Growing in Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding

I knew a farmer who wanted to know everything there was to know about tractors. The genesis of this man’s fascination began when he was a child. His father took him to a farm show, and there on display were tractors of all kinds of specificity. Some were designed for the purpose of planting, and others to haul heavy machinery like a tiller to turn over the fields. He loved them so much that he wanted to become an engineer, and learn all the intricate details of these tractors.

As the child grew older, however he learned tractors were more complicated then he initially thought. He realized the sacrifices that would be necessary to be an expert at such a task, to learn all the special jargon, but he was content with just driving it. The engine was the most frightening, and least part of the tractor that the farmer understood. As long as he could drive it, the engine was irrelevant to him.

One day out, the farmer was alone in the field and the tractor’s radiator over-heated. As a result, he gave up on the tractor, leaving it in the field, and went out to buy a new one.

This story may sound silly, but this helps illustrate how I think most Christians unconsciously think about Christianity. So many in the Church have become so content with the fundamentals of Christianity that it lacks serious depth, and knowledge. As Christians, to use the metaphor of a plant, our growth to develop as mature believers in Christ is not only dependent on how high we grow but also how deep we grow in the soil.

Spiritual age is not contingent upon ones physical age. Yet, I have seen people in the Church who have served there for more than 15 years and they still act like infants. I might be bold enough to say that it is a sin not to grow in Christ, and it is perhaps an indicator that one does not know the person of Christ. The idea is that a believer is in a constant struggle to be made more like Christ. He runs after this unattainable prize, and as a result of pursuing he grows in the knowledge of God.

The Gospel is sufficient to sustain the Christian believer to his death, but some Christians never truly experience the peace and grace that is understood in Paul’s writings because they look through the lens of a microscope. Their Christianity sometimes does not go beyond what they learned about when they first heard the Gospel.

As a result, the Gospel remains within such an individual only on Wednesday nights, and Sunday mornings. Since the Gospel does not explicitly tell one how to engage in the world around them, their impact for advancing the Kingdom is limited to the context of other believers at Church. Few and far are those people who spontaneously come up to you, and ask you to tell them the Gospel (even though I have actually had this happen to me, a stranger too).

I personally want a Christianity that tells me how to think about the world around me in every aspect of life’s circumstances. I want a Christianity that tells me the importance of planning and how to make wise decisions. A Christianity that can help me get along with people I disagree with, and learn how to discern truth from the false. I want a Christianity that tells me how I can use every conversation, every word to point them to Christ.

I have read many books, on discipleship, evangelism, communication books, and even secular books, like Dale Carnage’s, “How to win Friends and Influence People,” but never has a book been more comprehensive in teaching me everything I need to know on how to live a life completely satisfied than the Bible.

The Bible is a big book. Don’t be afraid to consult it, as the Sunday school cliché goes, it has all the answers, truly. Many Christians are groping around this world trying to grab hopelessly to anything that’ll secure them. Look through the world with a Biblical lens then you’ll realize that there is nothing you do that the Bible does not teach you. Stop falling into the cultural defaults, be like Hollywood, or make this much money, live in this kind of house. You are defined by Christ, you are holy, you are pure, perfect, beautiful, and beyond precious in the sight of God. However, you can only know this if you are growing in a relationship with him.

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Schleiermacher’s Philosophy of Religion

History has born witness to the rise and fall of ideas, and philosophies that attempted to destroy religion, which as a result has helped produce some of the greatest works in the development of theology. One of the developments in history that has challenged the religious thought was the enlightenment. The enlightenment was an explosion of new ideas, a rejection of the traditional, and the ushering into the rational, a world that could be understood completely through empirical science and logic. Experience was consigned to as an irrational foundation for doing epistemology, since experience could not be measured or recorded in any discernable way that is meaningful, or even trust worthy. One of the later thinkers to challenge this thought of pure rationality was Fredrick Schleiermacher. He argued that it was unnecessary to divorce reason from experience. Schleiermacher believed that our experience informs our rationality, and our theology. This has lead to the rise of extreme subjectivism in modern thought, and even though Schleiermacher was avoiding the epistemological extreme that our knowledge is exclusively a priori he goes to far in the opposite direction opening the world to relativism.

Fredrick Schleiermacher was born in a post Kantian world. Immanuel Kant was the first philosopher to turn towards subjectivism and to challenge the enlightenment thought of pure rationality. Kant also heavily influenced Schleiermacher in his latter years. Fredrick Schleiermacher was the third generation of reformed pastors in his family. His father, Gottlieb was integral to Fredrick’s upbringing, which introduced him to an early exposure of experiential theology. Gottlieb was initially influenced by the rationalistic enlightenment, but later he turned toward the Moravian faith due to a renewal of spiritual vitality he felt in this newfound faith. As a result of this, Gottlieb and his wife were committed to raising their children in the Moravian faith. Consequently, they sent Fredrick to the Moravian boarding school at Niesky in 1783. Afterwards, his mother had passed away and his father who served as a chaplain in the Prussian army was unable to visit his son due to frequent regiments and deployments.[1]

As a result of losing his parents at the age of 15 he grew attached to this faith, the brotherhood became a type of family to which he was forever influenced by and showed deep sympathy for in his latter years. Schleiermacher never enjoyed the strict liturgical worship found in most pulpits on Sunday mornings, where the sermon was the primary focus. He thought worship should be exercised in an animated and lively way throughout the service. Due to the lack thereof, Schleiermacher develops in his works a distinction between doctrine and experience. Doctrine for Schleiermacher may bring a person to the knowledge of God or the infinite (technically, he avoids referring to a higher being like a personal God), but not a relationship. To have a true and meaningful relationship with the infinite one must feel it. Schleiermacher’s project is to reinstate Gefül, translated from German meaning feeling. He seeks to establish this through experience, since he is going against rationalistic thought[2]. He refuses to build the foundation of his argument on anything but experience.

Schleiermacher later entered into the Moravian seminary in Barby, but after two years he decided to leave. The seminary lacked the scholarship and academic rigor that was challenging the German mind to new heights. By letter, he told his father that he was transferring into the University of Halle where he enrolled as a theological student. Here he was taught that the, “certainty of specific propositions depends on their relations to the whole body of truth.”[3] This is significant because Schleiermacher believed that the entire universe was moving towards an end purpose that is discernable to most people. However, its purpose and goal is contingent upon how one interprets the direction and end goal of life. Schleiermacher cannot provide a systematic formula since it can only be discerned by a person-to-person experience. This is Schleiermacher’s religion, the finite comprehending the infinite universe.[4] To see God in everything, and how its parts relate to the whole is what it means to be spiritually inclined. The more one is aware of God or the higher cause and being in their life, the more convinced one would be than through the teachings of doctrines and metaphysics, ethics, or epistemology.[5]

Schleiermacher influenced the rest of the 19th in this thought and showed that theology is experiential. His emphasis on feeling was the first theological attack against the challenge of empiricism in the 19th century. It provided a counter argument for the culture to avoid the logical end of pure rationalism, which is complete skepticism, and suspension of belief. Theology is for Schleiermacher, “rooted in experience, and theological thought grows out of religious experience-especially the corporate experience of the worshiping community.”[6]

In contemporary culture, although Schleiermacher romanticist philosophy has almost completely dissipated it has transformed into a different philosophy called relativism. That is the idea that truth is determinative upon ones interpretation of the world. In the Church, conservative and protestant circles have even gravitated towards a subjective feeling based upon ones experience of God. If one does not feel God, then God must not be real. Doctrine has almost completely been dismissed as irrelevant when it comes to the relationship a believer has with Christ. This has revealed a sharp criticism, highlighting the biblical illiteracy of this modern culture. Scripture informs theological doctrine and it tells a believer that God is sufficient to supply for all ones needs. This movement towards subjectivity and dependence upon ones feelings has produce superficial Christians who do not know how to interact in the intellectual world. When one looks at the most profound enigmatic statement in the Bible, Jesus on the cross says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me (Matt. 27:46),” indicating by the resurrection of Christ, Jesus was still faithful to God despite not feeling him in the most devastating experience in his life. [7] Experience is important, but experience is always a byproduct of faithfully trusting in the promises God has made in the Bible.

Bibliography

Clements, Keith. Friedrich Schleiermacher: Pioneer of Modern Theology. Suffolk, 1987.

Christian C. W.. Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Friedrich Schleiermacher. Waco, 1979.

Brandt, B. Richard. The Philosophy of Schleiermacher: The Development of His Theory of Scientific and Religious Knowledge. New York, 1940.

Wilkens, Steve. Padgett, G. Alan. Christianity and Western Though: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements. Illinois, 2000.

[1]Keith Clements, Friedrick Schleiermacher: Pioneer of Modern Theology (Suffolk: Collins Publishers, 1987), 15.

[2]Steve Wilkens, Alvin G. Padgett, Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements (Illinois: IVP Academic, 2000), 52.

[3]Friess, Leland Horace, Schleiermacher’s Soliloquies (Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1926), xx.

[4]Brandt, B. Richard, The Philosophy Of Schleiermacher: The Development of His Theory of Scientific and Religious Knowledge (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1940), 82.

[5][5]Steve Wilkens, Alvin G. Padgett, Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements (Illinois: IVP Academic, 2000), 53.

[6]Christian, C.W., Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Friedrich Schleiermacher (Waco: Word Books, 1979), 29.

[7]I have used the ESV Bible throughout this paper, unless otherwise noted.

Darwin versus Intelligent Design

If I were to convince Darwin that he was wrong about his own theory of natural selection and evolution I would first refer to his work, “Origen of Species.” One of the problems that Darwin has addressed in his text is a lack of evidence in the geological record, specifically a lack of transitory fossils. If macroevolution occurred according to Darwin, thousands if not millions of small genetic mutations would have had to occur for the organisms today to exist. The problem, thus, is that none of those transitory fossils, as numerous as they need to exist is lacking substantially. Another problem that Darwin recognizes in his own theory is the explanation of extreme perfection and complication of different animals. He writes, “It seems absurd at first sight that a complex organ such as the eye could have been formed by natural selection (68). He tries to rationalize the complexity of the eye but none of his arguments can be reconcile with his theory of natural selection. If natural selection favors the strongest then once the eye under its first indication of uselessness, since it cannot spontaneously be created would not pass onto the following generations.

Another issue that Darwin recognizes himself is that he cannot explain the organs that appear to have little importance. Darwin says, “Their importance does not seem sufficient to cause the preservation of successively varying individuals (72).” This example in addition to others shows the unstable scaffold that Darwin’s theory rest upon. There is a strong sense of ambiguity in his writing but he continues and mentions another three “grave” problems to his theory. The first one is, “geology does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain,” a problem for Darwin’s theory because it is contingent upon the small gradation of changes that occurred in animals over the period of at-least hundreds of thousands of years (102). The second “grave” problem that Darwin address is that he cannot explain the sudden appearance of “whole groups of allied species (114).” This is fatal to Darwin’s theory because generally all species and organisms came from the same descent, the same parents. As a result of a sudden appearance of animals on the geological record it indicates that his theory of descent is severely mistaken. The final issue that Darwin sees in his own theory is that he cannot explain the “fact that numbers of species of the same group suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rock (117).” Again, and similarly to the rebuttal arguments I have provided above, if organisms and different animals formed over a long period of time, then they should not appear in their complex forms in the lowest known fossiliferous rock.

I would highlight on these issues that Darwin draws attention to, and also argue that there is a strong sense of ambiguity in his writing. There is something in his writing that says, “I do not know.” Darwin’s weakest point in his theory is arguably his inability to explain irreducibly complex systems. For example the eye is an irreducibly complex system. That is to say that if any part of the eye were missing it would not function as an eye. For an irreducibly complex system it had to have had all the functions that are necessary, and be simultaneously working to make it function. Moreover, an irreducibly complex system has two characteristics that show intelligent design. The first is complexity. The best way to explain this would be like the chances of a scrabble board falling and producing the alphabetic pattern from “a” to “z.” Multiple organs show incredible complexity, let alone the complexity of DNA itself. DNA indicates that the chances of it spontaneously forming are astronomically small. The second characteristic of intelligent design is specificity. DNA is a good example. DNA is not only complex but it also codes for specific amino acids that produce very specific proteins to repair cells. The words on this page convey meaning that is purposeful and show design behind them. No one would seriously argue that this paper was the result of a million accidental letters shuffled together to create an impossible marriage of meaning and purpose to other people. This is the same with the human body. I think if Darwin was more honest with himself, he at-least should make more modest claims or concede that the human body is both complex and shows specificity which is the result of intelligent design.

A Hero and an Artist

Come to think of it now, every serious conversation that I have ever had with my Dad has been on the subject of theology. However, we only pretend to be great theologians, being that we are farmers after all. Our conversations lack the high-specified jargon that one might find in the halls of Oxford, or Harvard, but common language usually across a milking parlor perhaps, about God.

I can recall numerous times on long car rides with my Dad when we would nearly, and exclusively talk about scriptures. Even if we only had fifteen minutes, every Sunday, about the time it took to get home, he would always ask me what I thought about the sermon. What did the Pastor do well at, and what did he not do well at? How could the sermon have been better? It felt very Socratic, asking questions to come to the truth, sometimes across the living room but mostly in a truck or some run down farm van filled with wrenches of all sizes, and engine parts.

My Dad was my first teacher in Scriptures and still the best.

IT surprises me how similar I am to him sometimes. It is not as though we do not have our side hobbies as well, but we know ultimately deep down inside us that everything, our life, our work would be meaningless without God. Even in emails, there is no, “how are you” or “what’s new,” just the normal inquiry concerning some new profound truth in the scriptures that he thought would be fascinating to talk about. I am so grateful for these conversations, but there have been those times when we both preferred to be in separate rooms from each other as well.

We can both be stubborn, we hardly show emotions, and sometimes we would rather be in a tractor alone out in the field pulling some devise, it doesn’t matter as long as it is silent.

My Dad is an incredibly disciplined person; even across my readings in both fictional and non-fictional literature he surpasses them all. Every morning with the exception of Sunday, he is out of his bed and at work around 5:30 in the morning. He is also determined. Every day he deals with an insurmountable amount of problems. Which on a farm, there are no limits, no exceptions, if it moves, it breaks, if it is at the mercy of the weather it’ll need to be replaced.

My Dad is an artist too.

The tools like his table saw, drill press, his favorite I think, the welding machine, and the highly coveted vice-grips that are almost always missing when you need them are his paint brushes. Whether it is the 5250 International (tractor), the manure wagon, or maybe the endless flat tires are his canvas. The finished work, whatever the master piece is, always expresses a beautiful marriage between high technical skill and talent to produce an impossible outcome of simplicity and practicality, even if it is with a piece of string.

I cannot figure out how he comes up with the different assortment of ideas he has, but he visualizes it, tries it, and miraculously it works. This has taught me to show great persistence even if at first you have no idea how to solve the problem.

But all of this aside, he is a faithful man to God, a believer constantly in pursuit of knowing Him more each day, and to me the greatest theologian in the 21st Century. Specifically referring to his heart for evangelism.

There is no greater moment in time when a husband becomes a father to engage with the unsaved, the hopeless, and the lost people of this world then by telling his sons and daughters the Gospel. My Dad was the means by which God used to bring me to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I could never express my gratefulness for his active role in my life to show me what a disciple of Christ does. I know for sure, I would not be at this school, or have any desire for academics, and the things of God, if it were not for my Dad. There is no other Dad from history that has ever lived, or currently living, and will ever live in the future that I would rather have had. I know not few sons can say this about their own Dad but he is my hero.

To Find Truth: Descartes and Pascal

TO FIND TRUTH
Humans are magnificent creatures. In the human nature there is within everyone a sense to know and a desire to find the answer to the question, “what is the purpose of my life?” Including other questions such as, “is the life that I am living having any significance?” Life is like a maze that everyone must navigate through. Along the way there are dead ends and paths that lead one back to where they started, and even ways that lead further out to non-where. There is something, however, inherently human about each person to find the correct path that makes the most sense of the uncertainties in life. Some uncertainties in life exist in the forms of financial problems, or problems that manifest themselves within a family. Consequently, it is vitally important that each person finds the object in their life that gives them an all-encompassing meaning that reaches into every facet of their lives. If there were a method to properly orient ones life in the direction to find that object which gives one the a comprehensive meaning for ones life then Descartes and Pascal are the closes to have ever produced that method.

René Descartes was a French philosopher and a mathematician in the 17th century who published in the middle of his life the work that he is most known for, “Discourse on Method.” Blaise Pascal was also French, a mathematician, and arguably a Jansenist. His work, “Pensées,” which literally means, “thoughts,” is most associated with his name. The work was never finished due to an untimely death, but the book is Pascal’s thoughts. In both of these works, René Descartes and Blaise Pascal provide an epistemological method to finding truth. Although there may not be a direct connection between the two works they do, uniquely compliment each other. Pascal would probably not consider his project as a method, but it is nonetheless, a systematical structure for finding truth.

René Descartes was first of all, revolutionary. His method, which was born out an early stage of indifference towards scholasticism, would change the landscape of modern thought during his day. It has also had reverberating affects throughout history, influencing the works of John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant down even into todays thought as well. Similar to Aristotle and Plato, Descartes was a thinker that could not be placed in the traditional mold of thinkers. Descartes refused to be brainwash, as he may have termed it by the schools of thought that taught the works of philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. He sought to acquiesce knowledge of the world by his own personal experience (22). Fortunately, due to an inheritance that he received he was able to live independently, and travel the world. Along his travels he discovered much about the world he lived in, and drew from it his own conclusions about reality.

One night during a cold evening Descartes, desperately huddling around a camp stove for warmth had developed his Cartesian method.[1] By looking at the buildings around him, he inferred that the buildings that were better designed were those that were designed by one person. In contrast to the structures that had many designers, since each designer had different goals, and therefore a more complicated and less astatically sound structure. Applying this thought to education he came to the conclusion that it was better for his own personal development as a student, to build off his own foundation rather then the foundations of those who came before him.

Descartes method then is to doubt everything he knows. An act he was already doing by avoiding the dogmas being taught in the schools by going out to learn of the world from first hand experience. However, this left him only with skepticism and Descartes knew himself that if skepticism is the only rational worldview, then it begs the question, “why do people not live consistently with this worldview?” Therefore it cannot be a rational worldview because people live, as if they actually do know something to be a fact, and they are generally right when tested. For example, one does not generally hesitate to walk in a room they have never been in, in fear that there was no oxygen in that room. However, that was not sufficient for Descartes, he developed what is known as methodological skepticism, where he removed from the table of certainty everything that he knew.

While seeking to find knowledge that Descartes could have complete certainty of, he became frustrated because everything he pierced with his senses was potentially a manipulation of the senses. He even proposed that the world might be under the tricks of an evil demon that made one think the object in front of them was a tree, when if fact it was just a figment of imagination pressed on the mind. Yet, while positing the potentiality of an evil demon, he was able to conclude that he was at-least thinking. He could know for certain that he was thinking and an evil demon could not change that since all one would have to do is think that an evil demon is tricking the senses. Next, he purposed that there must be an object, a being, a thing that exist that is doing the thinking, and consequently determined that he himself exists. After awhile, famously he established cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am.[2]

He realized that at the foundation of his knowledge, he could know with certainty that he himself exist because he was thinking. Still though, the problem arises with the world around him. Descartes can know that he exist, but what about other people. Descartes further investigated his thoughts and beginning with a triangle, he knew by virtue that a triangle is a shape that has three sides. A triangle cannot have more then three sides otherwise it is not a virtuous triangle because it does not have three sides. Thus, the form of a triangle, the idea of triangle exists because he can think of triangle.[3] Additionally, Descartes thinks of a being, one that is true, and one that presents the external world to the senses in a manner that is truthful. Thereby, giving Descartes the ability to return everything he previously removed, metaphorically, from the table of certainty back in its place. He concluded that God existed, because he could think of a being like God.

Pascal is different from Descartes in that he seeks to prove God as a Christian himself. Descartes was at-least willing to surrender the concept of God if he thought he could not know God, but Pascal’s argument is similar to Descartes as well. In Pascal’s Penseés, his project is to show one the vanity of life without God. Pascal begins by focusing on death. Death he argues is the only time when people are the most honest with themselves, when people are the most truthful. This is vital to show people that everything eventually is going to die, it is inevitable even themselves, their works, and all their contributions, will all be gone. For Pascal this is a starting point to come to a fuller knowledge of the world that one lives in, not the end point of life.

Pascal then transitions by looking at other solutions to solve mans inevitable problem, death. He begins with humanity, is there hope in humanity to avoid death and Pascal’s answer no. Pascal’s reasons are that man deserves to die because of his sin, selfishness, and self-love. One of Pascal arguments follows accordingly, “each man is everything to himself, for with his death everything is dead for him. That is why each of us thinks he is everything to everyone.[4]” Man cannot solve the solution of death, man is a participant of death and all men must go through it.

Pascal appeals to the philosophers, can the philosophers cross the impassable bridge over death, and the answer Pascal argues is no. Human reason is insufficient to solve the vast mysterious of the world around them. Peter Kreeft adds in a short commentary to Pascal’s work that, “Man is utterly dwarfed by the universe materially; and the universe is utterly dwarfed by man mentally.[5]” Man is stuck between to infinities, two endless abysses, the universe, and the micro chasm that exists in cellular life, and atoms. Philosophers, and human thinkers are only dust in what they call home, their earth, a planet that they can only have an infinitely small amount of knowledge to. Humans are the aliens on earth because the human mind is only so large to comprehend its vastness. Therefore, humans cannot solve death.

Another way that people try to avoid death is through pseud-solutions, one constantly. One solution that people try to construct are diversions. Pascal writes that people never actually want what they think they want, which is free time. That is because free time is dangerous to people who are trying to avoid the concept of death since in the loneliness of free time one is forced to contemplate upon life as it truly presents itself. And life is always sharply contrasted with death. The reason why death is such a horrible thought is because it puts everything into a proper perspective. Nothing in this world is going to last and everything eventually is going to die, and many times one will see, upon deep contemplation, the insignificance of their success in the grand narrative of humanity. Moreover, Descartes presents another pseud-solution that people employ to avoid the thought of death, and that is indifference. To be careless of the reality of death, no matter how real it might present itself. Pascal writes, “man’s sensitivity to little things and insensitivity to the greatest things are marks of a strange disorder.[6]” People are more concerned with the menial then they are with the ultimate concern of life.

Pascal extensively shows that the only solution to overcome death is God. In his final argument, after presenting the hope man has on earth, in contrast to who God reveals himself as, God is humanities only hope. This argument is known as Pascal’s wager. The argument follows the logic that between choosing to obey God and not obeying God, it is far better to obey God. Since if God does exist, one has everything to gain and nothing to loose, however, if God does not exist then that same person has nothing to loose. As Pascal has demonstrated in his project, he has shown that it is not a fifty-fifty chance. Inasmuch as God is the only hope, yet, one does have to have an actual relationship with Christ to be saved. In addition, and similarly to Descartes, Pascal presents the ontological argument for God as well, “thus recognizing that, if his nature is today like that of the animals, he must have fallen from some better state which was once his own.[7]” This means, that since man is unhappy, or at-least he is able to perceive his own unhappiness it was because he was previously happy in the presence of a king before he fell in the garden.

Considering now how these two thinkers are similar and why their method avoids the most serious of uncertainties in life is by the fact that they both show the frailty of human life. Descartes does not make any assumptions about the material that he was learning in school as actually being creditable. Descartes refused to be placed into the mold forced upon him by his teachers and sought the truth for himself. As it was shown he doubted everything, starting with what in life are the fundamentals, the building blocks of knowledge. Pascal does this by emphasizing the unavoidable, metaphorical, elephant in the room that people do not want to talk about, which is death. When one seriously considers the reality of death, and the vastness of the world, one cannot escape that all work, and contributions to this world are insignificant. For both of these thinkers, they conclude therefore, that there must be a God. For Descartes God is the only being that rationally explains truths in the world, such as the world was not created five minutes ago, or that other minds exist. For Pascal God is the only one who can remove death, and give purpose to life.

Applicably, both of their methods lead to the one truth, the foundation of all truth, and the one who suspends all truth, and reality, who is God. Having a proper understanding, and perspective of the world as it truly presents itself to the senses one will avoid the pitfalls of life, and understand difficult situations. God explains cross culturally why there are wars instead of peace, he explains the creation of the universe and where it is going, and his purpose for all human beings. God also gives above all an encompassing worldview that affects every area of life. For example going to work, and even performing well at ones job, to be kind to one another as oppose to being rude. Furthermore God gives a foundation for objective moral values because he is transcendent.

It is, however, necessary for one to perform the similar, if not the same tests as Descartes and Pascal had done. Neither Descartes nor Pascal took knowledge without thoroughly testing it to see if it had any substantial claims. Both of them came to the resolution, living in two different time periods, having no intention to overlap each other others work to come to the same conclusions. Descartes did not remain a skeptic and Pascal did not stop seeking after the knowledge of God, and the truths of God. All knowledge must to be examined, and looked with scrutiny. One’s own investigation may not lead to God, but the method of both Descartes and Pascal deserves to be applied in today’s context. For to long humanity has remained in a passive state of thinking, without testing the claims, and as a result they have been led into a world full of convictions and dogmas that they are themselves are never certain to agree with entirely.

Bibliography

Descartes, René. Discourse on Methods and Related Writings. New York: The Penguin Group, 2003.

Blaise Pascal, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Peter Kreeft. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993.

[1]René Descartes, Discourse on Method and Related Writings (New York: Penguin Group, 2003, 11.

[2]Ibid., 25.

[3]Ibid., 27.

[4]Blaise Pascal, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Peter Kreeft (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 163.

[5]Ibid., 127.

[6]Ibid., 203.

[7]Ibid., 59.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism: Book Review

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Mark Dever effectively relates in his book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism with profound familiarity to what many people battle with when it comes to evangelism. Overall, I thought the book was a good reinforcement to what many people already know. It is more of a reminder of the Christians responsibility to evangelize without delving into any specifics.

This book is a diagnosis of the situation and the problem of why, as individuals in the Church do not evangelize. He attempts to get into the mind of the Christian to see what it is that keeps them from sharing the good news. He opens by giving a list of common excuses that are extremely personal and easily able to connect with. If anyone has even made the attempt to evangelize they have certainly dealt with at-least all of these excuses. He gives a total of five excuses. Examples include, “I don’t know their language (20),” and “Other things seem more urgent.” He then briefly shows why Christians are failing in all these areas. For all the excuses he boils it down to at-least 12 reasons.

The rest of the book then undertakes to uproot these excuses; by expanding some of the 12 reasons and by explaining what the Gospel is and ways one should evangelize. In this book Mark Dever shows that when it comes to share the Gospel there must be a balance between honesty, urgency, and joy. Honesty, because the Gospel is offensive and when one’s fear of man is greater then their fear of God they compromise the Gospel to make it more palatable. Urgency, because when the believer presents the Gospel of Salvation to an unbeliever, he has no other choice. There is no other “deal in town” to reconcile him with a holy God it is imperative that the unbeliever seriously thinks of the Gospel. Finally, Joy because the Gospel is good news and it is the life of the unbeliever to believe and accept.

Following from this point Mark Dever leads into the discussion of what evangelism is not. Commonly, Christians pursue apologetics and personal testimony, or social action, all of which are not evangelism but a means to serve evangelism. Another important emphasis that Mark Dever makes is that Evangelism is not imposition. He argues that because the Gospel is really not ours but God’s. It is God’s saving message for humans. It’s is God who brings Salvation, the responsibility of the believer is only to tell another person this good news.

He concludes by showing what a Christian should do after the Gospel has been presented. Mark Dever looks into different answers that people give and briefly unpacks what the person is going through. In addition to his concluding remarks he makes one final exhortation to our importance in evangelism. 

I Am A Church Member: Book Review

This book is small, but its content is extremely practical and convictional. In Tom S. Rainer’s book, I am a Church Member he challenges readers to search out their hearts and ask questions that are intensely personal about one’s membership to their Church. One common question that people are asking in their Church appears in some form of, “why is my Church failing?” This he argues, is a result of the members of the Church inability to see that they themselves are actually the one’s failing the Church. The Church is made up of a body of believers, and in today’s world the majority of people tend to think that Church membership is about them, and their rights. Tom S. Rainer calls it, “the country club mentality.” It is the idea that once one has paid their dues, they are immediately entitled to do what they want. They are entitled with an uncompromising I, and say, “I have served here for this long, I do not like this, I would rather do it like this,” and so on and on. In his book, however, Tom S. Rainer flips this idea on its head, and shows that as a member, one is functioning in the context of a body much greater then themselves. Church membership means one “Give[s] abundantly and serve[s] without hesitation . . . [giving] without qualification . . . [they] view tithes and offerings as joyous giving (14-15).” The Church is not a club he insists but it is a place where one’s involvement determines the success and well being of the Church as a whole.

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This is just one of the many ideas that the author uproots. He goes on further to add that members are to be unifiers and not the cause of division. Church members are functioning properly when they are encouraging, and building up the Church, not breaking it down. They are servants to each other by giving endlessly, and caring for each other by praying for the leaders and other members. Moreover, a church member gives up their own personal ambitions for the unity of the whole by being of the same mind. Finally, Rainer concludes by showing that Church membership cannot be bought, but that it is a gift. A gift that God the Father provided through his Son Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for this reason: to give his entire ministry in obedience to the Father in order that humanity could be in a right relationship with him. Once one has seen the value of Church membership in view of this, it is imperative for that person to function the way that Christ did, in complete submission to the Father and His will, and not our own.