting the CCEL).

Selected Book Summaries From the REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD_Martin Luther: On Christian Liberty, Justification, the Church Fathers and the Scriptures

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Luther, On Christian Liberty[1]

In his letter On Christian Liberty, Luther addresses Pope Leo X and

affirms that he has never thought any evil concerning his person, but regards him highly and his dispute is not over morals, but over the word of truth.  The Church of Rome “Babylon” doesn’t want reform, and the pope is as Daniel in that Satanically ruled city, the “seat of all pestilence”.  He views Luther’s chief nemesis, John Eccius, as the enemy of peace, evidenced by their exaltation of the Pope (i.e., only via his authority one can be saved, and he alone has the right to interpret Scripture).  Instead of trusting those who exalt him, Luther implores the Pope to trust the ones who humble him.

The Christian is the Freest Lord of All

For Luther, the Christian is the freest lord of all, and subject to none, but is also the most dutiful servant of all and subject to all (Paul’s example used: 1 Cor.9: 19; Rom.13:8).  He argues that mere outward pious acts do not make one justified or liberate the soul, but rather the risen Christ and his word (Jn.11: 25; Mt.4: 4).  The soul can do without everything but the word of God.  Through the word salvation is realized (Rom.1; 10:9; 10:4; 1:17) and the sinner liberated (Rom.3: 23).  This justification is by faith alone, hence, the Christian’s primary concern must be to grow, not in reliance on works, but in strengthening one’s faith.  Luther cites Jesus when confronted by the Jews what the work of God was, “to believe on Him whom He hath sent…” (Jn.6: 27-29).

Commands Teach Us What is Good, But They Do Not Help Us Obey

Precepts (commands) teach us what is good “thou shall not…” but it does not empower us to obey.  Once one understands the aforementioned, that person is ready to believe the promises of God, which by faith aids the obeying of commands, “the promises of God give that which the precepts exact” p.11 (see; 1 Tim.1: 9).  To disbelieve God’s promises is the highest form of insult toward Him, while the converse is the greatest honor toward the Almighty (1 Sam. 2:30).  Among other things Luther makes a case for the priesthood of all believers and sees the system that separates “laity” from “priest”,  “clergy” etc., as bad because the notion is not biblical.

Why Are Good Works Commanded?

To the objection: “if faith is everything, and by itself suffices for justification, why then are good works commanded?  Are we then to take our ease and do no works, content with faith?”  Luther affirms no!  Pertaining to his freedom, man is justified (inwardly) subject to none, but concerning his works (outwardly) he is subject to all and the servant of all.  For Luther, those who belong to Christ crucify the flesh (Gal. 5:24), in his words: “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works” p.18 (Mt.7: 18).  He continues and asserts that good works prior to justification profit the non-believer nothing concerning salvation.  But Luther wholeheartedly embraced the doing and teaching of good works to the highest degree, especially directed toward others (Phil.2: 1-4) as imitators of Christ (Phil.2: 5-8).   The works, which overflow from the joy of being justified, the believer is not concerned with recognition or recompense from friend or foe.  Luther then uses the Virgin Mary, and St. Paul as examples of the aforesaid life.

Justification is the Grounds for Love

For Luther, the man justified by faith in Christ is the one who serves his neighbor by love.  The liberty of the justified is a freedom from all sins, laws, and commandments (1 Tim.1: 9), and a liberty from believing that good works makes one right before God.

 Luther, Table Talk on Justification[2]

In Luther’s Table Talk on Justification, he begins by asserting that it is impossible for the papist to understand this article.  One remains a child of God even though periodically he sin or be tempted, for he is the Shepherds lamb.  Christians make the best use of natural wisdom and understanding because through faith, their reason furthers their understanding of things divine, not so with the unregenerate.  Their understanding is darkened because it strives against faith.

For Luther, the workmen who continuously is improving his craft, is like the righteous who constantly strive to increase their faith.  Faith and Hope are distinguishable in that, among other things, the former; it looks to the word and promise of truth, whereas the latter; looks to that which the Word promises (i.e., the good or benefit).  Again, faith is necessary for salvation because man is justified by it before God through Christ the Lord.  Justification is the key doctrine for all theological disputation; one cannot merit it, it is an inheritance from the Father, it bears the fruit of generosity toward neighbor, it produces virtues (the greatest being patience) and good works in the believer.  Luther understands that a believer’s good works are incompletely good, because they proceed from a weak obedience.

Luther, Table Talk on the Church Fathers[3]

In Luther’s Table Talk on the church Fathers, he does not want to be too critical of the Fathers.  He considers Chrysostum a rhetorician whose exegesis goes awry concerning the message of the text.  On the one hand, Luther’s disgust with the following fathers are because justification is nowhere to be found: St. Jerome; for his writings are cold, Ambrose; for his books are poor, Augustine; for his inattention to faith in Galatians or Romans and his apparent siding with the Church’s authority.  On the other hand, Luther appreciates the writings of Epiphanius; who compiled a church history, and Prudentius; who is the best of Christian poets.

The Fathers must be read with caution.  Luther asserts this because: First, their exegetical methods draw attention away from the Gospel of Christ.  Second, their writings are used in a way that undervalues the teaching of Christ’s apostles.  Third, Augustine noted; the laws of the Jews brought less trouble to the church than the ordinances and traditions of the bishops.  For Luther, faithful Christians must heed the words of Christ and those who stray from them in their teaching, should be shunned.

Luther, Table Talk on the Scriptures[4]

In Luther’s Table Talk on the Scriptures, he views the Bible as the highest and best of all books.  He understands that rulers have tried to destroy the Bible, and its survival is seen as an act of God alone.  Luther compares it to the writings of Homer, Virgil, and the like, and concludes that there is no comparison, regardless of how fine and noble these antiquated books may be.  He is thankful that finally, the Bible is written in the German language for all to read and understand.

Part of the reason Luther sees the Bible as superior to the rest is because of it’s divine content of virtues and gift’s.  The Scriptures abound in comfort for those undergoing trials and tribulations.  They should be studied and judged not by mere reason alone, but in humility bathed with prayer.  Moreover, for Luther, the one who has mastered the principles of the text will not err in its interpretation, but will rather silence his adversaries.  He also affirms that the Bible is to trump the authority of the fathers, regardless of their value.  Again, Luther sees that the knowledge of God in Scripture supercedes any of the other sciences whether philosophers, or jurists for the effect it has on our eternal destiny.

Luther understands that there is no harder discipline of knowledge to master than that of divinity, even though worldly wisdom would hold the contrary position.  He sees the worse thing that could possibly happen to Christians is for the Word of God to be taken from them or falsified.  Among other things, Luther continues lauding the Scripture’s magnificence and comments on the many books of the Bible with the respective authors intended message (Judges, Proverbs, John, Paul, etc.), and the is a discussion on the different genres (example: Gospel parables).  For Luther, the ablest teacher of the Word is the one who so familiarizes with its every text, that the context, verse, and meaning of the passage are known.

[1] Concerning Christian Liberty: by Martin Luther 1520, “The Harvard Classics”, Volume 36 (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1910, Pages 353-397)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD: Tertullian, Against Praxeas by Sergio Tangari

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Tertullian, Against Praxeas[1]

In his letter Against Praxeas, Tertullian defends the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  He acknowledges that the heresy to be refuted is caused by Satan himself.  The heresy of Praxeas, “He says that the Father Himself came down into the virgin, was Himself born of her.  Himself suffered, indeed was himself Jesus Christ”.  These “tares” of Praxeas, force Tertullian to both explain the church’s position on the doctrine, and secondly move him to deal with the misapprehensions of the opposing view.

The Church’s Position

First, there is The Church’s Position.  There is only one God, but in the economy (i.e., the distinct roles each member of the triune Godhead fulfills) of the Godhead is the Son who proceeds from the Father, who created all things, who was sent into the virgin by the Father, and from the Father through the Son the Holy Spirit is sent.  Tertullian asserts that this rule of faith is not new, but rather has been handed down to the church from its inception.  The unity is one of substance (i.e., of nature—divine,), and the three-ness constitutes the persons Father, Son, and Spirit (i.e., one of identity—distinctions).

Objection Raised

Second, there is Praxeas’ Objection.  Although the following objection did not originate with Praxeas, the allegation raised against the church’s view of the Trinity, is that it leads people to either bi-theism (i.e., two Gods) or tri-theism (i.e., three Gods), whereas their view of God leads them to the true worship of the one God.  Moreover, they assert that their view maintains the sole monarchy of God, whereas the church’s view destroys it.  Tertullians’ essential response is that the unity of the monarchy is not destroyed, but rather it is preserved, if the Son and the Spirit are indeed sharers of the one monarchy.

 Varied Responses to Heresy

Third, there is Tertullians’ Varied Responses to the Heresy.  One response to the heresy is that the unity of the Godhead and the supremacy and sole government of the divine being are not impaired according to Catholic doctrine.  Tertullian argues that since the Son is derived from the substance of the Father, does only the will of the Father, and is given all power from the Father, then the Monarchy is not destroyed from the faith.  Moreover, since the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, the monarchy ends up not being destroyed, but rather, it is preserved.  Furthermore, the fact that the Son will restore the monarchy back to the Father, demonstrates the clear distinction of persons within the Godhead.  Henceforth, those who are claiming to preserve the sole monarchy are actually destroying it, because they are overthrowing the very arrangement and dispensation employed by God.

 Clarification of the Trinity

Fourth, Tertullian clarifies the Catholic rule of faith concerning the Trinity.  He argues that the Father, Son, and Spirit are a unity of substance, but are three distinct persons.  The Father is seen as the entire substance, the Son and the Spirit are derivations of that whole.  The distinction of persons can be seen in that the Father begets, and the Son is begotten, and the Son sends another Paraclete.  The distinction of persons is further seen in the names of Father, Son, and Spirit. 

 Monarchian Position not Coherent

Fifth, he shows the incoherence of the Monarchian position that maintains the Father is the Son and vice versa.  He does this by distinguishing being from having.  Tertullian argues that in order for a father to be one, he must first have a son.  Likewise, in order for a son to be one, he must first have a father.  Moreover, how can I be my own son, or be my own father?  The logic is faulty, and yet the Monarchian responds with “nothing is impossible with God!”   Tertullian’s challenge is to consider whether or not God has really done it.  For he reasons that God really could have made man with wings to fly, but reality does not bear it out, nor does the Monarchian argument for that matter.

 Scripture Must Ground Our Positions

Sixth, Tertullian then challenges Praxeas to biblically ground his position.  He then distorts a passage to make his point concerning the distinction between the Father and Son, “The Lord said unto Himself, I am my own son, today I have begotten myself “.  If this is the case, then God is a deceiver, an imposter, and a tamperer with His word.  But since the contrary obtains, the position asserted by Praxeas is egregiously false.

 Textual Evidence for Plurality of Persons

Seventh, he then demonstrates the scriptural basis for the plurality of persons (Gen.1: 3, 26-27; 3:22; Jn.1: 1, 3, 9), and the unity of substance within the Godhead as a remedy to combat polytheism (Ps.45: 6-7; Isa.45: 14-15; Jn. 1:1; etc.), and then chastises Praxeas for not accepting the clear declarations of scripture.

 Further Evidence From Both OT and NT

Eigth, Tertullian continues with scripture passages in the OT (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:13, 11; Num. 12:6-8; 1 Cor.13: 12; Mk. 9:4; Mt. 17:3; etc.) and in the NT (Jn.1: 1-2, 18; 4:12; 1 Cor.9: 1; 1 Tim. 4:16; etc.) demonstrating the Fathers’ invisibility and the Sons’ visibility.  Moreover, he deals with OT manifestations of Christ, with titles that both the Son and the Father share depicting their deity, and he abundantly shows how in Johns’ Gospel, the distinction of persons between the Father and Son obtain.

Tertullian not only sees that the doctrine of the Trinity is the great divide between Christianity and Judaism, but he also sees the Monarchian doctrine as blasphemous, and as such, damnable.

Many well-meaning professing believers today fall under the error of Praxeas punting to “nothing is impossible with God” God is “mysterious” and a host of other responses that undermine the clarity of Scripture concerning God’s nature and the distinction of persons within the Trinity.  While mystery obtains (e.g., Christ’s incarnation) it’s the duty of disciples to not take the Name of the LORD our God in vain (i.e., misrepresenting His Character or Being).

The doctrine of the Trinity is in fact one of the pillars of Christendom distinguishing it from all other beliefs, and it is foundational to understanding so much of Scripture.

(SDG)

[1]  Tertullian, “Against Praxeas,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, Pp.597-627, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1997)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: HOW IS ADULTERY AN EXPRESSION OF ARROGANCE RATHER THAN LOVE?  Part 2 (Vvs.6-8)

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We boast in many things, the majority of which tends to be sinful.  Paul indicts the Corinthian church of boasting in immorality (e.g., the son committing adultery with his mother) because they did not discipline this immoral act.  This is perhaps grounded in their perverted view of what it means to have “freedom in Christ” (1 Cor.6:12-20).  The point here is their boasting is sinful because it glorifies sin and Paul uses the metaphor of leaven to explain it:

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

The apostle here reminds the Gentile Corinthian church of their roots in the Passover meal which Christ came to personify and fulfill through his death as the Passover Lamb (his body represented in the unleavened bread) holy and pure.

In the beginning of this letter, Paul describes the Corinthians as the “called” and as “saints” even though their lives were imbibing the world’s “wisdom” and its darkness.  The apostle (as God’s divinely appointed spokesman) is commanding zero tolerance for compromise to the Church because like a virus it will spread and eventually destroy the whole body (e.g., leaven, lump, dough).  Moreover, just as Christ is the Passover Lamb who died to sin and is now alive to God, so to the Corinthian’s are to emulate the Master in their sexuality (E.g., Rom.6:1-14), not the wisdom of this world with its’ “enlightened” and “liberated” views of sexual expression that is often praised among the unregenerate.  Paul continues:

Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So, since we belong to Christ and are in this world that’s “leavened-sinful”, we’re to celebrate that feast (i.e., rejoice in God’s holiness that believers partake in) and not go back to “Egypt” into the slavery of the world with it’s greed, malice, wickedness, immorality, etc.  We are to ground our actions in what is sincere (i.e., un-hypocritical) and in the truth (i.e., what’s objectively true—Christ our Passover Lamb, risen from the grave).

The relevance of this passage can’t be overstated.  Adultery, fornication, and all kinds of sexual expression contra God’s design for human flourishing, not human misery, as some contend, are leaving image bearers empty, confused, unfulfilled, and eventually if un-repented of, will take them into a Christ-less eternity (i.e., Hell).

When believers buy into the prevailing “Same-sex” marriage and “Transgender” rhetoric of legitimizing its’ position which is blatantly contra design, are we not drinking in the “wisdom” of this world?  Yes, we are and far from being an expression of love, it’s an expression of treason against the self-existent Creator, who alone is the ground of what is beautiful, good and true, not the finite, feeble, dependent creature.

(SDG)

Summary of  “Back to Freedom and Dignity” Francis Schaeffer

 

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Back to Freedom and Dignity is Francis Schaeffer’s fourth book in the first volume “A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture.”  In this book, Schaeffer considers the natural outcome of a culture run by a physicalist world-view (i.e., matter is all there is, immaterial realities do not exist).  The end result is that man is just a machine, without an enduring “I” at the mercy of the “mighty” “elite” “those in the know” (i.e., scientists).

The “freedom and dignity” afforded to man ends up being no less than a lab rat to discover what can be “improved upon.”  Skinner, Crick, and Company must be taken seriously, because their ideas are so lethal to man’s “mannish-ness” (i.e., the inescapable characteristics of humanity that evidence being created in God’s image rather than being a purposeless accident).

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)

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.

Summary of Chapter 3:  THE MIDDLE AGES Part 1_[PP.72-111]

 

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The apostolic struggle during this period was not with old pagans or young barbarians, but with other races that had a rich cultural heritage.  Among these were Jewish and Moslems.

DISPUTES WITH SARACENS AND JEWS: 600-1000 [Pp.72-76]

JOHN DAMASCENE (d. c. 754) is often designated as the last Father of the East. He was born in Damascus.  Among his works the following obtain: In 727, he wrote his first apologetic piece defending the veneration of images contra the Iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Isaurian.  In The Source of Knowledge and The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (around 745), in the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem, he composed these masterpieces and from the latter argued that: All men naturally know God through creation; that the Biblical revelation is however the zenith of God’s self-disclosure; and he addresses the controversy between Christians and Jews over the Sabbath.  In his, Dialogue between a Saracen and a Christian, he considers the problem of evil and points to Christ as not avoiding it but rather experiencing its hardships.

THEODORE ABU QURRAH (c. 740 to c. 820) [Pp.73-74] a disciple of John Damascene, became the Bishop of Kara (Haran) in Mesopotamia.  He is best known for his Arabic treatise God and the True Religion, where he analyzes and confronts the problem of choosing among the various religions that claim to be revealed (E.g., Zoroastrianism, The Samaritan religion, Judaism, Christianity, Manicheism, Sects of Marcion, Bardesenes, and Mohammed.

After examining the similarities and differences, Abu Qurrah concludes that Christianity: first, presents the most plausible idea of God; second that it exhibits the fullest understanding of man’s actual religious needs; third that it prescribes the most appropriate remedy and that miracles and the expansion of Christianity point to its truthfulness.

ABD AL-MASIH AL-KINDI (10th century) allegedly wrote an Arabic apology titled The Epistle of Abdallah ibn-Ismail al-Hashimi to Abd-al-Misah ibn-Ishac al-Kindi, inviting him to embrace Islam; and the Reply of Abd-al-Masih, refuting the same, and inviting the Hashimiteto to embrace the Christian Faith.  In this work he considers the prophecies and miracles of Jesus as reasons that testify in favor of Christ, not Mohammed; he contrasts the methods of spreading the message of Christianity and Muslims, where the former by the apostles won people through miracles, their example, and preaching, as opposed to Mohammed’s message was spread through the sword.

ISIDORE OF SEVILLE [P.74] composed a work titled Against the Jews: On the Catholic Faith from the Old and New Testament.  The aim of the treatise was to educate believers on how to converse with Jews, rather than on how to convert them.

CARDINAL PETER DAMIAN [Pp.75-76] (1007-72) composed two polemical opuscules (i.e., a small or minor literary or musical work) against the Jews.

In his, A Reply to the Jews, Peter contends with his monks that it is better to war with the flesh than with the Jews who are but extinct.  Moreover to protect the faithful, it is admonished that vain disputes be shunned and with the Jews to show the most evident prophetic texts concerning the Christian faith.  In the book, Peter also deals with: The Trinity, The Incarnation, and The Sufferings of Christ.

In Peter’s, A Dialogue between a Jew Asking Questions and a Christian Responding, he addresses the non-observance of the laws such as: Circumcision, the Sabbath, the Dietary laws, and Animal Sacrifices.  Unfortunately, in concluding this treatise, he impatiently scolds the Jews for their incredulity.

            ANSELM (A.D. 1033-1109) [Pp.76-81], known as the great Benedictine Abbot who became the Arch Bishop of Canterbury in (A.D. 1093).  Very important to the apologetic enterprise is the thought Anselm disclosed concerning the relationship between faith and reason, which impacted greatly the High Middle Ages.  In his classic, Cur Deus Homo, (started around A.D. 1094 and completed around 1098), Anselm stands in the tradition of the Jewish-Christian polemical dialogues of the Middle-Ages.  This treatise deals with the reasons for the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the theology of Redemption tied to it.

            In Anselm’s Proslogian (A.D. 1077-78) and the Monologion (1076) he deals both with the existence and attributes of God.  There’s a similarity with the three works:  First, Anselm begins in faith in order that he may ground his understanding in both the Scriptures and in the creeds.  Second, Anselm is far removed from the rationalism of the Enlightenment, for although he uses reason to discover and understand the depths of God, there remains our faith in redemption that keeps us persevering.

Third, for Anselm, to understand is the grasping of objective reasons that underlie and illumine the data of faith.  Fourth, Anselm sees man’s image as effaced, not erased through the fall and as such, man is not fully rational. [P.78]

Theology for Anselm must therefore be conducted prayerfully and with divine aid.  But it must necessarily be conducted sola ratione.  He understands that circular reasoning must be avoided when doing exegesis (Monologion).

Fifth, He does his apologetic partly for the benefit of believers (1 Pet.3:15) thus doing his theological reasoning to equip believers to deal with non-Christians.  Anselm sees theological knowledge as a single science, which operates by reason under the leading of faith, but arguments, as long as they were cogent reasons, could be understood from those who have no faith.  Anselm has a high view of reason.

Concluding Thoughts: Anselm’s ominous contribution to the history of apologetics is seen in his raising so clearly the question of the intrinsic demonstrability of the Christian faith.

Chapter 2 Summary: The Patristic Era_Part 7_AUGUSTINE AND HIS DISCIPLES [pp.59-71]

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Aurelius Augustine [pp.59-69]  (AD 354-430) is the first Western apologist to achieve true eminence as a theologian. He was able to place theology in a highly developed metaphysic of religious knowledge.  Of his many apologetic works, the following are:

On the Happy Life, where he notes that man has an insatiable desire for happiness and once the possibility of immortality is known, a drive towards eternal life obtains; An answer to Skeptics; Providence and The Problem of Evil; Of True Religion and On the Usefulness of Belief (AD 390-391); Confessions (AD 397-400).

Augustine’s view of Truth and Reason are the following: First, truth is absolute and above mans’ mind; second, if anything exists that is more excellent than wisdom, it is clearly God; third, to approach God with the mind demands a suitable moral disposition where there’s a: detachment from the senses, restraint of the passions, and an earnest longing for enlightenment.  The reason for the aforesaid is because for the mind to see God, it must be illuminated by Him (Mt.16).

For Augustine, “God is better known by what He is not” and God draws the soul not only through reason but also through authority.  When it comes to the knowledge of God, he held that one must believe before one seeks understanding.  He quotes (Is.7:9) asserting, “If you do not believe you shall not understand”.  His view of Socrates and Plato (Greek giants in philosophy) is that they would be Christians had they lived in his time because, according to Augustine, they were so close to Christ.

Augustine’s view of Apostolic succession; First, that belief in Christ is grounded on the unanimous authority of the Church which/because it is historically grounded all the way back to the Apostles.  Second, that the Bible was the Book of the Catholic Church and thus undermining the Church would weaken his confidence in the Gospel.  Third, that the Churches authority really influenced his belief.  Fourth, that both the size, antiquity, and unanimity of its teachers impacted his views.

Augustine’s Apologetic among other things focused on; The Resurrection, Differentiating between miracles and magic for the latter were seen as perpetual, rather than having ceased, the Virgin birth, the Ascension, Fulfilled prophecy, and the Expansion of the Catholic Church.  In his Manner of engagement with the opposition, Augustine was placid and urbane perhaps because of what great mercy God had toward him.

Augustin’s City of God is the most brilliant refutation of pagan religions up until his time.  It lays down a theology of history from the creation to the final restoration of all things found in Christ.

Paulus Orosius [p.69] was a pupil of Augustine who wrote Seven Books of the History Against the Pagans.  These writings are a history from the time of the flood to (AD 417).  It was intended to be a supplement to the City of God and climaxes at the birth of Christ.

Salvian [pp.69-70] was a monk from Lerins (AD 439-451) who wrote On the Present Judgment where he focuses on the disasters the various Roman provinces had suffered.  He contends that such disasters are evidence of God’s justice, not a case against it.  Moreover, he contends that the Romans of old were blessed because of their natural justice, but now are being punished for their immoral corruption.

Conclusion: [pp.70-71] these apologists were not only lively, but Christian apologists are eternally indebted to the Patristic Era of the Church for their boldness in seeking to relate the Biblical revelation to the areas of: the whole of human culture, philosophy, and history.  These are worthy to be read and emulated.