Watch Mike Reeves Teach on the English Reformation and the Puritans

Mar 06, 2015 | Justin Taylor

This is a great pairing: one of my favorite teachers (Mike Reeves) paired with one of my favorite resources (Ligonier’s DVD/CD teaching series) on a fascinating period in church history (the English Reformation and the Puritans).

Here is a description of the series:

Few stories contain heroism, betrayal, ricocheting monarchs, bold stands against repressive authorities, and redemption like this one. And fewer generations have modeled commitment to the gospel and the application of God’s Word like the Puritans of England. In this 12-part series, Dr. Michael Reeves surveys Puritan theology and the work of the Holy Spirit when the Reformation flourished in England. Major milestones of this movement underscore the Puritan’s special place in history, as they displayed spiritual wisdom and discernment still benefiting pulpits and believers today.

You can watch the first session, on “William Tyndale and the English Reformers” below for free:

Here’s a description of that first session:

The Reformation in England is a thrilling story of the recapturing of God’s grace. In this first lesson, Dr. Reeves relates the emergence of the English Reformation in connection to influences outside the country, especially Erasmus and Luther. We then learn of the foundational role played by Thomas Bilney and the White Horse Inn within England. The lesson culminates with a focus on the English Reformer William Tyndale, particularly in connection to his translation of the Bible into English. Such forbidden labors and the product that resulted not only led to his martyrdom but also catalyzed the Reformation cause in England.

You can purchase the audio or video set of additional sessions here, or get individual sessions one at a time.

You can also download a study guide for free.

For Robert Godfrey’s church history survey, which I highly recommend, go here.

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FAQ on the Human Soul

Mar 04, 2015 | Justin Taylor

41UkDCabLFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Some notes from J. P. Moreland’s book, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters (Chicago: Mood Press, 2014).

What is dualism?

The view that the soul is an immaterial thing different from the body and brain.

What is substance dualism?

The view that a human person has both

  1. a brain that is a physical thing with physical properties, and
  2. a mind or soul that is a mental substance and has mental properties.

What is Thomistic substance dualism?

The view that the (human) soul

  • diffuses,
  • informs (gives form to),
  • unifies,
  • animates, and
  • makes human

the (human) body.

The body is not a physical substance, but rather an ensouled physical structure such that if it loses the soul, it is no longer a human body in a strict, philosophical sense.

What is the soul?

  • The soul is a substantial, unified reality that informs (gives form to) its body.
  • The soul is to the body like God is to space—it is fully “present” at each point within the body.
  • The soul and body relate to each other in a cause-effect way.

Do animals have souls?

Animals have a soul, but it is not as richly structured as the human soul. It does not bear the image of God, and it is far more dependent on the animal’s body and its sense organs than is the human soul.

What are some arguments for substance dualism and the immaterial nature of the soul?

1. Our basic awareness of the self

  • We are aware of our own self as being distinct from our bodies and from any particular mental experience we have, and as being an uncomposed, spatially extended, simple center of consciousness.
  • This grounds my properly basic belief that I am a simple center of consciousness.
  • In virtue of the law of identity, we then know that we are not identical to our body, but to our soul.

2. Unity and the first-person perspective

  • If I were a physical object (a brain or body), then a third-person physical description would capture all the facts that are true of me.
  • But a third-person physical description does not capture all the facts that are true of me.
  • Therefore, I am not a physical object. Rather, I am a soul.

3. The modal argument

  • I am possibly disembodied (I could survive without my brain or body).
  • My brain or body are not possibly disembodied (they could not survive without being physical).
  • Therefore, I am not my brain or body, I am a soul.

4. Sameness of the self over time

  • A physical object composed of parts cannot survive over time as the same object if it comes to have different parts.
  • My body and brain are physical objects composed of parts that are constantly changing, and therefore cannot survive over time as the same object.
  • However, I do survive over time as the same object.
  • Therefore, I am not my body or my brain, but a soul.

What is the relevance of neuroscientific data to whether or not we have a soul?

Neuroscience is a wonderful tool, but it is inept for resolving disputes about the nature and existence of consciousness and the soul. The central issues in those disputes include philosophical, theological, and commonsense topics. Neuroscientific data are simply irrelevant for addressing those topics.

Neuroscience shows correlation between mind and brain, not that mind and brain are identical.

How is the law of identity relevant to this relationship?

Leibniz’s law of the indiscernability of identicals states that for any entities x and y, if x and y are identical, then any truth that applies to x will apply to y as well.

Some things are true of the mind or its states that are true of the brains or its states; therefore, physicalism is false and dualism (provided it is the only other option) is true.

What are the states of the soul?

Just as water can be in a cold or hot state, so the soul can be in a feeling or thinking state. Here are five such states: 

  1. sensation: a state of awareness, a mode of consciousness (e.g., a conscious awareness of sound or pain)
  2. thought: a mental content that can be expressed as an entire sentence and that only exists while it is being thought
  3. belief: a person’s view, accepted to varying degrees of strength, of how things really are
  4. desire: a certain inclination to do, have, avoid, or experience certain things
  5. act of will: a volition or choice, an exercise of power, an endeavoring to do a certain thing, usually for the sake of some purpose or end

What are the faculties of the soul?

The soul has a number of capacities that are not currently being actualized or utilized.

Capacities come in hierarchies:

  • First-order capacities (e.g., I have the first-order capacity or ability to speak English)
  • Second-order capacities to have first-order capacities (e.g., I have the potential to speak Russian, though it is not actualized)
  • And so forth

Higher-order capacities are realized by the development of lower-order capacities under them.

The capacities within the soul fall into natural groupings called faculties. A faculty is a “compartment” of the soul that contains a natural family of related capacities. For example: 

  1. Sensory faculties
    1. sight (All the soul’s capacities to see are part of the faculty of sight. If my eyeballs are defective, then my soul’s faculty of sight will be inoperative just as a driver cannot get to work in his car if the spark plugs are broken. Likewise, if my eyeballs work but my soul is inattentive—say I am daydreaming—then I won’t see what is before me either.)
    2. smell
    3. touch
    4. taste
    5. hearing
  2. The will: a faculty of the soul that contains my abilities to choose
  3. Emotional faculties: one’s abilities to experience fear, love, and so forth
  4. Mind and spirit
    1. Mind: that faculty of the soul that contains thoughts and beliefs along with the relevant abilities to have them
    2. Spirit: that faculty of the soul through which the person relates to God (Ps 51:10; Rom 8:16; Eph 4:23) [prior to regeneration, most of the capacities of the unregenerate spirit are dead and inoperative; at the new birth, God implants new capacities in the spirit]
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Lifelong Lessons in Humility from Our Lord

Mar 03, 2015 | Justin Taylor

From a sermon by the Church Father Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-379):

In everything which concerns the Lord we find lessons in humility.

As an infant, he was straightway laid in a cave, and not upon a couch but in a manger.

In the house of a carpenter and of a mother who was poor, he was subject to his mother and her spouse.

He was taught and he paid heed to what he needed not to be told.

He asked questions, but even in the asking he won admiration for his wisdom.

He submitted to John—the Lord received baptism at the hands of his servant.

He did not make use of the marvelous power that he possessed to resist any of those who attacked him, but, as if yielding to superior force, he allowed temporal authority to exercise the power proper to it.

He was brought before the high priest as though a criminal and then led to the governor.

He bore calumnies in silence and submitted to his sentence, although he could have refuted the false witnesses.

He was spat upon by slaves and by the vilest menials.

He delivered himself up to death, the most shameful death known to men.

Thus, from his birth to the end of his life, he experienced all the exigencies that befall mankind and, after displaying humility to such a degree, he manifested his glory, associating with himself in glory those who had shared his disgrace.

—Basil of Caesarea, Homily 20.6, as cited in Michael A. G. Haykin, Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 115.

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An Interview with Ray Ortlund on Creating Gospel Culture in the Church

Mar 03, 2015 | Justin Taylor

9781433540837I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with Ray Ortlund, lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, to talk about his book, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway, 2014).

Ray is a man who loves the gospel and would love to see churches infused with both gospel doctrine and also gospel culture.

You can read more about and from the book here.

The Crossway blog included this helpful outline of timestamps from our conversation:

  • 00:00 – In the book, you talk about “gospel-doctrine” and “gospel-culture.” What do you mean by these terms?
  • 07:03 – You say that gospel-doctrine without gospel-culture equals hypocrisy. What does that look like?
  • 10:10 – You say that gospel-culture without gospel-doctrine equals fragility. What does that look like?
  • 11:32 – You say that gospel-doctrine with gospel-culture equals power. How do we have both of these?
  • 13:51 – Do you agree that, when the Holy Spirit works, there is much personal cost to God’s people?


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Everything a Child Should Know About God

Mar 03, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 6.35.04 PMKen Taylor’s Everything a Child Should Know About God is a delightful book—both in the clear and concise theology and in the marvelous illustrations. It is exclusively available (for now) from WTS Books.

For the next 72 hours you can order:

  • single copies for $12.00 (40% off);
  • 3 or more copies for $10.00 (50% off);
  • cases for $8.00 (60% off).
Good theology for pre-schoolers is actually hard to come by. But I don’t think you will be disappointed investing in this beautiful book if you have young kids or grandkids.
Here are some endorsements:

“This is perhaps the best children’s book I’ve seen. Perfectly pitched and gorgeously presented, it makes getting into essential truths so easy. Next to a children’s Bible, this is a real must for all parents with little ones.”

– Michael Reeves

Everything a Child Should Know About God is pre-school dynamite! Kenneth Taylor explains our incomprehensible God in ways even a four-year-old can understand. Get a copy for your family and introduce your young children to our amazing God and the life transforming, powerful, message of the gospel.”

– Marty Machowski

“As a pastor I’m always on the lookout for material that helps to teach, grow and strengthen the church family. Everything a Child Should Know About God is such a resource. Truth clearly taught, simply applied and beautifully illustrated. I have begun to read it with my grandchildren and they love it and are learning.”

– Alistair Begg

“It is never too early to begin training our children to know the Lord and his Word. There are few resources that are better-suited for young children than Everything a Child Should Know About God. It presents the deepest truths in the simplest ways, and encourages both knowledge and trust. I highly recommend it.”

– Tim Challies

“I often reflect that the most important thing about you is what you believe about God because it will inform the way you live and determine your ultimate destiny. This little book is a polychrome primer that will be sure to inform and expand the hearts of little souls. Jenny Brake is to be congratulated for her “magical” illustrations. I love what she did. The binding and the cover and the red marker suggest that this is a fine book — which it ,indeed, is. Excellent in every way!”

– Kent Hughes

“This is an amazing book! It is beautifully produced, and packed full of wonderful rich truths, distilled into bite-size morsels. It is as good an overview of God’s truths for children as we could hope for. An essential book for all children, and sure to be a blessing to those who read it to them! I am sure it will quickly become a classic.”

– Sam Allberry


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George Verwer’s Conversion: 60 Years Ago Today God Created a Global Evangelist

Mar 03, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 4.46.15 PM

To say that George Verwer Jr. (b. 1938) has a larger-than-life personality is probably an understatement. It would have been obvious if you could have seen him running around at Ramsey High School in Ramsey, New Jersey. Of the thousand or so students at the school, George stood out.

He doesn’t remember having an unhappy day in his childhood. He was from a stable home with good Dutch-immigrant parents who loved their son but weren’t overly strict. Life was fun, and George sought to live life to the full. He thought of himself as a hot-shot athlete in primary school, though he wasn’t quite good enough to make it into high school athletics. He was a Boy Scout who almost made it to the Eagle Scouts.

But he also had a mischievous side. He always had something witty to say and could make all of his schoolmates laugh. Each year he walked home with a lot of cash on “Goosey Night”—that’s what they call the night before Halloween in Bergen County— when kids act goosey or foolish: windows get broken and things get stolen. Think of it as the trick without the treat. He once lit the local woods on fire—but then again, he also started a fire-extinguisher business alongside his stamp-collecting mail-order business.

Apart from these shenanigans, George was a moral kid from all external accounts. He was against drinking, and though he had a lot of girlfriends, it was important to be clean and not to go too far. But he loved to go out and dance, staying up all hours of the night listening to the latest music from the 1950s.

On Sundays his mother took him to the local congregation of the Reformed Church in America (his unbelieving father stayed home), but he didn’t hear the Bible preached from the pulpit of this mainline congregation. It seemed to him to be more of a social club than anything.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 10.56.59 AMBut someone began praying for George. Dorothea Clapp and her family lived across the street from the high school, and her son Danny had been the president of the Student Council during George’s freshman year. For seventeen years Mrs. Clapp prayed faithfully for the students at Ramsey High to know the Lord. When sophomore George Verwer came across her radar screen, she put him on her prayer list and prayed that he would trust Christ and become a missionary some day. She had a Gospel of John, distributed by the Pocket Testament League, and sent it to him in the mail as a gift.  George read it on and off over the year, but to little effect.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.53.55 AMIf George had been asked if he was a Christian, he probably would have said yes. But “girly magazines” enticed him more than reading the Bible. At one point in school—entrepreneur that he was—George hatched a scheme to begin buying and then selling pornographic magazines for a profit (though he never got around to doing so).

One day he was at the store, looking to buy one of those magazines, when he noticed a magazine featuring the 35-year-old evangelist, Billy Graham. George picked up the magazine, read the article, and realized that Graham was someone special.

Graham had also been featured on the cover of Time magazine, pointing his finger at the reader while the serpent tempted Eve in the background. Graham had exploded onto the national scene six years earlier in the fall of 1949 with the Christ for Great Los Angeles rally. After a number of famous conversions (including Louis Zamperini), William Randolph Hearst told his newspapers to “Puff Graham.” Graham was now the leading evangelist in the United States.

In the spring of 1955 a man who lived on the same street as George invited him to attend an event in New York City, where Graham would be the guest speaker at Word of Life’s 15th anniversary rally in Madison Square Garden, hosted by Word of Life founder and evangelist Jack Wyrtzen.

So on March 3, 1955, George and several others—including a girl from his high school and Sunday School—loaded into a bus and made the 30-mile journey down to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

The following clip is from crusade at Madison Square Garden two years later (1957), but it gives you a flavor of the sort of preaching and invitation George would have heard that night:

When George boarded the bus that Thursday afternoon, he had no thought of becoming a Christian. But at the end of Graham’s sermon, he issued an invitation, exhorting his listeners to come and to make a decision for Christ. But George didn’t move. As others began to walk the aisle, Billy continued to tell them to come as the music played. And George began to feel conviction for his sin and to sense his lostness. The thought was overwhelming in his mind: “This is the truth; my search is over; this is the most important thing in life.” He and the girl he was with both walked forward that night to trust in Christ. And his life would never be the same.

George found his faith almost immediately tempted. As they walked out of Madison Square Garden that night as born-again believers, a street gang member said something to George, who answered back. The guy promptly proceeded to knock George down. A gang leader emerged who told his member to back off, and George sensed the grace of the Lord. George now says that he has been knocked down frequently in life—too often by “the lust of the eyes”—but the Lord has always kept and sustained him.

It wasn’t until a few days later that George sensed full assurance, while walking across a field to get on the bus to go to school, having been helped by George Cutting’s well-known booklet, Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment for the Christian. He then proceeded to read Billy Graham’s bestseller, Peace with God: The Secret of Happiness (published in 1953), and he received much of this theological grounding from Graham sermons and publications.

When God converted George Verwer, he not only made a new creation, he also created an evangelist. His senior year he was elected Student Council President, and he used this position to distribute 1,000 copies of the Gospel of John. He also began giving away free Christian books—a habit he continues to this day, as he has personally given away hundreds of thousands of books and hopes to reach the million-mark for personal copies handed out. By God’s grace George saw several classmates accept the Lord through his passion to call others to embrace the good news.

After he graduated from high school he attended Maryville College, a private Christian college in Tennessee. That first semester he had an idea: perhaps he could return to Ramsey High School while on Christmas break and host a rally at his old school. Amazingly, the public high school agreed, and the auditorium was packed with 600 students. George Verwer Sr. even attended to support his son’s new endeavor.

When it came time to call his listeners to faith, George was amazed to see 125 students stand up, professing their desire to follow Christ. Most surprising of all was that George Sr. stood among them. His father had become his brother.

Later that year George was shocked to learn that 7 out of 10 people in Mexico had no access to the Scriptures. The solution seemed obvious to George: he needed to go there and get them the Word. His friend Dale Rhoton said he would pray with George about this. After they prayed together for a few minutes on their knees, George turned to Dale and asked, “Well, are you ready to go?” Dale responded, “George, it takes longer than that.” George was disheartened and confused: “Why does it take people so long to see it?”

In the summer of 1957, George and Dale, along with their friend Walter Borchard—each 18 years old—sold their possessions, loaded a 1949 Dodge panel van with tracts and 1,000 copies of the Gospel of John in Spanish, and drove to Mexico. They called their ministry “Send the Light,” and it was legally incorporated the following year. They returned to Mexico in the summers of 1958 and 1959.

By this time George had transferred to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He met and was attracted to a young woman named Drena. During their first meeting, he told her, ”Probably nothing is going to happen between us, but I’m going to be a missionary, and if you marry me, you’ll probably end up being eaten by cannibals in New Guinea.” They were married in Milwaukee in 1960 after George graduated. They skipped their honeymoon and headed straight to Mexico for missions. They were committed to not spending any money. When they got to Wheaton, George offered their wedding cake to the gas station attendant in exchange for gas. The worker, a Christian, filled up the tank and let them keep the cake. But at the next stop, the attendant took the cake in exchange for a tank of gas. They got to Mexico without spending a penny.

By 1960 George and his friends turned their attention to Europe, seeking to mobilize local churches for global missions which would be led by indigenous rather than foreign missionaries. By 1963 they expanded the work to India and the Middle East, and in 1970, the ministry—now called Operation Mobilisation (OM)—purchased its first ship.

Today OM is involved in over  85 countries (including Latin America, Central Asia, the former Soviet states, the Middle East, and Europe). They have around 3,500 workers, and it’s estimated that over 125,000 people have participated in an OM outreach.

George Verwer handed over the leadership of OM in 2003 at the age of 65. But he did not “retire.” Somewhere in the world today you can find 76-year-old George Verwer—a man with the energy of someone half his age—wearing his trademark globe jacket, speaking next to an inflated globe of the world, seeking to motivate students to read and to pray and to share and to go. One moment he will be bounding around the stage, making his audience laugh, and then without warning he will prick their consciences with the reality of the unreached who so desperately need to hear the good news.

He is a man who has never forgotten the goodness of the good news news, and he will not stop until God takes him home or until the nations are finally and eternally glad in Christ. Few people in the second half of the 20th century have done more to mobilize for the unreached and the unengaged, and few have equipped more believers and unbelievers with gospel literature. And it all began with a faithful mother and neighbor who committed to pray and to send a student the Gospel of John, and continued with a businessman who took the risk of inviting a student to an evangelistic rally, and it continued with a young evangelist who preached the message of the cross. God is always pleased to use the foolishness of the weak to accomplish great things for the fame of his name.


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What True Humility Looks Like

Mar 02, 2015 | Justin Taylor

C. S. Lewis:

To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

Mere Christianity, (section on “The Great Sin), p. 128 of this edition.

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The Two Guys to Blame for the Myth of Constant Warfare between Religion and Science

Feb 27, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Ronald Numbers, an Agnostic scholar who is one of the leading historians on the relationship of science and religion, writes:

The greatest myth in the history of science and religion holds that they have been in a state of constant conflict.

Timothy Larsen, a Christian historian who specializes in the nineteenth century, notes:

The so-called “war” between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes.

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

AD_White_1865In December of 1869, Andrew White—the young and beleaguered Cornell president—delivered a lecture at Cooper Union in New York City entitled ”The Battle-Fields of Science.” He melodramatically painted a picture of a longstanding warfare between religion and science:

I propose, then, to present to you this evening an outline of the great sacred struggle for the liberty of Science—a struggle which has been going on for so many centuries. A tough contest this has been! A war continued longer—with battles fiercer, with sieges more persistent, with strategy more vigorous than in any of the comparatively petty warfares of Alexander, or Caesar, or Napoleon . . . In all modern history, interference with Science in the supposed interest of religion—no matter how conscientious such interference may have been—has resulted in the direst evils both to Religion and Science, and invariably.

His lecture was published in book form seven years later as The Warfare of Science (1876).

John_William_DraperIn 1874, Professor Draper published his History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1874). His thesis was as follows:

The antagonism we thus witness between Religion and Science is the continuation of a struggle that commenced when Christianity began to attain political power. . . . The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.

Draper’s work was enormously popular, going through 50 editions in the next half century.

Larsen writes:

Draper and White were not simply describing an ongoing war between theology and science, but rather they were endeavoring to induce people into imagining that there was one. In order to do this, they repeatedly made false claims that the church had opposed various scientific breakthroughs and developments.

Here are a couple of urban legends that Draper and White perpetuated:

  1. The church believed for centuries that the earth is flat.
  2. The church opposed the use of anesthetics in childbirth since Genesis promised that childbirth would be painful.

On the first myth, Lesley B. Cormack, chair of the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta, writes that

there is virtually no historical evidence to support the myth of a medieval flat earth. Christian clerics neither suppressed the truth nor stifled debate on the subject.

On the second myth, Larsen responds:

No church has ever pronounced against anesthetics in childbirth. Moreover, there was no vocal group of ministers who opposed it. In fact, the inventor of chloroform received fan mail from ministers of the major denominations thanking him for helping to alleviate the suffering of women in labor. Rather, the opposition to anesthetics during childbirth came from medical professionals, not from ministers, and for scientific, not religious, reasons.

And on the legends go. (For treatment of these and other myths, see Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, ed. Ronald L. Numbers).

So why exactly did men like Dickson and Draper—along with English biologist T. H. Huxley, who championed Darwinism and coined the term “agnostic”—manufacture these historical myths and this overall legend of perpetual conflict?

In the mid-nineteenth century there was no separate profession of science. Manufacturing a “war” between science and religion was part of their professionalization campaign. Larsen explains:

The purpose of the war was to discredit clergymen as suitable figures to undertake scientific work in order that the new breed of professionals would have an opportunity to fill in the gap for such work created by eliminating the current men of science. It was thus tendentiously asserted that the religious convictions of clergymen disqualified them from pursuing their scientific inquiries objectively.

More to the point, however, was the fact that clergymen were undertaking this work for the sheer love of science and thus hindering the expectation that it would be done for money by paid full-time scientists. Clergymen were branded amateurs in order to facilitate the creation of a new category of professionals.

Dickson and Draper won this debate, even if it was at the cost of truth itself.

The myth continues today, but it can be overturned as we study the history behind how the legend developed.

Sources Cited / For Further Reading

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A Crash Course on an Influencer of Unbelief: Jean-Paul Sartre

Feb 27, 2015 | Justin Taylor


This is the last entry in a series on some influential modern thinkers who influenced the world of unbelief. (For previous entries, see FreudMarx, MachiavelliNietzsche, and Kant.)

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft; Kreeft is the author of Socrates Meets Sartre: The Father of Philosophy Cross-Examines the Father of Existentialism (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012).

Who was Jean-Paul Sartre?

A French playwright, novelist, and existentialist philosopher.

How do you pronounce his name?

This French name is Anglicized in different ways, but probably the most common pronunciation is to say his first name like “ZAHN-Paul,” with the beginning as a soft “j” and the “ah” sound more through you nose, and then his last name like “SAR-truh,” though sometimes you’ll hear “Sart” as well.

When did he live?


What is his significance?

Jean-Paul Sartre may be the most famous atheist of the 20th century.

Why does he make atheists uncomfortable?

Sartre made atheism such a demanding, almost unendurable, experience that few can bear it.

Comfortable atheists who read him become uncomfortable atheists, and uncomfortable atheism is a giant step closer to God.

He wrote, “Existentialism is nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position.” For this we should be grateful to him.

Why did he call his philosophy “existentialism”?

His thesis was that “existence precedes essence.”

What does this mean?

It means that “man is nothing else than what he makes of himself.”

Since there is no God to design man, then man has no blueprint, no essence. His essence or nature comes not from God as Creator but from his own free choice.

Why does he think that human freedom and dignity require atheism?

If there were a God, man would be reduced to a mere artifact of God, and thus would not be free.

What is Sartre’s legitimate concern and insight here?

Human freedom is a legitimate concern, and it is a correct insight to note that freedom makes persons fundamentally different from mere things.

How did he get to atheism from this perspective?

  1. Sartre confuses freedom with independence.
  2. He can conceive of God only as one who would take away human freedom rather than creating and maintaining it—a sort of cosmic fascist.
  3. Sartre makes the adolescent mistake of equating freedom with rebellion.

What does Sartre think of freedom?

He says freedom is only “the freedom to say no.”

He thinks we compromise our freedom when we say yes (when we choose to affirm the values we’ve been taught by our parents, our society, or our Church). So for Sartre, freedom is very close to “doing your own thing,” or “looking out for No. 1.”

What does Sartre make of responsibility?

This is another concept he takes seriously but misuses. He thinks belief in God would necessarily compromise human responsibility, because we would then blame God rather than ourselves for what we are.

What’s wrong with this argument?

The fact of my responsibility no more disproves the existence of my heavenly Father than it disproves the existence of my earthly father.

What does Sartre think about evil and human perversity?

Sartre has a keen awareness of evil. He says, “We have learned to take Evil seriously. . . . Evil is not an appearance. . . . Knowing its causes does not dispel it. Evil cannot be redeemed.”

Why does he deny, then, that we can choose evil?

He says that (1) since there is no God and (2) since we therefore create our own values and laws, then (3) there really is no evil: “To choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil.”

So Sartre gives both too much reality to evil (“Evil cannot be redeemed”) and too little (“We can never choose evil”).

What does Sartre mean when he says that God not only is non-existent but impossible?

He calls the biblical notion of God as “I Am” the most self-contradictory idea ever imagined—“the impossible synthesis” of being-for-itself (subjective personality, the “I”) with being-in-itself (objective eternal perfection, the “Am”).

Why does he says this?

God means the perfect person, and this is for Sartre a contradiction of terms.

  • Perfect things or ideas, like Justice or Truth, are possible
  • Imperfect persons, like Zeus or Apollo, are possible.
  • But the perfect person is impossible. Zeus is possible but not real. God is unique among gods: not only unreal but impossible.

How does this lead to his view of the impossible of love?

  1. God is impossible.
  2. God is love.
  3. Therefore, love is impossible.

The is probably the most shocking thing in Sartre’s philosophy: the denial of the possibility of genuine, altruistic love. In place of God, most atheists substitute human love as the thing they believe in. But Sartre argues that this is impossible.

  1. If there is no God, each individual is God.
  2. But there can be only one God, one absolute.
  3. Thus, all interpersonal relationships are fundamentally relationships of rivalry.

Here, Sartre echoes Machiavelli. Each of us necessarily plays God to others; each of us, as the author of the play of his own life, necessarily reduces others to characters in his drama.

How does this destroy the concept of community?

There can be no “we-subject,” no community, no self-forgetful love if each of us is always trying to be God, the one single unique I-subject.

What is his most famous play No Exit (1944) about?

Sartre’s  puts three dead people in a room and watches them make hell for each other simply by playing God to each other—not in the sense of exerting external power over each other but simply by knowing each other as objects.

The shocking lesson of the play is that “hell is other people.”

Why is this wrong?

In truth, hell is precisely the absence of other people, human and divine. Hell is total loneliness.

Heaven is other people, because heaven is where God is, and God is Trinity. God is love, God is “other persons.”

What should we make of Sartre’s brutally honest approach?

Sartre’s tough-minded honesty makes him almost attractive, despite his repellant conclusions like the meaninglessness of life, the arbitrariness of values, and the impossibility of love.

But his honesty, however deep it may have lodged in his character, was made trivial and meaningless because of his denial of God and thus of objective Truth. If there is no divine mind, there is no truth except the truth each of us makes of himself. So if there’s nothing for me to be honest about except me, what meaning does honesty have?

What is the subject of Sartre’s first novel, Nausea (1938)?

“Nausea” is the story of a man who, after arduous searching, finds the terrible truth that life has no meaning, that it’s simply nauseating excess, like vomit or excrement.

Sartre deliberately tends toward obscene images because he feels life itself is obscene)

How should we view Sartre?

We cannot help rendering a mixed verdict on Sartre. We can be gratified, in a sense, by his very repulsiveness—for it flows from his consistency. He shows us the true face of atheism:

  • absurdity (that’s the abstract word) and
  • nausea (that’s the concrete image he uses, and the title of his first and greatest novel)


Sartre’s importance is like that of Ecclesiastes: He asks the greatest of all questions, courageously and unswervingly, and we can admire him for that.

Unfortunately, he also gives the worst possible answer to it, as Ecclesiastes did: “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.”

We can only pity him for that, and with him the many other atheists who are clear-headed enough to see as he did that “without God all things are permissible”—but nothing has meaning.

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5 Reasons the Virgin Birth of Jesus Is Important

Feb 26, 2015 | Justin Taylor

John Frame writes that the virgin birth of Jesus is doctrinally important because of:

  1. The doctrine of Scripture. If Scripture errs here, then why should we trust its claims about other su­pernatural events, such as the resurrection?
  2. The deity of Christ. While we cannot say dog­matically that God could enter the world only through a virgin birth, surely the incarnation is a supernatural event if it is anything. To elimi­nate the supernatural from this event is inevi­tably to compromise the divine dimension of it.
  3. The humanity of Christ. This was the impor­tant thing to Ignatius and the second century fathers. Jesus was really born; he really became one of us.
  4. The sinlessness of Christ. If he were born of two human parents, it is very diffi­cult to conceive how he could have been ex­empted from the guilt of Adam’s sin and become a new head to the human race. And it would seem only an arbitrary act of God that Jesus could be born without a sinful nature. Yet Jesus’ sinlessness as the new head of the human race and as the atoning lamb of God is absolutely vital to our salvation (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22-24; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; Rom. 5:18-19).
  5. The nature of grace. The birth of Christ, in which the initiative and power are all of God, is an apt picture of God’s saving grace in general of which it is a part. It teaches us that salvation is by God’s act, not our human effort. The birth of Jesus is like our new birth, which is also by the Holy Spirit; it is a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).

Frame concludes by asking whether belief in the virgin birth is “necessary”:

It is possible to be saved without believing it; saved people aren’t perfect people.

But to reject the virgin birth is to reject God’s Word, and disobe­dience is always serious.

Further, disbelief in the virgin birth may lead to compromise in those other areas of doctrine with which it is vitally connected.

You can read the whole thing here.

—John M. Frame, “Virgin Birth of Jesus,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1249-50.

HT: The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation, by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart (Crossway, forthcoming September 2015).

For a new book on the incarnation, see The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology, by John Clark and Marcus Johnson (Crossway, 2015). You can find out more information about it here.

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A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief: Immanuel Kant

Feb 26, 2015 | Justin Taylor


This is a series on some influential modern thinkers who influenced the world of unbelief. (For previous entries, see FreudMarx, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche.)

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft; Kreeft is the author of Socrates Meets Kant: The Father of Philosophy Cross-Examines His Most Influential Modern Child (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012).

Who was Immanuel Kant?

A German philosopher.

When did he live?


How do you pronounce his name?

Kahnt (not like “can’t”).

What is his significance?

Immanuel Kant is one of the greatest philosophers in history.

Kant is really two philosophers:

  • a philosopher concerned with how we know things (epistemology)
  • a philosopher of right and wrong (ethics)

If he had written only on either topic, he would still be the most important and influential of the modern philosophers. The combination of the two makes him especially worthy of study.

What was Kant’s style?

Few philosophers in history have been so unreadable and dry as Immanuel Kant. He was an abstract professor, writing in abstract style about abstract questions.

What was his personality?

He was a good-tempered, sweet, and pious man—so punctual that his neighbors set their clocks by his daily walk.

What was his impact?

Few have had a more devastating impact on human thought. He is the primary source of the idea that truth is subjective. Kant, more than any other thinker, gave impetus to the typically modern turn from the objective to the subjective.

What was the basic intention of his philosophy?

He wanted to restore human dignity amidst a skeptical, world-worshiping science.

What did Kant believe about faith and reason?

He helped bury the medieval synthesis of faith and reason. He described his philosophy as “clearing away the pretensions of reason to make room for faith” (as if faith and reason were enemies and not allies).

Kant thought religion could never be a matter of reason, evidence, or argument, or even a matter of knowledge.

Rather, religion was a matter of feeling, motive, and attitude.

What were the two things that filled Kant with wonder?

“Two things fill me with wonder: the starry sky above and the moral law within.”

  • “The starry sky above” is the physical universe as known by modern science.
  • Everything else (including the moral law) is relegated to subjectivity.

What is the moral law for Kant?

The moral law is not “without” but “within,” not objective but subjective, not a Natural Law of objective rights and wrongs that comes from God but a man-made law by which we decide to bind ourselves. Morality is a matter of subjective intention only. It has no content except the Golden Rule (Kant’s “categorical imperative”).

He argued:

  1. If the moral law came from God rather than from man, then man would not be free (in the sense of being autonomous).
  2. But man must be autonomous.
  3. Therefore, the moral law does not come from God but from man.

Why did Kant believe in the existence of God, free will, and immortality?

Kant thought of himself as a Christian, but he explicitly denied that we could know that God, free will, and immorality really exist.

But we must live as if these three ideas were true: if we believe them we will take morality seriously, and if we don’t we will not.

These beliefs, then, are justified by purely practical reasons, not because they are true. Christianity becomes a “value system” rather than “the truth.”

What did Kant make of the supernatural and miraculous claims of traditional Christianity?

He ignored them or interpreting them as myth. Kant’s strategy was essentially the same as that of Rudolf Bultmann, the father of “demythologizing,” whose theories of criticism reduce biblical claims of eyewitness description of miracles to mere myth, “values,” and “pious interpretations.”

What was Kant’s basic question?

How can we know truth?

How did David Hume’s answer to that question influence Kant?

Early in Kant’s life he accepted the answer of Rationalism:

  • we know truth by the intellect (not the senses)
  • the intellect possesses its own “innate ideas.”

Then Kant read the Empiricist David Hume, who, Kant said, “woke me from my dogmatic slumber.” Like other Empiricists, Hume believed that

  • we know truth only through the senses
  • we have no “innate ideas.”

But Hume’s premises led him to the conclusion of Skepticism (the denial that we can ever know the truth at all with any certainty). Kant saw both the “dogmatism” of Rationalism and the skepticism of Empiricism as unacceptable, and sought a third way.

What did Kant call his “Copernican revolution in philosophy”?

Kant invented a wholly new theory of knowledge, usually called Idealism (the simplest term for it is Subjectivism). It amounts to redefining truth itself as subjective, not objective.

Kant’s “Copernican revolution” redefines truth itself as reality conforming to ideas. “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects . . . more progress may be made if we assume the contrary hypothesis that the objects of thought must conform to our knowledge.”

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What It Looks Like to Be Adopted

Feb 25, 2015 | Justin Taylor

In Knowing God J. I. Packer writes:

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. (p. 201)

In his Concise Theology he writes:

Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ (John 1:12). The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s now (Rom. 8:17, 38-39). Here and now, believers are under God’s fatherly care and discipline (Matt. 6:26; Heb. 12:5-11) and are directed, especially by Jesus, to live their whole lives in light of the knowledge that God is their Father in heaven. They are to pray to him as such (Matt. 6:5-13), imitate him as such (Matt. 5:44-48; 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32-5:2), and trust him as such (Matt. 6:25-34), thus expressing the filial instinct that the Holy Spirit has implanted in them (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:6).

. . . Adoption is the bestowal of a relationship, while regeneration is the transformation of our moral nature. Yet the link is evident; God wants his children, whom he loves, to bear his character, and takes action accordingly. (pp. 167-168)

At the recent 2015 Ligonier National Conference, there was a special moment when R. C. Sproul Jr. brought his son onstage and talked about the beauty of adoption. You can watch it below:

For more on adoption, see the forthcoming revised and expanded edition of Russell Moore’s classic, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Christian Adoption for Families and Churches (due out October 2015) and the booklet drawn from one of the chapters, Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice (due out in June).

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Review of Robert Louis Wilken’s “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God”

Feb 25, 2015 | Justin Taylor

9780300105988Wilken, Robert Louis. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Robert Louis Wilken is currently professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, where he served as William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity at the time of this book’s writing. This work on early Christian thought is not primarily social history (explaining Christianity in relation to its cultural background or critics), nor is it a work of historical theology proper (showing how certain doctrines developed), but rather an elucidation and presentation of “the pattern of Christian thinking as it took shape in the formative centuries of the church’s history” (xiv). The Christian intellectual tradition, Wilken writes, is “an exercise in thinking about the God who is known and seeking the one who is loved” (311; emphasis added). Christian thought derives its energy, vitality, and imaginative power “from within, from the person of Christ, the Bible, Christian worship, the life of her church” (xiv). The task of intellectual Christian engagement, therefore, is part and parcel of faithful belief, exemplified by formative Christian thinkers who sought to bring the sacred scriptures to bear on their understanding of God, man, and world (including culture and history) as an exercise in credo ut intellectum. And this understanding, Wilken argues, is not for its own sake, but is a means of seeking the face of God (Ps. 105:4)—a passage that Wilken says “captures the spirit of early Christian thinking” more than any other verse (xxii).


“The agenda of this book,” Wilken explains, “is set by the things Christians cared most about” (xvi). A survey simply of “what Christians believed” in the early centuries would be impossible, both unwieldy and unfocused. So Wilken chooses representative figures whose thought he can explore in some depth. Each theme is viewed through the work of one or two key figures, often from different time periods and geographical locations to show both continuity and development in the Christian intellectual tradition. Wilken cites a number of early Christian thinkers through the church’s first eight centuries, but his primary exemplars turn out to be Origen (3rd c.), Gregory of Nyssa (4th c.), Augustine (5th c.), and Maximus the Confessor (7th c.).

The book has 12 chapters, which may be grouped in roughly five sections.

Chapters 1-3 are foundational, showing how the early church’s understanding of how God is to be known through the sacrifice of his Son (ch. 1), how God is to be worshipped by means of prayer, sacrament, and liturgy (ch. 2), and how God has spoken to us through the Scriptures (ch. 3).

Wilken next surveys three key crucial but complex Christians teachings that engendered no little controversy: the doctrine of God’s triunity (ch. 4), the person and work of Christ, with a focus upon his agony (ch. 5), and the material creation that both reflects and participates in the goodness of the Creator (ch. 6).

Having surveyed the object and background of Christian belief, Wilkin then turns to the implications of this belief, exploring the relationship between believing and knowing (ch. 7) and the identity of believers in fellowship with one another and in relationship to the surrounding society (ch. 8).

The structure is now in place to understand the creation of a distinctly Christian culture, including the use of the “stuff” of life: the creation of Christian poetry (ch. 9) and the veneration of icons (ch. 10).

Wilken concludes his survey of early Christian thought by exploring the Christian life, both its morality (ch. 11) and its spirituality as seen through the affections, especially love (ch. 12).



Wilken, in contrast to the compartmentalizing approach of many contemporary historians, does not feign neutrality. He writes as an unabashed admirer, highlighting beliefs and practices that he himself shares and therefore implicitly commends. Wilken himself models what he commends: “One of the most distinctive features of Christian intellectual life is a kind of quiet confidence in the faithfulness and integrity of those who have gone before” (175).

There are advantages and drawbacks to the way in which Wilken deploys his strategy of appreciative advocacy. On the positive side, this hermeneutics of historical charity allows the early Christian intellectual tradition to be set forth in its most sympathetic and winsome light. Some of the ideas—for example, the veneration of icons—are rejected by Protestants. While I agree with the rejection, many critique this practice without truly understanding the theological rationale beyond it or how it was practiced by its most careful advocates. Few scholars could explain this practice as clearly, concisely, and compellingly as Wilken. In so doing, he helps readers see the intuitive logic and internal consistency of certain beliefs and practices.

On the other hand, his approach has the potential to present a slightly distorted vision of the Christian intellectual tradition by highlighting only the most careful and profound thinkers. In so doing, Wilken can filter out other voices, leaving a rather sanitized theological vision of the whole—a “best of the best” highlight reel that is mesmerizing to watch but may not tell the whole story. The non-specialist—Wilken’s intended reader—may be left to wonder about the deleted scenes left on the cutting room floor.

A related concern is that Wilken’s program has the potential to downplay the less compelling aspects of the life and theology of the individual thinkers highlighted. John Morrison raises the same issue in his review of the book: “The Fathers . . . are made to be wholly charming in life and thought; the warts are all but gone. The few that remain are turned into beauty marks.” Morrison continues: “Wilken is often too idealistic, even hagiographic, when giving narrative form to the lives and thoughts of these eminent early Christian leaders. . . . there was significant ‘bathwater’ ebbing around the lives of some of these extraordinary patristic ‘babies.’ This cannot be sloughed off or the narrative is to that extent falsified. These were not superhuman, despite Wilken’s regular flights of praise when describing their intellectual or moral exploits.”

A key idea that Wilken wants us to embrace is that “the time has come to bid a fond farewell” to von Harnock’s thesis of the Hellenization of Christianity. Wilken thinks a more accurate expression of the history would be “the Christianization of Hellenism” (xvi-xvii). But even that is not quite saying enough, as Wilken wants readers to see that “Christian thinking, while working within patterns of thought and conceptions rooted in Greco-Roman culture, transformed them so profoundly that in the end something quite new came into being” (xvii). Wilken largely succeeds at showing this, but one still may question whether he has overplayed the evidence, swinging the pendulum a little too far in the opposite direction. For example, were there not areas within the Christian intellectual tradition where philosophies like Neo-Platonism did not just provide the conceptual framework for contextualizing Scriptural truth but also introduced distorting elements to the church’s theological understanding of divine revelation and mystical spirituality?


Despite some caveats, there can be no doubt that Wilken’s work is a wonderful achievement and a marvelous synthesis, eloquently making his massive learning and historical expertise readily available and accessible to those who seek to carry on the pattern of early Christian thinking by seeking the face of God.

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A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief: Friedrich Nietzsche

Feb 25, 2015 | Justin Taylor


This is an ongoing series on some influential modern thinkers who influenced the world of unbelief. (For previous entries, see FreudMarx, and Machiavelli.)

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft.

Who was Friedrich Nietzsche?

A German philosopher.

When did Nietzsche live?


What did Nietzsche think of his own role?

He called himself “the Anti-Christ,” and wrote a book by that title.

He offered the following argument for atheism:

“I will now disprove the existence of all gods:

[1] If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god?

[2] Consequently, there are no gods.”

How did he die?

He died insane, in an asylum, of syphilis—signing his last letters “the Crucified One.”

What did he think about reason?

He scorned reason as well as faith. He often deliberately contradicted himself. He said that “a sneer is infinitely more noble that a syllogism.” And he appealed to passion, rhetoric, and even deliberate hatred rather than reason.

What did he think about love and morality?

Love is “the greatest danger.” Morality is mankind’s worst weakness.

What are the three schools of thought about Nietzsche?

  1. Nietzsche is gentle. This is the most popular view of academics. They see him as a sheep in wolf’s clothing: his attacks should not be taken literally. He was really an ally, not an enemy, of the Western institutions and values which he denounced.
  2. Nietzsche is utterly awful. They at least pay him the compliment of taking him seriously.
  3. Nietzsche is a wolf (not a sheep) but a very important thinker. He shows to modern Western civilization its own dark heart and future.

What is the center of Nietzsche’s philosophy?

He is as centered on Christ as Augustine was, only he centered on Christ as his enemy.

What are Nietzsche’s main themes?

Nietzsche’s main themes can be summarized by the titles of his main books. Each is, in a different way, an attack on faith.

1. What was the theme of Nietzsche’s first book, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music?

This book single-handedly revolutionized the accepted view of the ancient Greeks as all “sweetness and light,” reason and order.

For Nietzsche, the tragic poets were the great Greeks.

The philosophers, starting with Socrates, were the small ones, pale and passionless.

All the Western world had followed Socrates and his rationalism and moralism, and had denied the other, darker side of man, the tragic side.

Nietzsche instead exalted tragedy, chaos, disorder, and irrationality—symbolized by the god Dionysus (god of growth and drunken orgies).

Nietzsche claimed that Socrates had turned the world instead to the worship of Apollo (god of the sun, light, order, and reason).

But the fate of Nietzsche’s god Dionysus was soon to overtake Nietzsche himself; as Dionysus was literally torn apart by the Titans, supernatural monsters of the underworld, Nietzsche’s mind was to be cracked asunder by his own inner Titans.

What was the theme of Nietzsche’s book, The Use and Abuse of History?

He continued the Dionysian-vs.-Apollonian theme.

The “abuse of history” = theory, science, objective truth.

The right use of history = to enhance “life.”

Nietzsche sets in opposition:

  • life vs. truth
  • fire vs. light
  • Dionysus vs. Apollo
  • will vs. intellect

What is the theme of Ecco Homo

(Ecco homo is from the Latin Vulgate, translating Pontius Pilate’s words about Jesus in John 19:5, “behold the man!”)

This book was pseudo-autobiographical shameless egotism. He willingly embraces falsehood and fantasy. It is consistent with his philosophy or preferring “whatever is life-enhancing” to truth. “Why not live a lie?” he asks.

What is the theme of The Genealogy of Morals?

Nietzsche claims that morality was an invention of the weak (especially the Jews, and then the Christians) to weaken the strong. The sheep convinced the wolf to act like a sheep.

This is unnatural, argues Nietzsche, and seeing morality’s unnatural origin in resentment at inferiority will free us from its power over us.

What is the theme of Beyond Good and Evil?

This is Nietzsche’s alternative morality, or “new morality.”

“Master morality” is totally different from “slave morality.”

Whatever a master commands becomes good from the mere fact that the master commands it. The weak sheep have a morality of obedience and conformity. Masters have a natural right to do whatever they please, for since there is no God, everything is permissible.

What is the theme of The Twilight of the Idols?

Nietzsche explores the consequences of “the death of God.”

(Of course God never really lives, but faith in him did. But that is now  dead.)

With God dies all objective truths (for there is no mind over ours) and objective values, laws and morality (for there is no will over ours).

Soul, free will, immortality, reason, order, love = “idols” (little gods that are dying now that the Big God has died).

What is the theme of Nietzsche’s masterpiece, Thus Spake Zarathustra

This book celebrates this new god, the Superman..

He called Thus Spake Zarathustra the new Bible. He told the world to “throw away all other books; you have my Zarathustra.”

It was written in only a few days, in a frenzy, perhaps of literally demon-inspired “automatic writing.” No book ever written contains more Jungian archetypes, like a fireworks display of images from the unconscious.

Its essential message is the condemnation of present-day man as a weakling and the announcement of the next species, the Superman, who lives by “master morality” instead of “slave morality.” God is dead, long live the new god!

What is the theme of The Eternal Return?

Nietzsche discovers that all gods die—even the Superman.

He believed that all history necessarily moved in a cycle, endlessly repeating all past events.

Nietzsche deduced this disappearing conclusion from two premises:

  1. a finite amount of matter
  2. an infinite amount of time (since there is no creator and no creation)

Therefore, every possible combination of elementary particles—every possible world—occur an infinite number of times, given infinite time.

All, even the Superman, will return again to dust, and evolve worms, apes, man, and Superman again and again.

Instead of despairing at this hopeless new history, Nietzsche seized the opportunity to celebrate history’s irrationality and the triumph of “life” over logic. The supreme virtue was the will’s courage to affirm this meaningless life, beyond reason, for no reason.

What was the theme of Nietzsche’s last work, The Will to Power?

Without a God, a heaven, truth, or an absolute Goodness to aim at, the meaning of life becomes simply “the will to power.”

Power becomes its own end, not a means.

Life is like a bubble, empty within and without; but its meaning is self-affirmation, egotism, blowing up your bubble, expanding the meaningless self into the meaningless void.

Nietzsche’s advice: “just will.” It does not matter what you will or why.

Why should we think of Nietzsche as an important thinker?

It is not despite but because of his insanity. Almost no one in history has ever so clearly, candidly, and consistently formulated the complete alternative to Christianity.


Nietzsche is the essential, modern post-Christian and anti-Christian. He rightly saw Christ as his chief enemy and rival. The spirit of Anti-Christ has never received such complete formulation. Nietzsche was not only the favorite philosopher of Nazi Germany, he is the favorite philosopher of hell.

We can thank Satan’s own foolishness in “blowing his cover” in this man. Like Nazism, Nietzsche may scare the hell out of us and help save our civilization or even our souls by turning us away in terror before it’s too late.

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FAQ on Baptism in the Early Church

Feb 24, 2015 | Justin Taylor

61KHeeg2gUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Some conclusions from Everett Ferguson’s 975-page tome, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Eerdmans, 2009):

Is there evidence for infant baptism exist before the second part of the second century?

“There is general agreement that there is no firm evidence for infant baptism before the latter part of the second century.” (p. 856)

Does this mean that infant baptism didn’t exist?

“This fact does not mean that it did not occur, but it does mean that supporters of the practice have a considerable chronological gap to account for. Many replace the historical silence by appeal to theological or sociological considerations.” (p. 856)

Why did infant baptism emerge?

“The most plausible explanation for the origin of infant baptism is found in the emergency baptism of sick children expected to die soon so that they would be assured of entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” (p. 856)

When did it catch on and become the dominant understanding of baptism?

“There was a slow extension of baptizing babies as a precautionary measure. It was generally accepted, but questions continued to be raised about its propriety into the fifth century. It became the usual practice in the fifth and sixth centuries.” (p. 857)

What was the mode of baptism in the early church?

“The comprehensive survey of the evidence compiled in this study give a basis for a fresh look at this subject and seeks to give coherence to that evidence while addressing seeming anomalies. The Christian literary sources, backed by secular word usage and Jewish religious immersions, give an overwhelming support for full immersion as the normal action. Exceptions in cases of a lack of water and especially of sickbed baptism were made. Submersion was undoubtedly the case for the fourth and fifth centuries in the Greek East and only slightly less certain for the Latin West.” (p. 857)

Was this a change from an earlier practice, a selection out of options previously available, or a continuation of the practice of the first three centuries?

“It is the contention of this study that the last interpretation best accords with the available facts. Unless one has preconceived ideas about how an immersion would be performed, the literary, art, and archaeological evidence supports this conclusion.” (p. 857)

Update: For another perspective on the evidence, see Tony Lane’s “Did the Apostolic Church Baptise Babies? A Seismological Approach.” The abstract is below:

The direct evidence from the first century is insufficient to establish conclusively whether or not the apostolic church baptised babies. An alternative approach is to look at the practice of the post-apostolic church and to ask what must have happened in apostolic times to account for this later development. Unequivocal evidence is not found until the beginning of the third century and for the next two centuries and more we see a variety of practice, with the children of Christian homes being baptised at any and every age. Significantly, no one claimed that anyone else’s practice was unapostolic or wrong in principle. Given that oral tradition offered real, though limited, access to the past, the most natural explanation is that this acceptance of a variety of practice goes back to apostolic times.

HT: Peter Sanlon

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