Summary of CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE GOD WHO IS VERY ANGRY [Pages 201-211]

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First, Carson opens the chapter by considering why talk about the wrath of God tends to make people so uncomfortable. In our culture according to Carson, “…it is hard to think about this topic because anger is often connected in the public mind with intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and bigotry”.  And yet, according to the “eternal gospel” in Revelation 14:6-7 the herald calls every nation, tribe, language and people to fear the God of all creation and give Him glory and worship for His judgment has come.  And the impending doom of paganism (e.g., Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great) is that of a “society that’s been set free of God is its own worst enemy”:

And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

Second, Carson considers how Revelation 4&5 unpack the gospel.  According to Carson, revelation 4-5 unpacks for us what the gospel is.  Chapter 4 reveals that God is the God of creation and the entire created order is dependent on Him to live move and have its being.  Chapter 5 reveals God’s purpose for judgment and blessing and only the Lion, who is the Lamb, can open the seals. 

 Third, Carson looks at the meaning of two agricultural metaphors found in Revelation 14:14-20.   The grain and the treading of the wine press are teaching about the final judgment. 

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.”19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

Grain Harvest means that a set time is coming when the harvest will happen, and there’s no escaping it.  It speaks of the goal of history, and end in sight, where time will be no more after the final judgment.

The Treading of the Wine Press means to emphasize the violent thoroughness of God’s wrath when it is finally poured out.  This imagery is horrific—it’s about the trampled blood of people by God’s thorough wrath.

 Fourth, Carson addresses the issue of manipulation when we talk about hell.    Many have charged that talking about hell is manipulative.  Carson rightly emphasizes that it’s not manipulative if it’s true.  After all, Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person in the Bible and he warned people of impending doom (Mt. 10:28).  However, if it were a lie, then it would be manipulative and the charge would be warranted. But, if it’s true, to not sound the alarm is vicious, cruel, and unloving.  Jesus warned people, we must also…but many times we have not.  That’s troubling!

When we preach about hell we want to be faithful to Christ’s attitude about it, not betray Him.  Moreover, we who have been pardoned by the sovereign grace of God through the Son were once under God s wrath.  We’re no better than any other person.  We are beggars/prisoners who know where to find bread, and who have received pardon.  Plain and simple!

Summary of CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE GOD WHO DECLARES THE GUILTY JUST [Pages 169-185]

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In this chapter Carson tackles the issue of how and why God can and does declare the guilty just.  It’s largely Paul’s argument in Romans 1-11 and is perhaps the most misunderstood aspects of the gospel transculturally.

First, Carson explains why it’s impossible to be acquitted with justice on the ground of the good things we do.   The reason is because we are all law breakers: those with the Book, and those without the Book.  All of us have broken even our own lesser standards.  It’s ridiculous for the murderer to appeal to his “good deeds” before the judge after he in fact has been properly convicted of committing the crime.  How much more before the judge of Creation?!  And yet, people tend to flock to this absurdity when it comes to eternal matters.

Second, the main theme of Romans 1:18-3:20 is precisely how everyone is justly guilty before God.  All are under judgement; all are guilty, because they have denied God the Creator.  They have thus become fools and Paul reminds us that there are none righteous, none who understands, none who seeks God, none who does good, not even one—their deeds and words condemn them, none who fears God.  Humanity is the core of all the evil there is, for in wanting to go our own way we have all disowned the God who is there, The One, who has made us.

Third, Carson explains several ways in which the Old Testament anticipates the arrival of Jesus.  There’s the sacrificial system of the blood of bulls and goats which testify to what was to come in the new covenant.  Here the high priest came with sacrifices into the holiest place on the Day of Atonement—all pointing to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.  Then, there are the Ten Commandments which anticipate a day when murder and adultery will not only be prohibited but unthinkable in the new heavens and new earth.  And there’s also the anticipated day from the law when the righteousness of God would be revealed in Christ. 

Fourth, Carson considers how God’s righteousness is available to all people without racial distinction but on the basis of faith.   The reason it’s good news for the above mentioned caption to be true is because all are guilty before God, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All means everyone under heaven’s sky, on earth’s dirt and in the oceans water.  Carson then explains three terms related to our salvation in Christ.

There’s righteousness, which is achieved through Christ’s redemption.  This redemption involves buying back from the slave market one who is indebted to another and has absolutely no possible means to pay for the debt.  A redeemer is one who purchases the one in debt and delivers him and his family from slavery to another.  Biblically, Jesus justifies us freely through faith by the redemption of his blood.  Thus, believers are justified before the God of heaven!

Then there’s the act of propitiation.  Propitiation is that sacrificial act whereby God becomes favorably disposed to us.  He is set over against us in wrath, but now by the sacrificial act of His son, He has become favorable toward us.

Another term is expiation, which is the act whereby God wipes out sin from the board, sin here is cancelled.  The object of expiation is sin, while the object of propitiation is God.   The text says that God propitiated God through the sacrifice of His son.  This is mind boggling in light of the fact that in the pagan world those offering sacrifices for propitiation to the gods were the worshippers.  Not so in the Bible, God propitiates God.  Thus, turning away of God’s wrath and the cancelling of sin are achieved by both expiation and propitiation.

 Fifth, Carson explains what is meant when Paul says that in the cross God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.  God’s holiness must be maintained.  Therefore He must punish sin which He did through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  He maintained Justice!  God’s love has been demonstrated by paying for our sins on the cross. He displayed Love!  Unlike so many understand today, in the Bible faith is related to truth.  If it’s not true, it’s worthless.

In the Bible, Faith doesn’t mean that which makes you feel good and is not subject to verification.  Rather, it deals with that which is stated and argued as actually occurring in space-time history.  Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 15 where he affirms that if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead the first witnesses are all liars.  Again, if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead we are still in our sins.  Then if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead our faith is useless.  And that if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead we are to be pitied more than anyone else.  Our lives are a joke precisely because we consider that which is false to be true.

Conversely, if the resurrection is actually true, then all others rejecting the truth of these claims are sadly under the wrath of God and the “joke” is on them.  That’s sobering, sad, and must cause our hearts to live under God as we endeavor to shine in this world for Christ.

Summary From CHAPTER SEVEN: THE GOD WHO BECAME A HUMAN BEING [Pages 101-119]

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Carson begins this chapter by first pointing out that before Jesus was born, the prophet Jeremiah promised a new covenant.  What this promise implicitly says about the old (Mosaic) covenant is that in some sense, it is becoming obsolete (Jer. 31:31-34):

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Secondly, Carson explains how in Jesus God became human.  For starters, “Jesus’” name means “Yahweh saves.”  This is the covenant name of God given to Moses at Sinai.  The importance of this name in Mathew’s gospel is that it sets forth the entire theme of the book; namely that Yahweh has come to save his people from their sins (in Christ).

He then explains the doctrine of the Trinity to mean that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God.  Not three Gods, only one.  One way of explaining this, is that the Word shares one substance with the Father, but is distinguishable from Him.  That is, there are three distinct persons within the Godhead who are equally the One God, co-existing, co-equal, and co-eternal.

In John’s prologue (John 1:1-18) it’s clear that the “Word” is simultaneously God’s own peer and God’s own self?  In verse 1 this is emphatic: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  God reveals, himself to the prophets through his word; God creates through the spoken word in (Gen.1; Ps.33:6); God transforms his people through the word (Ps. 107:20), and Jesus is God’s self-revelation, self-expression; God’s own agent in creation; and he comes to save and transform his people.

Thirdly, Carson explains what the incarnation means.  It means that the Word becomes a human being (i.e., the infleshing). God becomes something that previously before the incarnation, he was not.  What John does not say is that the Word merely clothed himself in animal humanity, pretended to be human, coexisted with a man called Jesus, nor is all of God exhausted in Jesus.  But John does say that the Word (God’s own peer) became a human being.  Jesus is the “God/Man.  God in his divinity cannot change, but in Christ’s humanity there’s a distinct addition: a human nature.  This is mind baffling.

Fourthly, Carson makes the connection between the Old Testament Tabernacle and New Testament incarnation.  He does this by thematically connecting John 1:14-18 on the one hand and Exodus 32-34 on the other hand.  He explains that the Tabernacle and Temple, point to the fact that Jesus is the ultimate meeting place between a holy God and rebellious sinners.  He is said to have “tabernacled among us”.  This is where the meeting place of peace with God can be found in Jesus Christ.

Glory is what Moses wanted to see of God on Sinai, but when Jesus tabernacled among us the wonder of his glory, God’s glory, is seen in the miracles and ultimately on Calvary’s tortuous bloody cross.   Grace and Truth (Love and Faithfulness) God reveals himself not only as the One who punishes evil doers but is also kind and forgiving.  Full of grace and truth is that which brought him to the cross to pay for our sins.  Here is where justice and love kiss!

Grace and Law means that we have received grace in place of grace already given.  The gracious gift of the Law was superseded by the ultimate revelatory expression of God in the 2nd person of the Triune God who through his sacrificial death on Calvary’s bloody cross purchased the redemption price required for wrath doomed sinners to be rescued and thus adopted into God’s family.  It’s found in the new covenant, which replaces the old covenant.

Seeing God can only be accomplished through seeing Jesus. We cannot look directly on God, according to John 1:18.  What is at present, the closest we can come?  Presently, we can see the character, holiness, wrath, forgiveness and glory of God in Jesus.  He is the ultimate revelation of God the Father—he is the incarnate son of God.

And as such, Jesus most spectacularly showed that he is full of grace and truth on the cross.  Both God’s justice and love are fully expressed there.  This field will forever be marveled on by the redeemed age without end.

Reflections From ROMANS 7:1-13 “TO BE IN CHRIST ONE MUST BE DEAD TO THE LAW”

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Paul now continues his argument from chapter 6 where he argued that we are enslaved to the one we obey whether it’s sin which produces death or grace which results in eternal life (6:22-23).  Here, he continues strumming the same note and uses the example of a woman bound by law to her husband while he’s alive.  Only after he dies is she freed to marry another without being an adulterous (Vv.1-3).  Then Paul makes the connection between the believers union with Christ:

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”   

Here’s what I gather from this text.  First, though the Law was a good husband, it could never produce life in us because of our sinful nature.  When Christ died on the cross, the believers in him also died to the Law so that they may be joined to another husband—to Christ who rose from the dead.  We have come to be His bride for the purpose of bearing fruit for God (i.e., sanctification).

The metaphor of husband and wife is penetrating.  The purpose of the 1st husband was to show us how sinful our sin is.  The purpose of the 2nd husband is to free us from death by vanquishing the grave.  Both husbands are good (Law and Christ) but only the latter husband can bring us life through His death.  Thus, to be in Christ is to be dead to the Law.  If one is not dead to the Law, they don’t belong to Christ.

This does not argue for antinomianism (being against the Law) nor for Libertarianism (we are free to sin) but for the actuality that new birth produces—new life which issues forth a life of continuous sanctification.  Paul buttresses his argument by recalling our state before and after new birth:

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Paul however anticipates an objection and continues:

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

This section is somewhat tricky.  Paul begins affirming that the Law is not sin, but rather is a light that exposes sin (e.g., covetousness) and thus clarifies what sin is (covetousness).  Secondly, sin is shown to be such when the commandment is given and the object recoils, flinches and resists that light.  Third, when this light of the Law exposes sin, it produces more sin in him, not less.

Now the last phrase, “apart from the Law sin is dead” is problematic.  First, It could mean that when the Law does not expose sin (because somehow the Law is hidden from us) it does not have the opportunity to replicate itself, nor be amplified through the object’s motivation.  Second, Paul does argue that both Jew and Gentile are all under sin (chapters 1-2) even if the Gentiles did not have the Law.  Now if Gentiles did not have the Law, were they then sinless?  Clearly not!  Third, according to Adam’s rebellion, all men were thrown into a sinful state before the Law came.  So were they then sinless?  Clearly not!

What I think Paul is referring to is (Vv.1-6) where he explains that being dead to the Law is to be in Christ.  Thus, believers are no longer enslaved to sin but to Christ because of new birth.  Paul continues his thought:

I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”     

             I’m not clear on how Paul can say that he was “once alive apart from the Law” since the absence of the Law does not eradicate the reality of sin from our first father Adam, it’s just not exposed.  Maybe he means that he thought all was well until the Laws’ light showed him otherwise and thus produced in him death?  Because of sin’s deceptive nature, perhaps instead of recoiling at the command Paul thought he could actually perform it without the motive tainted by sin (he was after all a devout Jew).

Paul concludes in a strange way lauding the Law and its characteristics of being holy, righteous and good.  He knows an objection is warranted to be raised and continues:

13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.”    

             Paul affirms that the cause of death is sin not the Law which is good.  The purpose for this is to show that sin is and is utterly sinful.  Moreover, it’s just not the cause of death by means of the commandment, but it’s also the effect of death.  Plainly put, the Law is neither the cause nor the effect of death—sin is; which the Law reveals to be real and deadly.  That is the purpose of the Law.            

            That’s why people suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness and that’s why God’s just wrath is on sinful rebels.  This section is amazingly profound and troublesome.  The extent that God went through to show rebels like me that wrath is just because of sin which has been exposed through God’s holy, righteous and good command is amazing.  Moreover, the need to embrace Christ alone as husband is clear in light of the Law’s purpose—to expose sin, not to cleanse it away.  Only Christ can cleanse from sin.

It’s troublesome because this truth is so backwards in the lives of many religious people who are trusting in their law-keeping.  Only death awaits those who trust in that.

LORD, thank you for the light of your word which brings us truth and life.  May I never  and leave this glorious treasure of the gospel, but may I and Your church proclaim it boldly, kindly, and relentlessly! (SDG)

Summary of CHAPTER TWO: THE GOD WHO DOES NOT WIPE OUT REBELS (Pgs.27-42)

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In this chapter Carson continues in the book of Genesis.   He explains how the Fall took place, how it tarnished human relationships, and what God promised to do about it.

First, Carson tackles the issue of God’s ontological status compared to Satan’s.   Too often people mistakenly equate God and Satan as mirror images of each other (one good, the other bad), thus making him equivalent to God.  But Genesis reveals that Satan is a rebellious, contingent, dependent, “smart-mouth” creature, not on par with God at all.

According to Carson, Satan’s craftiness started out in prudence but ended in craftiness.  That is, he was crowned with more prudence than any of the other creatures but in his rebellion it turned into craftiness.  This virtue became a vice, the blessing became a curse (Prov. 12:23; 14:18):

 23 A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.

This craftiness is revealed in the question the serpent asks Eve where the pinnacle of evil is seen by assaulting God’s goodness.   Implied is that God’s out to keep you from having any fun.  The creature is telling the Creator (implicitly) “I know better”.  Moreover, it smuggles in the assumption that we have the ability and the right to stand in judgment of what God has said. 

            Secondly, he considers the tragedy and meaning of eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3Our children, like our first parents want to become independent of mom and dad.  Eve also thought that she wanted to become “independent from God” but she bought into the lie that the doctrine of judgment is not true.  Satan sold the lie:

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

             Carson argues that there’s a vast difference between God knowing good and evil and Eve knowing it.  On the one hand, God omnisciently knows both good and evil, but He is not evil.  On the other hand, Eve will become evil experientialy through her disobedience, and she’ll know it. 

            God alone has the prerogative to call something good or evil and is in fact what He does after completing all of creation, “it is very good.”  Here, the image bearer desires to possess the ability to call what they want “good or evil”.  By doing this, the image bearer stands over against God.  This is what our present relativistic culture is all about.  Carson calls this thede-goding of God (so that “I” may be my own god).  Herein lays idolatry and thus the tragedy—the creature’s value is exalted above the Creators’.

Thirdly, he explains how defying God resulted in broken human relationships.  Carson points out that in the Christian tradition death has varied views.  Augustine, for example, held that both physical, spiritual death, the second death (i.e., lake of fire), and their nakedness before God is a display of His promise of judgment.  Thus, they traded the knowledge of God for guilt and shame which no leaf can ever cover.

We have here the loss of innocence which can’t be undone.  Fortunately, the Bible goes forward to the cross.  Carson argues that broken relationships with God are akin to adultery.  Human broken relationships result from the vertical relationship that’s tattered, where blame shifting is manifest with Adam (Eve is my problem) and Eve (the serpent is my problem).

            We also have the blueprint for self-justification which results when people cover up residing shame and guilt.  That is, denial is king!  Everything we do wrong is someone else’s fault, “I’m the victim,” its’ one more evidence of idolatry.  What resulted was that Eve wanted to control (rule) her husband, and Adam would rule her with brute strength.  This is all too familiar describing the 21st century American cultural milieu.  The marriage relationship is destroyed.

Fourthly, he explains that God promised in the gospel to remedy the alienation.  Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the “protevangelium,” which means the first announcement of the gospel (that is, the “Good News” about Jesus).  For it foretells the redemption Jesus’ life death and resurrection would secure.  This first promise of hope comes immediately after this cataclysmic treason takes place.  Essentially, one will rise from the human race (the woman’s seed) that will crush the serpents head.  This occurs in a sense, when Christians are reconciled to God because of the gospel (Rom. 16:20).  Satan along with his work, in this sense, is being destroyed.

Lastly, Carson accentuates what humanity needs most.  Through idolatry, death came into the world.  That is, by the evil that belittles and defies God’s glory, death resulted.  This is the anti-thesis to God’s shalom—for it resists the peace, good order, well-being, human flourishing, and integrity that were part of God’s design for the created order.  Thus, our greatest need is to be saved from God’s wrath who has pronounced death on us because of our idolatry.  We need to be reconciled to God!  When things went awry, we tried to diminish God and thus we became impoverished.

Summary Chapter 5: Zero Point_Nihilism

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Chapter 5: ZERO POINT—NIHILISM (Pgs.74-93)

Sire begins this chapter by arguing that nihilism is a denial of ultimate reality and is thus more of a worldview than a philosophy.  This is evident in the artwork produced which denies meaning on the one hand, but possess a structure to it on the other hand, and thus ends refuting itself.  For structure, presupposes meaning, a mind, design, etc.

Nihilism, Sire continues, is the child of naturalism which reduces all of life into chance plus time plus matter.  To make a choice is really illusory for what seems to be “our decision” is actually determined matter in motion.  This means there’s no such thing as free will.  All that exists is unknown determinism masked as chance that cares for no one nor favors anyone.  It just is.  Add to that naturalism’s claim to knowledge which according to Darwin is quite dubious since our brains are only a higher order from monkey’s, who knows if it’s not deceiving us into thinking something illusory?

Nihilism, in light of the aforesaid, commits the; is/ought fallacy, for there’s no outside influence telling us what is right or wrong.  This loss of knowing ushers in a loss of morals, which escorts people into a meaningless life.  Futility thus destroys any sense of real beauty in art and living this worldview consistently often leads one to madness (Pg.93 consider nihilism’s heroes).

Summary of Chapter 4: THE SILENCE OF FINITE SPACE—NATURALISM (Pgs.52-73)

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            According to Sire, Deism is the isthmus between theism and naturalism.  Naturalism affirms that matter is eternal, God does not exist, and the cosmos is in a closed system (I.e., no outside forces can interfere with nature like a “miracle”).  Humans are thus nothing more than complex machines in a “monistic” framework of matter and when death beckons, human identity is forever extinguished.  This position also removes meaning from history (really all of life) and many turn to nihilism (I.e., life is meaningless) as a result.

What ends up happening, is that people become the architects of what meaning in life is; not some extrinsic being.  When this occurs, human beings are the measure of all things, thus ethics and truth become relativized and living out the implications of said state of affairs creates many inconsistencies and practical contradictions such that what is, ought to be.

As architects of what determines meaning, naturalism’s child “secular humanism” affirms human value from a physicalist worldview, but the problem is that one does not get values from the physical world; it comes from an immaterial reality.  Sadly, this problem of contradiction is ignored.

There’s also Marxism, which Sire affirms comes in varied forms be it a democratic or a totalitarian packaged worldview.  Marxism considers the meaning of life from an economic locus where people are mere subjects of their environment (Influenced by philosophers Hegel and Feuerbach).  Marxism’s goal for history is utopian, its’ atheism is reductionist, it loathes capitalism, it fails to factor in human sin, and considers the redistribution of wealth as a virtue.

The fact is humanity is much more than a brain and the desire for meaning and purpose is a relentless issue in life that always pricks the human soul.  Despite its many metaphysical, epistemological and ethical problems, naturalism holds sway for many because it’s viewed as objective and without bias, for it’s always looking for the truth with no “axe to grind”.

Summary of Chapter 3: THE CLOCKWORK: DEISM (Pgs.40-51)

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            Deism according to Sire came about as a response to: internal strife within Christendom; and resulted in a view of reason that trumped any revelation, thus making autonomous human reason the ultimate reference point.

Deism’s God is not personal, but an unknowable architect of the universe, who wound up the creation and left it alone to govern itself.  The major tenets of Deism are:

First, God is utterly transcendent and not personal; second, creation runs itself deterministically; third, while human beings are personal, their decisions are not significant because somehow they are not self-determined; fourth, there’s a denial of the Fall and sin, so what is, ought to be.

Moreover nature tells us what we need to know about God, He does not write books.  He’s a designer but not a lover or judge; fifth, ethics reveals nature so what is ought to be, thus there’s a denial of right and wrong good and bad; sixth, the course of history is linear but predetermined at creation, thus Deist’s are not interested in history for God’s knowledge is had through nature, not any of God’s acts in the past; seventh, there’s a denial of the incarnation.

Interestingly, many religious pluralists hold to many of these tenets not least of which is the denial of the incarnation.

Summary CHAPTER 9: CONCLUSION—Developing Your Own Apologetic Approach (Pgs. 181-185)

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McGrath ends his book by encouraging the reader to only use arguments that are personally satisfying because if they are not, they lose their effectiveness humanly.  He explains the importance of knowing yourself (both strengths and weaknesses) so that apologetically you have a starting point from which to spring (E.g., he was an atheistic scientist before conversion and integrates this background in his apologetic).

McGrath points out that apologetics is done either through public speaking, authoring books, personal conversations and a life lived to God’s glory.  He further accentuates the need to learn from other apologists by scrutinizing their approach to the subject, their interaction with dissenters, etc. and reverse engineer their arguments.  Here, the “design” of apologetics is observed recalling that it’s not just a discipline but also an art.

After learning the aforesaid, the apologist must then make the arguments and approach their own by incorporating who “they are” in the interaction.  Lastly, he encourages apologists to practice in front of peers who can critique and encourage them on the journey.  Perhaps gathering a group of like-minded people who meet regularly in order to help sharpen and enhance apologetic skills would be a good start.

Above all, he explains how critical it is for apologists to be part of the Christian community where they receive and give support to the local church because (other than it being biblical) the apologetic battles are taxing on the soul and can be dangerous to it.

Summary CHAPTER 3: THE THEOLOGICAL BASIS FOR APOLOGETICS (Pgs. 41-55)

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In this chapter McGrath argues that apologetics is not primarily about argumentation and winning arguments but rather about being mastered by the Christian faith in such a way that its ideas, themes, and values are deeply embedded in our souls.

Simon, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael were impacted not by arguments but by an encounter with Christ.  This means that we need to get people to behold who Jesus is in the gospel accounts.  That’s a powerful apologetic.  When we point people to Jesus they have an opportunity to behold his glory and thus be transformed from death to life.

Again, McGrath accentuates the fact that if God does not move upon dead hearts, there will be no change.  Their blindness must therefore be removed in order for them to see.  We have the small role of removing obstacles to the faith through apologetic engagement, but only God can heal the malady of sin.

McGrath uses the analogy of penicillin to show that God is the healer (pg.46), he then uses the analogy of landscapes to show how we need to help people discover the glories of the faith (pg.47), and he uses the analogy of a prism to show the many facets of the Christian gospel help one appreciate the other facets (pgs.47-48).

McGrath reminds us that we are to show that the cross grounds human forgiveness, how it coupled with the resurrection grounds death’s end, how the cross also brings healing to our broken lives and finally that the cross displays God’s love.  We accomplish this by establishing the historicity and thereby the significance of the aforesaid.  But we must do this gently with those who struggle with any of the areas mentioned.

This means that there’s forgiveness for sinners, healing for the broken, relief for those fearing death, and for the unloved God’s boundless mercies demonstrated.