Blessings Through God’s People

From the series, Ten Turning Points That Make All the Difference

I wrote earlier this week that God’s people had been called to be a blessing to all nations of the earth. What was that blessing to be? The answer to that is clear, though it’s complicated, because it hasn’t been a sudden outpouring right from the start. It’s been gradual.

God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He works with his people to work through them. So as we will see next week when we look at God’s ongoing revelation, he doesn’t pour himself out upon us like the ocean. He could, but he doesn’t. He comes at a pace we can handle, like a stream or a rainfall.

So rather than making everything abruptly just right, God has been patiently working in and through his people over time, to build and prepare them for the fulfillment of the Abrahamic calling (Genesis 12:1-3). We who follow God have never been perfect. Sometimes we haven’t even been good examples. Thousands of years after Abraham, however, we are seeing God accomplish what he promised.

There is of course one key moment of fulfillment: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose redemptive work was for all the world. He sent his followers to share his message with all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), so that all persons could have an opportunity for the life and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

It has taken us a long time to see that task nearing completion. This is the hardest part of this entire series: to acknowledge that so many have never heard the word of Christ, and have never had a chance at that blessing. In a series on Ten Turning Points, this is one point that isn’t turning for some people. So how shall I deal with it, other than with grief? I’m going to set it aside for a moment. It really isn’t a Turning Point, so it fits elsewhere. I will try to return to it in another blog post within a week or so. I will also have to deal with the question of whether the Old Testament Hebrews were such a great blessing to the nations.

For although we have not succeeded in all ways, and as I wrote last time, haven’t always even come close, over time God’s people have indeed blessed the peoples of the world in multiple ways. The opportunity to know Jesus Christ has not yet reached the entire world, but many experts predict that we are within ten to fifteen years of having at least some mission work begun in every “people group” (linguistically/religiously /tribally/economically/racially distinct group of people) of more than 50,000 population on earth.

While opening up the knowledge of God, the people of God have also

  • Pioneered and championed compassionate ministry to the poor and needy
  • Uniquely taken the lead in caring for needy persons who were not of their own people
  • Invented and propagated the idea of the university
  • Preserved the knowledge of antiquity (what you’ve heard about Christians burning libraries is quite false)
  • Developed the systems that became modern banking
  • Provided the largest proportion by far of humanitarian aid to disaster-stricken regions of the world
  • Provided massive educational services
  • Cared for the sick, at cost and risk to themselves
  • Raised the status of women in every culture where Christianity has had influence (if you’re thinking the opposite is true, your knowledge of global history needs serious shoring up)
  • Protected babies from infanticide and abortion, and provided pregnancy/young mother care and adoption as an alternative
  • Established the foundation for modern civil rights and the rule of law
  • Provided the chief impetus for the abolition of slavery

There are rumors and false facts afoot denying some of this. Most of that is based on an inverted backward look. The idea that Christianity oppresses women, for example, is ignorant of what has happened to women where Christianity had not yet had significant influence. The charge that Christians supported slavery is true, but all that means is that not all Christians have followed the truth as they should have; whereas it remains true that wherever slavery has been actively abolished, it has been where Christianity has been strongly influential.

I have summarized many goods that God’s people have done over the centuries. I must hasten to add that this is not because God’s people are better people; it is because they are the ones through whom our good God has primarily done his good work. God is good. His people have been very slow to catch up: but they are following the right leader.

Now I know that I cannot begin to explain or defend all the above bullet-point assertions in one blog post. God’s work has been in the process of being accomplished by God’s people for millennia. I’m going to take at least several months to get back to discussing some of these in more detail.

I need to footnote this by repeating what I wrote in the first entry on this subject. The topic of God’s people belongs in any discussion of major turning points in the history of God’s work in the world, so I cannot leave it out. It would be wrong to exclude it. On the other hand, there is no way to do it right in the time and space available. The topic covers thousands of years and involves the entire globe, and it touches directly on serious social controversies. I am going to proceed by including the topic in this series, but with no pretense of being comprehensive. In the three posts I’m writing on it, I will take a very brief look at a few aspects of it that interest me. It’s inadequate, but it’s what I can do.

Comments 42
  1. NickMatzke

    The charge that Christians supported slavery is true, but all that means is that not all Christians have followed the truth as they should have; whereas it remains true that wherever slavery has been actively abolished, it has been where Christianity has been strongly influential.

    No true Scotsman, anyone? The Christian defenders of slavery thought and said they were being Biblical in their decision to defend slavery, and they had and used many Bible passages to support their view. It was the liberal Christians with a more flexible view of Bible interpretation, and a strong sense of Enlightenment values, that opposed slavery in the U.S., and the conservatives that defended it. This isn’t really up for debate, that is unless you can argue that Mark Noll is wrong in his books and articles on this.

  2. Tom Gilson

    Nick,

    You didn’t read what I wrote. Let me say it again, louder and slower. No, I’ll let you be responsible for the louder and slower part. But I will say it again:

    Not all Christians have followed the truth as they should have; whereas it remains true that wherever slavery has been actively abolished, it has been where Christianity has been strongly influential.

    Now, I happen to have my doubts about the thesis you’ve presented, but I haven’t read Noll on this topic so I’ll keep my doubts quiet. What I can say quite confidently and openly is this: you seem to think you’ve rebutted something of mine by bringing this up, but in fact all you did was change the subject.

    To change the subject is not to rebut. You knew that, I hope.

  3. Tom Gilson

    P.S. The “No True Scotsman” fallacy is not the universal answer you seem to think it is. There actually are ways to tell a true Scotsman from, say, a Frenchman or a Russian. There are ways to tell a true Christian from a not-true-Christian. There are of course only limited circumstances when we have any business making such an assessment, and when we do, that person’s actions are only part of the information that’s brought under consideration. But I will not let someone throw around the title of a fallacy here and expect us all to think it applies just because it got mentioned. You have to actually do the logical work that goes with it.

    I speak this almost against my better judgment. It’s quite irrelevant, on the one hand, because when you brought up No True Scotsman you were already failing to address what you apparently thought you were addressing (as I have just noted in my prior comment). So why bother mentioning it? Because, Nick, you have a pattern of hastily presented half-arguments like this, and I think it’s worth pointing out you committed not one but two serious logical miscues in that comment.

  4. Victoria

    Yeah, as if William Wilberforce was a ‘liberal’ Christian, ha!
    Of course, he was in the UK, rather than the Americas, but I can’t help but wonder if his influence [Providentially] stirred the hearts of like-minded individuals to action in the US.

    http://www.brycchancarey.com/abolition/wilberforce.htm

    He would be what we call ‘Evangelical’, and held a high view of Scripture.
    It wasn’t that his interpretation of Scripture was ‘more flexible’, it was that he (and those of us who understand proper biblical interpretation) followed the leading of our indwelling Spirit of God. Those who used Scripture to justify slavery did so because that’s what they wanted. A proper understanding of Scripture means we allow it to determine our beliefs, worldview and practices, not the other way around, and we rely on the Spirit of God to teach us.

    As Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16 :

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped gfor every good work

    Psalm 119 also describes in lengthy detail the same concepts.

    Once again, the skeptics show that they simply do not understand core Christianity. Fair enough, but the real question is, “Do they really want to understand?”

  5. Melissa

    You will probably be addressing this in further posts but I thought I’d make a short comment here. A common complaint of atheists is the way God acts through the people He has chosen to make himself known. (If God exists why doesn’t he reveal himself to me in the way I want or feel I need) Leslie Newbigin in The Open Secret addresses this question and argues that it stems from a view of humans that would see “the central being of the human person as a spiritual monad that does not require either other persons or a created world for the achievement of its true destiny”. In contrast the biblical view of human nature is a person that is both body and soul and that exists in relationship with other people and the created order. Salvation therefore comes not to each direct from above but from the neighbour.

    Yes God does act to make himself known to particular people but it is always in order that those people may take God’s message to others. It’s a hard concept to grasp for us because we are so steeped in individualism also it is probably undermined by the emphasis on “personal salvation” in many modern churches.

  6. d

    Yes God does act to make himself known to particular people but it is always in order that those people may take God’s message to others. It’s a hard concept to grasp for us because we are so steeped in individualism also it is probably undermined by the emphasis on “personal salvation” in many modern churches.

    Its not hard to grasp, Melissa – the concept is uncomfortable and odd fitting because its not what is intuitively reasonable to expect from a designer with unlimited resources and power, who wants to save all his designs. So why is reality ordered this way? Obvious, most probable conclusion – there is no designer.

  7. Victoria

    I guess d has never read Isaiah 55, especially Isaiah 55:6-11 or 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 and 1 Corinthians 2:6-18 (but why am I not surprised?)

    Why are you even here, d? What are you hoping to accomplish? Your mind is already made up – you are a thorough-going atheist, and you apparently have no interest in learning, much less understanding, about real Biblical Christianity. Your attempts to convince us that our worldview is false will not succeed, for you are fighting the very Spirit of God – there are Christians on this blog who have come to faith as adults (even some of us who were once like you), and have walked with God for years, and are firmly convinced on both evidentiary and experiential grounds of the truth of Christianity.

  8. G. Rodrigues

    @d:

    Its not hard to grasp, Melissa – the concept is uncomfortable and odd fitting because its not what is intuitively reasonable to expect from a designer with unlimited resources and power, who wants to save all his designs. So why is reality ordered this way? Obvious, most probable conclusion – there is no designer.

    As Melissa will probably tell you, God is not a “designer”, a super-sized architect just without our limitations. This alone is enough to sink your “intuitively reasonable”, which becomes even more preposterous if we think, as per your own admission, that if God is an infinite intellect, there is simply no human way to judge what is intuitively reasonable from God’s point of view — you would have to know the entire history of the universe with its infinite possible and actual ramifications to accurately judge what is reasonable or not.

    You ask and I quote:

    So why is reality ordered this way?

    And I ask back, why is reality ordered *at all*? There is no non-circular explanation in naturalism that does not end up positing brute facts — which by definition are inexplicable, therefore why reality is ordered is itself inexplicable under naturalism. Following your line of reasoning, the most probable conclusion is that naturalism is false.

  9. d

    Why are you even here, d? What are you hoping to accomplish? Your mind is already made up – you are a thorough-going atheist, and you apparently have no interest in learning, much less understanding, about real Biblical Christianity. Your attempts to convince us that our worldview is false will not succeed, for you are fighting the very Spirit of God – there are Christians on this blog who have come to faith as adults (even some of us who were once like you), and have walked with God for years, and are firmly convinced on both evidentiary and experiential grounds of the truth of Christianity.

    What’s wrong with enjoying debate? Sometimes its frustrating, but overall its a rewarding indulgence. Tom’s blog certainly invites it at times. I don’t like to barge in and start nay-saying on posts that are clearly meant to speak to other believers. Not saying I never broke my rule there, but in general – that’s my policy. I generally only try to respond to posts where there’s something relevant or a challenge presented to a view I hold.

    I don’t hope to convert you or anyone else to naturalism… at best I would hope to make some people more cautious about the unwarranted and overconfident proclamations they make (eg. moral realism is impossible, in principle, on naturalism, humanness is degraded on naturalism, naturalism is incoherent, etc). At worst, all I get is to encounter a few new arguments here and there, and I get to consider how (or if) my beliefs stand up to them.

  10. d

    G. Rodrigues,

    As Melissa will probably tell you, God is not a “designer”, a super-sized architect just without our limitations. This alone is enough to sink your “intuitively reasonable”, which becomes even more preposterous if we think, as per your own admission, that if God is an infinite intellect, there is simply no human way to judge what is intuitively reasonable from God’s point of view — you would have to know the entire history of the universe with its infinite possible and actual ramifications to accurately judge what is reasonable or not.

    Upon the backdrop of you mistaking my position for extreme skepticism, its ironic that you offer what is called the skeptical theist reply.

    And it poses a thorny problem for theism – because all of theism depends upon making reasonable assumptions about what an omni* God would or would not do.

    Here’s an interesting explanation on that front:
    http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/2011/02/addendum-to-end-of-skeptical-theism-on.html

  11. G. Rodrigues

    @d:

    On a first skimming, the blog post you linked to is not only completely irrelevant as far as classical theism concerns, but contains some egregious misunderstandings of its own.

  12. Victoria

    And it poses a thorny problem for theism – because all of theism depends upon making reasonable assumptions about what an omni* God would or would not do

    Actually, d, this is not what Christian Theism does. We don’t have to make assumptions about what God would or would not do – we rely on His revelation of Himself and His plan of redemption through Scripture, and ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 1:1-3, for example). The answers are not always easy to understand and interpret, and God does always expect us to trust Him to know what He is doing – He is not bound to do what we think He should do. That is hard for you to grasp, because you don’t even believe in Him, much less know Him and trust Him. Your answer simply shows, once again, that you don’t understand Christian Theism at all. Why don’t you take this series on the 10 Turning Points as an opportunity to listen and learn about it?
    Debate is fine and all, but Christianity is about much more than intellectual issues – God calls us to love Him with everything that we are, heart, soul, spirit as well as mind.

  13. G. Rodrigues

    @d:

    I forgot to add two things to my earlier response to your post #12.

    Upon the backdrop of you mistaking my position for extreme skepticism, its ironic that you offer what is called the skeptical theist reply.

    I am not mistaking anything, I backed up my assertions with your own quotes, so either retract what you said — that is, you did not meant to say what you actually said (but that is a tough one, because then you would have to retract a whole slew of other assertions) — or show where I have gone wrong on reading you. Being corrected is a very humbling exercise, so while my ego does not appreciate it, the intellect tells me it is a Good Thing, so please go ahead.

    As far as the Skeptical Theist charge, two things can be said. First, the charge is misplaced, because I invoked God’s infinite intellect only to dismiss the “intuitively reasonable”. There are other arguments (and I even stated one; your whole conception of God is mistaken in the first place) but you can read up Victoria in #14 for starters. Second, even if I grant your charge of Skeptical Theism, it is a far cry from your own brand of skepticism that entails that nothing whatsoever can be known.

    I also cannot resist responding to this in your post #11:

    I don’t hope to convert you or anyone else to naturalism… at best I would hope to make some people more cautious about the unwarranted and overconfident proclamations they make (eg. moral realism is impossible, in principle, on naturalism, humanness is degraded on naturalism, naturalism is incoherent, etc).

    You never made a single cogent argument, either in defense of naturalism or in rebutting the objections to it, in your passage through this blog, not one. Just naked assertions. Your performance on the last thread where the argument from reason was mentioned was pathetic. You carefully cherry pick what you respond to. Now of course, I am clearly biased and my memory is faulty, so I may well be mistaken. So why don’t you clear my doubts and for example, answer the last part of my post #10?

  14. Tom Gilson

    Melissa, I’m checking in a little behind the schedule here but I want to say thanks for this:

    it stems from a view of humans that would see “the central being of the human person as a spiritual monad that does not require either other persons or a created world for the achievement of its true destiny”. In contrast the biblical view of human nature is a person that is both body and soul and that exists in relationship with other people and the created order. Salvation therefore comes not to each direct from above but from the neighbour.

    Very insightful.

  15. Tom Gilson

    d, you say,

    What’s wrong with enjoying debate? Sometimes its frustrating, but overall its a rewarding indulgence.

    You need to read some Pascal. But first read the Scriptures that Victoria pointed you to. It’s fine on one level to consider this a rewarding indulgence, but if that’s all it is to you, then everything you have said here is more deeply fallacious than I ever imagined. I say that because if you regard the existence of God, and his offer of a relationship with you, a game to be toyed with, you are as wrong as you could possibly be. If you regard the non-existence of God (as you conceive the matter) to be a game to be toyed with, I would say the same. Whatever you think of Pascal’s wager as an apologetic argument, you cannot deny that your eternal destiny hangs in the balance. If you play this as a game, and if you’re wrong, you lose more than debate points. A lot more.

    I cannot imagine anyone tossing this question around blithely like a rubber ball, and anyone who does that misunderstands the very terms they are putatively debating.

    Do you understand the definition of the word “God”? Do you know that if God really is, then that really matters?

  16. d

    Tom,

    I do recognize the importance of these matters, and that’s why I’m interested in these topics. I was merely speaking about the indulgence of actually posting and debating on a blog or message boards about them.

  17. Victoria

    @d:

    I generally only try to respond to posts where there’s something relevant or a challenge presented to a view I hold.

    Yeah (chuckles), but isn’t Biblical Christianity one very large challenge to your views (Atheism / Metaphysical Naturalism)?

  18. Melissa

    d,

    the concept is uncomfortable and odd fitting because its not what is intuitively reasonable to expect from a designer with unlimited resources and power, who wants to save all his designs. So why is reality ordered this way? Obvious, most probable conclusion – there is no designer.

    The concept is only uncomfortable and odd fitting because we have a skewed view of what it means to be human. In this respect we have moved even further from the truth than the ancient Hebrews. Humans are made to live in relationship with each other and part of our salvation is to become what we were created to be. It makes sense that the process should be congruent with who we really are, not what we think we are. Part of accepting God is accepting what we are (ie dependant on God, dependant on others). Salvation is not concerned with lots of disembodied souls existing forever with God.

    You ask why reality is ordered this way. Most likely creation is relational because the trinitarian God is relational.

  19. d

    The concept is only uncomfortable and odd fitting because we have a skewed view of what it means to be human. In this respect we have moved even further from the truth than the ancient Hebrews. Humans are made to live in relationship with each other and part of our salvation is to become what we were created to be. It makes sense that the process should be congruent with who we really are, not what we think we are. Part of accepting God is accepting what we are (ie dependant on God, dependant on others). Salvation is not concerned with lots of disembodied souls existing forever with God. You ask why reality is ordered this way. Most likely creation is relational because the trinitarian God is relational.

    Don’t you see what an ad hoc explanation that is? When your imaginative enough, you can literally come up with nearly any sort of just-so story to conjure up some sort of seemingly congruent narrative, just like a determined numerologist can weave an elaborate, conspiratorial story from all kinds of random numbers. This is trying to “make it work”, rather than offering a best explanation.

    Even if God wanted our salvation to be “relational” (again, here we are making claims about what infinite minds would do), it still has to be argued that the type of dependency that DOES exist, is the type of dependency that would be most congruent with an all loving being who desires our salvation.

    There are also possibly some interesting tensions here between libertarian accounts of personal and moral responsibility, free will, and this “dependent salvation” idea… Why should my salvation be dependent upon anything that somebody else does, their persuasive power, their ability to reach me, rather than the choices I make? That’s essentially what you are saying.

  20. SteveK

    d,

    Why should my salvation be dependent upon anything that somebody else does, their persuasive power, their ability to reach me, rather than the choices I make?

    Explain how your choices would save you from an ocean of complete despair? That’s the situation you and I are in. If you think you can save yourself, think again. You resist God at every turn because you think you know better and can save yourself. You will surely die unless you are rescued. Let God rescue you.

    Do you think you need to be saved, or are you doing just fine?

  21. Tom Gilson

    Don’t you see what an ad hoc explanation that is?

    ad hoc (def). adj. (from the Latin, “for this”): of or relating to an explanation proposed for some phenomenon following observation thereof, and not included or accounted for within existing theory prior to the observation. Generally regarded as weak and therefore illegitimate, although in some cases having the potential over time to contribute to the development of new theory.

    Your accusation of ad hoc would be more credible if our proposed explanation weren’t already thousands of years old and an integral part of the very long-standing theory we are defending. In other words, our explanation meets none of the criteria for ad hoc.

    Even if God wanted our salvation to be “relational” (again, here we are making claims about what infinite minds would do),

    Your making that charge has every appearance of an ad hoc attempt to save your theory. We’re not merely making claims about what infinite minds would do. We have no conception of infinite (plural) minds in the first place. In the second place, we’re not making this up, we’re relying on God’s revelation. In the third place, it’s integral to the theory and you’re treating it as if it weren’t. You can’t split this off from Christian theism; it’s as close to the core of Christianity as it could possibly be. In the fourth place, your treating this as ad hoc reveals that you have more homework to do. You’re attempting to rebut a form of Christianity that no one here believes in, and you don’t even seem to know it.

  22. Melissa

    d,

    Why should my salvation be dependent upon anything that somebody else does, their persuasive power, their ability to reach me, rather than the choices I make?

    That’s just more of the same rejection of what we really are. You know that in every area what happens is dependent on our choices and others actions, it is you that needs to mount an argument for why this should be any different.

  23. Victoria

    @Tom, re your #23 reply to ‘d’

    Excellent response – I was thinking the same thing while out running tonight, and I was going to post a similar reply. Your version is much more eloquent 🙂

    Have you noticed just how much time we spend correcting our skeptical friends? We can only hope and pray that the Spirit of God will use it to good effect (Isaiah 55:10-11).

  24. Tom Gilson

    Sault,

    You need to be afraid of hell. It’s awful, it’s real, and you’re in real danger. You need to turn to God’s goodness as your only rescue. Yes, that’s a good reason for you to think about converting. It’s only one of many good reasons to think about it, but it’s one of them. Please do.

  25. d

    Your accusation of ad hoc would be more credible if our proposed explanation weren’t already thousands of years old and an integral part of the very long-standing theory we are defending. In other words, our explanation meets none of the criteria for ad hoc.

    Ad hoc, at its most basic, simply means “contrived” – which Melissa’s explanation is, no matter how long its been around (especially the bit about the Trinity – that’s like adding up the numbers of the date of my birth, and claiming that it predicted something special would happen when I reached an age equal to the sum.)

    I don’t want to harp on this too much, but here’s what wikipedia says:

    In science and philosophy, ad hoc means the addition of extraneous hypotheses to a theory to save it from being falsified. Ad hoc hypotheses compensate for anomalies not anticipated by the theory in its unmodified form.

    The fact that the most basic information about salvation is neither known or given to people who an all powerful God presumably wants to save, is a *huge* problem, and not a state of affairs that *any* reasonable person would expect from theism. Its only in dealing with the brute facts of the world – that most people live and die without hearing the message of salvation – that these ad hoc hypotheses are invented… to preserve belief in the face of contrary evidence.

    How old the belief is, is irrlevant.

  26. Tom Gilson

    d, ad hoc means what it means. You can’t argue your position by coming up with ad hoc definitions for ad hoc.

    Contrived means contrived. Lots of other terms share in a common family of words with related meanings. But ad hoc means what it means. Wikipedia’s definition is essentially the same as mine. How old the belief is is not irrelevant. If thousands of years of anticipation by the theory doesn’t qualify as anticipation, then just keep your own ad hoc definition of “anticipated,” but keep it to yourself.

    I’ll make it simpler for you: you’re wrong.

    Got it?

  27. Tom Gilson

    You’re wrong on this, too:

    The fact that the most basic information about salvation is neither known or given to people who an all powerful God presumably wants to save, is a *huge* problem, and not a state of affairs that *any* reasonable person would expect from theism.

  28. d

    Unbelievable.

    If you don’t like my usage of ad hoc (even though we disagree), fine – then consider it amended to “contrived”, or consider the explanation offered by Melissa labelled as “excuse in the face of evidence that poses a problem for her beliefs”.

  29. Tom Gilson

    But then you still have to show why it’s fallacious.

    There’s a reason the term ad hoc is used to describe a certain kind of logical fallacy or research interpretation error. It’s because it applies to the situation very precisely. If it’s not ad hoc, then it’s probably not that error.

    You can’t even call it an excuse unless (as in the ad hoc) it is made up for this; i.e., to rescue me from the particular tough spot I’ve found myself in here. If it’s in the theory, and if it’s central to the theory, and if it’s been central to the theory for thousands of years, then the conclusion is….

    You’re still wrong.

  30. Melissa

    d,

    We know Christianity holds that God is trinitarian. We know that part of being human is to live in relationship with other humans. How is it adhoc to take those two pieces of information and apply them to answer the question of why God acts through people?

  31. d

    Victora,

    I wasn’t questioning the trinity per se, but more the ad hoc inference – “God is three persons, one essence, therefore it follows that he gives revelation to a few, and expects them to spread it”.

  32. Tom Gilson

    Whewee! If I thought anyone was jumping straight from that Point A to that Point B, I’d question it too! And if I ever mangled someone else’s position as badly as you have just done, I’d be embarrassed. You’re patently bound and determined to distort rather than to understand, and it doesn’t look good on you.

    I’m going to direct a message to you, d, that you might have already seen me send to Sault:

    There have been a few times when I have posted comments at Jerry Coyne’s or other atheist blogs, and gotten basic information about their positions wrong. They’ve jumped all over me. If you think I was forceful [with Sault in a prior comment], you ain’t seen nothing.

    Still (and partly as a result) I’ve made a commitment to understand their positions. I know a lot about what they hold to individually, what New Atheism holds to generally, what materialist/naturalist atheists hold to, and what evolution is all about. I know these things not only to avoid getting blasted, in fact not primarily so. I know because my purpose is to engage in fruitful conversation, and I’ve done the work it takes to do that. I know because my purpose also is to persuade rationally, which requires a combination of knowledge and mutual respect.

    There’s an awful lot I don’t know, and when I don’t know, I either ask questions or I shut up. Or else sometimes I get nailed for getting it wrong, but I try to avoid that.

    I’m intentionally setting this forth before you as an example to follow. I think it reflects a strong and responsible pursuit of truth. Are you interested in that? If so, why not get started? If not, why not?

  33. d

    Tom,

    The quotes in the relevant conversation are as follows:

    Melissa:
    Yes God does act to make himself known to particular people but it is always in order that those people may take God’s message to others. It’s a hard concept to grasp for us because we are so steeped in individualism also it is probably undermined by the emphasis on “personal salvation” in many modern churches.

    Me:
    the concept is uncomfortable and odd fitting because its not what is intuitively reasonable to expect from a designer with unlimited resources and power, who wants to save all his designs. So why is reality ordered this way? Obvious, most probable conclusion – there is no designer.

    Melissa:

    Salvation is not concerned with lots of disembodied souls existing forever with God.

    You ask why reality is ordered this way (note: “this way” being “ordered such that revelation is given to a few, who have a duty to spread it”). Most likely creation is relational because the trinitarian God is relational.

    I can only go by what is written… and there’s nothing about my blunt, succinct reformulation there that misrepresents any of the above, that I can see – except for in that plain language the position sounds obviously absurd – but that’s YOUR theological issue to work out.

  34. Victoria

    @d
    Ah, OK, that explains what you meant. Fair enough 🙂

    We could table that particular discussion (the Trinity and its implications) for now, and come back to it in this series when Tom gets to the discussion of thd LORD Jesus Christ, or perhaps Tom might consider spinning off a new thread for it.

  35. Tom Gilson

    That helps some, d. Your condensed version of it in #35 was utterly distorted, and your intransigence there on the idea of it being ad hoc is baffling to me, in view its meeting none of the criteria that define ad hoc-ness, but at least this latest was an improvement.

    Now, what was your question?

  36. Melissa

    d,

    Your reading of the discussion is, I think rather uncharitable. God creating us as dependent and relational is consistent with His nature. God working through people is consistent with our nature. I was not suggesting thar the nature of the trinitarian God necessarily leads to the conclusion that God works through particular people.

  37. Nick Matzke

    Just came across the following blast from the past, which reminded me of this thread:

    Thornton Stringfellow

    Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery

    Richmond, Va.: J. W. Randolph, 1856.

    http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/string/menu.html

    ===========================
    Summary

    Stringfellow’s Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery is written in two parts. The first part, “Scriptural Views,” is a reprint of the tract A Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony on the Institution of Slavery. His four major points in this essay are as follows: 1) Slavery received the sanction of God in the time of the Patriarchs; 2) Slavery is incorporated as a part of the only commonwealth expressly established by God; 3) Slavery is recognized by Jesus Christ as legitimate; and 4) Slavery is full of mercy. In support of these contentions, Stringfellow calls attention especially to Abraham, Jewish Law, and the Pauline epistles in the New Testament. Added to this essay are two shorter essays. The first responds to an attempt by a pro-abolition individual to convince him that scripture condemns slavery. Stringfellow refutes every scripture employed by the abolitionist. The second essay uses the Israelite conquest of Canaan to prove that slavery is legitimated by Mosaic Law.

    The second part of this book contains the “Statistical views.” This essay uses the census of 1850 to make material claims for the expediency of slavery. Most of his material compares the six New England states with the five old slave states on the Atlantic coast. Using census data, Stringfellow asserts that the southern states are superior in religious life and material life for whites, slaves, and free blacks. The urban life of the northern states suffers in comparison with the agricultural South both in terms of general prosperity and population growth. Stringfellow’s conclusion is that despite the fact that the northern states forced the burden of slavery onto their southern neighbors, the southern states have thrived socially and religiously. Stringfellow takes this as evidence that slavery is not a curse, but a blessing.

    Christopher Hill
    ===========================

  38. Tom Gilson

    If you’re going to comment on “statistical views in favor of slavery,” and if you’re going to try to represent yourself as having some kind of scientific approach to knowledge, you ought to do it with a modicum of awareness that sample of one does not prove a trend.

    You’re telling us something we already knew anyway: there were some who used Scripture to support slavery. Ho-hum. Thanks anyway, but why bore us with these things?

    This is entirely consistent with what the Bible teaches: that some religious people will use religion wrongly, but that where Christianity is practiced truly, it is very good.

    Let me remind you:

    Slavery has always been practiced in every culture whose economics would permit it. It has been eliminated in some cultures. Those cultures have one major thing in common. Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint. You need not look far to find it.

Comments close automatically after 120 days. Comment numbering may be incorrect due to a temporary bug.