Knowledge, Love, and Wisdom (Huss)

  John Huss (b. 1369) was one of the forerunners of the Reformation.  Well before Luther’s day Huss called out many of the abuses and errors in the church: hypocrisy, corruption, the sale of indulgences, and so forth.  Huss was a very powerful preacher and a bright student of the Word, but he wasn’t the leading scholar of his day.  I appreciate his view on knowledge and the Christian faith:

First of all must we learn that which is most necessary to salvation, that which stimulates us to love; for we should learn not for vainglory or curiosity, but to the edification of ourselves and our neighbor, and to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are some who wish to know in order that they may be known of men, and that is degrading vanity; there are others who wish to know for the sake of knowing, and that is curiosity; and there are still others who wish to know in order to sell their knowledge for wealth and honor, and that is ignoble desire for gain. But there are likewise some who desire to know in order to edify, and that is love; and still others who desire to know in order to be edified themselves, and that is wisdom.”

 Kuhns, O. (1907). John Huss: The Witness (pp. 41–42). Cincinnati; New York: Jennings and Graham; Eaton and Mains.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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The Great Antidote to Spiritual Depression (Lloyd-Jones)

Here’s Lloyd Jones.  Listen up!

“…The great antidote to spiritual depression is the knowledge of Bible doctrine, Christian doctrine.  Not having the feelings worked up in meetings, but knowing the principles of the faith, knowing and understanding the doctrines.  That is the Biblical way, that is Christ’s own way as it is also the way of the apostles.  The antidote to spiritual depression is to have a knowledge of Him, and you get that in His Word.  You must take the trouble to learn it.  It is difficult work, but you have to study it and give yourself to it.”

“The Christian faith begins and ends with a knowledge of the Lord.  It begins with a knowledge of the Lord – not a feeling, not an act of will, but a knowledge of this Blessed Person.”

D. M. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, chapter 11.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

The Loss of the Christian Mind in America (Moreland)

As I was re-reading parts of Love God With All Your Mind, I came across this great section I had marked up – a section of the book where Moreland talks about the loss of the Christian mind in American Christianity.  I’ve posted it here before, but it is for sure worth noting again.  Especially fascinating are Moreland’s comments on how the rise of two major cults in the U.S. had a lot to do with the lack of doctrinal knowledge about the Christian faith:

“During the middle 1800s, three awakenings broke out in the United States: the Second Great Awakening (1800-1820), the revivals of Charles Finney (1824-1837), and the Layman’s Prayer Revival (1856-1858).  Much good came from these movements, but their overall effect was to emphasize immediate personal conversion to Christ instead of a studied period of reflection and conviction; emotional, simple, popular preaching instead of intellectually careful and doctrinally precise sermons; and personal feelings and relationships to Christ instead of a deep grasp of the nature of Christian teaching and ideas.  Sadly, as historian George Marsden notes, ‘anti-intellectualism was a feature of American revivalism.’”

“Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the emphasis of those movements on personal conversion.  What was a problem, however, was the intellectually shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity that became part of the populist Christian religion that emerged.  One tragic result of this was what happened in the so-called Burned Over District in the state of New York.  Thousands of people were ‘converted’ to Christ by revivalist preaching, but they had no real intellectual grasp of Christian teaching.  As a result, two of the three major American cuts began in the Burned Over District among the unstable, untaught ‘converts’: Mormonism (1830) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (1884).”

J. P. Moreland, Love God With All Your Mind, p. 23.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

A Christian View of Knowledge (K. Samples)

One of my favorite books on apologetics and worldview is A World of Difference by Kenneth Samples.  I’ve mentioned it here on the blog from time to time; while I was recently flipping through it again, I re-read a helpful discussion of the Christian, biblical view of knowledge (Christian epistemology).  I’ll summarize it here:

1) Extreme skepticism is self-defeating.  Like the universal denial of truth, extreme skepticism with regard to knowledge is self-defeating and therefore false.  The skeptic’s reasoning (‘one cannot know’) backfires for surely he at least claims to know that he doesn’t know – an assertion which is self-referentially incoherent or absurd.

2) Knowledge is possible with God as its source and foundation.  The Bible indicates that human beings can attain genuine knowledge of God, the self, and the world (Ps. 19:1-4, Acts 17:27-28, Rom. 1:18-21).  The Creator sustains the universe and the mind and sensory organs of man in such a way that they correspond with each other and him.  Because man is created in God’s image, human beings can trust in the reliability of the basic process of knowing.

3) Knowledge is directly connected to God’s revelatory acts.  God’s general and special revelation make knowledge available.  In other words, people can come to ‘know’ through exercising their God-given rational capacities, through empirical observation.

4) Knowledge is properly justified true belief.  1) Knowledge involves belief.  It is a necessary part of knowing, for no one can know something unless he believes it. 2) A person can only know things that are true.  An individual can think she knows something to be true but, in fact, be wrong.  3) A person can believe something to be true, that is in fact true, but it wouldn’t constitute knowledge if it lacks proper justification.  Knowledge involves some form of confirmation or evidence.

5) Human knowledge is limited and affected by sin.  1) Human beings, though quite well-endowed intellectually by way of bearing God’s image, are nevertheless finite creatures by nature.  As a result, unlike God, they have limitations with regard to knowledge and rational comprehension in the essence of their being.  2) Human reason has been negatively affected by sin.  To some degree sin impairs human intelligence and rationality.  (However, sin does not effect the laws of logic or of correct reasoning.)

6) The Christian faith involves knowledge and is compatible with reason.  1) The Christian faith affirms that there is an objective source and foundation for knowledge, reason, and rationality; that basis is found in a personal and rational God.  2) Christian truth-claims – though they often transcend finite human comprehension – do not violate the basic laws or principles of reason.  3) The Bible encourages the attainment of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.  4) The truths of the Christian faith correspond to and are supported by things such as evidence, facts, and reason.  Biblical faith can be defined as confident trust in a reliable source (God or Christ).  Reason and faith function in a complementary fashion.

For the full discussion, including some more Scripture references, see pages 78-83 of A World of Difference.

shane lems
hammond, wi

The Dilemma of Unbelief

Product Details This is a helpful book on the topic of presuppositional apologetics: Every Thought Captive by Richard Pratt.  I appreciate the following paragraphs that highlight the dilemma of unbelief.

“On the one hand, if the unbeliever claims to have absolute certainty, he can do so only by ignoring his total uncertainty.  As illustrated before, certainty is impossible for the non-Christian since he has rejected the only source of true knowledge and is left to finite speculation.  For the unbeliever to hold any view tenaciously, he must do so in total disregard of his limited awareness and his rebellion against God.”

“On the other hand, if the unbeliever claims total uncertainty, questioning man’s ability to know, he does so only by ignoring that his view is in reality a statement of absolute certainty.  Often this position is presented by the unbeliever as an attempt to avoid arrogance and dogmatism.  He may say that we cannot be sure of what we think we know or that we may arrive only at ‘probable knowledge.’  Such a stance may seem less presumptuous on the surface, but it is actually a statement of absolute certainty as well as total uncertainty.  Non-Christians who claim total uncertainty for man’s knowledge say, ‘It is absolutely certain that there are no absolute certainties.’  The unbeliever can continue to hold this view only as he ignores how absolutely certain he must be to hold it” (p. 47-48).

Richard Pratt, Every Thought Captive (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1979).

shane lems

Jesus, Creed, Knowledge, and Faith

 Most of us understand that the phrase “No creed but Christ” is very unhelpful for two reasons: 1) it is illogical because it is creed in and of itself, and 2) one has to define “Christ,” and in so doing, the result will be something like a creedal statement.  Geerhardus Vos tackled this unhelpful anti-creedal attitude which was evidently around 100 years ago:

“Faith presupposes knowledge, because it needs a mental complex, person or thing, to be occupied about.  Therefore, the whole modern idea of preaching Jesus, but preaching him without a creed, is not only theologically, not merely scripturally, but psychologically impossible in itself.”

And more.

“The very names by means of which Jesus would have to be presented to people are nuclei of creed and doctrine.  If it were possible to eliminate this, the message would turn to pure magic, but even the magic requires some name-sound and cannot be wholly described as preaching without a creed.  The vogue which this programme has acquired is to some extent due to the unfortunate, and altogether undeserved, flavor clinging to the term ‘creed,’ as though this necessarily meant a minutely worked out theological structure of belief.  That is not meant, but belief there must be before faith can begin to function, and belief includes knowledge [Matt. 8.10, Lk. 7.9].  This knowledge may have been gathered gradually, almost imperceptibly, from countless impressions received during a brief or longer period of time, but epistemologically it does not differ from any other kind of mental act however acquired.  To be sure, mere knowledge is not equivalent to full-orbed faith, it must develop into trust, before it is entitled to that name.”

For more on this from Vos, see the context of page 389 in Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments.

shane lems

Knowledge, Reason, and Theology

 I like this paragraph from Kevin Vanhoozer’s Drama of Doctrine (p. 301).

“Getting knowledge is more like plotting one’s position with a set of maps than it is building a house on a foundation or catching fish in a net.  Theological cartography is a dramatic exercise of holy reason.  Reason is holy not in the sense that many moderns might think it – namely, as our noblest and most sublime faculty, a sacrament of universal truth – but rather because it is set apart and transformed for the purpose of serving the truth of the gospel.  The drama of reason consists precisely in this: Will we reason to the glory of God?  Theological thinking is responsible to revelation, to just those forms of testimony that God has taken up into his own communicative action and that now constitute the canon.  There is nothing more dramatic than coming to know God.  The question is: Will our minds participate fittingly in the drama of redemption?”

Kevin Vanhoozer, Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005).

shane lems