From June 2020 my blog posts can be read at:
From June 2020 my blog posts can be read at:
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras divided men into three classes:
- Seekers after knowledge;
- Seekers after honor;
- Seekers after gain.
I wonder why he failed to notice two other classes: those who are not seeking anything and those who are seeking after God.
Let us add them to the list:
- Seekers after nothing. These are the human vegetables who live by their glands and their instincts. I refer to the millions of normal persons who have allowed their magnificent intellectual equipment to wither away from lack of exercise. Their reading matter is the sports page and the comic section; their music is whatever is popular and handy—and loud!
- Seekers after God. I am thinking of men and women who are God-hungry souls though their numbers may not be large. By nature they are no better than the rest of mankind, and by practice they have sometimes been worse. The one sign of who they are is their insatiable thirst after the Source of their being. Thank the Lord for seekers after God and their destiny lies in the hand of the One who gave His only begotten Son to die for the life of the world.
I would put the first four classes of people under the banner of “self-seekers.” The outward manifestation of what they are seeking betrays the inward emptiness of their being. Human beings want to know who they are and why they are here. Most try to define who they are by the things they desire and those things are what they seek after. But should their self-seeking world ever stop, they then realize that they are not their iPhone or their Mercedes or their Boss. And they are left with the question “Who am I?”
Millions try to answer that question on social media through a fictitious version of themselves. When people like you and want to be your friend on Facebook, etc., the feeling is “This is who I want to be because I am liked and I have friends.” Again, if their self-seeking world stops, they realize the person they put on social media is the person they want to be and not the person they are. Most that I have talked to or counseled with believe if they put their real selves on social media nobody would like them or would want to be their friend. They are self-seeking, but they are seeking the wrong thing for their self. They are seeking an identity that others will like and not seeking an identity they like and are at peace with, even if nobody else likes them
That brings us to Tozer’s fifth class of seeker: seekers after God. Around 400 AD, Augustine of Hippo wrote: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Augustine had tried to find his identity in his century’s version of social media. He went through a succession of desperate searches for fulfillment: excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophy, dissipation and distractions—futilities that left him so weary of himself he could only cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” For him, and for all who want to find their self-identity in God, the wait was not long. He found his identity in God and he found rest for his soul. People today are laboring to find out who they are. Two thousand years ago Jesus said: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” With that rest comes contentment.
Any self-identity that does not bring contentment, peace and rest to your soul is inherently false if Augustine can be believed. And he can be believed because he only paraphrased what Jesus had said.
The connection between who we are and why we are here is addressed in the final chapter of my book The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be, which is titled “Life: The Meaning of the Story.”
Back when I had my 65th birthday I realized that the majority of the people in the world would consider me an old man. I am in the minority (i.e., in denial), so I got to thinking about what kind of old man I wanted to be when I got to be one. I did not want to just morph into an old man, so I decided to be proactive and choose the kind of old man I wanted to be and then to take steps to be that kind of person. This book presents a paradigm for contentment in old age regardless of one’s circumstances. Its basic premise is that the kind of old person you are will determine your contentment level. After surveying books available on aging, all of which have to do with doing and coping rather than being, I deal with character traits that I want to have as an old man. Then I present how I want to live out those traits by being fun to live with, being loquacious, and one who can carpe diem. This book deals with writing the rest of one’s life story, the end of one’s life story (facing death and beyond), and putting meaning to one’s life story. These are things that older people think about a lot. The findings of my research in the areas of literature, philosophy, psychology and religion pertaining to dealing with death and the meaning of life are presented in the last two chapters.
The book contains humorous quotes, antidotes and illustrations throughout the text pertaining to the topic addressed. Examples of doing what I say I do not want to do are given tongue-in-cheek for illustrative purposes.
“Easy mix of humor and an erudition lightly worn. St Augustine meets Josh Billings.”
Chris Murray (Editor)
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Antioch Publications (September 2016)
They do have things in common, you know, like being put out to pasture. How many of you remember the advertising slogan “Carnation Condensed Milk, the milk from contented cows”?
Elbridge Amos Stuart was born in North Carolina (like I was) in 1856 (like I wasn’t). He was an American milk industrialist and creator of Carnation evaporated milk which was a staple in American homes until the 1960s. In 1907, he introduced the promotional phrase “Carnation Condensed Milk, the milk from contented cows”. This slogan referred to the higher quality milk from happy cows grazing in the lush Pacific Northwest. Carnation cows held the world milk production record for 32 consecutive years. That is some accomplishment for those who have been put out to pasture.
Old people and cows have more in common than being put out to pasture. Their lives consist of the basics of eating and sleeping. Cows are content with that if the grass is good. As cows go about their pastoral life they unthinkingly produce milk. The quality of the pasture makes a difference in the quality of what they produce. For old people, the quality of the person they are makes a difference in their contentment level when in the pasture. Unfortunately, most older people are not thinking about the kind of person they are. They are thinking about the pasture they have found themselves in and most are not content.
I believe that by middle-age people should be paying attention to the kind of person they are because that is the kind of old person they will be if they do not change. The character traits of being aggressive, looking out for yourself first, getting ahead of the pack, etc. that society demands of up-and-coming adults will only get you ostracized to the back of the pack when you are out to pasture. That is not a receipt for contentment in old age. What is needed is a paradigm for contentment for old people.
Here are some excerpts from Chapter 1 of my book The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be: A paradigm for 65 and beyond that will be released September 1, 2016:
What would make a person content in their old age? The answer is obvious. People who have family close by, financial security, and good health are the most content. Remember that we Baby Boomers broke all the rules and we are paying the price as we enter old age. The divorce rate for this generation is the highest in US history. Families are shattered and scattered. Consumer credit has overextended us to where the markets cannot support us and the value of retirement funds has taken a severe hit in recent years. Good health can go in a second, and we are less likely to have it the older we get. The obvious basis for contentment in old age is not the reality for most of us old people.
Back when I had my 65th birthday I realized that the majority of the people in the world would consider me an old man. I am in the minority (i.e., in denial), so I got to thinking about what kind of old man I wanted to be when I got to be one. I did not want it to just happen. I did not want to just morph into an old man, so I decided to be proactive and choose the kind of old man I wanted to be and then to take steps to be that kind of person. I don’t want to be old, but it is the only way I know to have a long life.
As I am writing this, my wife and I are about halfway between 65 and 70 years old. We still have good health and are able to go and do; however, we are finding it takes us longer to get over going and doing. I write about the kind of old man I want to be with my wife in mind. She will have to put up with whatever kind of old man I am and she deserves the best, so, I will try to be the best old man I can.
I also write with my mother in mind. She died in her early 80’s after a few years in a nursing home. Her experience there gave me the opportunity to observe older people at their most vulnerable. There were some who were a joy to be around and some that the attendants were not paid enough to be around. What was the difference?
This was about 20 years ago and I started thinking then that a place like this could very well be my future. Some, like my mother, were not able to walk; some were not able to talk. Could I handle this if it was me? When I turned 65 I realized that the possibilities have become probabilities and I better get busy preparing myself for being an old man. What kind of old man do I want to be?
Now, I don’t claim to know how the milk got in the coconut, but I am reasonably intelligent and I should be able to figure this old man thing out. I don’t want to be like many old men who, like I said before, look for things to do to kill time while time is killing them. I have learned to look thoughtful even when I am not thinking, but I have also done a lot of actual thinking about the kind of old man I want to be.
There are some things that I cannot do anything about and there are some things that I can. So, I will concentrate on the things I can be proactive about. One is my character or personality. I do not want to be a grumbling, complaining old man. I want to be an old man who is positive and not negative. I want to have the temperament that makes for happiness and contentment for me and those around me.
When we look at the natural world, do we see order or chaos? There is order everywhere in the universe except where man has taken control. Even what we call “natural disasters” are caused by the order in the universe. They are a process of cause and effect. In other words, man can explain why they occurred based on various physiological factors that already existed. What man cannot explain is why anything exists at all. Scientists deal with possibilities and probabilities and are confounded by reality.
We live in an ordered universe. As one scientist put it: “A system requiring such a high degree of order could never happen by chance since random processes generate disorder rather than order, simplicity rather than complexity and confusion instead of “information.”’
Another scientist posted on the internet:
“In living cells, most catalysts are protein enzymes, composed of amino acids, but in the 1980s another kind of catalyst was discovered. These are RNA molecules composed of nucleotides that are now called ribozymes. Because a ribozyme can act both as a catalyst and as a carrier of genetic information in its nucleotide sequence, it has been proposed that life passed through an RNA World phase that did not require DNA and proteins.
For the purposes of today’s column I will go through the probability calculation that a specific ribozyme might assemble by chance. Assume that the ribozyme is 300 nucleotides long, and that at each position there could be any of four nucleotides present. The chances of that ribozyme assembling are then 4^300, a number so large that it could not possibly happen by chance even once in 13 billion years, the age of the universe.
But life DID begin! Could we be missing something?”
The answer is, of course, yes, they are missing something. They are missing another possibility, one that the reality of the universe demonstrates to be a real probability—an intelligent divine Designer. I am talking about a God that is wise enough and powerful enough to design and created our universe. It can be denied but it cannot be disproved.
Anything that has a zero probability of happening must have a zero possibility of happening. I.L. Cohen, in his Darwin Was Wrong: A Study in Probabilities states: “Mathematicians agree that any requisite number beyond 1050 has, statistically, a zero probability of occurrence.”
Even the simplest replicating protein molecule that could be imagined has been shown by physicist Marcel Golay to have a probability of one in 10450. Frank Salisbury, a plant physiologist, calculates the probability of a typical DNA chain to be one in 10600. Again, probability zero; possibility zero.
This is what Freeman Dyson, a theoretical physicist at Princeton University posits about evolution:
“You had what I call the garbage bag model. The early cells were just little bags of some kind of cell membrane, which might have been oily or it might have been a metal oxide. And inside you had a more or less random collection of organic molecules, with the characteristic that small molecules could diffuse in through the membrane, but big molecules could not diffuse out. By converting small molecules into big molecules, you could concentrate the organic contents on the inside, so the cells would become more concentrated and the chemistry would gradually become more efficient. So these things could evolve without any kind of replication. It’s a simple statistical inheritance. When a cell became so big that it got cut in half, or shaken in half, by some rainstorm or environmental disturbance, it would then produce two cells which would be its daughters, which would inherit, more or less, but only statistically, the chemical machinery inside. Evolution could work under those conditions.”
Yes, that is a theory worthy of the garbage bag!
“Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory … we would still be justified in preferring it over rival theories [creationism].”
—Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker
The basis for a conclusion of this nature is obviously not observed facts, but a predetermined theological conviction that a divine Designer does not exist. There is a risk involved in making this presupposition. As I write in Chapter 7 of my The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be (which should be released by September) about the existence God:
Maybe you are not convinced. Are you a betting man? Are you willing to bet the rest of your life in this world and your eternity in the afterlife that I am wrong? According to Pascal’s Wager, that would not be a rational bet. Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist who charted new territory in probability theory and the formal use of decision theory. Pascal argued that belief in God is pragmatically justified in the long run because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain from holding that belief. If there is no God, there is no eternal judgment to fear. When life is over it is over, no matter how good or bad it was. But if there is a God…? Pascal was speaking of the God of the Bible, the God of Christianity. Here is the way his argument shaped up:
- If you believe in and live for God, and it is true that God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven—an infinite gain.
- If you do not believe in and live for God, and it is true that God does exist, you will be condemned to eternity in hell—an infinite loss.
- If you believe in and live for God, and it turns out that God does not exist, in the end you will have lost nothing because when you are gone you are gone—a finite loss.
- If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you can live like you want to but in the end you lose everything because when you are gone you are gone— a finite loss.
Put simply, Pascal argued that the expected value of believing in God is vastly greater than that of not believing, since if you believe in God and commit yourself to a life of faith and obedience to God and it turns out to be true, then you win an enormous good (eternity in heaven). But if you believe and it turns out to be false, then you have lost nothing except a few years of living for yourself that disappears when you die. Therefore, the rational thing to do is believe in God.
If you look at our universe with an open mind, the reality of it speaks to the possibility and the probability that it had an intelligent Designer.
Every July there is a two-week international guitar festival here in Córdoba. I think that is because Córdoba claims some credit for the first classical guitar being made here in the sixteenth century. And every year they seem to make a point of inviting some aged rock and roll star to put on a concert. This year it was Bob Dylan. Ol’ Bob was born in May 1941, so that means he was 74 years old when he came here. He still dressed like he did when he became popular in the 1960s. He still wore his hair like he did then. He still sang the same songs he did then. So, what is a-changin’ for ol’ Bob?
Dylan and his fellow pop singers in the 60s were catalysts for change in Western society. Their lyrics were rebellious and disparaging of the status quo of that era. They cried out for change and they eventually got what they asked for. I think these lyrics from Dylan’s song with the above title will show what I mean:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your wall
For the times they are a-changin’
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
Even though ol’ Bob hasn’t changed much from the 60s, for sure we are living in changing times. Before you can adjust to one change it changes. The most rapid change is coming in the area of morality. The 60s generation wanted a new one and the twenty-first century has chucked morality all together. Issues of right and wrong have become issues of rights—one’s right to do what they want morally. According to God the right to do wrong brings judgment and woe. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my Living Right in a World of Woe which has just been released by Antioch Press:
From the beginning of the world God has given instructions in the form of commandments and laws informing His people how they are to live in this world. These commandments and laws are the basis of God’s relationship with people. He is God; we are His creation. He commands; we obey. Our obedience to His laws brings blessings. Our disobedience to His laws brings curses and woe. God does not change and God’s laws do not change. What God says is right will never be wrong. What God says is wrong will never be right.
We are now living in a time when some civil laws of the land are in opposition to the laws of God. What is evil in God’s sight is now called good. Obedience to those laws that oppose God’s laws will bring woe to individuals and nations. What is a Christian to do when ungodliness is the law of the land? The answer is simple: we are to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). At this time when legal and societal pressure will be on Christians to conform to the laws of the world, it will be good to take a fresh look at how God requires his people to live right in this world and its coming woe. We must see right, be right and do right in order to live right in a world of woe.
God pronounced woe to the enemies of Israel. God pronounced woe to Israel. The psalmist pronounced woe to himself. The prophets pronounced woe to themselves. Jesus pronounced woe to cities. Jesus pronounced woe to the teachers of the law and Pharisees. Jesus pronounced woe to the rich. In Matthew 18:7 Jesus pronounced woe to the world. What is woe? Where does woe come from? Why does woe come? Why is this world a world of woe?
Woe has several different meanings as used in the Bible. None of them are good. Woe can mean an exclamation that brings a curse of condemnation or judgment. It can mean deep sorrow, grief or affliction. It can mean ruinous trouble and calamity. An exclamation of woe can apply to the one expressing it as in the case of the psalmist and the prophets. It can apply to individual people, cities and nations when pronounced by God.
With the psalmists and the prophets, woe comes from what they observed going on around them. The wicked prosper. God’s people suffer. But the greatest woe came to the prophets because they observed God’s people sinning and enjoying it. Woe comes to the sinners as a natural outcome of their sin.
Romans 1 gives us a list of things that go wrong when people do not acknowledge God: their thinking becomes futile and their hearts are darkened; thinking they are wise, they become fools; and, God gives them over to the sinful desires of their hearts, to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Sin brings woe to the sinners. This woe is the one that means a curse or condemnation. This woe comes from God.
Isaiah 5:20–24 gives us a concise explanation of why woe comes and why the world today is a world of woe. The prophet spoke words that apply to all ages when he said:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.
24 Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.
After describing the world we live in, the prophet succinctly put the reason woe comes in these words, “they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
Woe is inevitable when ungodliness is the law of the land. This book will help Christians live in an ungodly world that brings woe upon itself and woe upon Christians for not conforming to it. Helpful guidance is given for understanding this present world and how to overcome it by living like Jesus Christ.
Why a World of Woe?
See Right to Live Right
God’s will is Right
The World Started Right but Went Wrong
The World That is Wrong
Be Right to Live Right
Doing Right is Living Right
Living Right in a World of Woe
Living right requires seeing the world in the right way from a biblical worldview. Living right in this world of woe requires knowing God’s will as He guides us through these perilous times. The history of the world is traced from the biblical origin of the world’s culture to how philosophy and science has lead the West away from God. A description of today’s Western culture that brings on the woe is presented. Finally, the Sermon on the Mount is used as a guide for being right and doing right in the home and in society as we live right in a world of woe.
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Antioch Publications (October 2015)
“The truth hurts” is an old saying that describes telling someone the truth when the truth is perceived as negative and makes the recipient feel bad. The meaning behind the saying is the truth may hurt, but it does not harm, and it should spur the recipient on to be better or do better so that the truth will no longer hurt. The saying was popular when people wanted to hear the truth. Not so today! Why? Because people do not want to feel bad. Why? Because life is feelings brought on by experiences. People, especially young people, do not want to experience anything that makes them feel bad. They are willing to sacrifice truth and knowledge in order to avoid feeling bad.
An article in the September 2015 issue of The Atlantic magazine titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” shows the extent that young people today want to avoid feeling bad. The article begins: “Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” The movement is fueled by the “emotional well-being” of the individual. Of course, like so much in the world where bad is called good, the movement to avoid negative feelings in the name of emotional well-being will have the opposite effect. A person who cannot deal responsibly with negative feelings will never have emotional well-being.
The article gives the example of a law professor at Harvard who was asked by law students to not to teach rape law or to use the word “violate” (as in “that violates the law”) fearing that it would cause some students distress. Who knows? Maybe some student might think that they had been violated in some way in the past. That is absurd enough and the article gives some examples that are more absurd.
Mental reasoning has been replaced by emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning assumes that your negative feelings necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true!” Lord help us! when feelings are the sole basis for interpreting reality. Is this generation being coddled or what? And to think that these young people will someday be adult babies and will run the institutions of our society. It will indeed be a world of woe.
Here is an excerpt from my book Living Right in a World of Woe which will be released soon:
We have moved from the belief that everyone has an equal right to their own opinions, to the belief that everyone’s opinion is equally right. Everyone determines what is right for them. Everyone is their own god. Everyone is a fool (Ps. 14:1). Evil has become good.
Fifteen years ago we talked in terms of “floating anchors.” The things that held society together and that anchored one’s life to his history and identity were no longer secured to anything. Today the anchor rope has been cut at the boat. There are no anchors wanted. Society is adrift with no destination in mind.
The folly of this twenty-first century culture is that there is no foundation to one’s life. There is only an emotional freefall. There is no family, no love, not even a faithful friend to land on before you reach the total despair of suicide. When the music stops there is silence—nothingness, hopelessness, despair, death. With no music the body has no life because the human spirit has already been killed. It died when God died.
In thirty years the youth of today will be middle-aged. They will have no choice but to continue on with the culture they created and with what they have been doing. They have no traditional family, traditional religion, or traditional culture to return to. The modern church has let them down. Instead of converting youth to be like Jesus Christ, the church is converting Christianity to be like the youth.
I have tried to describe the world we live in here in the twenty-first century, the world that Christians are in but not of; the world and things in it that we are not to love. It is impossible to predict what the world will be like at the end of the twenty-first century, if the Lord tarries. Current culture has no trajectory. What has been described will not apply to, or be the culture of, the small minority who still hold to the Judeo-Christian worldview and who live in obedience to the truths of the Bible. Christians must be prepared to live like a remnant in a culture that has repudiated the foundations of our faith. Living right in a world gone wrong will not be easy.
Before you read this blog post please drop down and read the excerpt on Logic from my Making Disciples in Africa book. The section quoted deals with logic and worldview.
It is only logical to say that if a person’s worldview changes, their view of logic would have to change. That is because worldviews have to be logical to be livable. To change a worldview would require a change of the logic behind it. The West has undergone a major worldview change and its view of logic has been cast out altogether. In moving from a biblical to a secular worldview, logic has to be ignored because it only proves the secular worldview to be illogical and false. Remember that logic can only detect error, or what is not true; it cannot tell you what is true.
So, where is the secular worldview illogical? It begins in its materialistic view of the origin of the universe. Its denial of miracles leaves no explanation for the origin of the material of the universe or for life in the universe. Something coming from nothing is unscientific and illogical. Dead matter coming to life is unscientific and illogical. These two beliefs are the first principals of the secular worldview. Neither can be proven scientifically and both violate at least two of the laws of logic. The logic in believing the secular worldview is that it has to be true because, without a belief in God and miracles, there is no other explanation. That means people with the secular worldview have to be happy living without knowing how and why the world exists and why they exist. Does that sound logical to you?
Aristotle wrote a series of essays titled, ‘Logic’ or ‘Organon’ in which he put forth principles of human reason, both valid and invalid. His goal was to establish the steps to be used in logically constructing a body of knowledge. Aristotle showed how every science begins with certain obvious truths that he referred to as first principles, explaining how these first principles form the foundations upon which all knowledge rests. First principles are the fundamental truths from which inferences are made and on which conclusions are based. They are self-evident, and they can be thought of as both the underlying and the governing principles of a worldview.
If Aristotle was right, then one’s worldview is only as valid as the first assumptions on which it is based and the logical inferences drawn from them. Correct reasoning should enable us to determine if one’s worldview is credible, and correct reasoning is established by the principles of logic. We all use logic in the form of human reason to think about the reality of our existence. The use of reason and the reality of our existence are fundamental assumptions that all people share. They are unavoidable; in order to deny them one would have to use reason to think of a basis for the denial, and one would have to exist to engage in the reasoning process. Once we begin using reason to think about our existence we have begun to philosophically construct a worldview using the principles of logic.
The first principle of logic is the principle of contradiction, also called the principle of non-contradiction, and is the principle that a statement and its negation, or opposite, cannot both be true. This principle is also called the law of noncontradiction (LNC) and asks, can opposite truth claims both be true? Can the Christian claim that evil is real and the Hindu claim that evil is an illusion both be right? According to the LNC if one claim is true, the other claim must be false. The LNC is a self-evident truth and its usage is unavoidable even in its denial. To say that there is no such thing as absolute truth is to affirm a statement as being true that denies what it affirms. By invalidating the statement the LNC is automatically validated.
Two more first principles of logic are important in analyzing the truth claims of a worldview. To communicate properly, we must share a mutual understanding of the meaning of the words communicated. Words are used as symbols to represent certain aspects of reality called referents. This gives rise to another law of logic called the law of identity (LID). This law states that something is what we say it is, the symbol and the referent are one and the same (A is, in fact, A). The third law of logic is called the law of the excluded middle (LEM). It states that something is either A or non-A, but it cannot be both at the same time and in the same context. These principles are absolute and form the basis of all valid thinking. Words vary from language to language, but if they refer to the same reality their meaning is universal.
These three first principles or laws of logic (LNC, LID, LEM) are necessary in analyzing truth claims, but logic’s function is to correct erroneous thinking and is therefore a negative test for truth. Logic by itself will not help us find truth but will only help us detect error because the true must be logical, but the logical does not necessarily have to be true. Two unicorns plus two unicorns equals four unicorns is a logical statement, but it does not mean that unicorns, of a truth, really exist. How can we discover truth in worldviews if logic, by itself, only detects errors?
The first presupposition that is required of anyone searching for truth is that truth can be found. To say that truth does not exist is to assume that view to be true which violates the LNC and is self-defeating. Truth is a symbol, or statement that matches or corresponds to its object or referent, whether it is an abstract idea or something concrete. To say that true statements can be made about reality is rationally justifiable.
Twentieth century philosophy and present-day academia have all but rendered secular history meaningless. U.S. and world history is being rewritten to say what the authors want to say about people and events of the past. Like the news media, the secular writers of history propagate opinion rather than fact. Not only does it save a lot of research time, it also puts modern views in historical situations. Then people can point back in time and say, “It has always been this way.”
We can see this played out in the way historians have rewritten the founding fathers of America to portray them as atheists or agnostics rather that the godly men history books from the 1700s to the late 1900s portrayed them. The world now has a new genre of historical literature called “faction” which is a mixture of fact and fiction. The author does not distinguish one from the other so it is left up to the reader to determine what is fact and what is fiction. The only way to do that accurately is to know the facts of history before you read a history book.
Studying history, true history, does have its benefits. Just as knowing our parents and grandparents helps us know where we came from and gives us a sense of identity, knowing the history of Christianity will help us put present-day Christianity in its proper perspective. This is an excerpt from the Introduction to the History volume of my School of Christianity:
In our study of twenty-first century Christianity, the Christian church, and the Christian worldview, it is wise to begin at the beginning, with a study of the history of Christianity (throughout this volume Christian history and church history are used interchangeably). Swiss church historian, Philip Schaff, gives several reasons why the study of Christian history is useful. In history can be found the backbone of theology that keeps it straight, and the storehouse from which the supply of theology is drawn. It reveals the gradual unfolding of God’s plan of redemption in history, tracing the moral and religious development of humanity. A study of its history is the key to understanding the present condition of Christendom. “The present is the fruit of the past, and the germ [seed] of the future.” Finally, Schaff gives the practical value of Christian history for all Christians. From it can be received warnings, encouragement, consolation, and counsel. Christian history gives a coherent philosophy to the facts of history. It is “Christianity in living examples.”
At the time of this writing, fairly early in the twenty-first century, the discipline of history itself is under the attack of ever-changing philosophers and higher critics of ancient literature. Beginning with the philosopher, Hegel (1770–1831), the interpretation of history and the actual way it is recorded has become a matter of philosophical interpretation, rather than a recording of facts from the past. Philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) argued that we can only interpret the past through the concepts and concerns of the present. In other words, the present helps us interpret the past. This idea evolved into the postmodern doctrine of the discontinuity, or fragmentation, of historical events, in which there is no pattern of relationship, or all-embracing theory, that can explain history. If this were true, it would render the Bible to be useless as a historical record, and the study of Christian history to be a study of the ideas of the historian rather than the actual events taking place in the history of the church.
The Christian view of history is the opposite of the secular philosophical view. The attack on the truthfulness of written history is an attack on the Bible as God’s written history. In the words of Francis Schaeffer, “God is a verbalizer and He made us to be verbalizers so that He could communicate with us.” If that communication was not “good” and did not transmit the thoughts of the Source to the thoughts of the respondent it would be a failure. God is not a failure or He would not be God. God has not failed to communicate truth to His prophets and apostles whom He used to write the Bible. The Christian understanding of life comes from historical events, the acts of God in history. Christian revelation is made up of these events, plus their biblical interpretation.
History is His story. It is the story of God’s direct dealing with humanity through the Israelites, through Jesus Christ, and through His church, all culminating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God in this world. The rising and falling of civilizations, nations, governments, and rulers are significant only as they fit into that story. The Christian view is that (1) God controls history; (2) God personally acts in history; (3) God has a purpose and goal for all the events of history; and (4) God will bring history to its end, when, in the words of Philip Schaff, “the stream of time comes to rest in the ocean of eternity.” This view applies to all of history, even though this volume concentrates on church history. Church history is the living out in world history of the Lord’s twin parables of the mustard-seed and the yeast (Matt. 13: 31–33). It records how Christianity began from the small seed of a few believers in Jerusalem, and grew until its branches were spread all over the world. It also records how being a Christian works all through the individual believer, to change everything within, and thereby, affecting things without.
For the Christian, there is much to be gained by studying Church history. It gives an understanding of the context in which we live out our Christianity in the present. The “why?” questions of today, gets answered by studying the past. Why is there a Roman Catholic Church and a Protestant Church? Why are there so many denominations in the Protestant Church? With the present being the harvest of the past and the seed of the future, church history can be a guide to the future.
In 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 we are told to take warning from the past so that we can avoid the same errors in the future. It is so often the case that new heresies in the church are really old heresies in a new form. Studying church history can be a source of hope, encouragement, and motivation for the Christian. In Romans 15:4 we read, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The Scriptures tell us the early church was persecuted, subsequent history tells us the true church is still persecuted in many parts of the world, but Christians should not be fearful for the future of the church, because history shows us the indestructible character of the church.