Archive for the ‘apologetics’ Category

A brief note about McKnight’s post on The Assumption of Mary

If my grandmother were still alive she would be remembering today The Feast of the Assumption of Mary. In short, August 15th is a feast day on the Roman Catholic calendar whereby Catholics remember that Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” Enter Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary, who writes in a post today:

“I think we’ve got to get back to the Bible to see what it says. Themes about Mary are found not only in the Bible; the early churches struggled with how to understand Mary. Was she sinless? the immaculate conception? and what about her death?”

I happen to agree with what McKnight says here, at least so far. We do need to get back to the Bible in how we understand Mary and yes the early churches struggled with lots of things including how they viewed Mary. However I think McKnight leaves this exhortation open-ended at the end of his article with a logic that seems to be missing on a few cylinders. He concludes by stating:

“The question we need to ask about Mary is this: Was she also taken into the presence of God miraculously? As Protestants we go to the Bible first, but we find nothing like this in the Bible. Does that mean it didn’t happen to Mary? None of us believes that everything was recorded in the Bible, so we are left to examine the evidence and make up our own minds.”

In short, a necessary implication of what he states here is that we as Protestants go to the Bible first but if we or any other ecclesiastical institution are unsettled with what we find there then we are free to construct a case (“evidence”?) and “make up our own minds.” If this is acceptable biblical scholarship in the case of Mary would McKnight do this as well with Mary’s Son? In other words, it is true the Bible does not tell us every detail of Mary’s life nor of Jesus for that matter (John 21:25). However we are not free to add details that the Spirit of God did not inscripturate and even more so we are not to take such details, whatever they may be, and raise them to the level of binding and infallible dogma (which is what happened with The Assumption of Mary on November 1, 1950 in the Munificentissimus Deus).

We are bound to God’s Word in life and practice. When we study the text and stand before the people of God we are to preach what it says without the embellishment of historical constructs that would seek to add more than what is there. I am not arguing that history is unimportant or that historical developments are unnecessary. However, the doctrines that we do preach should rest upon the authority of Scripture for it is this that makes us uniquely “Protestant” especially on days like today. It is possible that McKnight did not intend to go this far but in his attempt at rapprochement he has conceded the Roman Catholic argument for the nature of authority.

Straining for the redemptive while swallowing the world

I hear folks say all the time that the reason they watch, listen, read, and become spectators of modern cultural trash is that they are looking for redemptive meaning for the sake of being “all things to all men.” You’ve no doubt have heard this as well. The common defense is that “well, God can use anything He so chooses to bring glory to Himself” to which I respond with a hearty “AMEN!”. After all is that not what lies at the root of passages like Isaiah 46:11 and Romans 8:28? But therein lies the rub that so many in this larger discussion seem to miss. It is not up to us to redeem garbage and call wickedness “good” or even worse “redemptive.” The one bringing about the action in Romans 8:28 is God. I simply raise the point that much of what takes place in the name of “redeeming culture” could actually be a form of incipient worldliness that has infected us in ways we can only begin to imagine and I for one am not immune to this deception either. As usual there is someone else who has communicated this point far better than I ever will. Flannery O’Conner in her Mystery and Manners said the following:

“We have plenty of examples in this world of poor things being used for good purposes. God can make any indifferent thing, as well as evil itself, an instrument for good; but I submit that to do this is the business of God and not of any human being.”

Challenge to Theistic Evolution

In a debate against Alister E. McGrath, atheist Richard Dawkins made the following statement. He meant it as an argument against the existence of God, but I thought it served better as an argument against theistic evolution:  

Most respectable theologians nowadays agree that life, at least, did evolve by slow gradual incremental degrees. But they prefer to smuggle the Creator in as well, somewhat superfluously…. If natural selection and evolution is God’s way of designing life, why would He choose the one way which makes it look as if He doesn’t exist, which makes His own role completely superfluous?  

I’m certainly no fan of Richard Dawkins, but good question, don’t you think?

Can we be “good” without God?

There has been an excellent exchange going on at Christianity Today’s website between Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson over issues related to atheism and morality. Wilson is giving a fine example of presuppositional apologetics and this exchange should be studied by seminarians and pastors who want to see how such an approach is practically fleshed-out with an actual warmblooded atheist. For my money one of the touchstones of such a conversation is how the atheist can justify morality in a universe that is conceivably without God. Wilson puts his finger right on the pulse of this issue and so far Hitchens has been unable to get anywhere near an answer to such a dilemma (and to be consistent, he wont be able to). Hitchens’ argument is that “morality” comes from what he calls “innate human solidarity.” Here’s Wilson’s response:

“You say in passing that ethical imperatives are “derived from innate human solidarity.” A host of difficult questions immediately arise, which is perhaps why atheists are generally so coy about trying to answer this question. Derived by whom? Is this derivation authoritative? Do the rest of us ever get to vote on which derivations represent true, innate human solidarity? Do we ever get to vote on the authorized derivers? On what basis is innate human solidarity authoritative? If someone rejects innate human solidarity, are they being evil, or are they just a mutation in the inevitable changes that the evolutionary process requires? What is the precise nature of human solidarity? What is easier to read, the book of Romans or innate human solidarity? Are there different denominations that read the book of innate human solidarity differently? Which one is right? Who says?

And last, does innate human solidarity believe in God?”

“God is not Great”

Christopher Hitchens is enjoying renewed success with his latest book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (top ten on most bestseller lists).The thesis of his book is “atheists should differentiate themselves from all the knuckle dragging morons who believe.” 

CT is now reporting that Hitchens will be corresponding with Douglas Wilson of Blog and Mablog. This should be interesting as Wilson is one of the few in the apologetics ring that consistently holds to a presuppositional framework. What this means is you won’t be hearing some of the same tired arguments for the existence of God that repeatedly get shot down by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris via their interactions with Alistair McGrath and Rick Warren. Wilson is also an engaging writer (as is Hitchens) and is famous for being able to make a sentence crawl up your back and tickle you in the ear.

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