C. S. Lewis and the Scripture

Introduction

In David Lyle Jeffrey’s book, Houses of the Interpreter: Reading Scripture, Reading Culture, there is a chapter entitled Reading the Bible with C. S. Lewis. In this chapter Jeffrey explores Lewis’ own understanding of the text of Scripture as well as how he interacted with it. In Jeffrey’s own words he finds Lewis to be “in no way amenable to the notion of a verbally inspired and textually inerrant Scripture.” Even so, he notes, Lewis maintains an incredibly high view of Scripture which is something that has led many people to ask, how could this be the case? How can one simultaneously deny the doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture and also see it as something to be held as absolutely authoritative?

It is the purpose of this paper to dig into Lewis’ own relationship with the Bible and  to examine his expressed thoughts on the nature of what the Bible is and what authority it holds for us as believers as well as questions of what role the Holy Spirit plays in bringing the church (as individuals and corporately) to acknowledge its truth and even about what kind of translation is best. In so doing we will see of what help Lewis can be to the contemporary believer in reading and understanding the word of God while, perhaps, also seeing some places where we should distance ourselves from Lewis when it comes to the doctrines of Scripture. Above all we will see that Lewis’ views were his own and were neither theologically conservative or liberal enough to make anyone, on either side, entirely happy. But, then, Lewis rarely, if ever, expressed his views simply for the purpose of making others happy.

Lewis’ Relationship with the Bible

If anything undeniably true could be said about Lewis it might be that the man was a reader. From the moment Lewis was able to read he was busy doing just that. When one reads the letters and personal exchanges of Lewis, even from boyhood, it is evident that he read books both deep and wide and that they were always an important part of his life. The Bible, for Lewis, was certainly among the books that he read. Even as an unbeliever, before his conversion at about thirty years of age, Lewis quoted from the Bible so freely and knowledgably that it would put many contemporary believers to shame for their own lack of familiarity with Scripture.

Lewis’ earliest experience of Scripture was not, by any means, a skeptical experience. In fact, as a young boy, Lewis tacitly accepted the Bible as being from God as do most children who grow up in a home with believing parents. It would not be until his early teenage years that Lewis would consciously self identify as an unbeliever. By that time, however, Lewis was already quite familiar with the story of the Bible and that seed, “the implanted word” as James calls it, would eventually bloom into faith some years down the road. It is important to see that Lewis’ journey with the Bible started off in an assumed acceptance on the authority of his parents, then entered a stage of skepticism and eventually came around to fullness of faith when reason led him back to the Bible.

For a time Lewis became convinced that the Scriptures were nothing more than a myth with nothing of real significance to them. At least no more significance than that which we should give to Greek or Norse mythology, which is to say a fascinating read that tells us about archaic cultures and their beliefs but which tells us nothing about objective reality. Lewis on more than one occasion as a teenager told his good friend Arthur Greeves what he really thought about Jesus. “You ask me my religious views: you know, I think, that I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name are merely man’s own invention – Christ as much as Loki.” This is not to say that Lewis did not believe that there was any historical figure named Jesus, and he scolds Greeves for not taking careful note of his words when later he wrote “I distinctly said that there was once a Hebrew called Yeshua”. At that time, however, the most Lewis could bear to credit the Gospels with, as far as history is concerned, was that meager point that there was once really a Jewish man named Jesus.

It would not be until more than a decade later that Lewis’ committed atheism began to come undone and the first major strike against it came from the most unlikely of sources. Lewis’ primary source for his position against the historicity of the Gospels was the two volume work of James Frazier called The Golden Bough. Lewis held it as definitive and seemed to feel no need to study the matter further until, as he recounted, one day “the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. ‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.’” And so came the first serious blow to Lewis’ confidence that the Scriptures could not be trusted to tell historical truth.

It would come about that over the next several years that Lewis would have numerous conversations with men of great intellect who very much believed the Gospel narratives to record reliable history. The end result was a mountain of evidence in favor of the Christian Scriptures that Lewis became unable to ignore. As Lewis would put it himself ““I gave up Christianity at about fourteen. Came back to it when getting on for thirty. An almost purely philosophical conversion. I didn’t want to. I’m not the religious type. I want to be left alone, to feel I’m my own master: but since the facts seemed to be the opposite I had to give in.” From the time he gave in Lewis would regard the Bible as God’s word and authoritative but he did not see all of the Scripture in the exact same light.

Lewis on the Matter of Inerrancy and Inspiration

The doctrine of inerrancy is succinctly defined by Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, in this way: “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” This was a doctrine that Lewis did not feel he could affirm, nor did he feel that it was particularly important to affirm. In 1959 Lewis wrote a letter to Clyde Kilby, a professor at Wheaton College, and offered some thoughts on why he sees the issue of “inerrancy” as less important than many of his fellow Christians believed it to be.

To me the curious thing is that neither in my own Bible-reading nor in my religious life as whole does the question in fact ever assume that importance which it always gets in theological controversy. The difference between reading the story of Ruth and that of Antigone – both first class as literature – is to me unmistakable and even overwhelming. But the question “Is Ruth historical?” (I’ve no reason to suppose it is not) doesn’t really seem to arise till afterwards. It can still act on me as the Word of God if it weren’t, so far as I can see. All Holy Scripture is written for our learning. But learning of what? I should have thought the value of some things (e.g. the Resurrection) depend on whether they really happened, but the value of others (e.g. the fate of Lot’s wife) hardly at all. And the ones whose historicity matter are […] those where it is plain.

For Lewis, with the exception of events that needed to be historical to have meaning, such as the resurrection, the importance and power of the Bible is not tied up in such questions as “did it really happen in history?” or “is all of the information in this story factually correct?” but, rather, the importance was in the question “What did the author means to say?”. Jeffrey captures this point when he writes “However unfashionably for most postmodernists, Lewis was deeply concerned to recover the author’s intention: ‘it is not enough to make sense’ when we interpret, he [Lewis] writes in his introduction to Studies in Words; ‘we want to find the sense the author intended.’” It is the author’s own intention, what he meant to communicate, that is the important thing to discover. It is not that Lewis felt that the Bible did not contain much historical truth (in reality he believed it held a lot of historical truth) but that unless the historicity was essential like it is with the crucifixion and resurrection, then the historicity of the text was completely beside the point. The message, the meaning of the author, was primary whereas the question of historicity was, generally speaking, secondary for Lewis.

But it is important to make note at this point that there are many today who are inclined to agree that historicity is not the main thing who would, however, still be inclined to hold to the doctrine of inerrancy. The issue of authorial intent versus the need for all that is in the Bible to necessarily be historical is being hotly debated presently within evangelical biblical scholarship. What sets Lewis apart even more than his lack of concern for the historicity of certain stories (e.g. Ruth and Job) is that he accepted the notion that there might actually be things contained in the Scripture that are factually errant, contradictory or even plain wrong morally speaking.

Referring once again to the same letter to Kilby, Lewis writes:

Whatever view we hold on the divine authority of Scripture must make room for the following facts: 1. The distinction which St. Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 7, verses 10 and 12. [“not I but the Lord…” “I and not the Lord.”] 2. The apparent inconsistencies between the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3; between the accounts of the death of Judas in Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18-19. 3. St. Lukes own account of how he obtained his matter (1:1-4). 4. The universally admitted unhistoricity (I do not say, of course, falsity) of at least some narratives in Scripture (the parables), which may well extend also to Jonah and Job. 5. If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired. 6. John 11:49-52. Inspiration may operate in a wicked man without his knowing it. […] It seems to me that 2 and 4 rule out the view that every statement in Scripture must be historical truth. And 1, 3, 5, and 6 rule out the view that inspiration is a single thing in the sense that, if present at all, it is always present in the same mode and the same degree; therefore, I think, [it] rules out the view that any one passage taken in isolation can be assumed to be inerrant in exactly the same sense as any other.

It is here, at this point, which we see Lewis is willing to depart from an orthodox understanding of inerrancy and inspiration by suggesting that (1.) the Scripture contains non-historical accounts which, from his perspective, seems to challenge the idea of inerrancy. (2.) He notes that the Scripture also has contradicting reports on certain events. (3) Finally he also suggests that anything which is true, since God is the author of all truth, is in some sense inspired by God.

To his first point, we should respond to Lewis, there is no reason for this to be a cause of denying inerrancy. Even the most conservative of inerrantists will grant his point that certain portions of the Scripture are non-historical (e.g. the parables) even while they may contend Ruth and Job are historical. This being the case it seems something of either an ignorance or red herring on Lewis part to suggest that those who believe in inerrancy must believe that all of the Bible must be considered historical in that kind of wooden sense. So Lewis’ first reason alone would not necessarily disqualify him from inerrancy since, properly understood, inerrantists can absolutely agree that there are non-historical stories in the Bible. This hyper-literal reading would demand that Nathan’s story to David about a man who stole his neighbors sheep actually happened but most inerrantists would see this as a mere illustration.

As to his second point, however, while many harmonies of the accounts concerning Jesus’ genealogies and the death of Judas have been offered, Lewis seems to prefer to see these stories as in factual opposition to one another and this does put him outside the orthodox view of inerrancy. This is unfortunate given the good work that has been done to reconcile these apparent conflicts but, again, we may give Lewis the benefit of the doubt that he was ignorant of such harmonization. It is, however, possible that he knew them and did not find them compelling. Regardless, under his own view of Scripture, it is not important that they may disagree. For Lewis what is important are questions such as “what spiritual truths do these accounts teach us?” and  “what does the author mean to say by this?”. It is answers to those kind of questions which he finds are the most meaningful to pursue.

Finally, Lewis’ notion that all truth is “inspired” shows that he means to use that word in a very different way than the inerrantist means to use it and, indeed, the way the church has historically used it. When the apostle Paul wrote “All Scripture is inspired by God” he certainly meant something unique and he did not equate this inspiration with other means of speaking or apprehending truth. Mathematical truth, for instance, would not be inspired in the way Paul meant to speak of the Scripture. Inspiration, by the Bible’s own definition, is an intentional work of God whereby “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Many truths may be ascertained by many different ways but only the Scripture is inspired by the direct influence of the Spirit in this way. There is a difference that needs to be recognized between the Spirit convicting people of truth or leading them to a truth, versus the Spirit inspiring people to write or speak truth equivalent to God’s own words. Lewis conflates the idea of inspiration with coming to know and express truth in other ways. These points are enough to demonstrate that Lewis is not an inerrantist and also that his view of inspiration is deficient according to orthodoxy.

Even so it is interesting to see the way Lewis works out his view of inspiration. His thoughts about the creation account in Genesis seem to afford us a clear example of one way in which Lewis believes the text of Scripture was inspired. In his book Reflections on the Psalms Lewis writes “I have … no difficulty accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical.” The reason he can say this is because he believes that, at least in certain cases, God drives the revision of Pagan stories and changes them into something that reflects the actual truth of the matter. Lewis continues, “When a series of such re-tellings turns a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.” In his view the inspiration of Scripture is organic and may form slowly over time. God can take something that was not His word and refine it over time until it becomes His word.

Lewis sees the Scriptures as a very human work. While orthodox views of inspiration and inerrancy contend that the Bible is ultimately a product of the divine will, there has always been a recognition of the very human element in its composition. While God “carried along” the writers it has always been understood that their own personalities and stylistic impressions were left on the pages which they wrote upon. But here Lewis means more than that, he means to say that Scripture, at least some of it, was primarily a human work and yet it was exalted, almost by adoption, to become God’s word. Herein he write about the Old Testament specifically saying, “I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature – chronicles (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not; but all taken into the service of God’s word.” That statement “taken into the service of God’s word” is key in understanding Lewis’ view.

It’s not that Lewis believes God was absent in the construction of Scripture by any means. As he says, “On all of these I suppose a Divine pressure; of which not by any means all need have been conscious.” but still “Divine pressure” seems to come across as a less precise kind of work than the orthodox statement of inspiration. Indeed this differing view is largely why Lewis is not, nor could be, an inerrantist. Inerrancy flows from the doctrine of inspiration. The reason the Scripture cannot err is because God cannot err and the Scripture is his very own word. But if inspiration means something other than men wrote exactly what God willed them to write, and it is only a product of Divine pressure or some other more passive influence than traditional inspiration, the finished product cannot help but contain some error. This is exactly how Lewis sees the Scripture. “The human qualities of the raw material show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed.”

Though the Scriptures, from Lewis’ point of view, contain contradictions and inaccuracies and even expressions wickedness they nevertheless have been taken up to be God’s word. Actually Lewis goes so far as to argue that it is these very things, which more conservative Christians would identify as problems, which he argues become the strength of the Scripture. Lewis writes that “the value of the Old Testament may be dependent on what seems its imperfection. It may repel one use in order that we may be forced to use it in another way – to find the Word in it”. The parts of Psalms which Lewis finds objectionable, that is the parts where the author is calling down curses upon his enemy, he reasons to be teaching him not to follow suit but to be able to see the contrast between light and dark. He writes, “I have gained something I might not have gained from a flawless, ethical exposition. The shadows have indicated (at least to my heart) something more about the light.” In this way, he reasons, that the Scripture contains error, at least of the moral sort, helps it to highlight the perfect morality of God in contrast.

This adoptionist view of inspiration Lewis likens to the incarnation wherein he argues that the divinity of Christ was not so much drug down to the level of humanity but, rather, the human nature, united with the divine, was taken up to be something more than it naturally was. So too, the Scriptures are not left to be human works only, but taken up as God’s own word. Because of the example of the incarnation Lewis argues “If the Scriptures proceed not by conversion of God’s word into a literature but by taking up of a literature to be the vehicle of God’s word, this is not anomalous.” God is in the business, in other words, of taking something lowly and making it more than it was, taking a lower nature and giving it a higher one.

But, interestingly, not all of what is contained in the Scripture is susceptible to this possibility of error according to Lewis. At least not as it relates to the person and recorded teaching of the Lord Jesus himself. In regards to Christ’s teach Lewis says that “…there is no imperfection…” at all. Yet this demonstrates very well the difference between Lewisian inspiration and orthodox inspiration. What he credits to the recorded teaching of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God the orthodox inspirationists credit to the whole Bible. Orthodox inspiration yields no more or less weight and authority to the “red letters”, as it were, than it does any other part of Scripture because it supposes it all to equally be the words of Christ.

One point of commonality between Lewis and more Orthodox theologians is that both argue that another reason for believing the Old Testament to be God’s word is because “We are committed to it in principle by Our Lord Himself.” That is to say Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the very word of God and, as God in flesh, he should know. Interestingly, then, although the view of inspiration differs between Lewis’ position and the orthodox position, both Lewis and the orthodox theologian find themselves committed to the same idea that the Old Testament is authoritative as God’s word.

Lewis sums up his thoughts about the totality of the Scriptures when he writes:

The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science and history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message. 

So then we can wrap up Lewis’ view of inerrancy and inspiration by neatly concluding that he does not believe in inerrancy under any definition and his view of inspiration is of a different sort than the orthodox sense of the term. The Scripture is a vehicle of God’s Word, the Word of God is contained therein and is to be honored and submitted to but not every jot and tittle, apparently, is factually correct according to Lewis. But those errors and moral imperfections might just be as much the means by which God intends to communicate truth to us as much as anything else.

Lewis Responds to Higher Criticism

Lewis’ position on the inspiration of Scripture may have been sub-par according to orthodoxy but we should not herein conclude, based upon the that Lewis denied biblical inerrancy and had a deficient view of inspiration, that he was not concerned to defend the historicity of those parts of Scripture which he understood were meant to be taken as historical. In fact, as was already mentioned earlier in this paper, it was the evidence in favor of the historicity of the Gospel narratives that convinced Lewis of the truth of the Christian worldview.

In his essay, Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism, Lewis challenges the so-called higher criticism of the Bible that was going gangbusters in his day and has certainly continued on into our own. He posits that there are essentially three characters in play when it comes to biblical criticism of which the first is the learned theologian and critic, the second is the uneducated Christian believer and the third is the educated Christian believer but who is not educated in theology proper. Lewis uses the the second figure, the uneducated Christian, to highlight the chasm between the critical theologian and the simple, everyday, Bible believing Christian. About the uneducated Christian believer, and to the critical scholar, he says:

[I]t would hardly do to tell them what you really believe. A theology which denies the historicity of nearly everything in the Gospels to which Christian life and affections and thought have been fastened for nearly two millennia – which either denies the miraculous altogether or, more strangely, after swallowing the camel of the Resurrection strains at such gnats as the feeding of the multitudes – if offered to the uneducated man can produce only one or other of two effects. It will make him a Roman Catholic or an Atheist. What you offer him he will not recognize as Christianity. If he holds to what he calls Christianity he will leave a church in which it is no longer taught and look for one where it is. If he agrees with your version he will no longer call himself a Christian and no longer come to church.

The picture is clearly painted that their is a real dissonance between the simple faith of historic Christianity and what the modern critical theologian now supposes.

In light of this dissonance Lewis uses himself as an example of the third category, an education Christian but not educated in theology proper. One of the valuable things about men such as Lewis in this third category is the ability to judge and interact on a scholarly level with ideas that they are not themselves buried beneath. In other words Lewis, as a literary critic and philosopher, can apply his training to consider the issue of modern biblical criticism as an outsider but still with some valuable insight. He might just as well admit that the theologian would be able to make some good judgments about Lewis’ own work which he does not see because he stands too close to it. This is indeed the case he makes against critical theologian:

[W]hatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in those books all their lives. But that might be just the trouble. A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of New Testament texts and of other people’s studies of them, whose literary experiences of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious things about them. If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends or romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel.

As the saying goes they are “missing the forest through the trees” according to Lewis. One thing he means to bring out here is the need for a wider education, a liberal one, so that narrowness of study does not blind a person to the obvious.

The modern biblical critic lacks the literary substance to tell the difference between history and “romance” (here meaning something more like fantasy or myth in our day). It is because of this lack that they cannot discern the difference between one of the Gospels or something written by Sophocles but the differences are there and they are real. With his humorous and sharp wit Lewis brings to the forefront the kind of details in the Gospels that never occur in fictional works. All of this leading Lewis to proclaim about the Gospel of John, “Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage….Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative.” In which case we would seem to have a brand new proof of miracles which would only create more angst for the modern critic.

As if this first criticism of biblical criticism were not enough to put the theologian back on his heels the second might just be a more powerful rebuke than the first. Lewis rightly notes that one of the most common things done by biblical critics is to claim that the actual teachings, words, and works of Jesus were quickly obscured by his followers and therefore the historical Jesus is buried under a pile of myth heaped on him by his later adherents. Because of this, it is claimed, the real goal of the theologian is to clear away all the rubble and extract the poor, buried, historical Christ from the heap.

This phenomena is not new nor is it contained only to biblical criticism. In fact, as Lewis point out, he had seen it “long before he became interested in theology” in the way Aristotle was treated in regard to Plato. He writes, “One was brought up to believe that the real meaning of Plato had been misunderstood by Aristotle and wildly travestied by the neo-Platonist, only to be recovered by the moderns. When recovered, it turned out (most fortunately) that Plato had really all along been an English Hegelian”. This is indeed the same problem that modern biblical critics have. Instead of objectively mining out truths from the past we find they are not in the business of export at all but, rather, they are in the import business. Importing, that is, the contemporary worldview back into the first century Palestine and making a Jesus after their own image.

The arrogance is palpable when modern scholars ignore the insights made by those who came so much closer in time and culture to the original audience of Plato or of the apostles. As Lewis put it:

The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

When one soaks for a moment in the point that was just made it seems to be a self evident observation. The work of a modern biblical critic, when he goes to the extent of arguing against first and second century understandings of the text, is something like a second year French student correcting a Frenchman on his French colloquialisms. It’s not impossible that the student might be wrong but it is probably wise that he approach that situation with humility and the admitted possibility of ignorance and error.

Thirdly Lewis levies an argument against the work of those in higher biblical criticism on the basis of worldview. If the critic presupposes that miracles never occur then whenever Jesus gives credence to a miracle, or even performs one himself, then it is often assumed that the passage in the Gospel cannot be historical. But why is this assumption made? What evidence in the text, or even outside of the text, warrant the assumption that Jesus would never have given credence to a miracle? Here Lewis’ point is simple, “I only want to point out that this is purely a philosophical question.” Such a question as this calls for mere honesty on the part of the critic. Is there any textual reason or even extra biblical evidence that supports the assumption that Jesus did not teach on or perform miracles, or is this merely a belief they hold which informs the limits of their own ability to consider the possibility that a given text is actually historical?

Lewis’ fourth and final critique against the modern biblical critics, and the work of reconstructionism, comes from his own experience from having been critiqued by contemporary literary critics who have reviewed his own books. An observation that he had made by reading the reviews of his own works as well as reviews of books written by his friends, whose personal histories he was well acquainted with, was that no matter how many intuitive guesses the literary critic made about how an idea came into being in the book, they were almost exclusive wrong!

When the biblical critic tries to break down the text of the New Testament and postulate where certain ideas came from, or they suggest that an idea was imported into the text at a much later date (because their theology wasn’t so developed yet, etc.) it would seem to Lewis that this is just conjecture that is likely to be just as wrong as the conjecture of critics about his own works or the works of his friends. To this point he has written:

Many reviewers said that the Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was suggested by the atom bomb. What could be more plausible? Here is a book published when everyone is preoccupied by that sinister invention; here in the centre of the book is a weapon which it seems madness to throw away yet fatal to use. Yet in fact, the chronology of the book’s composition makes the theory impossible. 

Although the plausibility of the theory is undeniable it is nevertheless completely amiss of the truth of the matter.

The point stands, then, that no matter how plausible a theory one may put forth trying to explain what led to construction of a book, whether ancient or contemporary, there is a very real chance that those plausible theories are nonetheless completely wrong. The difference between Lewis’ case at the time he wrote this and the case of the apostle Paul was that Lewis was still alive to defend himself and his friends. So “The ‘assured results of modern scholarship’, as to the way in which a book was written, are ‘assured’, we may conclude, only because the men who knew the facts are dead and can’t blow off the gaff.” So we ought always be less sure of what we are assured of by critics because the critics of modern works so often miss the ‘why’ and ‘how’ even though they are contemporaries of the writers whom they are critiquing, how much more so might the critics of the ancients then miss the boat?

A great summary of Lewis’ feelings on the entire movement of higher biblical criticism comes when he writes “These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the line themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see the elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.” Lewis critique of modern biblical criticism is still relevant today and the objections he raises should be raised once again and all the louder now. This critique of criticism may be one of Lewis finest contributions to his expressed thoughts on the Scripture and it leads right into another discussion, namely, since the Bible seems to be worth taking much closer to face value what is the Christian’s responsibility in relationship to the Bible?

Lewis Standing on the Errant Word of God

One of the most interesting things, perhaps, about Lewis’ view of the Scripture is that although he was by no means an inerrantist that was never used as a reason to disobey Scriptural teaching. The fact that the Scripture, on Lewis’ view, may have contained some factual error or that it may have contradicted here and there about some minor fact was not a problem for him. The point was not inerrancy but, rather, the message of Scripture. What did the author, and ultimately God, want the reader to take away from the text? And whatever the Scriptures meant to communicate was what the Christian was to dutifully yield to and to obey.

Even on issues that were controversial, and upon which many others who shared his view of inerrancy would have gladly backed away from, Lewis was never ashamed to say what the Bible said or to let the full weight of its meaning hit someone in the head. Though the Scripture was not “inerrant”, as far as Lewis was concerned, it was nevertheless the word of God and therefore to be obeyed. His unrelenting willingness to challenge his culture on the basis of what Scripture taught is admirable regardless of how one might feel about his position on inerrancy.

One example of Lewis refusing to shy away from the biblical revelation was on the reality and historicity of miracles despite the serious chagrin of many of his critics and peers. “I have been suspected”, writes Lewis, “of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous.” In the academic climate that Lewis lived in there was much pressure to deny the actuality of the miraculous. This was a worldview issue which Lewis eventually tackled head on in his book Miracles where he examined the two philosophies of Naturalism, which contends that “nothing exists except nature”, and Supernaturalism, which contends that “there exists something else”. Despite the simpler road before him Lewis chose to defend the existence of miracles with all of his intellectual force.

Another example of Lewis not fearing to say what the Scripture says no matter how unpopular is the matter of hell. Although Lewis has often been fallaciously charged with being a theological universalist the reality is he actually was a defender of the doctrine of hell. For example, in his well known essay Learning in War-Time, Lewis spoke of the real tragedy of Nero was not “that he fiddled while the city was on fire but that he fiddled on the brink of hell.” In just this very statement Lewis knows that already, by the sheer mention of the word “hell” that the hounds have been released against him for giving any credence to such an idea. It is in anticipation to the objection that Lewis writes:

You must forgive me for the crude monosyllable. I know that many wiser and better Christians than I in these days do not like to mention Heaven and hell even in a pulpit. I know, too, that nearly all the references to this subject in the New Testament come from a single source. But then that source is Our Lord Himself. People will tell you it is St. Paul, but that is untrue. These overwhelming doctrines are dominical. They are not really removable from the teaching of Christ or His Church. If we do not believe them, our presence in this church is great tom-foolery. If we do, we must sometime overcome our spiritual prudery and mention them.

That we as believers should be ashamed to say what the Lord Jesus himself said without shame was preposterous to Lewis.

Not only did Lewis hold the line on miracles and the reality of hell but he also defended God’s intention for human sexuality. In one of his most famous works, Mere Christianity, he makes the statement that “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.” As such many within the church, just as they have done with hell and the historicity of miracles, have yielded to popular culture and taken off the restraints of necessity of belief and adherence. But in so doing the church really ceases to be the church in any meaningful way. Lewis himself recognizes the authority of the teaching on human sexuality and does not relent. He writes, “the Christian rule is, ‘either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’” This is certainly not a popular party line to draw in our culture today and it had come to be not very popular in his day either.

All of these points, and more could surely be given, demonstrate that Lewis’ view on the Scripture was anything but a dodge of its claim on his life and the lives of others. Is the Bible inerrant? Lewis thought it was not. Is the Bible binding on the conscience of Christians? Lewis thought it was without exception. It is this odd combination of denying inerrancy and yet fully believing and yielding to the Bible that makes it so hard to define Lewis or put him in a box. It is the reason why so many people with diverse forms of Christianity and, in some cases, other worldviews including agnostics and atheists find him so compelling and intriguing. It is a real part of what helps the reader to know that Lewis is his own man and that he never tows a line just because it is what you would expect but, rather, he tows lines because it is the line as he himself sees it.

Lewis on the Operation of The Spirit Upon the Scripture

We may now say a word about how Lewis believed the Holy Spirit to be at work within the lives of believers as readers of the text and also as preservers of the text. According to Jeffrey “What most undergirds Lewis’s convictions concerning the authority of the Bible, aside from his mature literary sense of the text, is his strong belief in the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in transmitting the intention of the Divine Author to the consciousness of all who well attend to it.” The idea that Lewis puts forth is one and the same as what the apostle Paul wrote “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…But we have the mind of Christ.” The active operation of the Holy Spirit is key in understanding the text of Scripture as it was meant to be understood. We must have the mind of Christ in order to receive from God that which he intended to say.

But it is not just in the individual reader which the Spirit has been actively working but also in church as whole. “This operation of the Holy Spirit, he believes, was present in the Councils and in the establishment of the biblical canon.” So the Spirit of God not only helps us each as individuals to encounter God’s word as God intended but he has worked in the church as a community to ensure that the right books and letters came into the canon of Scripture and that when the church met to settle crucial doctrinal issues they would reach an understanding of God’s revealed truth.

For the average Christian it may be encouraging that a man of Lewis’ intellect and ability has used his giftings to speak up about the validity of the Holy Spirit’s active work in the life of the believer and the church. There is no contradiction in being an academic and a Christian. Only when someone presupposes naturalism, that is, the impossibility of immaterial and supernatural realities and forces, such as God who is a Spirit, does there seem to be a contradiction in being intelligent and a Christian. Lewis dispels us of that myth with great authority.

Lewis on Bible Translations

One final interesting facet of Lewis’ thinking about holy Scripture is his stance on Bible translations. It would only be natural to assume that as a literary critic that Lewis would look to aesthetic beauty and probably look no further, especially in his day, to the King James Version of the Bible. But as noted earlier in this paper what sometimes seem to be obvious connections turn out to be entirely false.

This may be a perfect example of the sureness of Lewis’ conversion to the faith. His own interests and likes be damned if it is not what is best and true. There may not be any doubt that as a man of letters Lewis would have derived the most aesthetic pleasure from reading the King James Version for its literary form, but “for Lewis, accuracy of translation ought always to trump the less essential aspect of style.” His desire to get from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the purity of what God had said, as close as possible into our own language, far outweighs the benefits of aesthetics.

Furthermore Lewis’ keenly observes the way beautifying the text may actually detract from the value of the text itself. When the original was perhaps more crudely stated and we, in translation, smooth over that crudeness do we not actually miss the true beauty of what has happened in the Scriptures? Lewis develops this stunning point saying:

The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek has become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety. In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is a sort of “basic” Greek; a ministrative language. Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that he should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. 

What an amazing truth about God’s word that Lewis brings before our eyes. The word of God is beautiful, in part, because it is not as beautiful as it could have been.

We as human beings, and religious ones at that, always expect God who is the definition of goodness and beauty, to come in the most beautiful and grandest of packaging. In reality that is exactly what he does, he simply doesn’t do it in the way we would expect him to. “When we expect that it [the Word of God] should have come before the world in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorized Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King.” How God makes foolish the wisdom of this world and makes great beauty out of that which is not naturally beautiful!

Because Lewis felt that the Scripture ought to always maintain as accurate a rendering of the actual sense of the text and not just literary beauty he also saw Bible translation as something that must be revisited as often as common language changes. So then the work of translation, not just into other languages as for the purpose of foreign missions but for our own language, is a perpetual work almost in constant need of revision. This certainly is not a position that the religiously committed King James Only crowd could appreciate but it is a position that all of us who love God’s word as it was originally written should.

Conclusion

Of all the things we can say about Lewis in relation to the Christian Scriptures, there is no doubt that the man reverenced Scripture. Jeffrey says of Lewis that:

His approach to Scripture in his work as a preacher was quite different. There, precisely to repress the inevitably egotistical character of a critic’s powers and the rhetorical mastery of which he of all people was so capable, he labored to read the text patiently, expositionally, referentially, reading ‘with’ rather than ‘teaching down’ to his congregation. To emphasize this intention he refused the pulpit, instead sitting in front of his hearers with the text of Scripture open upon his knees, as a reader among readers, or we might say, simply as a reader with an audience.

Not that any of his humility towards the Scripture somehow validates any of his own errant views but what it does seem to do is place Lewis in a light in which we can see a man who loved God and revered his word even though he was far from perfect.

Lewis’ has many insights into the Scriptures which are precious gems. That a man of his academic background should emerge as something other than a Liberal higher biblical critic himself is amazing. That he embraced the Scripture as God’s word and sought to let it change him and that he became a sharer of its truth is nothing short of a miracle in itself. He wrestled with the Word like Jacob with the Angel of the Lord, he clung to it and asked for its blessings. It broke him and humbled him and he became its servant. Through his non-fiction books, his powerful essays and even in his fictional worlds of Narnia and extra-terrestrial planets, Lewis brings to life biblical principles for his reader to experience the way he has experienced them.

Jeffrey has said that “In the end, what Lewis seems most to have wanted to affirm is a confidence in what Christians get from reading the Bible.” Of this there should be little doubt, the Bible seriously impacted Lewis. It did so first as a child in simple reading, it did so later as a source of historical reality about a man named Jesus who was God in flesh, and it do so even more in communicating spiritual truths to a man who was now spiritual. What Lewis got from reading the Bible was something he was sure that we all, as followers of Christ, were meant to get as well.

The truth is that just about anyone who reads Lewis’ views on the Bible is going to be uncomfortable. If a person is a conservative Christian they may be horrified to see Lewis deny inerrancy and express a wonky view of inspiration. On the other hand if they are a theological progressive or liberal (which what the difference really is between those two positions, if indeed there is one, only God may know) then they may scream in horror to find the Lewis really believed the Bible was the Word of God in a meaningful, authoritative way. Not to mention that he actually believes in miracles and a real place called hell! But it may just be the case that no matter what camp you find yourself in, if you are willing to hear Lewis out, you may just see some things you never saw before. Maybe your own thinking about Scripture and God will widen, or maybe it will narrow. Whatever happens, you will not be the same.

 

What Do You Have to Believe to be a Christian?

“What do you have to believe to be a Christian?” Now that is an interesting question. It is a different question than “What should you believe as a Christian?” What do you have to believe? On the one hand I think we have to say that a person does not have to believe very much in order to be a Christian. It is actually very minimal.

In order to be a Christian you must come to a knowledge and acceptance of your sinfulness and subsequent need for a Savior. You must know and believe that Jesus died on a cross as a substitute for you, bearing the punishment you deserved, and that God accepted that as payment for your sins and raised him from the dead. You must repent from your sin and trust in Jesus to save you.

That is pretty much it.

You do not have have to know or believe more than that to be a Christian. At least, that is sort of true. I say it is sort of true because it is true if that is all you ever get a chance to hear. The basic message of the gospel will save the person who hears and believes it even if they never hold a Bible in their hands or hear a sermon preached from Scripture. But what if they do read the Bible? What if they do hear the word preached?

What do you have to believe to be a Christian? You have to believe the Bible. The same Bible from whence the gospel that saved you came (unless you believed in vain). What Jesus has saved you? The Jesus of the Bible. How do you or any of us know about what Jesus has done to save us? Because of the Bible. How do we know what Jesus is like? It’s in the Bible. How do we understand why the whole human race needs a savior? Because of the Bible. How do we understand what God has done throughout human history to redeem a people for himself? By reading the Bible.

If a person says “I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus, but I do not believe X from the Bible to be true” then in what meaningful way are they a Christian? If you say “I am a follower of Jesus but I do not believe he is divine” or “I am a follower of Jesus but I do not believe he was born of a virgin” or “I am a follower of Jesus but I do not believe he rose bodily from the grave” then you are not a Christian. Christians do not look at the Bible and say “I do not and will not believe that.” If you reject the biblical revelation then you reject the entire basis of your salvation. All you know about the Savior, who he is, where he comes from, why we need him, what he is like, what happened to him, what did he say, what did he do, etc., is all based upon the Bible. If you reject the Scripture, even on one point, you reject Christ. The Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of history and he is the only Jesus there is.

It is certainly the case that Christians can read the Scripture and disagree about how to understand the meaning of a text. It is certainly the case that Christians can be ignorant of biblical truths. But it is impossible for a Christian to read the Bible, apprehend a doctrine being taught, and say “I do not and will not believe that.” If you reject Scripture then you are not a Christian.

So what must you believe to be a Christian? The gospel. But if you believe the gospel, you will believe the Bible and all of its teaching as you hear or read them. Christians must believe the Bible to be Christians. Non-Bible believing Christians are not an actual category.

What Do I Think About YEC, OEC and Theistic Evolution?

I was asked recently by a friend to weigh in on the debate about young earth creationism versus evolution. I don’t think I have touched this issue with a ten foot pole before (at least not on my blog) because people get so wound up about it. But I decided this morning that I would share my response to my friend with all of you. Now you can know where I am at on this. I will take this Thursday’s Thanksgiving to thank God for the ability to disable blog comments. Here you go:

My personal view of Genesis 1 is a bit undecided. I am confident that it is meant to teach 1. That all things existing which are not God were made by God. 2. That God made all living things (both plant and animal life) according to their own kind which negates the possibility of evolution in the sense of common ancestry. 3. That God made mankind unique and separated them from all the other creatures he had made, making male and female in his own image. 4. All that God made in its original state was “very good” and free from defect.

I am not convinced, however, that the purpose of Genesis 1 is to tell us about “when” God created. I think it is to tell us “that” he created and “how” and “what” but the question of “when” may not be in view at all. I think the best exegetical argument for a young earth, literal six 24-hour day creation is to cite Exodus 20 and the Sabbath day command which seems to strongly suggest a literal interpretation of Genesis 1.

Even so, I think there are things in the text of Genesis 1 that suggest it might not be meant to be taken in a “literal” sense. For instance if you take day 1 and day 4, day 2 and 5, and day 3 and 6 and compare them you will see something interesting. You will see “forming” and “filling”. God makes light and separates it from the darkness on day 1 and on day 4 he makes the Sun, Moon and Stars. God separates the waters below and sky above on day 2 and on day 5 he makes fish of the sea and birds of the air. On day 3 God makes dry land and vegetation and on day 6 God makes land animals and man who will walk on the land and eat the vegetation.

So we have interesting questions to ask. Did God really make light apart from the Sun? If so, why? Does this parallelism suggest that we ought to read the text in the same way we read Genesis 2 which breaks into a more narrative form of story? Also there is a difficulty between Genesis 1 and 2 about the order of creation (was man first or was vegetation?) so how do we best resolve it? Both young earth creationists and old earth creationists tackle these question differently but they both have strengths and weaknesses.

It is important, however, to make clear that there is a real difference between an old earth creationist (OEC) and a Theistic Evolutionist (TE). Not every Christian who thinks the earth/universe is very old also thinks that God used evolution. Many OEC’s are “progressive creationists” which means they believe in special creation, where God makes living things unique apart from evolution, but he did so periodically over a large amount of time. So God may have created one thing and then a million years later, perhaps, he created something else. It is not particularly important that you agree with this point of view, but to be fair I think you must acknowledge the difference between this view and theistic evolution. Too many young earth creationists (YEC) group all who believe in an old earth together and do not make reasonable distinctions as they ought.

So in this debate you have at least three main party lines. YEC’s, OEC’s, and TE’s. I believe TE is thoroughly unbiblical and I also do not believe the weight of scientific evidence is in favor of evolutionary theory. YEC and OEC then are the only options on the table for those who believe in the authority of Scripture and they ought to be decided between exegetically first and scientifically second. I do think that we ought to consider the evidence of science on the matter, especially since I believe the text allows us the possibility of the earth being young or old. It is for this reason that I am “agnostic” about the age of the earth. I tend to think it is probably pretty old and I would mostly align with an OEC view but am ready to be a YEC if tomorrow I am shown to be wrong.

You mention that you are afraid that many are compromising on this issue because of evolutionary theory. Some most definitely are. Some people think they have to accept evolution if they want to be a thinking Christian. Those people are misguided, as are all evolutionary theorists. But many who hold to OEC do so apart from believing in evolution. Some find textual reasons that suggest Genesis 1 may not be meant to be read in a literal fashion (the word “yom” in Hebrew which is translated “day” can mean a 24 hour day or it can refer to a larger or undetermined period of time). Augustine who lived in the 4th century found the idea that God needed 6 days to create the world to be kind of silly. After all God could have created all things instantly because nothing is impossible for God. Likewise God doesn’t need “rest” on day 7 as if he gets tired. Perhaps the model laid out in Genesis 1 is for our benefit and not God’s. It is also interesting that Hebrews suggests that God is still in his Sabbath day’s rest, which is a bit more than 24 hours (Hebrews 4:4-11).

All of this to say, there is an exegetical case for both YEC and OEC as well as a scientific case for both positions. We each must study, pray and make a conscientious decisions about where we stand on the matter. We need to keep the main things the main things, however, and practice Romans 14 principles on that which we disagree about when they are non-essential. Like I said above I think there are things which Genesis 1 clearly teaches (“who?”, “what?”, “how?”, perhaps even “why?”) and there are other things that are more debatable (“when?”). But evolution is not permitted by the text as far as I can see. YEC’s and OEC’s should spend less time fighting each other and they should unite against the common and real enemy of evolution.

Very Rare C. S. Lewis Audio Recording

Have you ever wondered what C. S. Lewis sounded like? There are very few surviving recordings of Lewis speaking but this is one of them. Enjoy!

Free-Will Has Always Had Limitations

I think it’s funny how people talk about “free will” sometimes. Not that the discussion isn’t an important one, because it is, but I think the discussion is often flawed before it starts. Now here I am speaking generally, of course, and there are those who go to great pains to carefully define their terms when they speak on this matter. Still, most people seem to speak of “free will” in a way that I think is nonsensical. Let us first consider why the issue of freedom, as it relates to the will, is important at all and then we will address the matter of how we ought to properly think of freedom of the will.

The reason the issue is important is not difficult to discern. If all of the decisions a person makes are determined in such a way that they could not make different decisions than the ones they do then that person can hardly be considered morally culpable for their actions. It is for this reason that any kind of holistic determinism must be considered outright foreign to the Christian worldview. Moral responsibility must rest upon the shoulders of individual persons if those persons are to be justly condemned for their immoral (sinful) behavior. If all of a person’s decisions are controlled by forces which they themselves have no control over then they can be neither praised nor reprimanded for any act or moral consequence whatsoever.

This being the case, and with Christianity being a religion which unashamedly speaks of God’s goodness, his absolute justice, and the wickedness of sinful mankind, the freedom of the will is a crucial matter. It’s no small wonder, then, why so many people speak about it with passion and force as they do. To strip man of his free exercise of will is to free him from culpability for his actions and if God then punishes creatures who are not morally culpable it, in turn, impugns the goodness and justice of God. All of this said, as one who is Reformed in my theology, I understand the reason why many people rabidly defend the issue of free will. They are not primarily defending free will, they are defending the goodness and justice of God and for that they are to be commended.

It is my contention, however, that many speak of free will in a way that simply cannot be the truth about how human will is exerted. Many times when I listen to someone talk about free will I hear them speak as though free will means “a person can make any choice they desire to.” Not only can they exercise their will and make an inward mental choice, but many proponents of free will seem to suggest that such a mental state as “choice” (which is an internal reality) must not be hindered in physical action or follow through (which is external). Allow me to demonstrate what I mean.

A person with free will can decide he does not want to be handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. That same person may not, however, be able to do anything but be handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. But the person’s freedom of will is not thereby annulled because he cannot do what he wants to do. The fact of the matter is that there are always external (and sometimes internal) factors which constrain our ability to do what we might desire to do.

Even in the state of absolute freedom, the Edenic state prior to the fall, where man was surely as free as ever he has been, Adam, presumably, could not burst into the sky like Superman. It was not in his nature, as God designed him, to be able to fly in the sky even if Adam willed to do so. The freedom of the will simply does not mean, nor has it ever meant, that a person can do anything that they want to whenever they want to do it.

To be sure, there are situations where actions are forced or coerced in which it might be fair to say “they were not acting of their own free will” such as when a man is put into the back of a police car although he wills to do otherwise. But it does not follow that because of this the man, as a being, ceases to have control of his will. He remains able to make decisions and to will things internally regardless of his outward ability. Outward ability and inward will are two different issues that really ought to never be confused.

Often when there are discussions about “Calvinism” and “Arminianism” the debate is coined in terms of “determinism” vs. “free will.” But here, again, I think many who have these heated debates aren’t careful about their terms. To be sure there are some Calvinists who believe in a holistic determinism in that they would say every single decision of mankind (and everything that occurs in the natural world) is predetermined by God’s decree. Not merely that God knows what will occur (and could change it if he desired), or that he is actively engaged in the salvation of the elect and bringing certain things about, but that the reason that all things occur the way they do is because God causally-determined them to occur before the foundation of the world (including actions like rape or even basic choices like what kind of toothbrush you pick at Wal-Mart). On the flip side there are extreme Arminian positions which exalt the freedom of human choices to the extent that they deny God’s ability to definitely know what will occur in the future. They reason that if God knows man’s choices beforehand then those choices are not free.

But I believe both of those extremes are flat out denied and refuted by Scripture. Indeed I think Christians can affirm the genuine exercise of freedom of human will and the total sovereignty of God without falling into either of these extremes. We may disagree on how God works within the hearts of men and women to draw them to himself by his grace but we need not suggest that the Calvinism/Arminian debate is merely about determinism versus free will. We must all, as Christians, affirm that freedom of choice is essential for moral culpability and therefore necessary to maintain the goodness and justice of God in condemning the wicked. But we must also all realize, as Christians, that the will is not free in this fantastic sense which says “there are no factors which can narrow your range of desire or ability.” Our very nature as human beings narrows our field of ability we can make (again, we cannot fly in the sky like Superman). The fall of mankind into sin (unless we affirm Pelagianism) further funnels our range of ability due to our inherited sinful nature. Indeed man’s fall was something like being put into the back of the police car, the will is still in tact but my range of ability has been significantly limited.

What freedom of the will must mean is that when given a choice between A or B, all thing otherwise being equal, I can choose either one. And we most certainly do have free will in that sense. I’m convinced that when you walk into the toothbrush aisle at Wal-Mart and are trying to decide between a blue Oral-B or a red Reach toothbrush that the decision is really and truly yours. God knows what you will pick, but he didn’t predetermine it. God could intervene if he wanted to, but in many such cases he really just leaves that to us. But all things are not always equal. We must admit there are other constraining factors that limit our ability to carry out desires, or even their are constraints that sometimes limit our very desires themselves.

But if we can ever say about a man that he has the above kind of free will, and option A was to do something morally praiseworthy and option B was to do something morally reprehensible and he chose B, then we have someone who is morally culpable who is a sinner and deserves God’s judgment. Just because their are constraining factors that limit mankinds range of of choices or that change their desires thereby affecting their range of choices does not thereby invalidate the genuineness of the decisions before them or the culpability they bear for the decisions that are theirs to make.

Are Apologetics Degrees Worthless?

I have heard it said several times lately that apologetics degrees are worthless and not looked well upon by others. The reasons given for this statement is that apologetics degrees are by their nature “interdisciplinary”, that is, they don’t focus on one subject but a broad spectrum of subjects and therefore those who gain a degree in apologetics are not an expert in anything. Another problem with apologetics degrees, I’m told, is that people simply don’t know what apologetics is. When you say Philosophy, Biology, Theology, at least people have some perception of what you do, but “apologetics?” Finally, you’ll never be able to teach in a secular university (and maybe not even in a lot of Christian universities) with that kind of degree, it’s just useless.

Well…is it useless? Honestly, “useless” is probably the last thing an apologetics degree is. A good apologetics degree will basically help you to become an evangelism ninja, ready for anything, equipped to deal with some of the most relevant and frequent questions and objections that Christians face as they share the gospel message with the world around them. That’s hardly useless.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. The real question when considering furthering your education and considering an apologetics degree is this: “What do you want to do with your life?” That has to be your starting point when making a decision about continuing (or starting) your education. So here is the God’s honest truth, if you want to do groundbreaking research on Intelligent Design, the Resurrection, God’s Existence, etc., then you don’t want an apologetics degree. If that’s your heart’s desire then get yourself a degree (probably 3) in one of the sciences, history, New Testament studies, Theology, or Philosophy. If you want to teach in the university, you are probably best served to do the same (although there is no promise of a career in teaching even with a Ph.D.). If that’s what you want to do, then an apologetics degree (or at least only an apologetics degree) will not as likely take you where you want to go.

On the flip side, if you want to serve in pastoral ministry (adults or students), if you want to be a college campus missionary (Ratio Christi for instance) or if you want to start your own apologetics ministry, or even just become a more effective ambassador for Jesus Christ while working in a secular field, then an apologetics degree has your name all over it! The beauty of apologetics training is that it equips to deal with and answer the questions and objections that you deal with every day in real life ministry. An apologetics degree will train you to be an effective evangelist who can boldly proclaim the gospel without fear of any response by an unbeliever or skeptic.

The truth is, we need both kind of apologists. We need the highly focused on one field, professional academic apologists whose presence in academia provides real challenges to secularism and who can rebut bad ideas from other Ph.D’s on the other side of the culture war. People like Dr. Michael Licona whose work on the resurrection of Jesus topples so many erroneous arguments presented by atheist, agnostic and skeptic scholars, J.P. Moreland whose mind rivals the brightest secular philosophers and who has so ardently argued for the existence of God and even the human soul, etc., these guys (to mention only two of our giants in apologetics) are needed.

But you know what else is needed? Apologists who are youth pastors, and like those who work on campuses around the country (and indeed world) through Ratio Christi and Cru, the people who will spend their lives pouring into young people the truth of God’s word and the reasons we have to believe all that it tells us. The pastors who faithfully shepherd one church for 10, 15, 30 years and who faithfully exposit the text of Scripture and reinforce their congregations faith in the word of God and the power of the resurrection! The street evangelist who works a secular job during the day but faithfully, week after week, goes out to share the good news with those who pass by. These guys are needed to.

People like Ravi Zacharias, Michael Licona, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, etc., these guys are those who develop the weapons, and strategies to effectively defeat the enemy. The other group, are the ones who get their boots dirty every day carrying those weapons that have been developed to the battlefield and getting bloody. You tell me, which is more important? The correct answer is “neither.” In the end both kind of apologists are absolutely essential to the overall war for the truth.

I proudly throw my name in with the ranks of the foot soldiers and I admire greatly the minds who have helped train and equip me to effective fight the enemy for the sake of the gospel and all that the Christian wordview entails. So is an apologetics degree worthless? Not on your life. But which part of the battle do you want to take part in, weapon development or ground combat? That’s the question which you have to answer for yourself.

Defending Apologetics as an Academic Discipline

Sometimes apologetics does not get a lot of respect among scholars, and one might imagine a few reasons why. For one it is by nature committed to defending the Christian faith and, as such, is seen as dogmatic and not really open to being led by truth if indeed that truth leads away from Christianity. Secondly apologetics is often interdisciplinary and not always focused on a specific field such as history, biology, mathematics, etc., and therefore viewed by many as a non-specialized discipline that does not really contribute to our knowledge of anything. Thirdly, too many people seem to want to call themselves an apologist which serves to denigrate the term. The purpose of this post is to address these three issue and make some suggestions as to why I think Apologetics is a respectable and legitimate discipline and what needs to happened for that to be better recognized by others.

Problem 1: Apologetics is by nature committed to defending the Christian faith and, as such, is seen as dogmatic and not really open to being led by truth if indeed that truth leads away from Christianity.

To be honest, this problem affects more than just Christian apologists. One might argue that many naturalists are so committed to their view that there is no supernatural realm that no matter how much evidence you show them they will never be swayed to believe anything else. In fact, any honest person realizes that we all have biases and that some will hold to their bias come what may, even if their personal beliefs are tantamount to clinging to Titanic while screaming “I don’t believe in Icebergs!”

That said, there are those in any field and worldview who are truly open to the evidence. This is itself evidenced by the fact that we can all note notorious figures who have jumped from the ship they deemed to be sinking and grasped the lifeboat of another position they deemed to be better off. Whether it be Antony Flew who was a renowned naturalist who now accepts at least a Deism of sorts, or Lee Strobel who was once an Atheist but now a famous Christian Apologist, or the reverse such as  Bart Ehrman who once was a believer and now is one of the most prominent critics of Christianity in our day. So then, despite the fact that many do behave as ostriches in their worldview, it is clear that many people really are open to interacting with ideas outside of their sphere and in some cases are so moved by those ideas that they make major paradigm shifts.

On the flip side, it’s only natural that no matter what a person’s position is on any given issue that they have come to hold it for a reason (some reasons better than others) and they should not be expected to abandon that position unless given a better reason to believe something else. Christian apologists are no different in this regard than molecular biologists. We have come to certain conclusions based upon evidence, reason and experience. From my perspective the Christian Worldview answers the big questions of life and its meaning better than Atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Wicca, etc., and therefore deserves my allegiance. I have, however, often told those whom I have interacted with that if they can present a comprehensive worldview that makes more sense of the world than Christianity does that I am open to changing my position. Furthermore if you can disprove a central tenant of the faith, like the Resurrection of Jesus, then I will abandon my faith (as even the Apostle Paul suggests we ought to do in 1 Cor. 15 if it is the case that Christ was not raised).

As it stands I am very confident that no one will be able to offer me a better worldview or sufficient evidence against the Christian faith (or sufficient evidence in favor of another view) to move me from my position. That does not mean, however, that my confidence could not be undermined but only that I feel I have strong warrant for my beliefs and that my experience in interacting with others outside of Christianity suggests that others do not stand on nearly so firm of ground as I do. But, as my friend Jim Wallace would say, please, convince me! I am open to following the evidence because I want to believe that which is true. I don’t want to be living a life of self-deception.

So all of that said, the first problem with apologetics is not exclusively a problem with apologetics, nor is it necessarily an inherent problem with apologetics as a discipline and therefore it does not stand as a reason why apologetics ought to be condemned or looked down upon.

Problem 2: Apologetics is often interdisciplinary and not always focused on a specific field such as history, biology, mathematics, etc., and therefore viewed by many as a non-specialized discipline that does not really contribute to our knowledge of anything.

It’s important here to differentiate between two kinds of apologetics that exist today. We could call one form of apologetics “general apologetics” and the other “specialized apologetics.” General apologetics could be likened to the high school science teacher who has studied broadly in the field of general science so that he or she has a working understanding of biology, chemistry, geology, etc. As is usually the case such a teacher will probably have a favorite area of science which they are more specialized in but they are well equipped to give a general education in the sciences and answer the most common questions in each of the more specific fields. General apologists are very similar in this way. They have gotten a degree or degrees in “apologetics” and they have studied broadly in science, philosophy, history, theology, etc. and have a working understanding of many things in those fields and are able to answer some of the most common questions about those fields as they relate to the issues pertinent to Christianity. Depending on their interests and where they went to school (some schools are stronger in certain areas than others) they will be better equipped and more specialized in one or more areas than in others.

Specialized apologetics, on the other hand, we should liken to the science teacher who has done graduate or even doctoral studies in a specialized field science such as chemistry. While they probably still have some good general knowledge on other scientific disciplines they have highly specialized knowledge and understanding in one in particular. It is they who are doing new research and adding to the field of knowledge. There are Christian apologists who are specialized in this same way, they are those who have likewise pursued graduate and doctoral level degrees in an area of science, or philosophy or history or theology, etc. They are contributing new research in their areas and making discoveries and publishing and adding to the knowledge base of their field. These kinds of Christian apologist may have a good understanding of apologetic issues in other fields but they are highly specialized in one field in particular and make significant contributions to their respective disciplines.

It’s easy to see how both levels of apologetics are legitimate forms of the discipline and that the second problem with apologetics really is not a problem at all. We would also be wrong to conclude that one couldn’t make significant contributions in more than one field; there have been many brilliant men and women who have done just that. If one has studied math and philosophy then you know that Rene Descartes made significant contributions in both fields (Cartesian Coordinates / Cartesian Foundationalism) but who wants to say that he should not have done anything interdisciplinary!

Problem 3: Too many people seem to want to call themselves an apologist which serves to denigrate the term.

This is, in my estimation, the most significant problem at hand. There seems to be a massive influx of individuals in the Christian community labeling themselves as “Christian apologists.” To be fair, in one sense, every Christian is supposed to be an apologist. 1 Peter 3:15 is a general command to all believers and certainly did not have in mind a specific academic discipline. Those of us who are apologists want all believers to be properly equipped to “give an answer for the hope they have within them.” That is largely why we are doing what we do (not to mention that we desire to satisfy our own thirst for understanding).

So then I would not suggest that the answer is that people not be so interested in apologetics. Far from it, I wish more Christians would take a serious interest in apologetics and incorporate it into the life of every local church. But I would suggest that Christians use the title “apologist” more sparingly in the sense of a professional title that they bear. We should guard the use of such a title for those who have committed their life and study to the mission of proclaiming and defending the Christian faith as one of their primary disciplines.

Too many people confuse the idea of being a big fan or enthusiast of something and actually being expert in that area. Someone may read a lot of history books and enjoy talking about them, but that does not necessarily make them a “Historian” per se. I would recommend that people who are “into apologetics” or “apologetics buffs” identify themselves more in this way rather than calling themselves “an apologist” unless they are serious about it as an actual academic discipline either as a generalist or specialist. When we start using titles then people expect us to be able to back it up with an appropriate knowledge base. If then a title gets applied too widely and the experience of those who interact with the people bearing those titles is negative or to the effect of seeing those people as inadequate to speak to the issues then I believe it denigrates the field as a whole. The same would be true if everyone who liked to collect rocks called themselves geologists.

I don’t say any of this to be discouraging. I want you (yes you) to be very “into apologetics” and in fact I would invite you to consider whether or not God would lead you into the field and discipline of Christian apologetics. I am also not saying that someone cannot truly become professional in a field apart from formal education (although most do not). I am just saying that we ought to use appropriate titles and be honest about where we are at as an individual and that we should recognize and respect the difference between trained professionals, students in progress, or enthusiasts of a discipline. If we guard the discipline together then we might be able to make “Apologetics” seen with more respect as the actual academic discipline that it is.

Conclusion:

In conclusion I think that these three problems can be shown mostly to be an issue of perception and that this perception can indeed be changed through more information. Apologetics is an important and multi-tiered academic discipline that is crucial to the life of the Christian church. Legitimate apologists are well trained, know the issues, can make significant contributions to their respective fields of knowledge, and are open to the evidence. Apologetics will hopefully continue to grow in popularity and acceptance in our local churches and the average believer will hopefully grow in knowledge and understanding of the issues so that they are prepared to give a defense of the faith wherever God has placed them professionally without needing to misappropriate the title of “apologist” unduly.

A Preliminary Response to Arizona’s Legislation of Same-Sex Marriage

This past Friday the Attorney General for the state of Arizona announced that our state would begin to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples effective immediately. At the same time the Mayor of the city of Houston, TX has begun to violate the constitution by subpoenaing pastors to turn in their sermons or any other statement that address homosexuality. Our church refuses to be silent (or to be silenced) about what God has said marriage is and how human sexuality is to be expressed. We will faithfully speak what the Bible speaks and we will address both heterosexual and homosexual sinful behavior and we will call all people to repent and follow God’s will for their sexuality and for their entire life, by trusting and obeying Christ as Lord and Savior. Here is an initial statement from pastor Joel Ellis which reflects the official position of the teaching pastors at Community Christian Church where I serve as the pastor for discipleship and apologetics.

What is the Relationship of Faith and Reason and How Does this Relate to Salvation through Faith?

In our last post we discussed what the nature of faith is and whether or not the concept of faith (as it is used in the Bible) is rational. In short we determined that the popular concept of what faith means is not how the Bible uses that terminology. Faith, in the Bible at least, is really the idea of trust or having confidence in something or someone. We then determined that whether or not faith in an object is rational depends on the circumstance and reasoning that one has for placing their faith in that object. Furthermore we determined that faith without an object is inherently irrational whereas faith in something or someone is not inherently irrational and that faith in the God of the Bible is demonstrably rational.

With all of that established there now comes another question, what is the relationship of faith and reason/evidence as it relates to obtaining salvation? Now, in our last post, we killed the idea that faith and reason are opposites. This would only be true if faith were defined as believing against or contrary to reason and evidence or if it were defined as something that is above reason and not comprehensible by it. But because the Bible uses faith so as to communicate the idea of having confidence or trust in God, these definitions of faith are irrelevant as it relates to biblical Christianity. So then faith is not something that is inherently opposed to reasons and evidence, rather, it is something that can exist apart from it or strengthened by it. Let me demonstrate what I mean when I say faith can be something apart from reasons and evidence, but can also be strengthened when it has reason and evidence.

Imagine a frozen pond before you. Is it safe to walk on? The answer is ‘C’ not enough information, right? But let’s say you decide to walk on it anyway, you think you’ll be okay if you do. Essentially you’ve place your faith/trust in the strength of that ice to hold your weight. Will you be okay? It just depends on the reality of the situation. If it has been cold enough for a long enough period of time so as to allow the water to freeze and the ice to thicken to a dense enough state then, yes, you’ll be fine. But if it hasn’t then, no, you’ll fall through and you may just drown.

Now if you say to yourself, “I have all the faith in the world that this ice will hold me!” Does this affect the density of the ice? Not at all, but your belief may determine your willingness to walk on the ice. In the same way, perhaps you say to yourself “I’m scared to death that this ice won’t hold my weight but I am willing to take my chances and trust it.” Does your meager faith affect the density of the ice? No again. So what is the crucial issue? Is it the amount of faith one has in the ice or is it the whether the ice itself is sufficient to bear your weight? Obviously it is the latter.

This illustration of the frozen lake will serve us well to demonstrate the relationship of faith, reason and how they relate to salvation. Imagine that the frozen lake represents a religion, philosophy or worldview. You might look at the frozen lake and call it Buddhism, Islam, Atheism, or Christianity, etc. People all around the world have chosen to place their trust in a certain worldview (frozen lake) and many, if not most, have done so without sufficient reason or evidence to be certain that the metaphorical ice will hold their weight. In other words the majority of people in this world are skating on ice that they don’t know for sure will hold them. They may believe very strongly that it will hold them; they may have unwavering confidence that it will hold them but they don’t have sufficient reasons or evidence to support their faith in the ice they are. In these cases then I would agree with the idea that they have a faith that is irrational. It does not follow, however, that all faith is necessarily irrational just because many people don’t believe for rational reasons.

Now if we take the metaphor of the frozen lakes to be that only one of them is actually capable of bearing the weight of people walking upon it which correlated to only one religion is actually true and able to offer people salvation and eternal life, then a lot of people are in very real danger of falling through the ice right now because they are believing without sufficient reason that they are on the right ice. All people, in fact, are in danger except those who happen to be walking on the right frozen lake. As we have established already the level of one’s confidence that the frozen lake will bear their weight doesn’t strengthen or weaken the integrity of the ice. So what is the primary issue for that person’s safety? The issue is that they are on the right frozen lake which has thick enough ice to support them.

This is also true of religion. A person can fully believe that Islam is true, or Buddhism, etc., but because it is indeed false they will eventually fall through the ice. But because Christianity is true (which I will not here defend but for the sake of this article we are taking for granted) then people on this frozen lake are safe even if they had only the weakest faith but just enough to put their lot with Jesus. The degree of faith/trust/confidence is not what brings about salvation, rather, it is picking the right belief system that will actually save you.

In this way there are many Christians who believe in Jesus for salvation for just as insufficient of reasons that the Muslim believe in Allah and the Qur’an, however, the Christian will fare much better at the judgment because they have just so happened to trust in the one frozen lake that will bear their weight. It is in this way that faith can exist apart from reason and evidence and if a person happens to have put their faith in the right object that they will still have salvation whereas others who have just as much faith but chose the wrong object will not have salvation. So faith can be irrational, even faith in the right object (Jesus) can be irrational but the issue of whether or not that faith saves a person leans wholly upon whether they chose the right object of faith. So saving faith can exist apart from reason and evidence but it is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette and not one that I recommend people play. So then, a person ought to have a faith/trust informed by reason and evidence because this is what can lead them towards safety and away from danger, show them that they need to get off the thin ice they are on or that they happen to be standing on thick ice.

Imagine once again that you are standing before a frozen lake and pondering walking across it. You can decide to blindly place your confidence in it and hope you are going to be okay, or you can do some research. You can pull out your smart phone and look up the weather report for the last month or two and see how cold it has been. You could then find out how long it takes ice to form under certain temperatures and you could try to figure an approximate volume of the lake, you could even take a heavy rock and hurl it onto the ice and see whether the ice cracks. There are lots of things you could do to try and determine the strength of the ice before blindly walking on to it. You could then determine with some level of confidence whether or not this frozen lake is safe to walk on. And the level of your confidence in the ice should be proportional to the evidence and reasoning that you’ve established.

So the relationship of faith and reason are not polar opposite so that if you have one you cannot have the other but nor does faith necessarily entail reasons and evidence because a person can believe without them (have irrational faith). But the wise person will investigate what they are considering believing/trusting in before they step out onto the ice so that they may know if it will support their weight. As a Christian, given that our religion is actually true, reason and evidence will serve to support and strengthen your confidence that you are on strong ice whereas for other religions it will hopefully encourage them to get off the thin ice before they fall through.

While faith can be irrational, and if you’re lucky it may even save you from your sins if you’ve haphazardly ended up on strong ice, this is not the kind of faith the Bible would commend us to. If we as Christians blindly believe then we are no different from the sincere Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, etc., who blindly believes other than being luckily on the right lake. So inform your faith, look into it and see how solid the ice is beneath your feet. If you’re a Christian you’ll find you’re in luck and standing on solid ice, but if you’re not I think you’ll find you have reason to be less confident about where you’re standing.

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Also “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). The intensity of your belief doesn’t make this true or false, rather, the fact that Jesus actually lived, was crucified and died and then rose back to life in history makes it true. How much better to not just believe in Jesus but to actually be able to say “I have good reasons to believe that Christianity is true!”? Christians your irrational faith may save you but you are much better off with having reason and evidence to support why you believe you’re in a safe place with Christ. Let’s put aside irrational faith and trade it in for reasonable faith.

 

What is Faith & is the Christian Faith Rational?

Some recent discussions I have been involved with have led to a critical question about the nature of Christian faith. Is faith irrational? Is it super-rational? Or is faith perfectly rational? If faith is irrational then it is for those who want embrace the absurd and implicit, if not explicit, contradictions in concepts. If this is right then we are asked to believe in spite of good reasons not to. If faith is super-rational, meaning that it is above our ability to reason with, although not necessarily contradictory and irrational, then it is of a blind nature where one is asked to believe apart from sufficient reason. But if faith is rational, meaning that it is logically coherent and corresponds to reality, then we are asked to believe in something or someone for good reasons.

Admittedly, Christians of different stripes throughout the history of Christianity have contended for all of these different ideas of what faith is. But to simply point out that there have been significant disagreements about the nature of faith should hardly lead us to the conclusion that there is no right view and that all of the views are equally valid or invalid. Although some Christians have embraced the idea that we should believe against reason and that evidence and reason are actually the opposite of faith (indeed they are mortal enemies according to some) I would contend that this is not even close to how the Bible asks us to believe in Christ nor anything else.

When the Scripture says “believe in the Lord Jesus”, what is it saying? The most natural understanding of this command is that we are to “trust” in the Lord Jesus. Or to put it another way, we are to have “confidence” in the Lord Jesus. When Jesus said “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” what did he mean? The Bible is explicitly clear what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean to believe in Jesus in the sense that we are merely to give mental ascent to the proposition that Jesus was a real person. James 2 tells us that even demons believe factually accurate statements about God, but this has no salvific effect for them nor does it mean that they have endearing feeling towards God. Rather the most obvious sense in which Jesus communicates that we should “believe” in him for eternal life is in the sense that we should trust him, rely on him, have confidence in his ability to save us.

So let’s take all of the mystery away from the concept of “faith” as though it is a thing in itself that has existence. Faith is by necessity tied to an object. When people use faith in our culture today as some sort of mystical word by saying “I just have faith that everything will work out” but that faith has not object to which it is attached, this is admittedly absurd! But this is not how the Bible uses faith. Faith is always attached to an object in the Bible, indeed more than an object, a person…God.

Take Abraham as an example (indeed we ought to because the apostle Paul in Romans 4 makes him the archetype example of salvific faith). In Genesis 15 God promised Abraham that he would give him a son through whom he would give Abraham many decedents and make a great and powerful nation. The Scripture tells us that Abraham believed God and it was counted to Abraham as righteousness. Paul expounds on this in Romans 4 saying that Abraham was made right with God by his faith in this instance. Now was Abraham irrational in his faith in God? Some would say yes because he was believing something that seemed impossible since his wife was barren and well beyond child bearing age. Abraham would indeed have been irrational if he had simply believed that he would have a son apart from that belief being tied to anything but just shot in the dark optimism. But this is not what Abraham did, no, Abraham believed/trusted/ had confidence in God that he would have a son. This wasn’t a blind leap this was trusting in the character of a capable person who was able to bring about the promise that he had made. So likewise when we trust in Jesus, we are not believing in pure optimism that everything is going to be okay, we are trusting a person, a divine one at that, who is able to save us just as he says. This is not a non-evidenced trust, but a trust built on a reputation that God has shown himself to be faithful and worthy of our confidence.

So faith, as the Bible uses the concept, is not inherently irrational because it is tied to an object. Were faith used in a subjective sense without any external attachment then it would be irrational to begin with but, again, this is not a biblical usage of the term although it may be used this way in popular culture and even by Christians at times. Since biblical faith carries the concept of trust or confidence in a person (God or Christ) then it is not inherently irrational. The question then turns to whether ones reasons for faith in God are rational or irrational. Someone could approach you and tell you that there is a tree in their yard that is the source of all life on earth and it is truly a deity and they might invite you to come and worship the tree with them. If you were to then sell all your possessions and buy the highest grade fertilizers to bring as an offering to this tree and devote yourself to worshiping the tree and making new disciples for the tree, then I would argue you have made an irrational decision to place you faith/trust/confidence in this tree in your neighbor’s yard. Why? Because there does not seem to be any evidence that supports your neighbors claim that this tree is anything more than a normal tree and now you have attached you faith to this object for no good reason whatsoever.

But is this picture similar to that of your neighbor inviting you to have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus of Nazareth? To the person hearing the message of Jesus for the very first time it might seem so, but under investigation of the claims of the Christian worldview (such as God exists and made the universe, made mankind in his image, our rebellion hurled the world into sin and chaos, we have lost our relationship with God, God still loves us and made a way back to him through Jesus his son, and by faith/trust in Jesus we can be restored to a right relationship with God) it would seem like there might be some good reasons to believe this is so. When one considers the solid arguments in favor of God’s existence from the origins of the universe, the existence of objective morality, and design in the universe and biological things, as well as, the unique nature of the Bible and its preservation and historical reliability, to the evidence that suggests Jesus really did rise from the dead, deciding to trust in Jesus is not irrational at all.

Now I will grant you that some will not find the evidence and reasoning in favor of the Christian worldview to be compelling enough for them to go ahead and believe it is true and place their faith in Jesus, but to call it irrational (apart from or in contradiction to reason) is really not accurate at all. In fact, even if Christianity turned out to be wrong that still would not mean that Christians were irrational for having believed it. How many things have rational people throughout history believed for good reasons just to later be shown that they lacked sufficient information to have formulated a correct belief? It would hardly be fair to have called a person irrational for believing the sun rotated around the earth before we had sufficient technology to determine otherwise. At the time, given the information they had, this was a rational inference.

So as a Christian, perhaps I am wrong but I am not irrational. But as an atheist, perhaps you are wrong. I am not going to call your position irrational. I do think that that the evidence is in our favor that our beliefs are the correct ones about the way things really are in the world, but if you can put one logical foot in front of the other and present a respectable case for your point of view I will not stoop to calling your position irrational, I will just continue to offer counterpoints and hope that by God’s grace you will come to see things as I believe they really are.

For our next post we will continue this discussion into a different nuance and interact with the question “What is the relationship of faith and reason and how does this relate to salvation through faith?