Over the past few years—due to teaching assignments, writing projects, and personal interest—I’ve done a fair amount of reading and reflection on the Genesis creation narrative. One the major questions with which professing evangelicals are currently wrestling is how we should understand the Genesis account as it pertains specifically to the existence of Adam and Eve. Specifically: Are Adam and Eve historical people, created de novo by God, or does the creation account provide merely theological truths without venturing to make material claims? Continue reading “Toward a Christian Philosophy of History”
This Survey of Schaeffer’s life self-consciously omits discussion of Schaeffer’s involvement the inerrancy debate of the 1970s and early 1980s. Although Schaeffer’s involvement with the issue of inerrancy is a significant aspect of his life, I focus here on his influence among evangelicals with regard to their intellectual engagement with wider culture.
Francis Schaeffer was one of the first well-known evangelicals in the twentieth century to promote Christian thinking about philosophy, art, culture, and other important areas of modern learning. Prior to Schaeffer, evangelicals, beginning in the early to mid-20th century, had been, in large measure, guilty of shirking these kinds of intellectual pursuits and retreating into pietism, anti-intellecutalism, prophetic fanaticism, and separatism.
Jonathan Edwards is well-known for his devotion to Scripture; not only for his commitment to biblical doctrine, but also for his deriving that doctrine from its original source: the Scriptures themselves. In Edwards’ two volume collected works, there is a massive 140 page section entitled ‘Notes on the Bible,’ which contains over 1500 numbered entries on particular texts of the Bible, written by Edwards over the course of his life. This section (written as personal notes, not intended for publication) reveals the diligence of a man who sought to know and understand the whole counsel of God first hand.
Another vital component in our approach to controversy that will keep our hearts soft and our mind focused is communion with God. Not merely communion with God in prayer for help (e.g. ‘Lord help me to remain steadfast as I defend your truth,’ etc.) but also in the truth itself that we are currently contending for. Owen writes,
When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth,–when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us–when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the thing abides in our hearts–when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for–then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men (John Owen, The Glory of Christ; quoted in Beyond the Bounds, ed. Piper Taylor and Helseth).
The very truth that we are battling for should become a means of fellowship with God! Usually, when we are fighting for some particular doctrine, we find that our minds become more sharp and certain of the truth itself-controversy has a way of purifying our conception and understanding of the truth. This clarity, therefore, according to Owen, must not remain in our heads alone, but rather create deep fellowship with God. This fellowship will keep us near to the Lord and thus far from the dangers of pride and self-reliance; it will also tend to soften our hearts toward our opponents.
John Newton provides us with some very helpful words in a letter he wrote to a man who was involved in some kind of controversy in his day:
As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write…[if he is a believer,] in a while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts…[If he is an unconverted person,] he is more proper the object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ [I Cor. 4:7]. (John Newton, “On Controversy,” The Works of John Newton, page 269).
What practical and soul-preserving counsel is here! Newton encourages us to desire only the best for our opponents and to demonstrate great love toward believers and heart-broken compassion toward unbelievers. But what is the foundational reason that a Christian is able to look on an opponent this way? Because he knows that it was neither his intellect or his wisdom that has made him different from the person who is currently in error; rather, it was pure grace that has given him insight into and conviction of the truth. Just as Paul reminds us, “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it (I Corinthians 4:7)? Knowing this, then, let us proceed into controversy, not only with keen minds and well-grounded arguments but with broken hearts and tender compassion toward our opponents.
I love biographies. I love John Piper. So I really love biographies written by John Piper. The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce is the third book (of four) in the Swans are not Silent biography series. Piper, each year, hosts a pastor’s conference at his church. One of the favorite portions of this conference is Piper’s own contribution. Each year he gives an one hour lecture on the life of a great saint of the past. Over the past 20 years, Piper has mined wealth from the lives of men like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan and William Cowper, just to name a few. These excellent lectures eventually make their way into book form. Each book contains short, 30-40 page biographies of three saints; each section focusing on particular distinctives of that specific saint. Continue reading “‘The Roots of Endurance’ by John Piper”