my blog is a conceited affront to grace…

March 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm 15 comments

images3…according to J.I. Packer. And your’s may be too!

I have run across the quotes below from a variety of sources. One of the books I read when I first experienced a “crisis of faith” (not my own words) was J.I. Packer’s “‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God.” This book was one source which hurried me along on my walk from faith, helping crystalize in my mind the things I only vaguely felt before I started reading. So I included a bunch of quotes from there.

Too much of evangelical christianity is based on things which are implied everyone must accept without critical examination. It is easier and more compelling to talk of one’s “need for a saviour” or the importance of “allowing Jesus into your heart,” than it is to explore the foundations of the doctrine of scriptural inerrency.

Anyway, I’m wondering if you find these quotes as painful to the mind as I do… I find many of them alarming as well. I won’t pick them apart, but will just ask, how are we to understand anything apart from reasoning? Evangelical christianity tries to have it both ways, appealing to reason, while denying the role of critical examination of faith at the same time. Either just call it faith, something for people to personally explore and experience, or call it reasonable and promote critical examination. Evangelical christianity says go ahead, use reason all you want, just not to examine if the bible is true.

The quotes:

J.I. Packer (all quotes from “‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God”):

“The only right attitude for us is to confess that our works are vile and our wisdom foolishness, and to receive with thankfulness the flawless righteousness and the perfect Scriptures which God in mercy gives us. Anything else is a conceited affront to divine grace.”

“We may not look to reason to tell us whether Scripture is right in what it says (reason is not in any case competent to pass such a judgment); instead, we must look to Scripture to tell us whether reason is right in what it thinks on the subjects with which Scripture deals.”

“The humble pupil of Scripture will trust his text-book and not doubt its claims for itself.”

“For Christians to consent to study Scripture on the assumption that it is a fallible human book would not argue intellectual honesty so much as uncritical muddle-headedness; and if they are consistent they will decline to do it.”

“Must Bible study conducted on these principles be hidebound and unenterprising? No. It is true that the student will not spend his time in speculative reconstructions of ‘real’ facts and truths supposed to lie behind, but to vary from, the biblical record; for he will see such enquiries as attempts to answer questions that are based on wrong principles and that should never have been asked. Nor will he develop theories about the origins and authorship of biblical books which go against the Bible’s own testimony.”

“We do indeed summon sinners to bow before the authority of the written Word of God; but this is a call, not to stop thinking, but to stop thinking sinfully, and to start bringing one’s thoughts into captivity to Christ.”

“Reasoning could at best suggest only probability; but the nature of faith is to be certain. Any measure of doubt or uncertainty is not a degree of faith, but an assault upon it. Faith, therefore, must rest on something more sure than an inference of probability.”

“…it is entirely natural for sinners to think of themselves as wise, not by reason of divine teaching, but through the independent exercise of their own judgement, and to try to justify their fancied wisdom by adjusting what the Bible teaches to what they have already imbibed from other sources (‘modern knowledge’).”

Norman Geisler (defending biblical inerrency, on understanding biblical “difficulties”):

“Be fully persuaded in your own mind that an adequate explanation exists, even though you have not yet found it.”


Martin Luther:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but–more frequently than not–struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore.”

“Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and…know nothing but the word of God.”

John Piper (from evangelistic booklet, “For Your Joy”):

“If you’ve asked some of these same questions and you’re looking for some answers — baed not on our own thoughts and theories but upon God’s Word — we invite you to join us. For your joy.”

Mark Dever:

“It’s interesting in the early church, the facts about Jesus’ life, the facts aren’t the center of controversy. It’s the claims of who he was and what he was doing. And that’s where you need to give your attention. Who was He?”

Augustine:

“If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, the author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.”

Karl Barth:

“Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it.”

Paul (1 Cor. 1:18):

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

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Entry filed under: bible, faith.

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Rambling Taoist  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    If one accepts the notions that a) The God of Christianity exists, b) We were created in his image and c) Humankind is blessed with the capacity of reason, wouldn’t it easily follow that God gave us the ability to explore rationally his very existence? If this God had not wanted humans to question, then he would have made us purely instinctual like other animals.

    Of course, I don’t accept the first notion, so the other two are immaterial to me. :)

  • 2. atimetorend  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Taoist, you are correct of course, and in fairness, many Christians would agree with your points. Unfortunately, many deny them in some form. Item ‘c’ only holds for them as long as it leads you to believe in God’s existence, which to them is the only possible outcome, barring moral culpability, rebellion against God.

  • 3. Cecil  |  March 27, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    The quotation from St. Paul is telling; he is asserting the Christian truth (foolishness) against the Greek propensity to philosophize, speculate, and reason. At its foundations, Christianity defines itself against the supremacy of human reasoning. In many ways, the Hellenistic context of the early Church was much more purely humanistic than our own is today, so it’s easy to reassert the primacy of faith and scriptural inerrancy (sp?) in today’s world.

    I find it very interesting that Judaic thought never itself succumbed to anti-rationalism. Even medieval Islam wasn’t as anti-rational as it is today in some respects.

    Any perusal of the basic literary forms of the Bible can tell you that they make no claim to scientific validity: historical narratives, allegories, poetry, prophecies, letters. They didn’t have criteria of scientific truth in their day, at least not like ours. They understood them as true, even factual, in our sense of the term – versimilitude – but that’s all they had access to. But contemporary fundamentalists rely on “de-contextualization,” on quoting out of context and ignoring context, to make their arguments. And it leads them in some pretty silly (and dangerous) circles.

  • 4. atimetorend  |  March 30, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Cecil, my first thought on reading you comment was, “Uh oh, out of my league.” I still think that’s true, but I was able to understand it better on my second reading… ;^)

    I very much agree, it does lead them in some silly and dangerous circles. It is difficult, in this day and age and culture to interpret the scriptures in a way that doesn’t make the fundamentalists’ error in assigning factual-ness in a modern scientific way, being that we can’t go back in time and view the scriptures. It seems almost impossible to me. I could see that process coming in time for some people, but I imagine it is something different than either the old way of viewing the scriptures or modern fundamentalism. It is one of those things I think I am open to, but don’t really see happening.

  • 5. Lorena  |  March 30, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Oh my gosh! I could write a blog post out of each of those quotes. But what stands out and enrages me the most is the utter diminishing of the person. The “you are nothing” concept. The “do not trust your own reasoning” because it sucks idea.

  • 6. atimetorend  |  March 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Lorena, you put your finger on the problem. They are accusing you of something with a pretzel logic that is so convoluted it is hard to isolate what is wrong with it. Yes, “do not trust your own reasoning, and trust ours, ’cause we’re right!”

  • 7. Cecil  |  March 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I suppose there is some wisdom in the idea to not put all of your money on human reason (atomic bombs, genetic engineering, etc), but the default setting for these brands of fundamentalism is mere obedience to scripture, or more precisely, to certain interpretations of scripture.

    God gave us a body, yet the flesh is evil; He gave us the ability to reason, yet it is flawed. There’s something wrong with this line of thought . . . .

    My present approach to scripture is to see each set of writings as a recording of traditional stories handed down orally, or as a record of experiences, visions, etc. Whether they are “true,” i.e. factual, scientifically verifiable, is almost beside the point. They are either mythical or experiential. By experiential I mean: we now know that the earth rotates around the sun, as well as on its own axis, creating day and night. Yet, we continue to say “the sun rises and sets.”

  • 8. TitforTat  |  April 1, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Interesting post. When reading the bible I use one scripture to help me with all the rest. Its actually very easy. ;)

    “But test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

  • 9. atimetorend  |  April 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    That’s cool, I like it. For fundamentalists, (and I realize this does not describe you): “But test everything, and hold fast to everything we tell you to believe.”

  • 10. TitforTat  |  April 1, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    For fundamentalists(and I realize this does not describe you):……… My wife may disagree with you though, she says Im “fundamentally nuts”.

  • 11. atimetorend  |  April 1, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Ha! ‘Fundamentally nuts’ is better than a ‘fundamentalist nut.’

  • 12. yunshui  |  April 2, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I hear, in Packer et al‘s protestations, the scornful words of a certain yellow Springfield resident:

    “Bah! Facts? You can prove anything with facts!”

    Let’s face it, when your intellectual peer is Homer Simpson, you’re really on a hiding to nothing.

    The other quote that sprang to mind was the cod-Zen of Bruce Lee:

    “Don’t think. Feeeeel.”

  • 13. atimetorend  |  April 2, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    LOL, that’s awesome! I would have led the post with a picture of Homer and that quote if I knew it beforehand.

  • 14. atimetorend  |  April 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    (Moved quote, I accidently created a duplicate post. Sorry! ATTR)

    Submitted on 2009/04/09 at 1:24pm
    willohroots (http://willohroots.wordpress.com/)
    The world would have been a better place if these guys realized faith is different for everyone. they were so convinced that their experience should be yours and mine that they chased you away and caused me years of wasted time. They all try to put God in a box.

  • 15. Sabio  |  May 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Wow, I am impressed by your openness and honesty. Best wishes on your transition. It is best to surround yourself with friends who understand (or make new ones) — friends and community can buffer a transition.

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