Knowledge vs understanding

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is nothing new about not believing in God; it is the oldest thing in the world to deny Him. This is what I find so pathetic, that people think it is clever not to believe in God, that it is modern, that it is something new, that it is something wonderful! But here is a man, King David, writing all this a thousand years before Christ—nearly three thousand years ago—and there were people saying then, “There is no God”—just what clever people are saying today, those who try to argue that they are saying it in terms of some latest esoteric knowledge that they have been given and that other people still do not have. But is it not clear that this has nothing at all to do with knowledge as such?

No; it is a question of understanding, and that is a very different thing. Men and women may have a lot of book knowledge, but that does not mean they have understanding or that they have wisdom. They can be aware of many facts, but they may be fools in their own personal lives. Have we not known such people? I have known men in some of the learned professions; I would take their opinion without a moment’s hesitation because of their knowledge and because of their learning. But sometimes I have known some of those men to be utter fools in their own personal lives. I mean by that, they behaved like lunatics, as if they had not a brain at all. They have behaved in exactly the same way as a man who never had their educational advantages and who had none of their great knowledge. They drank too much even as a less educated man did; they were guilty of adultery even as he was.

There is all the difference in the world between knowledge—an awareness of facts—and wisdom and real understanding. Though people may have great brains and may know a number of things, they may still be governed by their lusts and passions and desires, and that is why they are fools.… They are men and women who listen to their hearts, their desires; they are governed by what they want to do rather than by true understanding.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms, 14–15

Links I like

The Evangelical Persecution Complex

Alan Noble offers a thought-provoking piece:

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

I will be a unifying Christian

This is a lovely piece from Thom Rainer.

The Unbelonging

Lore Ferguson:

I’ve always been a fan of the fringe. If you can stand on the sidelines and affect change from within, you’ve followed the model Christ set forth well. I watched a movie a few months ago in which the principal characters return to high-school incognito. They’re so far removed from high-school that what was cool then is not cool now. The jocks are jerks and the nerds are neat. What happened?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, the Christian Encounters series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Look! A Distraction!

Tim Challies:

Distraction is one of the costs of life in a digital world. Paul Graham says it well: “Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out.” We surround ourselves with devices that bring us so many good gifts, but even these good gifts exact a cost—the cost of distraction. The iPad that allows me to read the Bible anytime and anywhere also barges into my devotional life with notifications and alerts. The phone that allows me to stay in touch with my family while they are far away also wakes me at night with its buzzes and flashes. It giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

We are learning. We are learning the costs so that we might also learn the solutions. Here are three of the costs of all of this distraction.

Stealth Calvinist Ninjas

Derek Rishmawy offers some constructive criticism to Roger Olson’s subtly titled “Beware of Stealth Calvinism!”:

What I want to point out in the middle of this is the bald-faced cynicism of the post. Here we don’t simply have a theological correction, dispute, or caution about inadvertent theological drift. No, here we have a warning about Calvinist tactics in general, about their alleged strategic maneuvering to crowd out and stamp out divergent thought by “stealthily” taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

I know I’m a lot younger, but if we’re dealing in anecdotes, I suppose part of the reason I find the whole thing silly is that three out of the four Christian colleges nearby me, including my own seminary, are explicitly non-Reformed, and the fourth is definitely blended. Fuller has, maybe a few Reformed theologians, certainly not of the militant sort. They’re not cranking out Calvinists ready to take over churches there. But maybe that’s just a Southern California thing.

The Folly and Hubris of Richard Dawkins

Eleanor Robertson at The Guardian:

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.

To him, the humanities are expendable window-dressing, and the consciousness and emotions of his fellow human beings are byproducts of natural selection that frequently hobble his pursuit and dissemination of cold, hard facts. His orientation toward the world is the product of a classic category mistake, but because he’s nestled inside it so snugly he perceives complex concepts outside of his understanding as meaningless dribble. If he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, and anyone trying to describe it to him is delusional and possibly dangerous.

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Pop Atheism and the Power of the Gospel

Dan DeWitt:

With the relentless barrage of new atheist bravado over the last decade, believers are liable to grow weary in well-doing. Much of the contemporary anti-God campaign now serves as a mirror image of religious fundamentalism, with iconic leaders such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris standing guard as dogmatic defenders of a secular orthodoxy. Many students have imbibed their sacrilegious sound bites, adopting a brand of pop atheism that makes rational discussion seem virtually impossible.

If Mario were real…

HT: Mike Leake

I Can Do All Things

Nathan Busenitz:

Out of context, Philippians 4:13 is used as a blank-check promise for whatever is desired. But in context, it is a verse is about contentment. It’s not about your dreams coming true or your goals being met. Rather it’s about being joyful, satisfied, and steadfast even when life is hard and your circumstances seem impossible.

“Was Bonhoeffer Gay?” and Other Adventures in Missing the Point

Trevin Wax:

I believe the conversation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality tells us more about life in the sexualized culture of the 21st century than it does about Bonhoeffer. In fact, if we pay attention, we will see how Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy directly challenges several commonly held assumptions today.

The Dangers and Duty of Confessing Sin to One Another

Nick Batzig:

“Open Confession is good for the soul,” or so the maxim goes. Perhaps it might also be said, “Open Confession is  good for your relationship with God and men.” While Scripture supports both of these statements, there is something of a haze that lays across the surface of the meaning of such statements in Scripture as, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Is James speaking of going around and confessing any sin that you can point to in your life to just about anyone you are in fellowship with in the church so that they will pray for you? Or, does he have in mind the practice of “keeping short accounts” with the brethren? Does he mean going to an offended brother or sister and asking forgiveness for a particular sin that was committed against them? Or, as the context might indicate, is James instructing  individuals in the congregation to come to the elders and confess particular sins of a scandalous nature in order to be healed of a sickness with which they had been chastened by God? While we may not come to a completely settled agreement on the precise meaning of James 5:16, there are 2 dangers and 3 applications of our duty that we should be able to agree upon when reflecting on this subject.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Cruciform Press launched its “five days five books” sale, with the following titles being offered for 99¢ each:

Also on sale:

Finall, Christian Focus has a few of their Jungle Doctor books on sale for $2.99 each (note: I noticed some availability issues on Amazon, so they may or may not still be available for purchase):

Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?

Alan Noble kills it:

Behind all of these charges is the suspicion that evangelicals are simply refusing to accept contemporary American mores; they are privileging their faith over the moral spirit of the age. But for many evangelicals, these beliefs are not actually a sign of retreat from public life. Instead, there is a fear that in an increasingly secularized society, there will be less tolerance for people who wish to act upon their deeply held religious beliefs, except in narrowly defined, privatized spaces. This is a fundamentally American concern: Will I have the right to serve God as I believe I am obligated to?

Why Christianity Doesn’t Stand a Chance At Your Local Library and How to Change That

Mike Leake:

“Maybe there really is a God.”

Young Sam has had this nagging sense in his heart for a few weeks now. But he’s always been an intellectual, so he’s not the type of guy that just goes on feelings. So he does what he always has done when he wants to find the answer to something—he goes to his local library.

Third World Osteen

Dustin Germain applies Osteen’s Christless nonsense to the poorest of the poor. The results are about what you’d expect (go see).

Deleting the Devil

JD Payne:

The problem with deleting the devil from our theology is that we also delete what the Bible teaches about the devil.  Certainly, Church history has created numerous satanic caricatures: pitchforks, red dress, cloven hoof, etc.  And though these unbiblical traditions have made him out to look more like a nasty clown, such is no excuse for discarding the biblical teaching on Satan.

Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke

This is a fascinating piece over at Science 2.0:

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

Was Luther a Calvinist?

Douglas Sweeney:

…perhaps it’s worth a minute or two to walk through the ways in which Lutherans came down on the five “points” of Calvinism. We should all understand by now that there’s far more to Calvinism than five simple points, that the five points themselves were sharpened after Calvin’s death, and that some think that Calvin himself did not affirm them all. So Calvinist friends, hold your fire. The goal here is not to oversimplify your faith, but to scan the ways that leading early Lutherans addressed the matters fought about most fiercely at the Reformed Synod of Dordt (1618–1619), and in the subsequent debates between Calvinists and Arminians.

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A spiritual family tree

Jason Helopoulos:

What does your family tree look like? I am not so concerned about your biological family tree. Frankly, that is of very little interest to me. I’m interested in your spiritual family tree. From where did you come spiritually? Who shared the faith with you? And who shared the faith with them? If you are a believer, you are in a long line dating all the way back to Abraham. But even more importantly, what does your spiritual family tree look like going forward? What growth is budding off of your branch? This is Asaph’s concern in Psalm 78. It is a glorious Psalm about passing on the faith to the next generation. It is quite easy to dismiss the call of Asaph–to treat this charge as something light or as someone else’s duty; but it is anything but a light charge and it is our duty.

The ad man’s gospel

Alastair Roberts:

As Don [Draper] says, ‘You are the product. You, feeling something.’

The ad man knows this secret, and so do many contemporary evangelicals. Much of the time Bell isn’t trying to communicate a particular abstract theology to people. Rather, he elicits desirable emotive states from his audience and connects those with a heavily chamfered theology while tying undesirable emotive states to opposing viewpoints. All of this can be done without actually presenting a carefully reasoned and developed argument for one’s own position, or engaging closely with opposing viewpoints.

The advertising style comes with a fragmentation of thought. Even the way that Bell describes his thinking and writing process – trying to find a theme to bind together hundreds of detached impressions – seems to manifest this. The advertiser does not make lengthy and involved arguments and those who are raised on advertising can seldom handle them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This weekend I shared a pretty great list of new Kindle deals; here are a few of them in case you missed them earlier:

Carnal Peace

R.C. Sproul:

In our generation we’ve been told that the highest virtue is peace. We’ve lived in the age of the atomic bomb. We’ve seen widespread warfare. We’re tired of disputes, tired of people fighting and killing each other. It is by God’s grace that churches aren’t burning people at the stake or putting them on torture racks as was done in earlier centuries. We’ve learned to coexist with people with whom we disagree. We value that peace. But I’m afraid the danger is that we value it so much that we’re willing to obscure the gospel itself. We have to be careful of speaking about unity when we really don’t have it. At times I think we believe we have more unity than we actually have.

God’s Not Dead and the angry atheist professor

James Hoskins:

In several ways, my life is similar to Josh Wheaton, the main character and hero of the recent movie God’s Not Dead. I grew up in a conservative evangelical home (the son of a preacher). I considered myself a devout Christian throughout high school and later when I enrolled at a very progressive state university and chose to major in philosophy. I quickly learned that all of my philosophy professors were either atheists or agnostics (to my knowledge), and that several of them are rock stars in their respective fields. One professor,Clancy Martin, is even considered an expert on Nietzsche, whose famous statement “God is dead” is where the film derived its title. So, from just about every angle, one could easily have expected that my college experience would equal or exceed the combative anti-Christian environment of Josh Wheaton’s philosophy class depicted in the film.

But it didn’t. It was the complete opposite.

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Beware of self-appointed pastors

Denny Burk, commenting on a recent NY Times article:

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Former Pastor Experiments With Atheism for a Year

Heather Clark:

Ryan Bell, 42, led Hollywood Adventist Church until March of last year, when has was asked to resign over his increasingly liberal views and his disagreements with Adventist theology. Bell says that he expressed support for female ordination and the inclusion of homosexuals, and took issue with the literal six-day creation outlined in Genesis.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Actively engaged in the abortion battle

Matt Chandler:

When I begin to have conversations with some of my aunts and uncles and how they wish they would have marched with King but they were just indifferent, they just thought it would work itself out. How they wish they could get back into time and fight the noble fight. Instead, they were quiet. … I think [abortion] is going to be one of those issues for us.

Antinomianism, Legalism And The Relationship Between Law And Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian:

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.…

So, it’s not as simple as you might think. For short hand, I think it’s helpful to say that law is anything in the Bible that says “do”, while gospel is anything in the Bible that says “done”; law equals imperative and gospel equals indicative. However, when you begin to parse things out more precisely, you discover some important nuances that should significantly help the conversation forward so that people who are basically saying the same thing aren’t speaking different languages and talking right past one another.