Mere Apologetics: Chapter 2: APOLOGETICS AND CONTEMPORARY CULTURE (Pgs. 27-40)

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In chapter two, McGrath considers how contemporary culture is to be understood and thus approached.

Our apologetics must be in touch with the culture and audience before us.  While we can and do learn from the past, it’s important to speak in contemporary terms in order to humanly connect with others.

McGrath writes about modernity and post-modernity.  Modernity (M) viewed human reason as universal, available to all, able to unlock the mysteries of life, and argument was reasons tool for the task.  During this era, Christian apologetics mainly focused on reason and rational arguments to commend the faith, but neglected the relational and creative side of being human (pg. 28).  This moreover minimized the mystery of the Faith (E.g., the Trinity was not used as an apologetic) and in order to win arguments some gave over too much real estate and assumed the opponents worldview and ended up losing the heart of the matter.

Post-Modernity (PM) is not easy to define but is easier to describe.  It saw (M) as a failure needing correction.  Of course not all of (M’s) ideas are bad.  Thus (PM) attempted to combine the best of (M’s) and that of Classical Tradition (CT) while removing their undesirable aspects.  Among these undesirable aspects was uniformitarianism—a kind of reductionism that has a “total-scheme” of reality like Marxism.  PM’s see this as a “straight-jacket” that essentially infringes on human freedom.  Now PM’s reject several things.

First, they reject the notion that there’s only one right or wrong way to live.  Second, they see “sameness” as belittling to human freedom, thus diversity is to be celebrated.  Therefore any metanarrative is to be rejected as a way of looking at the world.  Third, they see reason not as universal but rather contextual and relative.  Fourth, they have a suspicious view of truth and hold that it’s used by the powerful to justify their oppression and to maintain their positions of power and authority.  Fifth, they reject the idea that history has some kind of telos (E.g., Jesus of Nazareth).  Sixth, they refuse the view that the “self” has some point of reference, but instead the “self” is a fluid way of seeing ourselves.

PM’s contributes at least two appreciative qualities.  First, it’s a secular worldview that does not define what’s “right/wrong” and is neither pro/con Christianity.  Second, this movement in culture presents an opportunity for a new apologetic approach focused not merely on reason and arguments but also on story, imagination (I.e., the parables of Christ) and an incarnational approach.

How are we to reach our culture and do apologetics in this milieu?  We must first start by knowing the Gospel, secondly understanding our times and thus tailor-make our approach accordingly, third, so that the content of the message remains faithful to the /Master, while the methods adapt to the audience for human connection.

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 12: CHARTING THE JOURNEY (Pgs.229-252)

Guinness winds up his book here by focusing on what the apologist needs to focus on with the true seeker.  According to Os, it’s a journey people are on for the meaning of life.  Too often we don’t live the examined life but there are those who chose to and it’s these we must focus our energies on.  What happens often is that people are either diverted in the journey of life so that they don’t want to face their inevitable end (death), or they’re bargaining with life that they’ll eventually get to the serious issues of life.

 Nevertheless, for those wanting answers to life’s toughest questions the examined life they embrace.  Here is where a road with common questions or issues surface and the following stages follow.

First, it’s important for the apologist to be skilled at leading people in their journey for meaning in life.  This is where the word of God is central to guide what and when things are brought up and done.  That is, the apologist must use his God’s eye view (I.e., biblical understanding) to focus the path.  This means that the gospel must center the interaction and the thought of man reaching up toward God must be corrected with the fact that God is the one that descended toward man.  This is a massive and pivotal thought.  Get this wrong, and we’ve entirely missed the gospel message according to historic orthodox Christianity.

Second, people must ask questions that deal with life’s meaning.  Here, the apologist must direct the person to understand that the base for meaning in life is truth which informs our ethics, community, identity, and purpose as people.  Only serious people ask these questions and consider their depths, not shallow disinterested ones.  Thus, the apologist must be ready to emphasize thinking and uphold it as supreme in the journey for meaning in life, not just belief.

Third, questions require answers and at this stage they are conceptual, critical, and comparative which govern the remainder of the journey.  The comparative questions have been regarded as negative for several reasons that really lack substance so I’ll disregard them for now (See pg.241) but the questions the seeker asks are to concern the apologist, not ones they don’t ask.

Fourth, the evidence for the faith believed must obtain.  A faith that can’t be challenged for its truth claims is not the Christian faith.  So make sure as the apologist that the evidence for the questions raised are demonstrated from either biblical or extra-biblical sources.

Lastly, call for a commitment.  The meaning of life is not an endless journey of searching, but one that when life’s questions have been satisfactorily answered it’s warranted for one to decide either to commit or not.

Guinness concludes his book with reminding the apologist/advocate that there’s a place for negative and positive apologetics depending on the audience and that conversion is toward a lover, not a set of ideas.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (Pgs.255-256)

            When Guinness gives his acknowledgment for those who have deeply impacted him, I was moved.  It occurred to me that most advocates/apologists’, will never author a book or “contribute” to the dialogue which makes them stand out (myself included).   But each one of us has a particular sphere of influence that the Eternal one holds in His hands.

May we be faithful ambassadors to Him, and may we relentlessly placard Christ’s supremacy in all things as we pursue God and let Him be known through our lives.

(SDG)

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 11: KISSING JUDASES (Pgs.209-227)

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In this chapter Guinness begins by pointing out that Christendom has enemies from without and also from within.  Enemies from within the ranks are responsible for heretical doctrines and a syncretism that undermines the Faith once delivered to the saints and are unfaithful to the LORD of the Church.  These are responsible for weakening the church through their anti-intellectual bent and their abhorrence of the apologetic enterprise (pg.211).

These heretics Guinness calls revisionists who essentially imbibe the cultural climate of the day, and what’s in vogue is promoted (I.e., the culture determines truth, not Scripture).  Now, more than ever, the church needs Christian advocacy with the prophetic spirit of St. Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc. who are radically Bible-centered using the best arguments available to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

It’s time for prophetic courage to say what’s not popular and declare what the culture views as passé.  Unfortunately, many Christians in the past and presently scorn apologetics for good reasons, but in so doing have thrown out the baby with the proverbial bath water.  They have unwittingly weakened the bride of Christ by deriding some members of the Body of Christ (See 1 Cor.12).

Apologetics has fallen on hard times and negatively viewed such that instead of persuading with the Gospel we are only to proclaim it, instead of defending the faith we are called to dialogue about the faith (Pgs.212-215).  Unfortunately, these divisions of duty are contrary to Scripture (Mt.28:18-20; 1 Pet.3:15; Jude 3) and rather than strengthening believers have left them vulnerable and ineffective in their being salt and light (Mt.5:13-16).

Guinness says the two major objections to apologetics are that it has first, trumped the authority of the preached word and second, that it has been used to grieve the Holy Spirit.  Where that charge obtains, it should be corrected and not be tolerated.  But let us not kid ourselves that only apologetics is guilty here.  I contend that unlike apologetics; inept preaching, unbiblical leadership, finite power struggles among believers, petty rivalries and more, have often stripped the church from coming under the Scriptures authority and has grieved the Holy Spirit perhaps more than apologetics.[i]

The sad reality is that through abandoning the apologetic enterprise the church has been left weak a defenseless: it’s weak because it does not understand the power of the Gospel and it’s defenseless because it does not know how to fight darkness with arguments wedded to prayer.  Said defenselessness has permitted the revisionist’s (I.e., the heretics within the church) to denude Christianity from its historic roots and Scriptural authority.

This denuding has come in the guise of liberal theology that’s not challenged but assumed to be true.  Assumptions like; what’s new is good and true, but what’s old and traditional is false and bad, what is left of the traditional is adapted to bend to the spirit of the age and is assimilated in the syncretism of culture such that the Christendom which remains is a shadow of the reality (pgs.222-226).

Revisionists betray the LORD of the Church and weaken His Bride not with a kiss, but through a pen, as they twist the meaning of Scripture and suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, not only to their own destruction but also to those who hear them.  This is serious business, not a joke.  Thus the apologist must speak to the maladies outside the church but also combat those within her ranks.

[i] I say perhaps more but actually more is closer to reality.  Too many professing Christians I’ve observed are lazy and don’t read the Scriptures much less in context, making them less inclined to seriously make disciples and to engage the spiritual warfare we are in with arguments (2 Cor:4:3-4; 2 Cor.10:1-5) and prayer (Eph.6) which was Jesus’ and Paul’s practice.

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 10: BEWARE THE BOOMERANG (Pgs.187-208)

  • 510E27T-g7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Guinness begins this chapter by affirming that Christianity’s Achilles heel is hypocrisy and when believers fight among themselves it is a sure signpost that this fracture obtains.  Hypocrisy among believers (I.e., charge of Christians not loving one another) is one of the main reasons for why people don’t come to faith and coupled with a worldly church, leaves the Christian advocate in a difficult place.

Guinness admits that everyone is a hypocrite because self-deception and truth suppression is committed by all which means that for the charge of hypocrisy to be real, objective truth must be presupposed.  This is problematic for Post-moderns because the very notion of objective truth is alien to their worldview.

Hypocrisy ends up violating; truth, justice and honesty, because in one way or another, the position of a proponent is merely spoken, rather than lived out.  That is, a person can “talk the talk, but fails to walk the walk”.  When this kind of disconnect, from word to deed occurs, a loss of credibility follows and results in many people not having an ear to hear the Gospel, and thus calling believers hypocrites.

[It’s important however to point out that most, if not all non-believers, don’t understand the Christian struggle Paul reveals in Romans 7 with sin.  To struggle with sin is one thing, to pretend not to, is another.  And that is perhaps where I think Guinness could have been clearer.  Nevertheless nonbelievers do understand that hypocrisy is bad which points to the reality of objective truth.]

This notion of objective truth is revealed through the social benefits of hypocrisy according to Guinness.   While admitting that hypocrisy is bad and immoral, he says that it can offer some benefits to society for it:

falsely (models) virtue—there’s actually a good to imitate, it may affect others to practice what they preach—there’s actually moral consistency at which to aim, it may stir everyone to self-examination—there’s actually a corporate understanding of this malady, it points to the inner value of life and not just outward image—there’s actually more to us than mere physical properties.

When it comes to the confession of hypocrisy, Guinness admits that it’s the road to freedom and truth rather than bondage and deception.  Moreover, our confessions’ motive should be God’s approval, not peoples, and lastly if truth does not exist, the charge of hypocrisy can’t coherently be leveled.

Reflections From JUDGES 17-21: WHEN TRUTH IS DEAD AND GOD FORSAKEN RELATIVISM RULES!

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          What a sad dreadful account of a people who have forsaken the LORD and thus, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (21:25). Twice is the following refrain found in this account of Israel’s history:

“…There was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes”

 After the account of Samson’s life, this book recounts the idolatry of a mother (17:3-6), the cruelty done to a concubine (19:22-30), and the war among Israelites. It’s as if being leaderless (no king) leads Israel into lawlessness (21:25) which ends in the unbridled slaughter of many—anarchy.

This book is a reminder to me that when the Creator is forsaken, human flourishing does not obtain, but dehumanizing acts against image bearers result.  This happens incrementally and gains momentum to the point that cruelty is out of control and mayhem is the fallout.

(SDG)

Reflections From JUDGES 13-16: DO UNBRIDLED PASSIONS BRING LIFE OR DEATH?

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          These chapters speak of Samson and his family.  As I read the account it’s clear that Samson’s strength came from the LORD rather than muscles depicted in many cartoons (14:6, 19; 15:14).  The sad reality however is that Samson wasted his calling (his strength) by being man-centered not God absorbed and was thus characterized as a bratty womanizer.  How many in God’s kingdom have sadly destroyed their lives and those around them because of such desire?

His life’s call was to be Israel’s deliverer from the Philistines.  However, the wretched reality is that this call was short lived and mostly wasted because he was a man of unbridled passions (16:1-31) who played the harlot with another harlot and thus his strength became compromised:

…But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him”                                  (16:20)

Dabbling with sexual promiscuity and illicit sexual pleasures is nothing new, momentarily delightful but utterly disastrous.  The LORD is said to have “departed from Samson”.  The way this term is contextually used, it seems that what it means is that God’s presence to bless him and through him was removed.  This certainly goes along with what happened to Samson after this account.

Today the pleasures of promiscuity and pornography have a whole generation bound by its rotten morsels.  It tastes good for a while, but in the end it dehumanizes persons and fragments the soul.  Unbridled passions ruined Samson and continues to ruin millions of men and women through the passage of time.  When we hear of pastors having to step down from their positions of ministry because of sexual promiscuity, our hearts ache, our families bruised, and our witness weakened.

So, believer, if you are bound in the arms of sexual promiscuity, pornography, or same sex attraction: flee!  Run to Christ who is there to embrace much of the loneliness and fear that catapults you into said states and enjoy the real lover of your soul.  Guard your eyes and your mind from wandering into traps of temporary pleasure that will eventually leave you numb to God and may prove to be the shipwreck of your faith.

May we as believers teach a new generation of men and women young and old to pursue You LORD not the dainty morsels hell sends our way.  May we not waste our lives by polluting our hearts and forfeiting your power LORD with this world’s death-traps.  LORD, give your people a vision of you!

(SDG)

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 8: SPRING LOADED DYNAMICS (Pgs.149-167)

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In this chapter, Guinness asks the question of how one chooses the proper worldview in the midst of Atheism, Hinduism and Christianity.  Everyone has a worldview and when one is exposed to another worldview it often forever changes the way they perceive their own worldview.

Add to this the issue of pluralization where the choices offered seem to be unending, and we find ourselves in an era where the propensity to change our worldview or paradigm is real.

Guinness explains that apologetically it’s crucial to know this for it points to what kind of unbelief (unbelief is always a rejection of God) we are dealing with, and it points to what kind of arguments we should employ.  When people are closed minded this is especially helpful knowledge.

Reaching the Closed-Minded Person  

Consider the account of the prophet Nathan exposing King David’s adultery and murder.  Instead of confronting the king with the facts, the prophet used a fictitious story to appeal to David as judge and lawgiver of Israel.  The end of that account reveals an infuriated David unwittingly condemning himself when Nathan says, “You are the man”, followed by heart break repentance and cries for forgiveness.  That’s powerful!  Lesson—keep the audience in mind in order to connect with them.

Another way to reach a closed-minded person is to keep the goal of the encounter clear.  That is, depending on their disposition, we must proceed with the truth in such a way that it will meet their need.  Some people don’t need a bunch of arguments to believe (E.g., the Philippian jailor) but others may (E.g., Doubting Thomas).  Regardless, we eventually want to get to the truth of the gospel if possible.

Sometimes there will be the need to reframe the truth properly when God is misrepresented and thus rejected on false premises.  Our duty is to clarify who God is and explain what entails rejecting Him.  After this is done, if one still rejects God, then at least the real has been snubbed, not a phantom caricature (E.g., the disciples on the road to Emmaus [Pgs.166-7]).

Still another way to pry open the closed mind is to ask questions.  When we learn to ask questions properly, we are help people live the examined life, perhaps see the way of their errors and thus enable them to pursue the truth.  Guinness reminds us that questions have the power to engage people because they are indirect and involving.  The greatest questioner in history was not Socrates, but God seen in Genesis 3 and blossomed in the life of Christ.

Yet another way to open the closed minded is through the use of parables, drama and ploys.  For example the Rechabites were used by Jeremiah the prophet to explain Israel’s disobedience through Jeremiah asking the Rechabites to drink wine with him.  He knew they didn’t drink (modern day equivalent to fundamentalists) because they obeyed the word of a man, but Israel refused to obey the word of the LORD God.

Postscript: Guinness ends the chapter by pointing out that in this age words suffer from inattention and inflation. When we speak people are not listening, and when words are used they distort reality so as to sell one’s product to a consumer.  As people of the word, who worship the WORD, words ought to matter to us.  Thus instead of championing technological marvels, Christians should grow deeper in their theology.  This is one way to combat the misuse of words—the suppressing of truth in unrighteousness.

Reflections From JUDGES 6-8: THE CYCLE OF IDOLATRY AND BONDAGE…CONTINUE

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          The same old song and dance continues as Israel participates in “doing evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1), their oppressors cruelty is unbearable (6:2-6), and God again responds to Israel’s cry for rescue (6:7) by sending them a prophet (6:8-10) foretelling what God would do (6:11-7:25).  What results?  Israel again experiences peace for forty years until they again forsake the LORD (8:1-35).

Israel’s faithfulness was abysmal, absolutely horrid.  But the cycle is very predictable: forsake the LORD God by neglecting His word, forget therefore His past tender mercies through acts of power, and the result is death.  It’s always death.  God’s word was not heeded by our first parents Adam and Eve that resulted in the death of all mankind (Gen.3); God’s word was not heeded over and again in Hebrew history and the result is always death.  Why?

Perhaps it’s because the Designer knows best how the creation best flourishes.  Perhaps it’s because the soul that’s created to delight in the Creator ultimately instead choses to delight in the creature ultimately, that the problems predictably snowball.

NOTE: usually the cycle of peace and bondage lasted a generation or two.  Each generation has the responsibility to pass on God’s word to their kin and friends, when that is neglected, death is embraced.  Solomon wrote that those who despise wisdom love death and this theme is repeated a billion times over daily in the lives of broken human beings.

May we as believers not emulate Israel’s idolatry o God!

(SDG)        

Reflections From JUDGES 3-5: THE CYCLE OF IDOLATRY BRINGS BONDAGE…YET MERCY

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In these chapters the persistent theme is that of God testing Israel’s faithfulness to Him by the pagan nations that surrounded them:

The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.  When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died. (3:7-11)

This pattern repeats itself over and again.  First, Israel is indicted for worshipping demons, not the one true God (3:12; 4:1-2) and God sells them into the enemy’s hands:

Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.” (3:12)

“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.” (4:1-2) 

If we don’t worship the Deliverer, He will deliver us into the hands of our tormentors.  This is exactly what Paul argues for in (Rom.1:18-32) where God gives over those who exchanged His glory for the creatures: He gave them over in the lusts of their hearts (1:24), gave them over to degrading passions (1:26), and gave them over to a depraved mind (1:28).  The heart, passions and mind were all affected.  It happened then, it happens now.

Second, when God’s covenant people cry out for rescue, He hears their sobs and acts through sending Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah in order to save them (3:9, 15; 4:4).

Third, their slavery to these foreign “gods” and nations is never more than the rest they receive in the land by God’s hand (3:8 eight years of bondage, forty years of rest 3:11), eighteen years of servitude (3:14) followed by eighty years of rest (3:30), twenty years of bondage (4:3) followed by forty years of peace (5:31).  When one generation’s sin plunders them into bondage because of idolatry, the LORD’s rest given to the people is far greater than the time of servitude.

I think this shows us that where sin abounds, God’s grace does much more abound toward vessels of mercy.  God’s mercy endures forever, his wrath is but for a moment.

(SDG)

Fools Talk: CHAPTER 7: TRIGGERING THE SIGNALS (Pgs.131-147)

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Guinness sucked me in with riptide force by the people referenced, their historical milieu and their life experiences which created a “cognitive dissonance” forcing them to reconsider their view of reality—worldview.

Issues like death, suffering, evil, justice, truth, and joy are often the necessary “triggers” that awaken people to rethink their dearly held worldview presuppositions and as a result, it leads them to Christian conversion.  Two of the many examples Guinness considers are W.H. Auden and C.S. Lewis, both former atheists who converted to Christianity.

Consider W.H. Auden, one of the 20th century’s most influential English speaking poets, whose worldview was jolted by the gruesome reality of Nazi Germany and their death camps.  Previously, he thought people were generally good, God was a crutch, and there were no moral absolutes.  However, Auden now faced a two-fold conundrum: first, how could he make sense of the undeniable evil he encountered, and second, how could he justify rightly condemning Hitler for the evils perpetrated if there are no moral absolutes?  These “pebbles” in Auden’s soul caused him to raise this question to his friends and later to a reporter:

“The English intellectuals who now cry to Heaven against the evil incarnated in Hitler have no Heaven to cry to.” And, “Unless someone is ready to take a relativist view that all morals are a matter of personal taste, one could hardly avoid asking the question: If, as I am convinced, the Nazis are wrong and we are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs? ” (Pg.133)

Auden’s desire for justice in the face of egregious evil could not be realized if relativism was true.  He concluded that the only way to combat such evil was to renew “faith in the absolute”.  Here Guinness explains that although Auden had not yet converted to Christianity, these “signals of transcendence” propelled him to leave his atheism and to become a seeker.  His life experience and the horrors of the holocaust jarred him into reality like no argument could.

Guinness goes on to explain that such jarring experiences act as “signals of transcendence” that cause us to transcend our present awareness to think more deeply, broadly and honestly.  He notes:

The signals message is a double one: it acts as a contradiction and a desire. It acts as a contradiction in that it punctures the adequacy of what we once believed.  It arouses in us a desire or longing for a new answer that is surer, richer and more adequate than whatever it was we believed before—which has patently failed ” (Pg.134)

These signals are pointing to an end that is hopefully more satisfactory then the present state of affairs.  Auden, the former atheist turned into a seeker because existentially his worldview could not satisfy his desire for justice, truth and moral knowledge.

Death is the horn-blast that something’s wrong!  The signal (I.e. the horn-blast) however is not the end but the means through which an answer can be had; it does not conclusively determine the destination.  When the signal is confused for the goal, the search for meaning stops and some commit suicide— seeing no point to life.

Guinness goes on to consider the issue of desire and longing in light of the truth.  Depending on the religious persuasion, desire and longing can be viewed either negatively (Buddhist and Stoic position) or positively (Jewish and Christian tradition).  Negatively viewed, desire needs to be transcended and escaped, positively considered the object of desire determines whether it is negative or positive.

For example, the reason we have desire according to Plato is because we are incomplete essentially because we’ve been “cut-in half” and we long for our other half.   Again, in the Classical Greek and Roman paradigm there’s four major passions: desire, fear, joy and grief.  Desire is yearning for that which we don’t possess; fear is the aversion to the undesirable; joy is the possession of what we desire, and grief is undergoing what we fear.

However, in the Judeo-Christian perspective desire is positive or negative depending on the object desired.  There’s no need to deny, escape, or transcend desire itself (I.e., Buddhism & the Stoics).  However, when it’s directed ultimately toward the creature instead of the Creator, something called “The Fall” occurred (Genesis 3).  As a result of God not seen as our highest good, it’s not that we’ve been cut-in-half (I.e., Plato) but we’ve been cut-off from God, ourselves, each other, and nature itself.  Guinness says,

“So now we live east of Eden…We are all prodigals now, and we are all in a far country.  Yet however far away we go there is always a longing for home that will not go away” (Pg.136-7)

 We are aware that something is missing and there must be something more.  Apologetically, we must prick the soul in its desire factory for “something more/better” secondly, we must appeal to what we know is wrong “fear grief”.  That is, we must point to the desire for joy and the fear of grief, these immaterial drives that trigger a hunger for the transcendent, as evidence for an object that can satisfy such longings, even though some would suppress that truth of God in unrighteousness.

Guinness contends that a strategy to combat such suppression is to use an existential presuppositional approach which presses people to the logic of their own assumptions and shows them that their faith (whatever it may be other than in the Creator) is neither true nor adequate.  In other words, what they profess to be “true” can’t be lived and this realization leaves them thinking, maybe even perturbed.  This happened to Auden, it can happen to our loved ones.

Consider C.S. Lewis, a former atheist and 20th century Christian apologist who was captivated by joy as retold in his biography.  He recalls that this joy was aroused by a flowering currant bush which brought back childhood memories with his brother.  Lewis describes joy not as pleasure or happiness which is conditioned by circumstances or the senses, but as something other worldly.  That is, if this joy could be possessed it was not attainable in this life, but how he knew it was indeterminable.  Regardless, to possess such joy would be incomparable to any experienced pleasure (E.g., The Pearl of Great Price parable).

Here was a signal of transcendence not the attainment of faith, says Guinness, although for Lewis that was its end.  Although joy raised questions it supplied no answers (pg.144).  Among Guinness’ many points, the one made here is that sometimes nonbelievers come to faith as a result of the horrors or joys of life that contradict their present worldview.  This causes a person to search through transcendent signals that point to a reality of life’s true meaning.  Sometimes this pursuit ends in conversions, sometimes in suicide.