Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Carbon credits

Defending the Christian faith is a necessary task. The Christian faith has opponents both inside and outside the church. And it's a perennial battle. It requires constant vigilance. 
There's a moral satisfaction that comes from fighting for a noble cause. That's what motivates social liberals. They think their cause is just. And it makes them feel virtuous.
This can blind us to to the moral or spiritual hazards of defending a worthy cause. The moral or spiritual hazards for fighting for the wrong cause are obvious. And precisely because that's obvious, it can make us insensible to the less obvious hazards of fighting for the right cause.
We should guard against the trap of treating apologetics as a substitute for good works. Al Gore preaches a Green gospel, and lectures middle class Americans on their carbon emissions, even though his own lifestyle leaves a huge carbon footprint. He excuses his duplicity by purchasing carbon offsets. 
Defending the truths of Scripture, as well as the truth of Scripture, should never become a carbon offset for cultivating sanctity. There are some stalwart defends of the faith who can be quite unethical. It's as if they think the "good works" of polemical theology are carbon offsets that take the place of personal holiness. 
That's an insidious danger which Christian apologists and "heresy hunters" must guard against. Apologetics is not a carbon credit in place of saintliness. 


  1. "A man can't be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it."- C.S. Lewis
    Reflections on the Psalms, page 7

    That is why daily praying and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.- C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity book III chapter 11

    Advice to [budding] Christian Apologists by William Lane Craig

    Advice to Christian Apologists [in Europe] by William Lane Craig

  2. Not exactly the same, but along the same lines:

    "There are some people in whose case the head only seems to be in use - the intellect, the understanding. They tell us that they are tremendously interested in the gospel as a point of view, as a Christian philosophy. These are the people who are always talking about the Christian outlook or, to use the present day jargon, the Christian insights. It is something purely philosophical, something entirely intellectual. I think you will agree that there are large numbers of people in that position at the present time. Christianity is to them a matter of tremendous interest and they believe and proclaim that if only this Christian point of view could be applied in politics, in industry and in every other circle all our troubles would be solved. It is entirely the intellectual attitude and point of view.

    "There are others, not so many today, perhaps, as there used to be, whose sole interest in the gospel is their interest in theology and doctrine and metaphysics, and in great problems, arguments and discussions. I speak of past days; days that are gone. I do not want to defend them, but they were infinitely preferable to the present position. There were people then whose only interest in the gospel was their interest in theological problems; and they argued about them and discussed them. Their minds were very much engaged; this was their intellectual hobby and interest. But the tragedy was that it stopped at that interest, and their hearts had never been touched. Not only was there an absence of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives but there was often an absence of the ordinary milk of human kindness. Those men would argue and almost fight about particular doctrines, but they were often hard men to approach. You would never go to them if you were in trouble; you felt that they would neither understand nor sympathize. Still worse, the truth they were so interested in was not at all applied in their lives; it was something confined to their studies. It did not touch their conduct or behaviour at all, but was confined entirely to the mind. Obviously they were bound, sooner or later, to get into difficulty and to become unhappy. Have you ever seen a man like that facing the end of his life? Have you seen him when he can no longer read, or when he is on his death-bed? I have seen one or two and I do not want to see another. It is a terrible thing when a man reaches that point when he knows that he must die, and the gospel which he has argued about and reasoned about and even 'defended' does not seem to help him because it has never gripped him. It was just an intellectual hobby."

    (Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp 56-57.)

  3. From J.C. Ryle's A Call To Prayer

    Never be surprised if you hear ministers of the gospel dwelling much on the importance of prayer. This is the point we want to bring you to; we want to know that you pray. Your views of doctrine may be correct. Your love of Protestantism may be warm and unmistakable. But still this may be nothing more than head knowledge and party spirit. We want to know whether you are actually acquainted with the throne of grace, and whether you can speak to God as well as speak about God.

    Do you wish to find out whether you are a true Christian? Then rest assured that my question is of the very first importance - Do you pray?

    I ask whether you pray, because there is no duty in religion so neglected as private prayer.

    We live in days of abounding religious profession. There are more places of public worship now than there ever were before. There are more persons attending them than there ever were before. And yet in spite of all this public religion, I believe there is a vast neglect of private prayer. It is one of those private transactions between God and our souls which no eye sees, and therefore one which men are tempted to pass over and leave undone. I believe that thousands never utter a word of prayer at all. They eat. They drink. They sleep. They rise. They go forth to their labor. They return to their homes. They breathe God's air. They see God's sun. They walk on God's earth. They enjoy God's mercies. They have dying bodies. They have judgment and eternity before them. But they never speak to God. They live like the beasts that perish. They behave like creatures without souls. They have not one word to say to Him in whose hand are their life and breath, and all things, and from whose mouth they must one day receive their everlasting sentence. How dreadful this seems; but if the secrets of men were only known, how common.


  4. From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
    From all the victories that I seemed to score;
    From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
    At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
    From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
    Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

    Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
    of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
    From all my thoughts,
    even from my thoughts of Thee,
    O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
    Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
    Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

    C.S. Lewis, “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer,” in Poems, ed. Walter Hooper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1964), p. 129.