Summary of CHAPTER 1: THE JUDGEMENT OF THAMUS (Pgs.3-20)     

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In this chapter of Technopoly, Postman hitchhikes on Plato’s Phaedrus a story about king Thamus of Upper Egypt who before the god Theuth, the inventor of many good things (e.g., number, calculation, geometry, astronomy, and writing), beseeches the king to make these inventions available to Egyptians.  One such invention was writing.  Theuth understands this as a great tool to improve the memory and to acquire wisdom.   Thamus’ response is insightful:

“…the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it…you who are the father of writing, have out of fondness  for your offspring attributed to it the opposite of its real function.  Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their internal resources.  What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory.  And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.  And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.” (Pgs.3-4)

Postman hits on a vein of profound truth we in our age are confronted with.  It’s the view that information equals knowledge and that knowledge equals wisdom (which is the proper application of knowledge).

While Thamus understands the deficiencies to memory writing would and have proven to bring, he makes two mistakes.  First, he mistakenly thinks that writing would only be a burden to society.  Second, he fails to see the many benefits writing provides.  His failure is one of depth perception for every technology is both a burden and a blessing to society.

From this Postman argues that technologies have both strengths and weaknesses, that new technologies provide one thing and undo another (e.g., the horse and buggy vs. the automobile), that every culture is confronted with new technologies and need to wisely consider their pros and cons.  Moreover, he affirms that when a new technology comes out it will play out the purpose for which it was created and our task is to understand its design, as we embrace it with eyes wide open.  Among the many technologies Postman considers, three of interest are: the computer, the printing press, and the television.

Our computers have brought about great benefits in our abilities to communicate, educate, and conduct commerce.  They have increased the power of large scale organizations to conduct its purposes such as the military, the banks, the airlines, and also the IRS.  A massive negative, in my view, that the computer has brought to the masses is the proliferation of greater institutional control.   For example, our spending habits are digitized through the swipe of our credit cards, through this action companies are empowered to solicit their unwanted product through marketing agencies via junk mail.  As our privacy increasingly vanishes we are reduced to a mere number.

The printing press was created by a devout German Catholic, Johannes Gutenberg, and through it spawned a revolution in the production of books which fostered the rapid development in the sciences, arts and religion through the transmission of texts.  This technology was also instrumental to subvert Roman Catholicism by the Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther.  I don’t suspect Gutenberg was for the Reformers agenda.

The television which has brought about a wonderful way to divert ourselves from the grind of daily life through movies, documentaries and sporting events, has also had a subversive effect on the printed page.  The printed page emphasizes logic (proper thought), sequence, discipline and more, but the television nonsense, passivity, slothfulness, and more.  Postman’s key thought for this chapter I quote:

“New technologies alter the structure of our interests: the things we think about.  They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with. And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop…something has happened in America that is strange and dangerous, and there is only a dull and stupid awareness of what it is—in part because it has no name.  I call it Technopoly.”

ECCLESIASTES: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF VANITY?

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In Hebrew, the word for vanity is hebel—הָ֫בֶל, which means “vapor” or “breath”. This word is dominant in the book of Ecclesiastes compared to the rest of the Old Testament books.  Hebel can refer to that which is, worthless or       unsubstantial such as an idol (Jer.10:5) or life itself (Job 7:16).[1]  This word is found in contexts where the activity engaged brings no profit be it through: Egypt’s might (Is. 30:7); idol worship (Dt. 32:21) or Abel and Cain’s labor (Gen. 4).

Hebel evaluates people and things making value judgements on them and concluding that these lack any real “substance.”[2]  Deceitfully gaining riches in light of our finitude for example is hebel—worthless.  Among our worthlessness under the sun is our might, beauty and youth all of which in our culture are worshipped (Prov. 31:30; Is. 30:7; Ec. 11:10).[3]

To the Preacher, it is death that precisely makes life meaningless or vain (Ec.3:19) and that is why he is so pessimistic about human existence.  In Ecclesiastes the dominant use of hebel is the universally considered devaluation of a person or thing.[4]  The nihilism is very dark and gloomy for life without God is no life at all.  That’s the message, that’s the reality check, that’s the abyss.

(SDG)

[1] BDB, Pg.210

[2] TDOT, Pgs.313-314

[3] Ibid., Pg.319

[4] Ibid., Pg.319

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?

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:  THE 19TH CENTURY_PROTESTANTISM    [pp.158-201]

 

imagesAt this time in history, it appears that man is most in touch with his individuality and subjectivity.  Contact with the higher world was sought not through abstract reason, but rather through feeling and the movements of the heart.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) led the way for this new apologetic.  In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) he understood that:  Reason is nothing but a calculating machine with the ability to organize data of sense experience.  It nevertheless is not able to rise above the empirical, nor able to deal realistically with the divine.

In his Critique of Practical Reason (1788) Kant saw it necessary for moral obligation to postulate the existence of God, freedom, and immortality.  He made room for faith in a new sense where belief rests not simply on external authority but also on personal motives.  This is subjectively compelling but objectively insufficient.

In his Opus Postumum Kant identified the voice of conscience very closely with the divine presence within man.  In his Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone (1793), Kant gave a secure philosophical status to several fundamental Christian doctrines, even though he severely criticized the notion of historical revelation.

PROTESTANTISM: GERMANY 1800-50 [Pp.159-164]

Friedrich D. E. Schleiermacher (A.D. 1768-1834) was raised among the Moravian brethren, he retained a strong pietistic leaning.  For him the thoughts of antiquity concerning religion are a hindrance to epistemological progress which led him to re-define all key concepts of religion (e.g., miracle, revelation, prophesy, God, etc.), revising Christianity to his tastes so that it would be palatable to his times.

In his The Christian Faith, he attacks arguments from miracle and prophecy and held that these signs are not probative (i.e., having the quality or function of proving or demonstrating something) in order to bring conviction for the non-believer.  To be Modern, Schleiermacher held that dogma must be reinterpreted. Hence, to fit into his sitz em leben, he reconstructed a new epistemology, thus redemption by Jesus of Nazareth cannot be verified outside of faith which is purely subjective.  Thus, there’s no room for an objective body of knowledge.

In his Brief Outline on the Study of Theology, Schleiermacher sets forth a new apologetic where he states that biblical, historical, and practical theology should be prefaced with a new discipline—philosophical theology—which is both apologetical and polemical.  Where apologetics seeks to generally view Christianity in relation to its communities, polemics seeks to detect and correct any deviations within the Christian community.

Karl Heinrich Sack (A.D. 1789-1875) was a disciple of Schleiermacher who wrote Christian Apologetics.  In it, he seeks to do his apologetics as a rational grounding for the Christian faith based on demonstrable divine facts.  He demonstrates that God’s self-revelation finds its zenith in Jesus Christ by using OT texts.

Georg W. F. Hegel (A.D. 1770-1831) sought to make his philosophy a rational appropriation of the Christian patrimony.  He sought to show how the principal Christian dogmas (Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, etc.) were a symbolic projection of rational truths set forth in his evolving pantheistic system.

David Friedrich Strauss (A.D. 1808-74) reinterpreted Christian theology by subordinating traditional orthodoxy to the new evolutionary philosophy.  In his book Life of Jesus, he maintained that the finite and the infinite are realized in the whole of humanity, not in one individual (Jesus Christ).  The Christ of the NT was mythical, not actual.  This work devotes its energies to showing the historical unreliability of the Gospel stories.  The positive results from the writings of Strauss are that he helped NT scholarship hone their skills at historically verifying the NT.

PROTESTANTISM IN DENMARK: 1800-50  [Pp.165-168]

Søren Kierkegaard (A.D. 1813-55) is seen by some as the greatest eristic (one given to argumentation) thinker of the Christian faith within Protestantism.  He viewed rational proofs to be out of place for theology, because faith does not need them.  He was fideistic at the core.  For him, to defend something is to discredit it.  Moreover, he rejected all demonstrations of the divinity of Christ, which he sees as the central fact of the Christian faith and insisted that there can be no access to faith through objective rational thinking.  An apologetic of sorts can be made from the apparent absurdity of faith (i.e., Incarnation of Christ where the infinite One became finite,) which is itself a miracle.

In his Sickness unto Death, he affirms that sin is despair before God, that despair is failure to have faith, but it’s also the first step to faith grounded in man’s pursuit of God.  Thus for Kierkegaard, Faith is ultimately irrational at the core, but simultaneously he is giving an apologetic for his view.

PROTESTANTISM IN GREAT BRITAIN: 1800-50  [Pp.168-171]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (A.D. 1772-1834) in his Aids to Reflection, he castigates the evidential school for forgetting that Christianity is not just theoretical but spiritual and living.  Coleridge saw faith as preceding understanding like Augustine.

Frederick Denison Maurice (A.D. 1805-72) in his What Is Revelation, Maurice maintained that documents could never lead to any religiously satisfying results.  In faith, one knows God, as He existentially imparts Himself to man, which for the believer said communion is proof.

Thomas Chalmers (A.D. 1780-1847) a Scottish preacher wrote The Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation.  In it he makes his demonstration mainly on miracles, prophecies, and the historical reliability of the NT.  Chalmers held that for the Biblically and morally oriented person, Christianity’s truths are evident.

Thomas Erskine (A.D. 1788-1870) wrote Remarks on the Internal Evidence for the Truth of Revealed Religion (1820) and stresses the moral influence of the gospel and avoids the usual arguments from miracles, prophecy, and eyewitness testimony.  He had a strong appeal to natural religion but philosophically and empirically was anemic.

Summary of Chapter 3: The Middle Ages_Part 3_MISSIONARY APOLOGISTS A.D. 1250-1320 [Pp.94-98]

 

images            Raymond Martini (C. 1220-C. 1285) was a Catalan Dominican who wrote several works.  There’s Explanatio Symboli Apostolorum (A.D. 1257), where he sets forth the basic articles of Christian belief and holds that discursive proofs for God’s existence are superfluous.  Then there’s A Muzzle for the Jews (A.D. 1267), which is a polemical work impatiently exhorting for the Jews to embrace Christianity.  And lastly there’s The Dagger of the Faith (Pugio fidei) (A.D. 1278) which is a treatise dealing with—God’s existence, the end of man, the immortality of the soul, the creation of the world, God’s knowledge of creatures, and the resurrection of the body.

Another missionary apologist was Raymond Lull (A.D. 1235-1316) a Catalan who is famed or ridiculed for called ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem (the great art) is a brief technique for finding truth.  He authored Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men (1273), an allegorical disputation involving a pagan philosopher, a Jew, a Christian, and a Saracen.

SCHOLASTICISM AFTER ST. THOMAS    [Pp. 98-103]

John Duns Scotus (A.D. 1266-1308) was an English Franciscan who gave greater weight to the extrinsic evidences in supporting the judgment of faith.  He gave ten reasons for the credibility of the Scriptures: Fulfilled prophecies, the Concordant teaching of the texts, the Writers spoke on God’s behalf, the Church’s careful discrimination in drawing up the canon, the Immorality of those who reject the Scriptures, the longevity of the Church as predicted by Christ, the Miraculous conversion of the world to Christianity, the Harmony of the Scripture’s teaching with reason, Josephus’ testimony to Christ, and the comfort experienced by those who become believers.

Nicholas of Lyra (A.D. 1270-1349) was a Franciscan Biblical commentator who made interesting use of the extrinsic signs of credibility in his two apologetic works: In his Proof of the Time of the Incarnation, he uses Scriptural apologetic proofs although they are not altogether clear.  He also wrote An Answer to a Certain Jew Who Denounced the Gospel According to Mathew.

Henry Totting of Oyta (A.D. 1397) provides a view of apologetics that distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic evidence.  The human mind seeks to grasp things through intrinsic reason.  However, many elevated truths can only be known through divine revelation and hence are not susceptible to inner demonstration. When an internal necessary reason is absent, the act of faith requires for its rational justification external reasons giving at least a well-grounded probability.  Miracles and prophecies were the extrinsic evidences heralded.

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY APOLOGETICS [Pp.103-111]

Catalan Raimundus Sabundus (A.D. death in 1436) wrote “Book of Creatures”, whose main goal was contemplative, not apologetic.  It was a: “Natural Theology” treatise aimed at stimulating devotion by allowing the mind to reach to the various stages of the ladder of being to God.  His work demonstrates exceptional confidence in the power of reason to prove almost all of the Christian faith, such that one need not appeal to the Bible or the Church.

He saw that there were two books: From nature, And from revelation.  He exalted natural knowledge excessively and minimized the supernatural of divine revelation that his book was eventually placed on the Index in 1559.  He was not a heretic, but a man of piety.

Denis the Carthusian (died in 1471) wrote on Scripture and scholastic theology.  In his Dialogue Concerning the Catholic Faith; the contents are somewhat Anselmian and covers topics such as:  The relationship between Faith and reason, Denis Demonstrates that reasonable faith is grounded in God’s words and deeds via the Apostles.  He is however grossly incompetent in historical criticism.  In His book Against the Perfidy of Mohammed is a refutation of the Koran.  Among other things, he shows the general truth of Christian Faith.

He also argues from the miracles of Christ, fulfillment of OT prophecies, the destruction of Jerusalem, the purity of the Church and its doctrines, and Christianity’s expansion despite persecution.

Marsilio Ficino (A.D. 1433-99) was an Italian who first headed up the Platonic Academy at Florence.  His main philosophical work was Platonic Theology, which focused on the immortality of the soul.  His main apologetical treatise is On the Christian Religion.  In both works he uses ratio platonica to argue for Christianity.  He held that what separated man from all the other beasts is the natural desire to contemplate God.

He saw that all religion is preferable to irreligion.  Christianity is the most perfect religion because of the worship it renders to God.  That grace is necessary for true blessedness; that the Incarnation of the Word not only raises human nature to the divine, but all of creation can be brought together as a result.  Man is a microcosm.  His work breadth, depth and width theologically and philosophically are truly remarkable.

Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican preacher who wrote an apologetic work titled The Triumph of the Cross.  In it, among other things he addresses the issue of man’s destiny that can be shown by reason.  As opposed to heavily emphasizing proofs from prophecy and miracles, Savonarola argues from the wisdom and goodness of Christ and how the gospel affects one’s life as a result of accepting its truth.

Conclusion: issues of faith and reason were a tension for medieval apologetics but there were also those who advanced and compared religious studies.  The difference between the patristic and medieval apologists was that the former chiefly capitalized on the success of the Church, whereas the latter profited from the reverses of Christendom.  

Summary of Chapter 3: The Middle Ages_Part 2_THE TWELFTH CENTURY [Pp.81-85]

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            Peter Alphonsi (A.D. 1062-1110) [P.81] was a Spaniard converted Jew who became a Christian at age 44.  In his Dialogue with the Jew Moses, he ridicules the Talmud and mounts a rigorous attack against Islam.

Rupert of Deutz (A.D. 1075-1129) [P.81] writes in his Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, an apologetic that focuses primarily on the miracles of Scripture.

Peter the Venerable (A.D. 1094-1156) [Pp.81-82] is the most eminent 12th century apologist and the last great abbot of Cluny.  In his Against the Inveterate Obstinacy of the Jews, he aims at converting Jews by demonstrating that the divine Messiah, his humiliations, and his establishment of a spiritual kingdom are grounded in the Israelite prophets.  In his treatise A Book Against the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens, he addresses the Moslems through; reason, not hatred, by words, not force, not in hatred, but in love.   He appeals to them from the Koran and affirms that; their book commands them to look to the Christian Bible as divinely authoritative and it is this Bible which points to Jesus rather than Mohammed as the true teacher.  Hence, in following the Bible one is to reject Mohammed.

Peter of Blois (D. 1202) in his Against the Perfidy of the Jews, he warns Christians of the diabolical tactics by which the Jews evade the evidences.  He also used arguments from the Incarnation, virginal birth, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ in his apologetic.

Peter Abelard (A.D. 1079-1142) [Pp.82-84] gave considerable clout to reason in the area of religious conviction.  He maintained that human reason (unlike the Augustinians), making use of objectively accessible evidences, could achieve some kind of initial faith.  For Abelard, the “blind faith” of Abraham is an exceptional grace, and thus not normative for ordinary Christians.

In his A Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian, Abelard discusses the rational grounds for faith and highlights the moral superiority of Christianity, with its’ ethics of charity over every religion including Judaism.

In his Christian Theology, Abelard deals with the divine Logos doctrine, and tackles the Trinitarian implications of the Neo-Platonic doctrine of divine emanations.  Abelard’s enthusiasm to build bridges from Christian orthodoxy to alien religions and philosophies, coupled with his attempt to close the gaps between faith and reason, brought on opposition by Bernard of Clairvoux who distrusted dialectics.  This tension between Abelard and Clairvoux symbolize the struggle of every generation.

Richard of St. Victor (1155) [Pp.84-85] wrote a treatise On the Trinity where he combines the traditional insistence on external signs of revelation with a serious quest for necessary reasons.  He also justifies his initial faith by appealing to the extrinsic evidence of miracles.

Alan of Lillie (D. 1202) [p.85] convinced that Moslems could not be won over through arguments from the Scriptures, vied for using intrinsic arguments for the truth of various Christian doctrines.  In On the Catholic Faith against Heretics of His Time, Alan sought to demonstrate Christianity’s faith by using a few simple truth maxims.  In The Art of the Catholic Faith, Alan (supposedly authored) directs his arguments specifically against Moslem tenets.

THOMAS AQUINAS (A.D. 1225-74) [Pp.85-94]

Augustine’s spiritual theology was declining, while Aristotelian philosophy was coming to the forefront of popular thought.  For the first time since the Patristic era, Christians were being offered a scientific vision of the universe that depended not on the Bible.  Through the Spanish Arabic philosopher Averroes (A.D. 1126-98) the teachings of Aristotle became available and the penetration of Averroes precipitated a major spiritual crisis in the European universities.

Combating Aristotelianism could be realized by simply erecting Christian Aristotelianism.  Thomas wrote a series of philosophical commentaries on Aristotle.  On certain points he conceded with Aristotle.  However, Christian revelation had corrected and completed Aristotle’s deficiencies.

In his Summa Contra Gentiles, (either authored in 1258-1264 or 1270-1272), a work understood by many as addressing Christian missions and the university scholar.  This word has no equal in its field.  The aim of the Summa is to be an apologetical theology confronting the new challenge of the scientific Greco-Arabic worldview.  Among other things, the work deals with:  First Book: Chapters 1-9 deals with all things that make one a wise man in light of the supreme truth (first principles) from which all reality derives.

The theologian who contemplates reality in light of divine wisdom has the task of refuting errors in religious teaching, as well as making known the truth of the Catholic Faith and confuting her opponents.

He understands that if the scriptures are not taken to be authoritative, it is appropriate to argue from reason rather than authority.  This does not mean that Aquinas viewed reason as limitless, but he understood that the human mind could discover the divine.  For him, some truths of God are revealed in nature, whereas other truths can only be known through revelation (i.e., Trinity, Incarnation, Sacraments, resurrection).  Aquinas sees that the chief end of man is to find his felicity in the contemplation of God.

The following are some of His Apologetic Arguments: [Pp.91-92]

Miracles were a sign of being God’s messenger, which are stressed in the prophetic writings.  Aquinas defines a miracle strictly as a work that only God could perform.  Moreover, he argues from the impact of Christianity in the world as a proof of its veracity and he indicts Mohammed’s testimony as that which seduced people with carnal pleasures; it taught no sublime truths but those which are common to man; the Koran is mixed with fables and errors and those who trust Mohammed’s words believe lightly.

Augustine and Aquinas’ Differences: [P.92] His Summa Contra Gentiles is a masterpiece and is considered in the Middle Ages as a work comparable to Augustine’s City of God, of the Patristic era.  Thomas used Aristotelian philosophy, whereas Augustine used Neoplatonic philosophy.  Thomas argues from a metaphysical angle, whereas Augustine argues through interpreting history. Thomas uses dispassionate reasoning in his persuasion, whereas Augustine uses rhetoric as his persuasion.

Concluding Remarks:  In his Summa contra Gentiles towers above all previous apologetic works in its clarity, perfect coherence, balance, economy, and precision.  Aquinas like Augustine responded to the challenges hoisted against Christendom with the tools they had a developed.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? “Why Black Lives Can’t Matter…If…” PART 1

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We humans share many things in common; we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are not what we can do; we long for happiness and fulfillment; we don’t like it when people mistreat us; we dislike it when people lie to us; we all try to make sense out of reality as we know it.  These dearly held notions are mainly communicated through words.

The “Black Lives Matter” notion is a case in point.  The desire to communicate that “we matter” can be put “our lives have meaning” and we should thus be treated a certain way.  But whether or not that’s actually true depends on the worldview held.

For example, if naturalism is true (a la Atheism), and humans are merely material entities without an immaterial soul, an accident of macro-evolution where there’s no design, purpose or meaning, then “Black Lives” actually don’t matter.  This is true for at least two reasons; first, “meaning” is not something physical—it can’t be tasted, seen, smelled, heard, or touched, but its’ effects (which are immaterial) are constantly seen in the physical world.  Secondly, the basis of naturalism is that there is no “mind”, no “design”, no “better”, no “progress” but “eternal matter that just is”.

According to the this worldview, humans are simply born, live out their meaningless lives, and then die, never to be remembered, cherished or loved again.  It’s a cold reality.  Thus if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Another example comes from nihilism (naturalism’s child) which reduces all of life to chance plus matter plus time.  This means that human decisions are matter in motion and are thus determined.  This means that human choices are not significant, but a mere illusion.  The reason is because what seems to be “our decisions” is actually, impersonal, mechanistic matter in motion.  According to this worldview, those in favor of or against “Black lives matter” have no choice in the matter, but are simply determined to one “view” or another.  Thus if this position is true, then really “Black lives can’t matter”.

Still another example is pantheistic monism (a la Buddhism and certain branches of Hinduism), which among other things teaches that the individual is part of the oneness of the universe, that life is illusory and thus “individuality” is not real, but a fantasy.  Trying to get meaning from this position is an exercise in futility.  Ironically, many Westerners have looked to the East for its wisdom and insight on reality, except that at its core, there’s a denial of reality.  According to this worldview, there’s no real “Black lives that matter” because that whole notion too is an illusion.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Yet another example is moral relativism (a la the University), which among other things is the self-refuting position that there’s no such thing as absolute truth (i.e. correspondence view of truth) and “we know this to be absolutely true”.  That is, the basis for reality is not any higher power, God, etc., but the individual who creates what is true and right for herself/himself.

If this worldview is true, then “Black Lives can’t matter” for it means that we can’t tell anyone that they are wrong because the individual decides; we can’t complain about the problem of evil because the individual decides; we can’t blame or praise anyone for deeds they’ve performed because the individual decides; we can’t object to injustice because the individual decides; we can’t improve on our morality because the individual decides; we can’t have meaningful moral discussions nor demand tolerance from the opposition because the individual decides.

The “Black Lives Matter” position under this worldview is incoherent at best and diabolical at worst.  Under this self-refuting worldview, “Black lives can’t matter”.

In contradistinction to the aforesaid, theism (a la Judaism or Christianity) holds that the universe—contra naturalism—is not a closed system but one that is open.  This means that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future.  Moreover, in a theistic world human beings are not chance accidents or illusory entities—contra nihilism and pantheistic monism—but created in God’s image and likeness with the purpose to reflect the wonder of the Creator unlike any other creature.  And in opposition to moral relativism, theism grounds all truth and morality in the Creator not the fading whims of the creature.

Only in a theistic worldview can one coherently and rationally argue that “Black lives matter”.  For if the God of Scripture (I.e., The Law, Prophets, & Writings, and the New Testament) actually exists, not only do Black lives matter, but every life matters.  The reason is because human meaning under this worldview comes from the Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, All-knowing God who came near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And I would further say that only from this theistic worldview can emotions rightly and compassionately be expressed, because they are rationally based on the God who is there, the One to whom all humanity will give account for their lives—which indeed matter.

(SDG)

Chapter 2 Summary_The Patristic Era_Part 6_GREEK APOLOGISTS OF THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES [pp.51-59]

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The founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus (AD 205-270) and his disciple Porphyry (AD 234-301) were in part inspired by the example of Christian theologians, erected a systematic theology for pagans that was intellectually respectable.  Porphyry’s treatise Against the Christians, attacked through philosophical argumentation: the Historicity of the Bible, Doctrines of creation, Evil as illusory, the Resurrection, Miracles and Jesus’ Genealogy.

Eusebius of Caesarea, (263-339) was the Christian apologist who most effectively answered Porphyry.  Known greatly for being a Church historian, Eusebius is considered by some authorities as the greatest apologist of the ancient Church.  Eusebius has been accused of lacking originality, because he quotes a string of different authors to make a case whenever possible.  Nonetheless, his sheer volumes of excerpts possess a genuine unity of design and argument.  In His books, some of the following are what is covered: [pp.51-54]

In Preparation, he answers the principal objections of pagans as Porphyry who claim Christians are unfaithful to the Greek religious heritage.  In Proof, he absolves Christians from their Jewish accusers that say they have abandoned the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures.  In Proof of the Gospel, he argues from the NT for the surpassing moral stature of Jesus Christ, who in Greek philosophy has no equal.  Eusebius used the signs of the times greatly in his apologetic for the Christian faith.  Among the early apologists, concerning the aforementioned, he surpasses them all.

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 295-373) educated at the famous catechetical school, he grew up during the last and greatest persecution which ended in Egypt (AD 311).  His writings include: [pp.54-55]

Treatise Against the Pagans, where he reiterates the standard arguments against idolatry and polytheism.  He seems to be especially indebted to Clement and Athanagoras.  In The Incarnation of The Word still one of the most widely read pieces of patristic theology, he writes vibrantly and focuses on the positive and doctrinal aspects of the Word.  Unlike the vitriolic writing of Tertullian, his manner of writing is winsome and attractive.  Moreover, his writing is swift with prose, not bogged down with erudition, contra Origen and Eusebius.

In Cur Deus Homo; he deals with the problem of the incarnation.  Much like Anselm would approach the subject, Athanasius contends that it was necessary for God to satisfy his mercy and justice.  Moreover, in this work he points to fulfilled messianic prophecies to demonstrate Christ’s authenticity; he then refutes Hellenistic objections to the incarnation and finally he considers the meaning and effects of the Resurrection.  

Chrysostom [pp.56-57] was not a keen Jewish apologist. His manner is vitriolic and invective as seen in his:  Demonstration to Jews and Greeks that Christ is God (381-87) he demonstrates to the Greeks that Christ did what no mere man can do.  To the Jews he shows that Christ is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies.  Dulles holds that his Homilies against the Jews (AD 387) is an embarrassment to Christian apologetics seen through his unsympathetic accusations of the Jews as stubborn and blind, and demands their renunciation of their errors.

Cyril of Alexandria [p.57] wrote a treatise For the Holy Religion of the Christians against the Impious Julian (AD 435-440) adopts the position that no books apart from the Bible are necessary for a perfect formation in piety and letters.

Apollinaris of Laodicea [p.57] (AD 310-390) wrote a treatise On Truth where he argues against Porphyry.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus [pp.57-59]  (AD 393-485) was a great Antiochene theologian who composed The Cure of Pagan Maladies; or The Truth of the Gospels from Greek Philosophy.  He advances among other things the need to refute the notions that: Christians refuse reason and opt for blind faith; that the Biblical writers were ignorant and unpolished; that the Cult of martyrs is a senseless superstition; moreover, he uses quotes from pagan philosophers as a well as sacred ones in his argumentation and his apologetic work tends to depict the strengths and weaknesses of Greek apologetics in the patristic age.

Summaries__CHAPTER 1: APOLOGETICS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT    [Pgs.1-21] 

 

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Apologetics and specifically apologists have had a bad rap among modern Christians for various reasons.  Some have been known to be arrogant, pushy, snobbish, graceless, prayer-less people who ironically have diluted the gospel message. But a few bad apples “don’t spoil the whole bunch”.  There have been many who have been faithful to the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God and have paid the price for it as a result.

The church has been graced with many apologists since the inception of the primitive church who were marked by: prayer, erudition, genius, talent, and true piety.  In this book Avery Dulles aims to reveal how the heroes from the past understood and lived out what it meant to fulfill the mandate of 1 Peter 3:15.

Although nothing “new” can be said, recurring issues from the past resurface with “new” garb, which at the core are the same old problems.  Dulles gives special attention to both Catholic and Protestant contributors.  This text is a historical must read for those would learn from those who have gone before us.          

APOLOGETIC MOTIFS IN THE EARLY TRADITION

Christianity was a message before being an apologetic.  Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, crucified, buried, and Risen from the dead was at the story’s core [pp.2-3].  The Earliest Preaching focused on Christ’s Lordship (Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26); backed up the claims of his Messiahship through fulfilled prophecy (Ps.2:7-8; 110:1; Acts 2:26; Heb. 1:5; 5:5); emphasized his resurrection as the core of the apostolic proclamation (Dan.7:13; acts 2:25-28); and Jesus’ passion was seen as the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s account (Is.53):

Who has believed our message?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.  By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But he Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

APOLOGETIC DEVELOPMENT:  [Pgs.3-9]

The early believers confronted and answered their objectors with amazing precision, penetration and practicality.  One objection was explaining: “the Ascension of Christ—where is He now?”  He’s presently in heaven (Ps.16: 11; 110:1); he will return as the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 3:21); and his dominion is presently exercised through the Spirit’s outpouring (Acts 2:16-21).

When it came to the Passion of Christ, Jesus was seen to be cursed by God through the crucifixion (Dt.21:23), but this humiliation was part of God’s redemptive plan (Is. 52-53, see 53:5) in order to justify many from the curse of the Law through faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:10-14).  Moreover, the blindness of the Jews was predicted by the prophet (Is.9-10; Acts 28:26-27); and was caused by God even though God has not forgotten them (Rom.9-11).

Another issue that had to be addressed was the betrayal of Judas.  How could Jesus have miscalculated the treachery of this disciple?  This betrayal was also predicted in scripture (Jn.13:18; cf., Ps.41:9) and points to the sovereignty of God in all things even when our choices are significant and we’re culpable.

Then there’s the issue of Jesus’ Origin being from Nazareth.  He’s in the line of David (Ps.89:3-4; Jn.1:45-46; Mic.5:1; Mt.2:5; Jn.7:42) seen by his birthplace to be in Bethlehem.

Again, there’s the issue of Jesus’ Public Life: where he never claimed to be the Messiah.  Nevertheless, God pointed to Jesus as his beloved Son (Ps.2: 7; Is.42:1; Lk. 3:22; 9:35; Acts 10:38; 2 Pet.1:17); the writers of the New Testament later understood that Jesus’ Messiahship was to be secret (Mk.1:34; 3:12; 5:42) perhaps because the Jews could not conceive of the type of Messiah Jesus was, or maybe because of Jesus’ ambivalent attitude toward the messianic appellations, or possibly because their hearts were hardened (Mk.6:52; 8:17; Jer.5:21).

When it came to the Miracles of Jesus they had a specific purpose.  Miracles were aids to faith, evoking wonder and amazement; they are seen (especially in the casting out of demons) as Satan being overthrown by the inauguration of the Kingdom of God; and they authenticate Jesus’ message because they blend in with the Good news of salvation.

CHANGING CONTEXTS: ACTS, PAUL, AND HEBREWS [Pgs.9-13]

In The Book Acts [pp. 9-11] we see Stephens defense of Christ and the gospel (Acts 7) by pointing to Old Testament redemptive history, where God is to be sought through the prophets, who ultimately point to the exclusivity of Jesus as the only means of salvation (Is.6:9-10).  Then there’s Peter’s address to the uncircumcised (Acts 10) where he undergoes a major paradigm shift of who can be saved and explains that Jesus is the healer, wonder worker, and risen Lord from the dead.

We also observe the Gentile world addressed through the agency of Natural Theology employed by Paul (Acts11…).  This apostle is seen contradicting polytheism (14:15-17); on the Areopagus address to the Athenians (17:23) Paul confronts their worship, explains God’s necessity and his transcendence.  Moreover, because Paul knew their authorities he could speak more forcefully to the gospel truth of coming judgment and Christ’s resurrection.

The Apostle Paul [Pgs.11-13]

This converted Pharisee who once persecuted the church was now its most influential spokesmen especially to the Gentile world.  When Paul addressed the Corinthian church he tackled the issue of Faith and Reason; refused to capitulate to their love of human wisdom (1 Cor.3: 6); would not ground his preaching on the hot philosophic views of the age, but instead rested his proclamation on the Spirit’s power so that their faith (the Corinthians) be not based on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

When Paul addressed the Romans, he focused on the hindrance to worship (Rom. 1).  This was the classic case against idolatry (vv18-23) that’s inexcusable, self-delusional, self-exalting, self-destructive, and is the reason for why God’s judgment obtains.

The Book of Hebrews [Pg.13]

We don’t really know who wrote the book of Hebrews but it’s the first apology to the Hebrew Christian Community where Christianity is seen as the perfect religion which eclipses the religion of Israel because of who Jesus of Nazareth is.  Here, the Old Covenant is compared to the New Covenant, Moses is compared to Jesus, the Levites are compared to Jesus’ Priesthood, the constant sacrifices are compared to Christ’s final sacrifice and Christ’s supremacy is placarded throughout the letter.

THE FOUR EVANGELISTS AS APOLOGISTS [Pgs.13-19]

The gospel accounts come from four different perspectives concerning the life and teachings of Christ.  At the core their message is identical, yet due to their audience, each biography has a different emphasis.   For example, Mark’s Gospel focuses on [p.14]; the edification of converts, the explanation for why Christianity began, the supply of preaching material for missionary preachers, an armory of apologetic arguments for Jewish and heathen opposition, with the view always to remember that Christ is risen indeed.

Matthew’s Gospel intentions [p.15] focused more on the believing community where apologetically the writer was concerned with fulfilled prophecy—as a summary of Jesus’ career (Is.14:1-4), with ecclesiastical hierarchy (Mt.16:19), with combating Rabbinic thought (Mt.23), and finally with unfolding the Passion narrative (Mt.27-28).

Luke-Acts intentions [Pgs.16-17] focused on demonstrating the accurate historical account of the life of Jesus (to know the truth of all Theophilus had heard (Lk.1:1-4), it was geared toward the Roman ruler it was focused on redemptive history, and the need to establish a harmonious relationship between the Church and the supreme secular powers.

John’s Gospel intentions [Pgs.17-19] are for people to come to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the goal of which is eternal life.  This would be realized through; the Signs of the miracles, emphasis on Jesus as the Light of the world to a Hellenistic audience.  John’s aim in all of this is to sustain and intensify the life of believers.  As such, it has apologetic affinities.

CONCLUSION

The Resurrection of Jesus was indubitably the centerpiece of early Christian apostolic preaching.  Since the majority of audiences held the OT Scriptures as authoritative, it was the sacred text used apologetically to demonstrate Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and Redeemer of all mankind.  However, when ignorance of such literature obtained, preachers like Paul would employ natural theology to proclaim the Gospel.

This brief outline is packed with Gospel truth that you believer would do well to meditate on, understand and impart to those God has called you to disciple.