September 12, 2014
A number of folks in our congregation asked me if I had seen God’s Not Dead, the recent evangelical film which chronicles the plight of a freshman in college who is challenged to defend his faith. I had not seen it. Until now. The film has been a sensation in the niche market of Christian films, preforming extraordinarily well at the box office. And if Amazon reviews are a reliable indicator, it is much beloved by a good many people — currently at over 2,000 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars. [UPDATE: 14,000+ reviews as of March 2016]
The scenario which God’s Not Dead attempts to portray is important. It is something which Christian parents and their children need to have open and honest dialogues. In this regard, I hope this film may generate some much needed discussion.
But this is not the film we need! My review will be highly negative, with only a few positive observations along the way.
The protagonist in our story is a newly arrived freshman on campus, Josh Wheaton. We know nothing about him except that he wears a Newsboys t-shirt and a cross necklace, which prompts a fellow student to warn him. About what? About the Philosophy 101 course on his schedule. The professor of the course is Dr. Jeffrey Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), who is well-known for his avowed atheism and open disdain for religion. The next scene is Josh’s first day of class with Professor Radisson.
The scene starts decently enough. Kevin Sorbo portrays the professor. It is an enjoyable performance. He is a charismatic and very confident professor of philosophy, who doesn’t skip a beat in his Richard Dawkins-esque monologue. This monologue is targeted against the primitive and infantile belief in a supreme being, who is now made obsolete by the advance of science. It’s a bit over the top, but that’s nothing compared to what happens next. The professor instructs the students to pull out a sheet of paper. Their first assignment is to write the words, “God is dead,” and then to sign their name underneath! Without any objections, the entire class obliges. It’s a large class of about 80 students, since this is a gen ed course. Yet the lone student who is struggling with writing, “God is dead,” is Josh. When the professor approaches Josh, he informs him that if he refuses to do the assignment, he will fail this portion of the class. Josh holds his ground, even while Professor Radisson mocks him mercilessly. The professor then gives Josh the option of defending his thesis that God is not dead — in front of the class during the next few sessions.
That’s how the movie begins. It’s ridiculous. It’s so painfully ridiculous that I was genuinely shocked and embarrassed as a Christian. The portrait of Professor Radisson is the fanciful product of an overactive evangelical imagination, an imagination too long steeped in fear. It’s a mockery of atheists and other skeptics, who have every justification to be angry at the film. It’s an exaggerated portrait, an unfair portrait, and an outright silly portrait. Philosophy professors do not require their students to sign a statement that God is dead. They would be reprimanded, and a sufficient number of students in the class would have refused — not just our protagonist. With the recent happenings at Cal State and Vanderbilt, there is not much that would shock me about the “benign guardianship” of our liberal elites. But this is dumb — nothing more than an obvious scare tactic in order to portray the professor as villainous as possible and Josh as the great martyr-hero. I was fully expecting Professor Radisson to next instruct the class to write 666 on their foreheads.
Afterwards, Josh is walking through the campus with his girlfriend, who is not happy that Josh is jeopardizing his grades and potentially ruining their future together, with him hoping to enter law school. She encourages him to just comply with the professor’s demands, to which Josh responds, “I feel like God wants someone to defend him.” And sure enough, Josh is the man to do it. He is given four different class sessions in order to make his case for the existence of God. During his first session, he tells the class that they are going to “look at the evidence” and “put God on trial.” Seriously. These are real quotes. Surprisingly, his first point is actually not too bad. He states that, against Aristotle’s belief in a “steady state” universe without beginning or end, both Genesis and the Big Bang indicate a beginning to the universe. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Big Bang and billions of years in a film geared toward an evangelical audience, where Young Earth Creationism still has its ardent proponents.
But everything else is downhill from here. With each session, Josh gains in confidence, though he was already rather confident from the beginning. You would never know that he was a freshman. The point, of course, is to show that our Christian hero is just as confident and capable as the evil professor. The problem is that he’s a college freshman, not a professor. The film encourages the completely unrealistic expectation that any Christian, after reading a few Josh McDowell or John Lennox books, can take on any professor. I can assure you, every Christian at every university can tell you that this is just plain stupid.
There are some bizarre moments, like when Professor Radisson tells Josh after class, “Do not humiliate me in front of my students,” which is followed by the threat, “If you continue with this charade, I will destroy any hope of you getting a law degree in the future.” Professor Radisson is a completely one-dimensional character, in a film with only one-dimensional characters. Everyone is stereotyped in an exaggerated manner. The good guys are really good, and the bad guys are really bad. The Christians are kind and thoughtful. The non-Christians are mean and flippant. This inability to deal with the complexities of the human personality is, frankly, amateurish and pathetic. If this is Christian artistry today, God help us. You would never know that we have Shakespeare and Tolkien in our heritage.
Worst Moment in Film History
I have not disclosed the most ridiculous moment in the movie. Here is the scene: During Josh’s fourth and final performance in front of the class, Professor Radisson engages with Josh in a tit-for-tat, where Josh comes across like a rock star lawyer. (Think of A Few Good Men with Cruise versus Nicholson.) Josh is blasting away about the immorality and meaninglessness of life without God, and the professor is responding from the Dawkins playbook about the “disease” of religion and so forth. It all culminates with Josh yelling at the professor, “Why do you hate God?!” Radisson responds, “Because he took everything from me,” in reference to the death of his mother when he was a child. “Yes, I hate God.” Josh deals the final blow, “How can you hate someone if he doesn’t exist?”
Booyah! You see what happened? The professor’s rejection of God is not about reason. It’s about emotions. It’s about the loss of his mother. Josh even declares that Radisson knows that the reasons are on Josh’s side. Atheism is not about reason. We’ve already seen how easily Josh has been able to demolish all of the rational objections. So it must be about something else. Emotions. Nevermind that this is exactly the same tactic that skeptics use against Christians. After this heated exchange between Josh and the professor, each student begins to stand, one by one, declaring, “God’s not dead.” (Think of Dead Poets Society and all the students declaring, “Oh Captain, my Captain.”) Over and over, “God’s not dead. God’s not dead.” Eventually the entire class is standing. Remember, this is the same class that wrote, “God is dead,” with their signatures just a few weeks prior. Josh is so persuasive that he wins over the entire class!
That, my friends, was the most ridiculous moment in the whole movie.
There are other characters in the film — various sub-narratives that lend support to the overarching narrative between Josh and Professor Radisson. We have Amy, a young and attractive journalist, highly ambitious and highly condescending toward Christians. She gets cancer, and when she reveals this to her equally driven boyfriend (played by Dean Cain), his response is callous beyond imagination (“This couldn’t wait until tomorrow?,” since he was celebrating his promotion) and he dumps her. Trisha LaFache plays Amy, and I thought she did a fine job. She lends a great deal of empathy to her character. Throughout her struggle, she is alone and afraid. Amy eventually comes to faith at the Newsboys concert at the end of the movie. Yep. Everything comes to a resolution at a Newsboys concert. Professor Radisson, while on his way to the Newsboys concert, gets hit by a car and, while he is dying on the street, the minister in the movie (who happened to be present at the intersection) shares the gospel message and Radisson finally relents and accepts Christ for his salvation. There is also a Muslim girl who is severely beaten by her father for secretly being a Christian (after her brother catches her listening to Franklin Graham sermons on her iPod). And there is Martin, a Chinese classmate of Josh who comes to faith after hearing his arguments in the class. And, finally, there is the minister, who actually has some solid practical wisdom in the film.
The film ends with Newsboys’ lead singer giving a shout-out, during the concert, to Josh. He praises him for “defending God’s honor” and “putting a smile on God’s face.” Before the rolling credits, we have an exhortation on the screen: “Join the movement. Text everyone you know. God’s not dead.”
That’s right. They will know us by our texts.
June 14, 2014
This is what “tolerance” looks like:
“Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy” (Michael Paulson, New York Times, June 9, 2014)
Well, when truth claims are reduced to culturally-conditioned “norms,” which are then reduced to power plays and “rituals of truth” (Foucault) — then we really shouldn’t be surprised when postmodern liberalism is consistent. It is not about reason, much less tolerance in any meaningful sense. It’s about reconstituting, as they would say, the cultural conditions from which “truth” arrives in human consciousness and receives its legitimacy. Power is all that really matters.
With the massive 23-campus Cal State pursuing the same course of action, in addition to half a dozen other colleges where evangelical associations have lost their official status, it looks like an “evangelical underground” is emerging in our secular academies. On the upside, a little discomfort and loss of privilege will probably do us some good.
Image: Bowdoin College, Hubbard Hall, Spring 2012
February 11, 2014
Jason Wallace (Samford University) has written a nice historical overview of the “worldview” concept within evangelical Christianity:
His thesis is that “its usage presents interesting challenges for those who find older Protestant expressions of Christianity more appealing than either theological liberalism or evangelicalism. Specifically, worldview theology promotes the careless, and repeated, evangelical and liberal Protestant pattern of replacing confessions and ecclesiastical office with political and cultural ideology.” And the theological move that legitimated this shift:
Where earlier Protestantism struggled primarily, but not exclusively, with sin and redemption as an ontological category, that is, as a question of human nature and being, the new Calvinism focused more on sin and redemption as an epistemological problem, that is, a question of right and wrong kinds of knowing.
Wallace will further signal that he is comfortable with the older orthodoxy’s use of natural law, as the antidote to worldview Idealism. While I will disagree with the integrity of natural law for our theology (especially when an entire anthropology is constructed without reference to Christ), there is an undeniable advantage to the older natural law tradition versus the worldview apologetics of today. The older orthodoxy at least knew its limits. Nature has an intelligibility that can be discovered and theorized upon without the epistemological need for dubious “trinitarian” foundations (Van Til) or a “regenerate” mind. Even if a Christian knows that this intelligibility is because Christ is “through whom and for whom all things were made” (Col 1.16), this does not somehow enshroud nature as such, making it intelligible only to the pure of heart.
So, the older orthodoxy could respect the insights and learning of those pursuing knowledge other than theology. Thus, these theologians were not compelled to transpose this secular knowledge onto their dogmatic grid, in order to make it “coherent” upon the right “presuppositions.” They would find that rather odd. As do I.
Interestingly, even a “Barthian” like myself (albeit a decisively non-existential, non-apocalyptic Barthian) and the older dogmatics have a common foe today: worldview!
Christianity did indeed challenge the presuppositions about nature that handicapped its investigation within pagan societies. If nature participates in the eternal divine (gradations), then nature is something to be overcome spiritually. Nature is demythologized by the church, especially as the creation does not emerge from God but from nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Thus, nature could come into its own, so to speak, as anticipated by Aristotle et al. Yet, the church did not arrogate to itself a privileged epistemology for the study of nature (minus the Galileo affair). Somehow that never occurred to them as a methodological axiom, until our worldview apologists of today have fixed all of that! Or not. The church’s insight into this truth (about nature) did not create this truth, as if the metaphysics depended upon the epistemology. More to the point, the metaphysical “preconditions” of nature are not the same for God’s self-revelation, which is to say that rocks and God are not the same. The latter is being-in-event and personal.
There is an obvious attraction to worldview thinking. It has the allure of comprehensive explanatory power (in all fields of knowledge!), while only doing the basic work of knowing your theological ABC’s and some apologetic maneuvers. Apparently, that is irresistible to whole swaths of our evangelical landscape. As a Protestant who is in agreement with most evangelical emphases, I find this rather disconcerting. But apologetics will come and go, while the glory of the Lord endures forever!
Image: Richard Hooker statue at Exeter Cathedral. Hooker could write about “redeemed reason” without the implications of Idealist philosophy.
February 25, 2013
[UPDATE: I have added an addendum at the end.]
It is refreshing to read a scientist’s perspective on the evolution/creationism debate: An Insider’s View of the Academy (ht: Vincent Torley). The author is James Tour, the Chao Professor of Chemistry at Rice University.
Tour is questioning the scientific academy’s confidence in macro-evolution. To be clear, this is not an apologia for either the Intelligent Design community, much less the Young Earth Creationism folks. He expressly rejects both. Rather, it is an honest assessment of the academy’s willingness to recognize certain weaknesses in the evolutionary theory. Here is a snippet:
Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway.
…It is not a matter of politics. I simply do not understand, chemically, how macroevolution could have happened. Hence, am I not free to join the ranks of the skeptical and to sign such a statement without reprisals from those that disagree with me? Furthermore, when I, a non-conformist, ask proponents for clarification, they get flustered in public and confessional in private wherein they sheepishly confess that they really don’t understand either. Well, that is all I am saying: I do not understand.
He goes on to offer warnings to his younger colleagues and students who share his concerns about the integrity of the scientific academy on matters pertaining to macro-evolution. This unwillingness to challenge the mechanics of macro-evolution is, it seems to me, a mirror image of the fear and protectionism in certain segments of evangelicalism. There are strengths, to be sure, in the overall evolutionary paradigm, namely the evidence for an old earth. Yet, the mechanics of the evolution itself between species, and especially the emergence of life, is notably weaker. John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, touches upon this in his excellent (and highly accessible) book, Seven Days that Divide the World. With scientists like Tour and Lennox, the dialogue between science and theology can be far healthier than is found, especially at certain seminaries. It will also bolster the credibility (both scientific and theological) of those of us who refuse to be pushed into either the strict Darwinian Evolution camp or the Young Earth camp.
Addendum — Just to be clear, I am not offering this as any sort of proof against macro-evolution or against the viability of a theistic evolutionary framework. Much less would I argue for a “God of the gaps,” which is the danger of offering these sort of questions about macro-evolution. In the spectrum from YEC to Theistic Evolution, I have always leaned heavily toward the latter but not uncritically, and I find the mediating positions to be fascinating (OEC and Progressive Creationism). As a theology student and seminarian, I just want to see a more productive dialogue between evangelicals and the scientific establishment. I’ve criticized the former several times on this blog (e.g., here and here and here); now I am offering a criticism of the latter.
October 12, 2011
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve graced this blog with my presence!
As some of you know, I moved back to Charlotte in order to attend RTS, with the ultimate goal of completing an MDiv and being ordained. It’s now fall break, so I finally have some time to catch my breath. As it may be of some interest to readers of this blog, here are a few quick thoughts on RTS thus far. I’ll begin with the least important (the campus) and move to the most important (the faculty).
The campus: I’ve proposed importing ivy to let it grow on our (otherwise boring) brick buildings, but I’ve yet to capture others with my vision. On a more serious note, the greatness of the Charlotte campus is not the campus itself — though it is adequate and generally pleasant — but the location: the nicest, most gorgeous part of Charlotte. The drive down Providence Road is a series (every half mile it seems) of lovely Protestant churches built in the early 20th century, the last great days of romanticism, before rectangles and cement became the fashion of the day.
The students: I’ve never believed the silly stereotype of Calvinists as ornery, dour, heartless curmudgeons. I’ve never believed it because I’ve never really seen it, and I’ve been around Calvinists my whole life. I won’t apologize for certain overly-enthusiastic Reformed bloggers out there; I’m just talking about the real world. So, yeah, I wasn’t surprised to meet fellow students who were pretty much the same as at any other evangelical seminary. There’s a range of personalities and interests. We even have extroverts (while us introverts sulk in our superiority). The denominational make-up is, no surprise, heavily Presbyterian. The PCA is probably the most represented among the students (thanks to all the RUF interns) but the ARP is very strong here as well. In much smaller numbers, the EPC and PCUSA round out the Presbyterian presence. Apart from the Presbys, there are a number of Baptists, Ev-Free’s, independents, et cetera.
The faculty: I can’t make an assessment on the faculty as a whole, since I’ve yet to have every faculty member (like Dr. Kelly in systematics or Dr. Currid in biblical studies). But of the professors I’ve had, I’ve been rather impressed. I’ll just use two examples:
Dr. Donald Fortson, professor of church history, is exactly what a church history professor should be: ecumenical and gracious. As a student of history, he is obviously convinced that evangelicals are impoverished by their lack of historical vision, which can be recovered by recovering the Reformers’ understanding of the Church as our mother (yes, he quotes Calvin on this). In a few weeks, our class will take a field trip to a Greek Orthodox church. From what I understand, Dr. Fortson has a mainline Presbyterian background (PCUSA) but has left for the EPC, thanks in no small part to the events leading to the removal of the fidelity-and-chastity clause in the ordination standards. Trust me, this move by the PCUSA is an often-referenced topic on campus.
Dr. Michael Kruger teaches New Testament courses, and his lectures are something to behold. I’ve never seen a professor with such a commanding presence and control over his material. He doesn’t miss a beat. Yet, he has a great sense of humor and warmth. He wittily, but seriously, deconstructs all the controversies in Gospel criticism (that’s the class I’m taking with him) with piercing incision and brilliant rhetorical flair. I’m a fan. I really hope that RTS will someday record his Gospels lectures for the iTunes store. Moreover, like all the professors, Dr. Kruger is ordained (PCA) and active in his church, thus enabling him to make fruitful connections to pastoral ministry in his lectures.
That’s my brief rundown of RTS-Charlotte. It’s too early to formulate any real criticisms, though I’m sure I’ll have some. Obviously I would like to see more Barth — at least a mural or something. 🙂
October 19, 2010
In the latest edition of First Things, R. R. Reno has given his thoughts on the best places to study theology. By and large, it’s a well-informed survey of theological education across North America. He does limit himself to North America, and, importantly, he limits himself to looking at the graduate doctoral programs. If you’re looking for an M.Div. program, you will likely have other considerations, especially ecclesiastical priorities, to keep in mind.
The first several paragraphs of the article are especially important, namely his emphasis on professors who teach and foster student development and his emphasis on the ecclesial context of theology:
Unlike the study of philosophy or mathematics, and more like the study of history and literature, the study of theology is given sharp outlines by the coherence and integrity of a historical community. The reality of the Church—her doctrines, her endless problems, and her alluring beauty—sets the agenda for theology. The best programs have a connection—not necessarily official, not always happy, but still fundamental—to living churches.
So, Reno is looking for institutions with a faculty that exhibits these characteristics, along with, of course, academic excellence. Duke and Notre Dame are his top two picks. Both have a fairly extensive list of impressive faculty members. Notre Dame, he notes, has not been as impressive when it comes to systematics, but “new hires in systematic theology have strengthened the Notre Dame program. John Betz, a fine young scholar of modern theology, joins the faculty this year, along with Francesca Murphy, one of the most creative and forceful theological writers of her generation.” All of us who went to Aberdeen can testify to Professor Murphy’s excellence, both as a teacher and scholar.
Along with Princeton University’s Department of Religion, Reno lists Princeton Theological Seminary next, noting, “A Protestant doctoral student will find a rich atmosphere in which classical debates continue. By my reckoning, Princeton Theological Seminary is the best place in the United States to study Protestant dogmatics.” After Princeton, the list goes: Wycliffe College (Toronto), Catholic University of America, Marquette, Boston College, Yale, Southern Methodist University, Wheaton (thanks to Kevin Vanhoozer), Ave Maria, and the University of Dayton (thanks to Matthew Levering).
As Reno recognizes, the list is subjective, accorded by his priorities and interests. So, the more liberal project of integrating social-cultural-psychological-historical variables, as it continues at the University of Chicago and Harvard Divinity School, is slighted by Reno. Likewise, the contemporary development of confessional Reformed theology, as it continues at Westminster California (masters-level) and at Calvin Seminary, is slighted.
October 10, 2010
[This post is prompted by Mike Cheek’s comment, in this thread, that the New Calvinism is not Barth-friendly, from what he could tell. This also addresses some of Matt Shedden’s concerns.]
What has Barth to do with the “New Calvinism,” or what does the New Calvinism have to do with Barth? Well, nothing…or close to nothing. I’m defining the New Calvinism as the resurgence, especially among young people, of Reformed doctrine within a broad array of evangelical churches, not just Presbyterian but especially Baptist and other free churches. Piper, Mohler, Carson — all Baptists. And in the music scene, Louie Giglio (founder of Passion) and most of the artists associated with Passion (David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Steve Fee) are Baptists, to some extent. Crowder continues to do the music ministry at University Baptist Church in Waco. So, the New Calvinism is a cross-denominational movement within evangelicalism, but the Baptist contingency is especially important — why?
The New Calvinism is not primarily an academic movement with academic concerns. Rather, the New Calvinism has gained traction because of deficiencies within broader evangelicalism at the ground level, i.e., at the local church. My previous post on “Calvinism and Suffering” gives an account of this deficiency and the attraction of Reformed doctrine. Because this movement is largely taking place at the ground level, the Baptist influence makes a lot of sense. The Baptists have done far more to shape contemporary American evangelical piety and pathos than any other denominational tradition. Thus, in order for a broadly influential movement (like the New Calvinism) to gain traction within evangelicalism, the Baptists have to be at the forefront. The Presbyterians can do a lot of the academic heavy-lifting, which does trickle-down, but nothing like Passion or Desiring God or T4G could occur without the Baptists.
So, as an intra-evangelical movement in the American scene, the influence of Barth is pretty much nil, and the vast majority of the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” have never heard of him except maybe in passing. They know Edwards and Owen, not Barth. The situation is different if we look at the evangelical academy, where Barth is read and discussed, but the New Calvinism is primarily a populist movement. It is a reaction against the practical consequences of fundamentalism, revivalism, and prosperity preaching. Barth does indeed have some profound answers to these problems, but Barth is not really a figure of interest for the New Calvinism. In the academy, however, Barth is seriously engaged, but reaction to Barth is hardly monolithic. Colleges and seminaries like Wheaton, Trinity, Gordon-Conwell, and even Biola have an influential Reformed contingency, among teachers and students, where Barth is mostly treated with respect and even positively appropriated in theological thinking. At other places, like Westminster Philly, Barth is treated with far more suspicion and often as a danger to theological thinking (e.g., listen to this broadcast of the Reformed Forum or read Gregory Beale’s The Erosion of Inerrancy — Beale left Wheaton for WTS this year). Al Mohler at Southern would be another example of someone who considers Barth to be more of a source of ills than of vitality.
So, why am I writing this? Because I’m trying to offer some vindications of the New Calvinism, especially as seen on the ground level. When compared to the dominant ailments within evangelicalism — fundamentalism, revivalism, and prosperity preaching — then the New Calvinism looks pretty good. The benefits for the church, in preaching and catechesis, are undeniable, at least if you have any commitments (like myself) to Reformational distinctives. This is not to say that the New Calvinism is a comprehensive solution to all the ailments of the church. We can rightly complain about a narrowness here which is far too akin to that of the older fundamentalism. I’ve complained on this blog about an overly restricted form of inerrancy, to use one example, or superficial defenses of Creationism, to use another example, and both examples are prominent within the New Calvinism. Al Mohler is as representative of this movement as it gets, but this does not reflect the internal motives in the local church for the adoption of Reformed doctrine. That’s the distinction that I’m trying to make. If we look at the local church, the New Calvinism has been a great blessing.
August 5, 2009
Here is a very good account of sentimentality as a vice, from Edward Feser:
“In The Aesthetics of Music, Roger Scruton (building on some ideas of Michael Tanner) puts forward a brief but illuminating account of sentimentality. A sentimental person, according to Scruton, tends to be quick to respond emotionally to a stimulus, will appear to be pained but will enjoy his pangs, will respond with equal violence to a variety of stimuli in succession, will nevertheless avoid following his emotional responses up with appropriate actions, and will respond more readily to strangers and to abstract issues than to persons known to him or to concrete circumstances requiring time, energy, or personal sacrifice. In short, a sentimental person is one whose emotional life becomes an end in itself and loses its connection both to the external circumstances that would normally shape it and to the behavior that it ought to generate. Feelings of moral outrage, romantic passion, and other emotional states become valued for their own sake to such an extent that the actual moral facts, the well-being of the beloved, etc. fade into the background. Sentimentality thus involves having one’s emotions ‘on the cheap’ – enjoying them, as it were, without paying the costs they entail. For that reason, Scruton says, it is a vice.”
March 24, 2009
Books & Culture has posted a book review of Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. The review is insightful, and the book seems to be very fascinating. Roose is a student at Brown, who decided to spend a semester at Liberty, the Baptist university founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Coming from a run-of-the-mill liberal Northeast household, Roose was curious to understand the “other side.” Thankfully, he is generous, open-minded, and objective (something that typically eludes the average “liberal” inquirer into evangelical faith and culture). Check out his YouTube trailer for the book.
The greatest testament to Liberty is his overwhelmingly positive impression of the students, their embodiment of the love of Christ. I’m not too surprised. I was raised in a Baptist church and school that was pretty much Liberty University in microcosm. The students from my school that went to Liberty, or similar colleges, were among the most devoted to Christ, insofar as these things can be surmised. We can, and should, criticize continuing remnants of fundamentalism at Liberty, but the most important thing — as God will judge us — is our faith in Christ, our trust in Him, and the love from this fount that extends to our neighbor. Higher education, typically, knows nothing of holiness as an academic telos.
March 9, 2009
I occasionally engage in discussions on various intra-Christian blogs related to ecclesial apologetics. I have no problem with such apologetics. It is necessary that Catholics, Orthodox, and the varied Protestants defend their ecclesial stance and relate it to the average layperson. The problem is when the apologetic claims are untethered from what is known (or the related probabilities), which necessarily requires the work of scholars. If a Catholic claims that the “early Church” was under the juridical authority of the See of Rome, then something is wrong. That is akin to a Protestant claiming that scripture as canon and authority developed apart from a Church, with bishops, and an assumed tradition or rule of faith. That sort of ahistorical presentation may win converts to your church, but under a guise of misinformation (illusion).
The apologist, thus, must be held accountable to scholarship, as the scholars are held accountable by peer review (imperfect, to be sure). The apologist is, thus, a mediator between the scholar and the layperson. The typical layperson does not have the time or skill to engage with upper-level theology and historical research — nor should they, when responsibilities lay elsewhere. The apologist, however, must. If the apologist cannot or refuses to do so, he or she should not be an apologist. The average, inquiring layperson is, to some degree, at the mercy of the person mediating the information. We cannot expect the inquirer to fully adjudicate the information given, but we can expect the apologist to come under judgment from fellow apologists and scholars.
We cannot escape this need for the apologist nor the need for accountability. All truth is ultimately tested in the court of our subjectivity, but all truth inheres in reality — the real world “out there.” Attending to this reality is the only remedy for solipsism.