My regular readers will notice that I have not written a post for a long time (although I have been somewhat active in the comments section). This is because I have been mulling a number of issues, including my reasons for blogging and the role of reason in apologetics, evangelism, and inter-faith dialogue. I have also been trying to stay out of the recent debates between Geoffrey and Bosco, because I find often that discussions regarding one’s ‘saved status’ tend to be a good opportunity for the Devil and other forces to sow doubt in one’s mind. I’ve also recently finished a study of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which I found to be both comforting and edifying. Paul really is marvellous.
Regarding my thoughts on reason, readers may be interested to know that I have been reading material by Calvinists recently, which is what spurred this train of thought. Two blogs in particular have held my attention for a while: http://triablogue.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://bnonn.thinkingmatters.org.nz/ (although http://www.aomin.org/ is also of note). Now I’m not a Calvinist, so you won’t find me agreeing with everything that is said on these sites, and I don’t always agree with the tone in which the writers’ thoughts are communicated. But as a Protestant, I have a lot in common with these authors, and I can understand where they are coming from when they adopt a harsher tone with some of their interlocutors. I think the following verses are behind such “toughness”:
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” Proverbs 26:4
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” Psalm 14:1
“A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.” Proverbs 26:3
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.“
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Romans 1:28-32
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Mr Tennant makes an interesting distinction between sceptics and scoffers. Sceptics are, according to his classifcation, those who do not receive everything they hear credulously, but will analyse arguments according to reason; they are nevertheless open-minded and may be persuaded. One is reminded of the Bereans, heroes for Protestants, who checked the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul told them was true: on finding that Paul’s Gospel conformed to the Scriptures, they believed and were saved. Scoffers, on the other hand, are not really interested in coming to the truth. They will use whatever device they can (including pseudo-reason) to bash the Gospel. These people are not interested in calm reasoned debate, and, like all men, they are without excuse regarding belief in God’s existence (see Romans 1); rather, they need to be convicted of sin (which is the work of the Holy Spirit; see John 16:7-9). 2 Peter 3:3-4 comes to mind: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
So where does all this leave me? Well, the testimony of many seems to me sufficient evidence that reasoned argument can play an important part in evangelism and post-salvation discipleship. However, as I have said in previous posts, I believe that reason was affected by the Fall, and I don’t believe the effects are instantly reversed the moment one is born again. The life of a believer is an ongoing, progressive path whereby the mind is transformed, no longer conformed to this world, but rather conformed to the mind of Christ (imago Christi). We need to remember that the mind is a faculty of the soul, and the soul is distinct from the spirit (though it’s hard for humans to tell the difference, except by ongoing revelation and sanctification). It is unwise to believe that thinking is somehow protected from the Fall, as if all our sins are essentially to do with the body. Flesh means more than body in New Testament thought.
Consider the following verses:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” Romans 1: 21-23, 28
“This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual [in Greek, “of the flesh”], devilish.” James 3:15
Nevertheless, reason is important; I am glad that such Calvinist apologists are demolishing the lie that scientism is more rational than Christianity.
This is excellent, Nicholas. Which study of Romans have you been reading?
Actually, I haven’t been using a particular commentary (that being said I may have glanced at the notes in my study Bible – New Spirit Filled Life Bible). I had started by recalling a study with my spiritual mentor years ago, but we only got a couple of verses into it. I also started by going through it in the Greek (incidentally my Greek and Vulgate NT is a Vatican edition bought down the road from St Peter’s when I was in Rome). I really tried to follow Paul’s sentences harder this time. I don’t like translations that break his sentences up – they ruin the flow of the prose and the flow of the logic.
I wrote notes for 1:1-15, if you’re interested I could type them up and post them..
Very true, NIcholas, and I think much harm comes from our tendency to read him in chunks. Romans is, I think, one of the ‘great books’ of our civilization, and ought to be read by all.
Carl D'Agostino said:
Very thorough examination
Thank you 🙂