And what goes along with that, of course, are the speeches and admonitions about doing your best and what kinds of things are at stake.
At times like these, I’m reminded of something that Alister McGrath said at the beginning of his work, “Christian Theology: An Introduction”. (I have the third edition; McGrath is famous for re-writing earlier versions of his work, and re-issuing them at a higher price. Currently, I believe, he is on the fifth edition of this work.). My edition begins with these words “To the Student”:
Christian theology is one of the most fascinating subjects it is possible to study.
Over the years, I have come to agree with that statement. My own study began as a response to a generalized feeling of creepiness that I experienced while going to Mass every week; it led first of all, to my search for reasons why I should go or stay; it led further to discussions with Roman Catholics to the effect “how could you leave”, and the need to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”.
What began as a deeply personal struggle has introduced me to this absolutely fascinating world of church history and Christian theology.
I am of course, not a professional theologian. Many of you will have noticed this (and I appreciate your kindness not to say so… :-)
But I am deeply committed to the search for truth in this “sphere”, the sphere of church history and Christian theology. I am so for its own sake, and I am so because I believe that truth in this sphere will enable us to understand and better deal with the world going forward – a world that seems as if it will always have larger and larger challenges.
(And I’m getting older, so it would seem easy for me simply to avoid those challenges, and leave them for “the next generation”, except that “the next generation” involves children whose lives and well-being I care for more deeply than my own).
That’s why I do what I do, and while things may get difficult at times, there are always reasons for hope.
* * *
In that vein, a discussion between Jeff Cagle and Bryan Cross at Darryl Hart’s “Old Life” site merits a look.
Jeff seems really to have gotten Bryan’s number in that discussion. But what I find more hopeful are some of Hart’s comments.
For example, Hart is (if even metaphorically) incited to war:
Bryan, the peace of Christ may be war.
He identifies the problem:
Bryan, your response to Jeff begs the question. You define faith a certain way and so Jeff’s claims don’t follow. But since you are the great dictionary in all these matters, these discussions always must run through your paradigmatic definitions.
Is it possible to find a definition of faith on which you and Jeff agree? I doubt it. It seems that your understanding of reason ends when you cross the Tiber. At that point, you have reasons for your reason, but you have no capacity to show someone else they are wrong if they don’t accept your definitions.
This is no call. This is a demand for submission.
In this, he identifies (as Turretin did in his time) that Rome seeks to win by defining itself as the winner (see the first few pages of Turretin’s third volume). He correctly has identified that the “call to communion” is really a call to “bend the knee to Rome”. Later he clarifies:
It is good to be reminded of what Roman Catholicism was before Vatican 2. For all of the human face that John Paul 2 put on Rome, the same impenetrable and unreformable foundation exists. I don’t think many evangelicals would actually go to Rome if they thought the church was so inflexible and defensive. Of course, your problem is that Rome is not nearly as air tight — there are the Jesuits and the nuns after all. Still, it is good for potential converts to receive a dose of reality from the incomparable logician and dogmatician, Bryan Cross.
And when Bryan “bows out” of the discussion, Hart vows to carry on the fight:
Bryan, you may withdraw but you cannot hide. CTC will be an object of future posts.
At this point, I am very grateful that notable blogs like Green Baggins and Hart’s Old Life are taking up this issue, and determining to re-examine the issues that marked the Reformation.
My wife asks me why its better for Christians to fight among themselves than, say, for us all to call a truce and focus our energies on something like Islam.
I agree with her that Islam is an important factor in our world, and it needs to be addressed. But a large portion of Christianity (i.e. Roman Catholicism) has crumbling foundations built on falsehoods, and it is not is not going to be able to the world with the Gospel, and it’s ultimately doomed to fail.
That, again, is why I do what I do. The Reformation brought up issues that haven’t been solved for 500 years. But that doesn’t render them unsolvable. We are closer today to resolving those issues than at any time in the last five hundred years.
Sure, it’s a long-term project. But we have tremendous resources at our disposal. And more and more people are beginning to see what’s at stake.