APOLOGISTS TO FOCUS ON INERRANCY

I have the honor to serve this year as president of the International Society of Christian Apologetics (ISCA).  Let me remind you that our annual meeting is going to be very accessible to many in the Southeast, at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC, Fri-Sat., April 10-11.  The theme is “Inerrancy and Evangelical Identity.”  How essential is a full view of biblical authority to who we are as Evangelicals?  It is a doctrine that is under renewed assault, even from within what purports to be Evangelicalism.

We are going to have a stellar line-up of plenary speakers to address such an important topic.

Paige Patterson

Paige Patterson

First we have as a one-two punch two giants from the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Land and Paige Patterson, who will talk about the struggle for inerrancy in that denomination and what we can learn from it for the struggles ongoing in other Evangelical churches and organizations.  Nobody has had more personal experience with such things than these two.  Land will talk about the history of the struggle for inerrancy in the SBC, and Patterson will focus on the practical lessons to be learned from it.  This will be balanced by rising star Sarah Geis, Doug Groothuis’s protégé at Denver Seminary, who will speak on making the case for inerrancy, not so much to the church as to the world.  Their titles are as follows:

Richard Land

Richard Land

Richard Land, “The Southern Baptist Convention, 1979-1993: What Happened, and Why” (To learn more about Richard Land, go to http://www.drrichardland.com/about. )

Paige Patterson, “The Consequences of Revolution: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention: A Case Study” (To learn more about Paige Patterson, go to http://www.paigepatterson.info/. )

Sarah Geis, “The Apologetics of Inerrancy: Making Our Case to the World” (To learn more about Sarah Geis, go to http://justifiedfaith.com/author/scgeis/. )

Sarah Geis

Sarah Geis

Then I will do a presidential address on “Discerning the Times: Why We Lost the Culture War and How to Make a Comeback,” in which I will address the related area of how subjectivist hermeneutics undermines biblical authority and our ability to apply it to the world around us.

Donald T. Williams

Donald T. Williams

I think this is a great opportunity that many of us should take advantage of.  Registration and further information is available at

http://www.isca-apologetics.org/annualmeeting.  I hope to see many of you there!

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

R. A. Forrest Scholar & Prof. of English, Toccoa Falls College

IS GOD GOOD?

Is God good?  What does it mean to claim that He is good?  Can a case for a good God be made in a world so permeated by evil and suffering as ours seems to be?  For many people who doubt God’s existence, the issue is not really His existence as such, but really His goodness.  There is after all no successful argument against God’s existence, for that would be proving a negative. But many people think they have a compelling argument against His goodness from the suffering He permits in His world—and if He is not good, why bother with faith in Him anyway?  So one step toward restoring our ability to have faith in Him must be to examine more carefully the idea of His goodness.  Is it even a coherent claim for Christian theists to make?

Let’s begin by assuming for the sake of argument that God exists and created the world as Genesis teaches.  When God created the universe He obviously gave it being and form; He also gave it value by calling it “good” (Gen. 1:4, etc.).  Goodness then flows from God as much as being or design does.  It is therefore also one of His essential attributes.  As C. S. Lewis summarizes it, “God’s will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and his goodness which always embraces, the intrinsically good” (Problem of Pain 88).

But what does this mean?  Is it simply circular to say that the good comes from God because God is good?  It is hard to talk about goodness and God without Plato’s “Euthyphro Dilemma” coming up:  Is something good because God says it is, or does God say something is good because it is good?

Plato

Plato

Lewis understood that the dilemma is of course a false dilemma.  The correct answer to it is “neither.”  God’s attribution of goodness to His creation is not an arbitrary decision, nor is it based on some standard external to Himself.  Rather, his own character is the standard for goodness, and we see that this standard is not arbitrary but necessary once we ponder His identity as the Creator alongside Augustine’s analysis of the nature of evil as a privation or perversion of the good.  For creation is inherently a constructive, not a destructive, act.  Creation is creative, not destructive; giving, not taking; orderly and purposeful, not chaotic.  How else could it produce a world that could hold together?  And what else do we mean by “good’?  Evil, on the other hand, is always a perversion of some prior good; otherwise it could not exist at all.  So Lewis asks,   “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?”  No, he concludes: such a God “couldn’t invent or create or govern anything” (A Grief Observed 27).

Lewis was certainly right about this.  We often ask why a good God would create such an imperfect and often painful world.  The answer is that He didn’t.  He permitted the Fall of His world.  But if He had been destructive rather than creative, harmful rather than beneficent, chaotic rather than intelligent and purposeful, there would and could have been no world to fall in the first place.  Creation is of necessity an act of superabounding goodness.  A world that continues to exist and to be redeemable simply cannot have Satan as its source.

"And God saw that it was good."

“And God saw that it was good.”

Lewis confirms the biblical teaching that God is good—or, perhaps more accurately, perceives its necessary truth—by performing two different thought experiments.  The first was trying to imagine an evil god and finding that the idea just won’t work, as we saw above.  The second involves the difficulty of knowing God as evil.  If God were evil, how would we ever know it?  Lewis reasons,  “If a Brute and Blackguard made the world, then he also made our minds.  If he made our minds, he also made that very standard in them whereby we judge him to be a Brute and Blackguard.  And how can we trust a standard which comes from such a brutal and blackguardly source?” (“De Futilitate” 66)

An evil god by definition then is not a knowable god; but we do know something about God.  At least, we have some idea of God.  And so once again we see that to affirm His goodness is not to spin a logical circle but to bow to the necessity of who He is and must be.  Logically, then, God’s goodness is just as necessary a concept as His existence.  And this is consistent with the way Scripture presents Him: as Creator, Judge, Shepherd, and ultimately as the One whom Jesus called Father.  What could be better than that?

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College and President of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.  For more of his apologetic work see his book Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012) or his other Lantern Hollow books.  Order them ($15.00 + shipping) at http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

No Cheap Answers

ANONYMOUS CORRESPONDENT:  My faith seems very impractical and fanciful, as though it exists in one reality and my life in another. What I experience day in and day out seems to be empty of anything but the temporal, and I am only talking myself into believing in the eternal as there is really no proof for it besides half-guesses. Most Christians use Christianity for their own purposes, particularly myself. I find myself thinking things like, “This is all based on authority with no proof of anything.  I could believe it if it actually worked in someone’s life; but it doesn’t. Instead, I’m supposed to bank everything on another, invisible world that I may get to some day, at which point everything will then be okay.”

I find this hard to share with many people because it would make them uncomfortable. Any books I get my hands on seem to not get close to touching this part of me that feels like it is dying.

A lot of it has to do with de-toxing from six terrible years in _____ with a lot of people who were very mean and ugly to one another.  I find myself asking, “All my life I’ve built everything around this belief . . . and it really hasn’t gotten me anywhere.  In fact, in some ways I’m just more hurt from believing it.” I find myself living practically like an agnostic. God doesn’t speak to people; God doesn’t make everything okay; we don’t really know if we’re eternal beings; and yet this God demands we limp through each day believing anyway.  I’m not sure I have the energy to do that; in fact, trying to do it actually makes me a much gloomier, more short-tempered person.

Then I look at the person of Jesus and think, how lovely!  Everything He said is so true of how we should treat one another, of how life should look.  He spoke like no one else . . . and I find it hard to believe a bunch of guys just sat around and made that stuff up and organized themselves and were martyred for it just to fool everybody. And I find myself caught in the middle once again.

Words of wisdom?

Part of the Answer:

Part of the Answer?

ME:  You already hit on the key.  Look at the person of Jesus.  Jesus, exactly.  Jesus, more.  Jesus, not me and (especially) not those folks you’ve been around.   Either He was more than just a martyr or there is no hope. You see the alternatives quite clearly. It’s Jesus or nothing. Pascal’s wager is still the best bet.

I know this sounds pretty empty when what you really need is not intellectual answers but emotional support, and it doesn’t seem like God is giving you any, and why not if He is actually there and all that loving? Do I have it about right?  [I did.]

OK, then, it’s not a question of what is true but of what you are able to feel. I don’t have answers for that. Why we feel the way we do is often very complicated.  You may have cut yourself off from God’s normal means of supplying emotional support by choosing to cast your lot with a group of legalists; it may have been abundantly available but you had made yourself incapable of receiving it (like C. S. Lewis for a time  in A Grief Observed).  I don’t know.  I can only say that lots of saints have had the same struggle at various times (including me). I would just hug you if I could. Cyber hugs aren’t good enough, but it’s all I can give you today. And encourage you to start every day by reading the scene in The Silver Chair where Puddleglum stomps the fire and makes his speech about following Aslan. I don’t know what I would do without dear old Puddleglum. He’s my patronus.

Portrait-Puddleglum1

Puddleglum

And think about this: Could Lewis have written that scene if he, the greatest apologist and Christian intellectual of the 20th century, was not able to relate to where you are coming from? We are in good company, dear sister. Lift up your head!

[This seemed to help my friend.  Will it help you?  Only you can tell.]

For more unconventional apologetics from Dr. Williams, see his book Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy and his other books from Lantern Hollow Press.  To order, go to

http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

If you are interested in the case for God or more on the Christian world view, check out Dr. Williams' book REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO'S CAVE in the Lantern Hollow E-store.

If you are interested in the case for God or more on the Christian world view, check out Dr. Williams’ book REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO’S CAVE in the Lantern Hollow E-store.

APOLOGETICS CONFERENCE!

I have the honor to serve this year as president of the International Society of Christian Apologetics (ISCA).  Our annual meeting is going to be very accessible to many in the Southeast, at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC, Fri-Sat., April 10-11.  The theme is “Inerrancy and Evangelical Identity.”  How essential is a full view of biblical authority to who we are as Evangelicals?  It is a doctrine that is under renewed assault, even from within what purports to be Evangelicalism.

We are going to have a stellar line-up of plenary speakers to address such an important topic.

Paige Patterson

Paige Patterson

First we have as a one-two punch two giants from the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Land and Paige Patterson, who will talk about the struggle for inerrancy in that denomination and what we can learn from it for the struggles ongoing in other Evangelical churches and organizations.  Nobody has had more personal experience with such things than these two.  Land will talk about the history of the struggle for inerrancy in the SBC, and Patterson will focus on the practical lessons to be learned from it.  This will be balanced by rising star Sarah Geis, Doug Groothuis’s protégé at Denver Seminary, who will speak on making the case for inerrancy, not so much to the church as to the world.  Their titles are as follows:

Richard Land

Richard Land

Richard Land, “The Southern Baptist Convention, 1979-1993: What Happened, and Why” (To learn more about Richard Land, go to http://www.drrichardland.com/about. )

Paige Patterson, “The Consequences of Revolution: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention: A Case Study” (To learn more about Paige Patterson, go to http://www.paigepatterson.info/. )

Sarah Geis, “The Apologetics of Inerrancy: Making Our Case to the World” (To learn more about Sarah Geis, go to http://justifiedfaith.com/author/scgeis/. )

Sarah Geis

Sarah Geis

Then I will do a presidential address on “Discerning the Times: Why We Lost the Culture War and How to Make a Comeback,” in which I will address the related area of how subjectivist hermeneutics undermines biblical authority and our ability to apply it to the world around us.

Donald T. Williams

Donald T. Williams

I think this is a great opportunity that many of us should take advantage of.  Registration is available at

http://www.isca-apologetics.org/annualmeeting.  I hope to see many of you there!

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

R. A. Forrest Scholar & Prof. of English, Toccoa Falls College

107 Kincaid Dr., Toccoa Falls, Ga. 30598, 706-886-6831, ext. 5213

President, International Society of Christian Apologetics

Web Site:  http://doulomen.tripod.com

Blog:  http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com

E-Mail:  dtw@tfc.edu

“To think well is to serve God in the interior court.”

— Thomas Traherne

CV

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Is this too long for a blog entry?  I don’t care.  Narrative poetry needs to be revived.  Here’s a challenge:  How long will it take you to figure out who this is about?

Campfire Tale

Portrait-Abraham2

“I will tell you a story.

It is a true story, I did not make it up.

I learned it word for word from the way the words

Followed each other like first stars in the dark

When they came to me the first time, long ago.

I am still learning it.

And though it grows in the telling, it does it the way

A seed grows into a cedar, because the cedar

Was there in the seed all along, and had to grow.

You can find them tall and majestic in the fields,

Daring the lightning, or stooped, twisted, stunted,

Clutching at some impossible crack in a rock,

Living on soil they had to grind themselves,

But living to scatter their seed.

You are hearing the story from me, I am telling it now.

The seeds ride on the wind.  If I should stop,

Sooner or later one would take root near you;

You find them growing in unexpected places.

I will tell you a story.”

Portrait-Abraham1

“The story has no beginning, but we will start

With a cold night in the desert, the stars fierce,

A light wind stirring the sand, the hints of dawn

As yet too faint to challenge the blazing blackness.

There is no moon tonight, you must look closely.

You see that hill?  It seems to be moving.  Ha!

It is a tent collapsing.  There are camels

Kneeling to be loaded.  I hear bleating

Of sheep.  And there, that man off to the side,

He seems oblivious to the whole commotion,

Standing motionless against the sky

As if in meditation.  One of the servants

Approaches him now, but stops, patiently waiting.

That man must be the master here.  He sees

The servant, sighs, and turns back toward the others.

I’ve lost him, but he must be mounted now;

There go the camels, lurching, one by one,

Rising clumsily into the sky.

And now they’re moving.  What a host they’ve got!

How could we have missed those flocks?  They’re gone.

Before the sun is up the wind will sweep

Away all signs that they were ever here.”

Portrait-Abraham3

The boy stared deep in the fire.  “You tell it as if

You were there when it happened, as if it were happening now.”

“And how do you know it isn’t?”  The old man’s eyes

Glinted.  He shoved a stick in deeper and made

The sparks fly up.  “The story is still going on,

And you and I are in it.  The man was traveling

With everything he owned, cattle, servants,

Their wives and children, deeper into the desert.

None of them knew where they were going or why.

His wife had asked him point-blank, and he had told her

That God had told him to go, and that was that.

Some of them even believed him!”  The light of the fire

Showed a smile that wrinkled the old man’s cheeks

At the point.  “Yes, there were some of them that believed him.”

Portrait-Abraham4

The old man paused ‘til the boy thought he’d fallen asleep,

But then he shook his head.  “It is not to be thought

That the man knew fully himself why the journey was ordered.

He thought it had something to do with becoming a nation.

The begetting of seed was central in it somehow,

And some great blessing for all mankind was at stake.

He thought it had something to do with the Curse and the Promise

Of Eden, the Seed that was coming to bruise the Serpent.”

“So that old story’s the same as this one?”  “Yes.

There is only one story you know.  But all he knew

Was that Jahweh had told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees

And God had promised a land and a seed and a blessing.”

Portrait-Abraham5

This time it was the boy who stirred the fire.

“And did he ever find the land he was seeking?”

The old man laughed.  “Well, we are here now, aren’t we?”

“And did he find the seed?”  The old man’s hand

Descended gently on the boy’s young shoulder.

“The story goes no further for tonight.

We’d better get some sleep now, for tomorrow

We’ll come to the place appointed for sacrifice.

Tomorrow night we may know more of the story,

And if we do we’ll tell it to each other.”

The fire was watchful beside them through the night,

And the silent tears of Abraham were tiny

Pools of mud in the dust by the sleeping form

Of Isaac the promised seed.  It was a cold

Night on the edge of the desert, the stars fierce,

The hints of dawn still faint, but growing stronger,

A light wind stirring the thicket where the ram

Had gotten himself entangled on the mountain.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 Donald T. Williams, PhD

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.