We Can Learn a Great Deal about Suffering from the Puritans

spilled milk

It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about our suffering, but we should stop expecting that we won’t have any and should also not dilute the term with our petty inconveniences. Carl Trueman explains:

First, the Puritans lived in a time before the discovery of antibiotics, analgesics and flush toilets.  Disease and pain and filth were thus part of everyday life.  A good day. a really good day, for a seventeenth century person would have involved something akin to a low-level fever which today would involve time off work.  A bad day would be… Well, best not to dwell on that if you want to sleep at night.   Read Samuel Pepys’s account of his bladder stone operation if you are truly curious.

Second, with catastrophically high infant mortality rates, scarcely a family would have been untouched by something that today would be regarded as exceptional and horrific.  John Owen buried all eleven of his children.  Imagine that.  And in all his voluminous writings, he never mentions these tragedies even once…

But did they have a theology of suffering? Well, few of them dwelt on their suffering in their writings so not really, no.  Not explicitly so anyway.  But implicitly even this silence indicated that yes, they did have a theology of suffering.  It was a theology that denied cosmic significance to the pain and injustice which they personally endured.   They simply did not consider themselves or their experiences to be that important.

Read the whole thing here: Did the Puritans Understand Suffering?.

The nature of idolatry and worship

Image result for celebrity worship

Wow! Here is a piercing explanation of idolatry as a counterfeit to true worship:

At the heart of worship is a sense of ‘giving yourself away’ to another.  Key to worship then are the questions ‘To whom are you giving yourself away and in what manner are you giving yourself?’ Genuine worship is giving yourself to the living God in whom and for whom you ave been created.  Idolatry by contrast is substituting the true object of worship (God) for an imitation (idol) and reorienting the relationship from worship to possession.  One who worships the living God does not possess him for one’s own purposes.  But those who create an idol seek to possess it for their own purpose….

 

An idol is desired as a means to an end, and the end is significance and security on the individual’s own terms.  Since significance and security cannot be fulfilled by the idol, the idol creates a deeper longing for significance and security for that which it cannot provide.  This results in a chasing after the idol, driven by the conviction that eventually the idol will somehow provide the promised significance and security.  The cycle repeats itself.  Longing provides the opportunity to chase, and chasing creates a deeper longing.  Effectively the idol possesses the one who fashioned it.  The yearning for significance and security that initiated the dynamic of idolatry has in fact led to a deeper dissatisfaction and a greater frustration – a dissatisfaction and frustration caused by the inability of the idol to fulfill that which it appeared to promise.

Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry: The Image of God and Its Inversion (IVP, 2015)

From the Secular Viewpoint, Nothing You Do Will Ever Matter

collapsing universeThomas Nagel, NYU Professor:

Even if you produce a great work of literature which continues to be read thousands of years from now, eventually the solar system will cool or the universe will wind down and collapse and all trace of your effort will vanish…The problem is that although there are justifications for most things big and small that we do within life, none of these explanations explain the point of your life as a whole…It wouldn’t matter if you had never existed. And after you have gone out of existence, it won’t matter that you did exist.

Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?, 96.

How to Answer a Fool

Guest Post by Jeff Mindler

Proverbs 26:4-5 reads, “4Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

This, in its simplest form, is the two step procedure of the apologetic task. While engaging in dialogue with someone and defending the faith, it is always helpful to have this verse in mind and to carry out this procedure with the unbeliever. To help us understand what this means and what it looks like, Greg Bahnsen states,

“Here he [Solomon] is instructing you to temporarily stand on the presuppositions of the unbeliever, not as a matter of neutrality and compromise, not as endorsing his worldview procedures. Rather, he does so in order for you to show the unbeliever the vanity of attempting to explain the world and life from his own perspective. You must let him know that you are taking his position only momentarily, just “for the sake of argument.”

This is a critical element to remember at this point, we are not surrendering our ultimate authority of Scripture in this step, but merely answering the unbeliever according to their own worldview temporarily. We do not assume neutrality at this point but we do want to show the unbeliever where his own worldview leads according to its own tenets. Bahnsen continues,

“In this step you will be showing the unbeliever that on his own autonomous presuppositions he cannot justify reality, knowledge, logic, morality, value, meaning, purpose – or anything. You want to show him the outcome of his worldview when his principles are fully followed out. Thus, Solomon allows that you may, “answer a fool according to his folly” – so that the fool will see the error of his being “wise in his own eyes” (Prov 26:5b). If you adopt the unbelievers procedures as your actual apologetic, he will suppose himself to have the correct position. Whereas, if you only theoretically adopt his presuppositions in order to demonstrate his error, then you are being faithful to the biblical model of apologetics.” [1]

Thus, this is our apologetic task and our procedure in answering objections to the christian faith and we do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). If we keep this two step procedure in mind while engaging with unbelievers, we will be well on our way in giving a defense for the hope that is within us and by so doing, God will be glorified, and this after all, is our goal in faithful apologetics. Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Bahnsen, Greg. Pushing the Antithesis. 163