Monday, January 2, 2012

Notes on "Contending for the Truth" (Pt. 5)

[Series explanation and index here.]

Faith and Reason
a talk by John Piper

As with the first two talks on postmodernism, Piper is echoing the topic Sproul Sr. just covered. For this reason, I will only mention a few highlights.


Speaking of the Pharisees asking Jesus for a sign, Piper explains:
They're asking for more signs to give the impression there's not enough evidence to embrace him as the bridegroom. And therefore he says: the reason you do so well with nature and so poorly with spiritual reality is because you're adulterous. Your hearts have gone after other bridegrooms and you don't want me. So it isn't lack of evidence. It isn't lack of rational powers. It's because they are evil and adulterous. And what happens is — Dr. Sproul made this plain — that an adulterous heart disorders the mind so that it can function just fine in selfish quests, but it cannot function in spiritual quests. It is enslaved to wrong inferences because it wants so badly another spouse.
Suppose this psychological model is true. Wouldn't it mean that humans can never be culpable for responding inappropriately on an emotional level to what they believe is true on an intellectual level? At least with Sproul Sr.'s three-part breakdown of saving faith, there was room for a convinced rebel like Satan.


Piper goes on to characterize faith as something that God puts into people to save them, without any regard for their mindset. So it's not just that outsiders are unable to grasp the conclusive evidence for Christianity; their attitude toward the possibility of Christian truth is also utterly irrelevant.

This is the Calvinist view that everyone has a crippled mind and a heart set against God, until God arbitrarily zaps some of them into Christians. And this doctrine is a consequence of the more fundamental Calvinist doctrine that everything happens because God wills it to be precisely so. Yes, this includes every evil.


Hellfire preacher Jonathan Edwards observed, according to Piper, that historical evidence and reason can only get us to "probabilities" (particularly among the illiterate). What's needed to effectively drive a Christian to forsake all and endure long torment in life, is a deep concern for unending torment after life.

That's a whole other discussion, but it does serve to illustrate the marginal place of reason compared to fear in the minds of some Christians.

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