Thursday, April 25, 2013

A bit of "Orthodoxy"

Here is a quote from the amazing G. K. Chesterton, and his classic book Orthodoxy.


“All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clock-work. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.” (p 55-56)
G. K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy.(2006, Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers)

Friday, April 12, 2013

How NOT to Evangelize

I had a recent experience with an evangelistic group here on the campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder. I heard this group last year, and I wasn’t even outside the class room. You could hear the bellowing cries of “YOU ARE ALL GOING TO HELL” and various other rants like that. Apparently this group’s battle plan is to yell for an hour, draw a crowd, and then debate the crown to show what fools they all are.

This time, as I walked out of the building I am most often in (housing the philosophy department) I could see them again; the yelling had ended, so I walked up, curious to see what was going on.

I saw a fellow philosophy major doing pretty well at holding his own against an amazing brow-beating this man was giving him, trying to use what I recognized was a form of Greg Koukle’s “Tactics.” But about that point, this evangelist, who was trying to use logic to convince this young man (and not succeeding), turned to his Bible and said “See, it says right here that…” and proceeded to read from Romans 1:18-20 and use it as authoritative to a young man who does not believe that the Bible IS an authoritative book.

At that point, I interrupted, cut the evangelist off, turned to the young man (who knows me) and said. “Wait, let me try and explain a few things about this book, the Bible.”

I began to explain reasons to accept the Bible, as a carefully conserved record, rooted in history, accurate in the historical facts contained in it, and then moved to why I believe you can trust its words, and that those words point to Jesus being the Son of God, and the eye-witness testimony contained in the Gospels to an empty tomb.

The other evangelists said good bye, packed up their things and left.

I spent almost an hour answering questions poised to me by that young man, and quite frankly, un-doing the damage done to Christianity at large, by a group of men with miss-placed zeal.

I would like to bring some history to bear on this story. In the late 19th and early 20th century there began a type of evangelism that consisted in street-corner preaching, with the aim (and I am sure well meaning) to warn people of hell, but what it accomplished was to scare people away rather than to the kingdom of God. It had some successes, but left a gash that still hasn’t healed in the English speaking world.

If we really are called to be “little Christs,” (that IS what Christian means) then we should use Jesus as the example. #1. He studied scripture and understood it, #2. He studied the laws, and could win debates against the best lawyers of his day (that is beyond the study of the Pentateuch) and #3. He never, ever yelled at those who he wanted to reach.

In Matthew 12:19-20 is a passage from the book Isaiah, chapter 42, which Matthew is using to show how clearly Jesus, as the Messiah, fulfills the scripture.
“Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles ( the Nations). He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory.” (Matt. 12:18-20, cf. Isaiah 42: 1-3 NASB)

When you really study the Gospels, you will see that the only time Jesus was known to holler at people, was in the Temple, and that was aimed at the religious officials of the day; those same officials who were stumbling blocks, walls and blind guides to those who were hungry for knowledge of God.

As a biblical apologist, I found this attempt at ridiculing and brow-beating kids to win converts, nauseating. It gives me pain in my heart and weeks and weeks of mop-up work to mend the damage done.

Dose this group really think this technique is worth alienating hundreds of our youth in the quest to make “…one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” And yes, I meant to use that verse.

These are my friends and classmates, these are the professors who are my friends as well, and this group is giving them another reason to not listen to me, to ridicule me and to make Christianity a dead option.

None of the legitimate apologetics ministries like
RZIM…etc, use these methods to spread the Gospel.

And neither should you, R.C.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Philosophical Prose: A bit of Berkeley

There are moments in the study of philosophy where I come across such well written, and glorious prose, I just have to share. The following is an excerpt from George Berkeley's Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous.  I recommend you read the whole thing.

“Look! Are not the fields covered with a delightful verdure? Is there not something in the woods and groves, in the rivers and clear springs, that soothes, that delights, that transports the soul? At the prospect of the wide and deep ocean, or some huge mountain whose top is lost in the clouds, or of an old gloomy forest, are not our minds filled with a pleasing horror? Even in rocks and deserts is there not an agreeable wildness? How sincere a pleasure is it to behold the natural beauties of the earth! To perceive and renew our relish for them, is not the veil of night alternately drawn over her face, and does she not change her dress with the seasons? How aptly are the elements disposed? What variety and use in the meanest productions of nature? What delicacy, what beauty, what contrivance in animal and vegetable bodies? How exquisitely are all things suited, as well to their particular ends, as to constitute apposite parts of the whole! And while they mutually aid and support, do they not also set off and illustrate each other? Raise now your thought from this ball of earth, to all those glorious luminaries that adorn the high arch of heaven. The motion and situation of the planets, are they not admirable for use and order? Were those (miscalled erratic) globes ever known to stray, in their repeated journeys through the pathless void? Do they not measure areas round the sun ever proportioned to the times? So fixed, so immutable are the laws by which the unseen author of nature actuates the universe. How vivid and radiant is the luster of the fixed stars! How magnificent and rich that negligent profusion, with which they appear to be scattered throughout the whole azure vault! Yet if you take the telescope, it brings into your sight a new host of stars that escape the naked eye. Here they seem contiguous and minute, but to a nearer view immense orbs of light at various distances, far sunk in the abyss of space. Now you must call imagination to your aid. The feeble narrow sense cannot descry innumerable worlds revolving round the central fires; and in those worlds the energy of an all-perfect mind displayed in endless forms. But neither sense nor imagination are big enough to comprehend the boundless extent with all its glittering furniture. Though the laboring mind exert and strain each power to its utmost reach, there still stands out ungrasped a surplusage immeasurable. Yet all the vast bodies that compose this mighty frame, how distant and remote soever, are by some secret mechanism, some divine art and force, linked in a mutual dependence and intercourse with each other, even with this earth, which was almost slipt from my thoughts, and lost in the crowd of worlds. Is not the whole system immense, beautiful, glorious beyond expression and beyond thought! What treatment then do those philosophers deserve, who would deprive these noble and delightful scenes of all reality? How should those principles be entertained, that lead us to think all the visible beauty of the creation a false imaginary glare?" (pp 45-46)

George Berkeley (1685-1753), Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. Edt. by Robert Merrihew Adams (1979, Indianapolis, Hackett)