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At the beginning of last summer, I wrote a short blog post describing my summer reading goals.  I wanted to explore the concept of Molinism.  I can’t say that I am completely finished with my reading goals, but I do think that I have read enough to say that I am fairly comfortable with Molinism.  It has been an adventure to say the least, involving much reflection and meditation on the subject.  It is an interesting feeling to shift one’s theology.  In this case, it is less of a shift and more of a systematizing.  I know what a shift feels like.  At one point in my life, I championed a strong charismatic approach to Christian life but that is no longer the case today.  I have also shifted from a functional Arminian to a 5-point Calvinist to my current position over a number of years.  I guess if labels are important then I am a moderate Calvinist who holds to a Molinist explanation to the tension between libertarian freedom and God’s sovereign decrees.

May God be glorified in all and through all.

Brian Auten has given a list of 100 contemporary Christian apologists, including appropriate web links for each individual.  This appears to be an excellent resource for Christians.

I ran across an argument against Christianity that I don’t feel like I can ignore.  The core of the criticism is that if the Bible is an inspired work of God, then it should transcend its culture.  It is claimed, however, the Bible does not transcend the culture (or more aptly cultures) under which it was written.  Thus, the Bible is not an inspired work of God.  Instead, we find in the Bible exactly what we would expect from a group of people living in the ancient Near East.  If God was involved in the writing of the text, then we should find clear evidence of this in the text itself.  For example, we should see the theory of germs clearly displayed in Genesis.

The argument fails for several reasons.  First, the reasoning simply misunderstands the method God used to transmit His word.  Rather than dictating text, most Biblical scholars recognize that God inspired the Biblical authors to write within their own culture.  God is certainly able to communicate that which he wishes through the context of a culture.  This brings us to the second major problem with the argument.  The Bible is written with a specific purpose: to reveal aspects of who God is and how man may be redeemed.  We have no guarantee of full revelation of God nor detailed explanations for the inner workings of our universe.  To assume otherwise is to place a standard beyond the intent of the intended message.  Thus, when we turn to criticisms such as, the lack of the theory of germs with regard to disease in Genesis, we immediately recognize that those topics are simply not germane to the core issue at hand.  Furthermore, we must remember that God is communicating with us.  There is no communication if the means He uses are foreign to the audience He is communicating with.  Let me clarify this with an example.  In graduate school, I took a number of courses on quantum mechanics and statistical thermodynamics.  Those courses are highly specialized and are not well understood by most people outside of my narrow discipline.  Now, suppose I am discussing some of the more interesting aspects of quantum mechanics with several friends who have either no background of science or very limited exposure.  How meaningful is it if I provide them with information on par with my graduate school texts, replete with the respective mathematical formulas and derivations?  In this case, communication ceases, and my goal of transmitting information is obfuscated by their lack of knowledge.  This is comparable to God communicating His word through people within their culture.  The germ theory of disease for example, or any other modern scientific theory for that matter, would only muddy the water by introducing irrelevant ancillary topics.  To be sure, it is not necessary for man to have a good grasp of germ theory for salvation, but it is critically important for man to understand who God is, what the true state of man is, and how man is going to be reconciled to God.   Could God have included these things via direct special revelation?  I believe that He could, but I do not see any compulsion for Him to do so given the overall thrust of the Bible to communicate truth about Himself.

I recently saw the movie Avatar and was inspired to write a post on ecology.  William Lane Craig used the movie as a picture of the Incarnation of Jesus on his website.  This was enough to entice me to rent it, even though I had some misgivings that it would be standard liberal tripe on ecology.  The movie is very good; the special effects alone are well worth the $1 for a Redbox rental.  The movie did have a strong rhetoric about ecology; however, I left the movie agreeing with their overall thrust with regard to environmental stewardship.  My only complaint is that the movie claims this is found in a pantheistic worldview.  This is not unique.  It is very common for modern environmentalism to have a pantheistic foundation, but I think this position is gravely mistaken.  First, the pantheistic worldview is not a coherent worldview.  The interested reader can certainly find a plethora of writings on this topic, so I will leave a defense of that for another time.  Second, Christianity does provide a firm foundation for a responsible view of ecology. 

Two writers immediately come to mind when I think about the Christian view of ecology.  The relationship between man and his environment is one of the major points behind C.S. Lewis’ so-called Space Trilogy, especially Perelandra but to a somewhat lesser degree in Out of the Silent Planet.  In Perelandra, we are given a glimpse of a world that is untouched by sin, and man lives in harmony with his environment.  This is contrasted against our world in Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.  Here we see a redeemed man in proper relationship with God and creation amidst a fallen world.  Francis Schaeffer makes a similar point in his book Pollution and the Death of Man.  Here, Schaeffer suggests that greed and haste are the root cause of our ecological crisis.  Both are the result of our sin nature.  We are eager to turn a buck and do so fast, regardless of the ecological impact.  In this way, Christianity not only explains the origin of the ecological crisis, but it also provides an answer for its remedy.  If our ecological crisis is rooted in our sinful nature, then the only way to resolve the issue is having our sin nature removed through Jesus’ sacrifice.  This is distinct from pantheistic or atheistic views that lack a real solution for the crisis.  Christianity certainly agrees with pantheism and atheism that man is part of the world, but we are not merely part of the world.  We are also distinct from our world in a very important and unique way, being created in God’s image.  This leads us immediately to a proper view of man and the environment.  We are part of the world but not merely part of it, for in God’s image we are unique.  Thus, we should use our environment to the betterment of mankind, but not in a greedy or hasty way that needlessly destroys our world.

The summer is here, and it is high time for me to tackle my annual summer reading project.  Sure enough, there is plenty to do in the lab and writing papers, but the summer is special, for I devote large swaths of time to studying a topic in a way that I simply cannot during the academic year.  Last summer, I had a great time with two popular books about espionage and one on statistical thermodynamics.  My wife also had a baby, and that did curtail some of my reading time.  This summer I think I am going to dive into a theological topic.  Molinism is a branch of theology that attempts to reconcile divine sovereignty with human freedom and responsibility.  It was originally developed by Luis de Molina, a Spanish Jesuit priest living in the 1500s.  William Lane Craig is probably the most well-known contemporary advocate of Molinism.  I have charted out my summer reading list, including both defenders and critics.  Fortunately, there will not be a baby this summer!