• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • December 2012
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

Antidote to Anxiety

Jerry Bridges:

The great antidote to anxiety is to come to God in prayer. We are to pray about everything. Nothing is too big for Him to handle, and nothing is too small to escape His attention. (The Practice of Godliness, p. 159)

Without God

Dostoevsky is credited with saying that “Without God, everything is permitted.” So without God, doing something immoral would be an illusion – even nonsense, or something merely unfashionable. All moral statements would be arbitrary. Atheists cannot escape the problem that without God, whoever has the most political power determines what is moral. As put by William Lane Craig, “Thus, if atheism is true, it becomes impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. Nor can one praise brotherhood, equality, or love as good.”

Rationalism and Emotionalism

James Montgomery Boice:

One hot night in the early years of the Christian era a sophisticated and highly educated man named Nicodemus came to see a young rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. The man wanted to discuss reality. So he began the conversation with a statement of where his own personal search for truth had taken him. He said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (Jn. 3:2).

With the exception of the word Rabbi, which was merely a polite form of address, the first words were a claim to considerable knowledge. Nicodemus said, “We know.” Then he began to rehearse the things he knew (or thought he knew) and with which he wanted to begin the discussion: (1) that Jesus was continuing to do many miracles; (2) that these miracles were intended to authenticate him as a teacher sent from God; and that, therefore, (3) Jesus was one to whom he should listen. Unfortunately for Nicodemus, Jesus replied that such an approach to knowledge was wrong and that Nicodemus could therefore know nothing until he had first experienced an inward, spiritual transformation. “You must be born anew,” Jesus told him (In. 3:7). . . .

This ancient conversation is relevant to our day. For the problems and frustrations that Nicodemus faced nearly two thousand years ago are with us in our time also. Nicodemus possessed knowledge, but he lacked the key to that knowledge, the element that would put it all together. . . .

The nature of the problem can be seen by examining the two almost exclusive approaches to knowledge today. On the one hand there is the idea that reality can be known by reason alone. . . .

On the surface, this approach to knowledge through the exercise of supposedly impartial reason seems desirable, for it is productive — as the technical advances of our day often indicate. But it is not without problems. For one thing, it is highly impersonal knowledge and, as some would say, highly depersonalizing. In this approach reality becomes a thing (an equation, law or, worse yet, mere data), and men and women become things also, with the inevitable result that they may therefore be manipulated like any other raw material for whatever ends. . . .

[An] example is that of communism itself which, in spite of its desire to better the lot of the masses, actually manipulates them for ideological ends. On the personal level there is the science of behavioral technology and the frightening teaching of a man like B. F. Skinner of Harvard University who claims that individuals must be conditioned scientifically for the good of society.

There is also another problem with the attempt to know reality through reason alone. The approach does not give an adequate basis for ethics. It can tell us what is, but it cannot tell us what ought to be. Consequently, the extraordinary technical advances of our time are accompanied by an extreme and debilitating moral permissiveness which promises in time to break down even the values and system that made both the advances and the permissiveness possible. . . .

In recent years the failures of the rationalistic system have impressed themselves on a new generation with the result that many in the Western world have abandoned reason in order to seek reality through emotional experience. . . .

This modern approach also has several problems. First, the experience does not last. It is transient. Each attempt to achieve reality through emotional experience promises some sort of “high.” But the “high” is inevitably followed by a “low,” with the additional problem that increasingly intense stimuli seem to be necessary to repeat the experience. Eventually this ends either in self-destruction or acute disillusionment. A second problem is that the approach to reality through emotion does not satisfy the mind. Promoters of these experiences, particularly drug experiences, speak of a more intense perception of reality that results from them. But their experience has no rational content. The part of the human being that wants to think about such things and understand them is unsatisfied.

The result of this situation is a crisis in the area of knowledge today, as in ancient times. Many thinking people quite honestly do not know where to turn. The rationalistic approach is impersonal and amoral. The emotionalistic approach is without content, transient, and also often immoral.

“Is this the end?” many are asking. “Are there no other possibilities? Is there not a third way?” (On Knowing God)

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