Reflections From 1st Corinthians 2: HOW DO WE MINISTER TO GIFTED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, & PROUD PEOPLE?

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Human pride is that malady that makes much of the creature and little of the Creator. It disproportionately attaches value to self and turns what is good and beautiful into a hideous reality.  Paul continues his thought from chapter one and offers personal biography that’s focused on intent:

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”   (Vvs.1-5)

When a crowd is gifted, knowledgeable, and proud, if we were able, many of us would be tempted to show our intellectual prowess in order to spar with the opposition.

To possess intellectual gifts and have a facility with theological and philosophical ideas and their requisite analysis has an appropriate place in gospel persuasion.  Certainly Paul could do this but when it came to the proclamation of the gospel, his strategy for persuasion is one of simplicity and substance.  This surely mocks human pride and showcases its emptiness.

Paul neither comes with rhetoric nor this world’s wisdom when he proclaims the testimony of God, but instead focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ and Calvary’s cross.  His purpose for doing this was so that believers would not trust in the creature’s mere words, but in the demonstrable power of the God/Man.

The incarnation of Christ (i.e., God became a fully functioning human being without any sin) is not one of the many critical aspects of the gospel, but the absolute heart of it.  In Jesus of Nazareth, God took on human flesh (while not at all compromising the perfections of His being of: aseity, simplicity, omniscience, omnipresence, omnisapience, omnibenevolence, etc.) which to the Jew was impossible (and a stumbling block) and to the Greeks (foolishness) but to the called it’s both the wisdom and power of God.

Now this demonstration of the Spirit’s power had to include signs, wonders, healings, etc.  Something other worldly followed Paul’s proclamation, but the greatest evidence was the church which had regenerated souls who once were dead in trespasses and sins.  This can’t be overstated but too often is misconstrued.  New birth truly is a miracle, where human will adds nothing to that reality according to Paul (something many believers have difficulty reconciling between the order of salvation: does faith precede new birth or does new birth precede faith).

Today, many false conversions obtain in America specifically because of a doctrine of salvation that says “by faith alone” I’m saved.  True, but that faith is “never alone”, it produces the evidence of new life in how a professing believer lives.

This state of affairs generally results from a functional illiteracy of the gospel of Christ, and a relativistic understanding of “faith” that is neither able to be verified or falsified, is not understood to be in the realm of knowledge, and is thus relegated to the private, subjective and personal sphere.  That’s not good news, but rather an indictment on church leadership that has forsaken the eternal, inerrant, infallible word of God and exchanged it for the temporal, errant, fallible word of men.

If one of us can’t “believe” in this book called Holy Scripture, the Bible, because men wrote it, then there’s a problem with consistency.  Daily men are trying to persuade us to their views of: politics, science, philosophy, history, theology, ethics, etc. through their writings.  Why do we choose to believe their views?  Are we to seriously discard everything they say because they wrote it?  There’s more going on here than meets the eye friends.

For Paul and those wanting to be faithful to gospel of Christ, the way to minister to knowledgeable, gifted and proud people is to keep it simple without being simplistic.  Because the gospel of Christ while being simple is exceedingly profound, and it is therefore the duty of every teacher to do their due diligence in order to not be derelicts with the treasure of God’s word.

(SDG)

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Summary of “DEATH IN THE CITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Death in the City, Schaeffer accentuates six sobering observations.  First, the reason for why there’s death in the city is that we have turned away from our Reformation roots.  God has been discarded by not only our culture but also by many professed Christians. The propositional force and nature of the Scriptures is what has been abandoned and what we must return to in order for life to spring forth in said desolation.

Second, just as the God who is there exists, it follows biblically that He is both holy and gracious in revealing to us His propositional truth.  To neglect Him and thus His self-disclosure (which we have) is to fall into judgment.  Jeremiah  wept for the church and the culture.  We must also.  His message was one of truth and grace.  When said truth is trampled, judgment follows.  Nothing has changed.  To speak prophetically to our culture it will require us to preach the two sides of the same coin with humility and love.  That’s a tall task and one which God enables us to accomplish.

Hence, there must be a dual weeping, a knowing that preaching judgment is hard but indispensable.  For where false religion, adultery, extortion, lying, and the oppression of the poor by the powerful exist, there’s judgment.  We must call sin, sin; beware of our affluence and its trappings, and put our hope not in man’s power but God’s strength ultimately.  If we preach this way coupled with humility and love, then the world might start taking us seriously.  We’re truly in Jeremiah’s days.

Third, are we perturbed that the message of judgment is ever lingering before men but do we love God and people in such a way that we cry out with the truth compassionately?  Jeremiah did and his message of judgment on both great and small brought a price on his head.  The people wanted him dead.  Nothing’s changed, people want us dead as well.  Disdain for God’s word is ever real, nothing new and always our doom.  God help us in our weakness.

Fourth, in light of the aforesaid, persistent compassion is vital and yet costly.  Jeremiah illustrates the physical and psychological price that will be paid by those who follow in his footsteps.  Like Jeremiah we must:  a) preach the truth of judgment, b) recognize that our country is already under God’s judgment, c) practice the truth, d) know it will be costly, e) persevere doing the above regardless of the price.  When historically the church fails to do the above, defection is followed by destruction.

Fifth, the man without the Bible will be judged according to his own standards which he has broken.  The man with the Bible will be judged according to the light of Scripture which he has broken.  The fact is that all are under judgment.  But in Christ, God’s rescue is available and can be realized by the compassionate clear preaching of the Gospel.  We are debtors to the lost and often we don’t feel this.  God help us here.

Lastly, we must live as Christians before the lost.  This includes a life of dependent prayer to the God of Creation who is there.  He will hear the cry of our hearts and respond to believing supplication.  And when He is silent, we must continue to trust the Faithful One who is amazing.

Summary of “NO LITTLE PEOPLE” by Francis Schaeffer

IMG_20170911_104919This is one of Schaeffers’ most powerful books.  In No Little People he focuses on the significance of the smallest details both in the life of God’s servants and the places in which they find themselves.  According to the Bible says Schaeffer, “With God there are no little people” (pg.5).  He then considers how significant a simple stick of wood was to become in Moses hands as a source of judgment—plagues, deliverance—Red Sea, and supply—water from the rock.   This stick, something “insignificant” became the rod of God.  As this rod became God’s, so to must the believer.  Essentially there are no little people, only those that are and are not consecrated to God.  That’s sobering!   At the end of the day we as believers must follow Christ’ humble approach of service, nothing else.  In fact, humility is not an option for honoring Jesus, but a requisite.

In the chapter The Weakness of God’s Servants, attention is given to just that—their weakness.  I found this sobering and encouraging.  It’s sobering because I can identify with my own struggles with sin.  It is among other things refreshing to know God reveals our heroes faults—to embarrassing heights often.  Why?  Because the Bible is a realistic book with flesh and blood, sweat and tears, highs and lows revealing the “mannishness” of man.  We even in the church are sometimes too blinded to this reality.  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Gideon, David, Solomon, Elijah, Peter, Paul represent different aspects of our common problem: sin before a holy God.  Honestly, I’m glad my name’s not in the bible and my deeds on display for all to see.  They may one day however, and that’s scary.

Lastly, not because there’s not much more to consider, but in the chapter David: Lawful and Unlawful Vindication the hard lesson is that personal sin can and too often does paralyze our duty to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God.  Post Bathsheba and Uriah, David’s life was never the same.  Being in leadership is no small task however great or small the band may be.  Our actions have far reaching consequences the likes of which can be utterly daunting to consider.  Nonetheless, ponder I must for the sake of the Name of God.

This book is must reading for anyone in, aspiring to, or presently going into church leadership for it gives in my view a sober and realistic assessment of our human plight even though we are part of the covenant people.

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.