Saturday, March 02, 2019

Where do we go from here?

A big part of the world has gone crazy. By “big part of the world”, I mean, “lots of people, and lots of institutions”. We know that.

They have rejected God and adopted a form of man-made morality which holds that every person and every culture should be “equal” (a form of morality which is clearly on display in universities and magnified by the media), in such a way that dissenting from this morality can cause you to lose a Facebook or Twitter account, or a job, or a wife and custody of a child, or your life.

How are Christians to deal with this?

Not long ago, Rod Dreher proposed “The Benedict Option”, which he summarized as “communal withdrawal from the mainstream, for the sake of sheltering one’s faith and family from corrosive modernity and cultivating a more traditional way of life”.

I don’t think that is good enough. On the other hand, I’ve long been impressed by Alvin Plantinga’s advice in his “Advice to Christian Philosophers” (from the 1984 essay). While this advice is specific to philosophy students, I think it has broader application for those of us in other situations:

My counsel can be summed up on two connected suggestions, along with a codicil.

First, Christian philosophers and Christian intellectuals generally must display more autonomy — more independence of the rest of the philosophical world.

Second, Christian philosophers must display more integrity — integrity in the sense of integral wholeness, or oneness, or unity, being all of one piece. Perhaps ‘integrality’ would be the better word here.

And necessary to these two is a third: Christian courage, or boldness, or strength, or perhaps Christian self-confidence. We Christian philosophers must display ore faith, more trust in the Lord; we must put on the whole armor of God …

Plantinga followed his own advice, and over the years, he gained respect not only from Christian philosophers, but from the secular philosophical culture as well.

He goes on to give a few examples, but basically, this boils down to: Christians need to be Christians in the world, wherever they are – not in isolated communities that withdraw from the culture – but as Christian individuals, strengthened with God’s word and his Spirit – the wind at our backs, in other words … bearing a Christian worldview, and approaching the world unashamedly with that worldview.

John Frame notes:
My favorite of Plantinga’s publications is his “Advice to Christian Philosophers.” In that paper, he urges Christians to take their faith into account in their philosophical work: their choice of mentors, models, methods, and so on. Christians should be suspicious of claims that this or that approach is necessary for philosophical or scientific respectability, and they should be alert for proposals that emerge out of and/or support their Christian faith. That advice is the same as that which I would offer to readers as we draw near to the end of this book.

Frame, John M.. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (p. 543). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So too, for all Christians, especially those in non-philosophical realms: we should “be alert for proposals that emerge out of and/or support our Christian faith”, and we should individually (if necessary) and collectively give our support, sanction, and efforts to those things. We kinda-sorta know what those things will turn out to be, but often, with as quickly as things are moving in the world, we simply can't know in advance.

Cashing all of this out in real life should translate (IMO) sort of like this:

As to Plantinga’s first piece of advice as applied to “day-to-day” Christians, displaying “autonomy” or “independence” simply means that we go about being Christians in the world. We do not need to wait for “the crowd” or for some kind of movement to form.

As to Plantinga’s second piece of advice, “integrality”, we should start with the “integral wholeness, or oneness, or unity” of the Scriptures. It comes down to Frame’s presupposition (as he puts it) that “As a Christian, I am committed to a worldview that comes from the Bible: God the Creator, the world as his creation, man made in his image, sin and its consequences as our predicament, Christ’s atonement as our salvation, his return as the consummation of all things (Frame, “A History…”, pg. 2).”

This view should inform every part of our lives – marriage, family, church, work, politics. But on the other hand, this is easier said than done.

Consider the part about man having been created “in God’s image” – that includes the qualification, “he created them male and female”. Consider a thought from Machen’s 1915 essay, “History and Faith”, in which he says, “The Bible is primarily a record of events. That assertion will not go unchallenged”.

I love the understatement. But we must put it our Christianity “out there”, we must defend it tooth and nail, knowing that the Lord is our strength and our shield.

We should not hesitate to take Plantinga’s advice regarding philosophy, and expand it into every sphere of influence where Christians still live and work (and into those where they don’t, as well).

Precisely how we do this is going to be a matter that we need to work out “with fear and trembling”. That is where Plantinga’s third piece of advice comes into view. We will need to stand with Christian courage, wearing “the full armor of God”, knowing that swords and arrows will come our way.

We don’t know where the chips will all fall. And we will certainly need at some points to crawl away and tend to our wounds.

But the cultural situation today is not something we should shrink from. The so-called “morality” of the day is something we should not accept.

Cleansed and forgiven by the Lord, we should not hesitate to say, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”

We don’t know where the Lord will send us. But we will know that he goes before us and clears the way for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment