Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Paul Campos, Against Materialism

Paul Campos, columnist for The Rocky Mountain News, has written an outstanding critique of philosophical materialism, which takes Sam Harris's book, The End of Faith, as its point of departure. If you appreciate the article, please send him an email.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Blaise Pascal on Flies

366. The mind of this sovereign judge of the world is not so independent that it is not liable to be disturbed by the first din about it. The noise of a cannon is not necessary to hinder its thoughts; it needs only the creaking of a weathercock or pulley. Do not wonder if at present it does not reason well; a fly is buzzing in its ears; that is enough to render it incapable of good judgement. If you wish it to be able to reach the truth, chase away that animal which holds its reason in check and disturbs that powerful intellect which rules towns and kingdoms. Here is a comical god!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis's Comments on Feminism

Christians for Biblical Equality has published some excerpts from Rebecca Merrill Groothuis's 1995 booklet, The Feminist Boogeywoman. This summarizes some of the arguments made in her first book, Women Caught in the Conflict. If carefully considered, these comments deflect about 90% of the worries about what is now called "Evangelical Egalitarianism." The essay can be found here:

O, My! Charles Colson on Oprah

Charles Colson has a commentary on Oprah Winfrey in his Breakpoint column today.

His comments are on target, except near the end when he says, "I'm not saying not to watch Oprah. She has wholesome guests, etc." This is wrongheaded in the extreme. O has sponsored more New Age authors--Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Gary Zukov, etc. --than anyone else in the history of television. She brought on her yoga teacher to lead the audience in yoga exercises. (I know these things from reading or hearing about them; no, I have never watched the program and will not.)

I know of a person (who will remain nameless) who wrote a bang-up proposal and several chapters for a book that critiqued O's worldview. It was rejected by two publishers, largely because they feared reprisals from O herself or her throng of entralled sychophants. I know of a thinking Christian woman who dared criticize O in a Christian's woman's group and was taken to task because "She does so many nice things." Since when is that a test of godliness or biblical orthodoxy?

Let us face the facts: O is a false prophet, whose status as a cultural and spiritual icon is a sad commentary on America's theological stupefaction (not to put a fine point on it). Yes, she raised herself out of poverty and abuse. Good for her. Yes, she give a way a ton of money, but probably far less than 10% of her income. Yes, she is relentlessly positive--and relentlessly present on her magazine covers. But these considerations do not excuse her sponsoring of ungodly philosophies or justify her role as a New Age guru to the mindless and mesermized masses.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Tribute to My Father (revised, 3-18-06)

What can I say about my father—so long gone, so impossible to forget? Harold Fred Groothuis was born on December 28, 1927 in New York. He died in a small plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska on this day in 1968. Walter Cronkite ended the evening news that day with a short comment to the effect that "Alaska labor leader, Harold Groothuis, was killed in a plane crash in Alaska today along with several others who were serving on a government commission to investigate labor abuses." I watched that in my bedroom on that dreadful, world-changing day. I was not quite twelve years old.

Dad was leaving Point Barrow, Alaska along with other volunteers who were part of the Governor’s Employment Advisory Commission, created by then Governor Walter J. Hickel. They where investigating charges of the mistreatment of Alaska native workers there. Only one of passengers of the propeller plane survived. Not long ago my mother sent me a letter from Alaska native leaders in Point Barrow, which expressed their sorrow and thanks for my father's commitment to their people. At Dad's funeral, a Presbyterian minister eulogized Harold Groothuis as a man who represented "people who worked with their hands." So he did. First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage, Alaska was filled and overflowing with mourners.

Dad came to the territory of Alaska in the mid-1950s (it became the forty-ninth state on my second birthday—January 3—in 1959), worked as a laborer, and lived in a packing crate with a few other men. He then went back East for a visit to friends and family. There he met a young Italian woman named Lillian Cominetto, who would become my mother. It was love at first sight for both. He returned to Alaska, but wrote Mom love letters. They married in New York 1955 and then traveled back to the frozen north, leaving behind all their relatives. Why write of my father now, thirty seven years after his tragic, unexpected, and unforgettable death? I am a man of many written words—too many, perhaps—but I have never written of my father in anything but personal letters. I want to pay a short tribute to his short life of forty years, without becoming maudlin or sentimental.

Dad was a big man—big in size (six feet, four inches and well over two hundred pounds) and big in personality. Many were drawn to his love of life, his strong opinions, and his commitment to causes and friends. As my mother said today on the phone, "He would do anything for his friends." He was a union man all the way, and a staunch Democrat. This, to my mind, was the right thing to do at that time. The Democratic party of that day—the party of Hubert Humphrey, for example—was a far cry of what we see now. Dad campaigned for Humphrey's candidacy for President in 1968 by delivering two speeches on Anchorage, Alaska television, which were broadcast live. I remember that Dad mentioned that Nixon refused to debate Humphrey. This was a character defect in Dad's eyes. I agree. Well, HHH (as Hubert Horatio Humphrey was called) lost, and Dad was killed a few weeks later. "There is a time for every purpose under heaven," as Ecclesiastes reminds us.

Dad had a fierce love for his family, for his job, for his friends, for Alaska, for food, and for life. He was an avid sportsman (hunting and fishing) and camper. He once shot a huge Kodiak Black Bear that was charging him. That bear (or part of it) ended up on our living room floor. (For those who don't like hunting—and I don't—this can be construed as self-defense; although they were on a hunting trip.) He was an intense man who neither suffered fools gladly nor could be accused of being low key or nonchalant. Because of his strong opinions, he had a few enemies. One of his enemies (a union malcontent) once threatened to blow up our house. We spent the night elsewhere. Dad had a temper that could get the better of him. He had attended a Presbyterian church as a child, but only attended sporadically as an adult. I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday School for a few years. However, Dad believed in God and had deep moral convictions. As a Christian, I can only hope he made his peace with God before that small plane hit the ground. Dad was a faithful husband, a good provider, and a loving—if sometimes imperious—father. I loved him deeply and I miss him every day of my life in one way or another. He wasn't there for the turning points in his only child's life: the graduations, the wedding, the achievements (such as they are). My dear mother says—and she is the expert, of course—that he would have approved. In any event, I can claim the truth of Romans 8:28 for my life no matter what.

This is my tribute to Harold Fred Groothuis, who died on this day in 1968, serving the laborers of Alaska and loving his small family. I will never forget him, nor will anyone else who knew him well.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

TV, Violence, and Women

Dear Ms. Ostrow:

Re: "Mayhem for Profit: TV's Assault on Women," by Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post, November 20, 2005.

I do not watch television, but I try to discern what is going on in "the vast wasteland" through reading articles such as yours. I was further horrified, sickened, and repulsed by the heinous acts described in your piece. It seems that most in America have lost any sense of moral discernment, outrage, or restraint. They do not know how to attend to their souls. (Yet Jesus warned that it is possible to lose one's very soul.) These television depictions of atrocities are gratuitous and worse: they desensitize us to real evils perpetrated against women (and others).

Thank you for bringing these things into focus through your article--and for not condoning the insanity that has swept through our culture. I have critiqued the form (apart from specific content) of television in my book, Truth Decay. You can read a chapter from that book here, if you are interested.

Douglas Groothuis
Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Cellular Telephone and High-tech Cretins

Yesterday, while looking through Barnes and Noble, I heard something we all too often hear--one side of a conversation moving around a public place. Yes, it was the cellular telephone: the bane of contemporary existence. It would not be a bane if people were civil and tasteful, but typically they are not. While trying to locate the new live Cream recording (the first in 38 years), I heard the stuttering, mumbling sounds come near me. Again, I was haunted by unwanted words... (The man could not complete a sentence in one try--or even three. He had a vocabulary of at most ten words, all of which were clustered in various cliches. It was pathetic just on that level. I wouldn't mind overhearing the polysyllabic pundit William F. Buckley speaking on a cell phone, but he probably won't be doing that in public.)

I hoped against hope that the incoherent acoustic blasts would move on and way from me. But they didn't. So I moved into the books section--only to be haunted by the cell yell still. At least three times this roving rude-machine intersected me in that haunted place. I learned (against my will) that Shawna and her spouse were "a piece of work" and that Shawna was generally screwed up, as did other helpless listeners who were attempting to find music or books or even read books. (How often is it possible to read books in public any more?)

What can be done about these high-tech cretins? Perhaps someone--even I--should have simply said, "Excuse me. Your conversation is bothering people. Please stop." Of course, that could have triggered fisticuffs and/or a law suit. Calling down "fire from heaven" would have been less embarrassing (since I could pray it under my breath), but probably less effective--given God's mercy and all.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Open Letter to "The New Yorker" by Robert Velarde

[My student and author, Robert Velarde, has written an insightful response to a recent article in The New Yorker about C.S. Lewis. This is a model of what a good apologetic letter to the editor can be.]

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the recent article "Prisoner of Narnia" by Adam Gopnik. As a C.S. Lewis scholar, I appreciated many of his insights.

One particular area of disagreement, however, involves this statement regarding his conversion to Christianity: "Converted to faith as the means of joy, however, Lewis never stops to ask very hard why this faith rather than some other." Although Mr. Gopnik does briefly mention an argument set forth by Lewis regarding Christ being who he claimed to be (i.e., God), it is not true that Lewis did not think "very hard" about the truth of Christianity as opposed to other religious and non-religious options.

In his book Miracles, for instance, Lewis makes a case against naturalism(the material world is all that exists) and for supernaturalism. In thatbook Lewis observes that the explanation for reason provided bynaturalism--that reason is a product of chance and time--is not viable. On the basis of naturalism, there is no reason to trust reason. (A contemporary defense of this argument is found in C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea by Victor Reppert.) Lewis also argued against pantheism, referring in Mere Christianity to its explanation of evil as illusory as "damned nonsense."

Lewis also utilized a form of logic known in philosophy as "abductive reasoning" in order to arrive at his conclusions regarding Christianity. Abductive reasoning, used in much scientific endeavor, appeals to the best explanation. This line of reasoning is clear in Lewis' argument from longing or desire. In Mere Christianity he writes, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

In short, Lewis did indeed think "very hard" about the intellectual optionsopen to him. He became a Christian, at least in part, because he believed Christianity offered the best explanation for reality, not because ofpersonal preference or because he failed to carefully consider alternatives.

As a minor correction, the article refers to the Lewis book A Grief Observed incorrectly as A Grief Portrayed.

Robert Velarde,
author, The Lion, the Witch, and the Bible: Good and Evil in the Classic Tales of C.S. Lewis (NavPress, 2005)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Review of "One Nation Under God," from The Denver Post

Study of prayer paints a portrait of America

By Douglas Groothuis Special to The Denver Post

One Nation Under God, by James P. Moore Jr., tackles a big subject in a unique way. It is not simply about prayer: how and when and why to pray or even to what being one should pray. It doesn't even offer advice beyond what can be sorted out from its many examples of prayer. Nor is it a standard history of America or some aspect of American experience.

Rather, Moore looks at the history of America in light of its prayers. He notes that despite "the role of prayer in American life, historians, even religious historians, have neglected this important part of the country's past, as well as the spirituality and even patriotism to which it is so often joined."

The author is a professor of business at Georgetown University. Nevertheless, he demonstrates deep knowledge of his subject by addressing America's hymns, anthems, art and literature related to prayer.

"If prayer represents the most private, innermost thoughts of an individual or of a people, then it must convey something rather special about us as Americans and the times in which we have lived," he writes in the prologue. Each chapter takes a period in American history and considers the role of prayer during that time, ending with "The Innocents: September 11, 2001, and Beyond."

Moore does not limit his investigations to the prayers of the clergy but considers a variety of people from many walks of life, including American Indians before the arrival of the Europeans, Benjamin Franklin, Elvis Presley, Frank Lloyd Wright, J.C. Penney, Cesar Chavez, Jackie Robinson and many others.

But he does not neglect the prayers of theologians such as Jonathan Edwards or evangelists such as Billy Graham.

Moore does not address "the efficacy of prayer" (a topic of many books and studies) nor does he propose a detailed theology of prayer. Instead, he chronicles the prevalence of prayer in American life without offering much commentary or correction, except to reprimand the secularists who discount it.

Moore seems to believe prayer is more than a person's psychological need for cosmic significance. He never debunks prayer or tries to explain it away.

It is true that theistic religions emphasize prayer as communication with a personal being. However, there are many forms of non-theistic religion - many of which make up a significant minority in American history. Buddhism is one such religion. The Dali Lama, a spiritual exemplar for many, says that Buddhism has no need for a creator and so does not encourage prayer but rather meditation.

The fact that theistic religions have similar practices of prayer does not clearly support the notion that prayer is their unifying factor and their truest meaning. Christians pray in Jesus' name, considering him the divine mediator between God the Father and sinful humans. Muslims pray directly to Allah according to the teachings of Muhammad, and find no need for a mediator. Jews pray to neither Allah nor Jesus, but to the God of the Covenant.

These are not minor differences that can be erased by noting their common practice of addressing a deity. One might consider the possibility of praying wrongly, just as one might vote wrongly or invest wrongly.

Prayer is not simply a personal and private practice by some or most Americans. On the contrary, our sense of prayer and the worldview behind our prayers have decisively shaped the nature of American history and will continue to do so. As such, this is a fruitful area for study and reflection.

Douglas Groothuis is a professor of philosopy at Denver Seminary and the author of On Jesus.

Friday, November 11, 2005

From Douglas Groothuis, "On Jesus" (Wadsworth, 2003), chapter 5

Jesus' Epistemology: Character and Knowledge of God

In recent years, philosophers have begun to rediscover the role of moral character in epistemology. Philosophers still rightly ask what makes beliefs qualify as knowledge (truth plus justification or warrant), but more philosophers are now asking what makes believers good candidates for knowledge. What qualities best suit a person for attaining knowledge? What traits taint a person’s capacity to know what ought to be known? This is called virtue epistemology; it has a long pedigree going back to Aquinas and Augustine in the Western tradition. Intellectual virtues have classically included qualities such as patience, tenacity, humility, studiousness, and honest truth-seeking. Vices to be avoided include impatience, gullibility, pride, vain curiosity, and intellectual apathy.[i]

There is a strong emphasis on character—both virtue and vice—
in Jesus’ epistemology, which is closely intertwined with his teachings on ethics and the knowledge of God. He not only gives arguments and tells parables, he calls people to intellectual rectitude and sobriety. Jesus’ familiar moral teaching about the dangers of judgmentalism contains an epistemological element easily overlooked.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

This passage is often taken out of context to forbid all moral evaluation, as if Jesus were a relativist. But Jesus has something else in mind: a clear-sighted self-evaluation and a proper evaluation of others based on objective standards. Jesus stipulates that all moral judgments relate to the self as much as to the other. Therefore, when one judges others, one is implicitly bringing oneself under the same judgment. One will be measured by the same measurement one employs. In light of that, a person needs first to search her or his own being for any moral impurities and seriously address them (“take the plank out of your own eye”). Only then is one in a good epistemological and ethical position to evaluate another, to “see clearly” the speck in someone else’s eye.

If one fails to evaluate oneself by one’s own standard, one cannot rightly discern the moral status of others. In other words, proper moral evaluation requires a knowledge of the self, and allows no special pleading. The hypocrite is not only morally deficient, but epistemologically off-base as well. By failing to be subjectively attentive to one’s conscience, one fails to discern moral realities objectively. Thus people will often condemn others overly because they ignore or obscure their own transgressions.

Jesus gives further incentive to evaluate situations justly—that is, to be virtuous knowers—when he warns that people will be held accountable before God for every word they utter. Their judgments issue from their character, and their character will affect their destiny.

Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in them. But I tell you that people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:35-37).

Jesus sometimes deemed the character of his hearers as interfering with their ability to know and apply the truth of his words and actions. In a quarrel over his own identity, Jesus accused his hearers of not understanding their own Scriptures or the testimony that John the Baptist gave on Jesus’ behalf. Nor did they have “the love of God in their hearts.”

I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if others come in their own names, you will accept them. How can you believe [in me] if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:43-44).

One might think this is an ad hominem fallacy. Jesus is attacking the person, not the argument. But Jesus does not replace an argument with a negative assessment of character; rather, he explains their inability to believe in him according to their over-concern with social status, which precluded their seeking truth. Giving more evidence or arguments does not serve Jesus’ purpose here; instead, he ferrets out their character defect and its epistemological consequences.

While Jesus warns of vices that keep people from understanding his message, he also lauds certain virtues as conducive to spiritual knowledge, as when he says, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:16-17). A willingness to conform one’s will to God’s will is a requirement for discerning Jesus’ authority in relation to “the Father”—a key to understanding Jesus’ identity. He makes a comparable, though broader, statement in the Sermon on the Mount concerning persistence in seeking.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

He similarly ties the knowledge that leads to freedom to whether or not one will be his disciple: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Fidelity to Jesus leads to knowledge that liberates.

Yet in several cases, Jesus refuses to grant a sign or answer an argument because his hearers would not learn anything from such a response. They are not seeking truth, but resisting it. So he does not owe it to them. When pressed for a miraculous sign on demand, Jesus demurs and accuses his audience of being spiritually unfaithful (Matthew 16:1-4). A sign would have had no beneficial effect. Similarly, when Jesus is questioned as to his authority, he says he will answer only if his questioners say whether they take John the Baptist’s activity to be from heaven or merely human. This sets up a dilemma from which they cannot escape. If they say John’s authority is from God, Jesus will ask why they didn’t follow John. If they say John’s authority is only human, the crowds who rightly accept John as a prophet will reject them. “So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things’” (Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus smoked out their presuppositions and forced a dilemma instead of providing an answer they would not have accepted anyway. In so doing, he uncovered their bad character that hindered their knowing.

[i] See Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998).

Report on Doug Groothuis Lecture

On the evening of November 9, I spoke for about an hour on “Christianity and Science: Strangers, Enemies, or Friends?” to about 250 people at the Student Union building at Colorado State University. I also showed about 14 minutes (about the bacterial flagellum) of video from the remarkable Intelligent Design DVD, “Unlocking the Mysteries of Life,” which can be purchased at Access Research Network: Timberline Church (Fort Collins, Colorado) sponsored the event and made copies of the audio portion (minus the DVD part, I think). If you are interested in purchasing this, you can contact them: If you’d like a copy of my detailed lecture outline (with links and bibliographical material), please email me:

Monday, November 07, 2005

Afterword to "Meltdown" by Marcus Honeysett, published by Kregel, 2004

Marcus Honeysett has written an engaging and important primer on postmodernism, a subject that typically resists lucid introductions. While other books by evangelicals put postmodernist thought into historical and intellectual context, they often lack the requisite apologetic critique so evident in Meltdown. Yet a successful Christian apologetic requires the refutation of the postmodernist denial of objective truth and normative rationality. This is because apologetics must appeal to rational arguments to defend the objective truth revealed in the Bible. Without objective truth (or what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth”) and rationality, apologetics has no tools with which to work.

Meltdown is an extraordinary book for at least two reasons. First, the author’s assessment of postmodernism (the philosophy) and postmodernity (the set of contemporary cultural conditions in the West) is dead-on. Unlike not a few evangelical authors, Honeysett discerns that postmodernism is not our great liberation from modernist metanarratives. Rather it is a truth-denying, authority-denying philosophy set against the truths authoritatively revealed in Holy Scripture and in Jesus Christ. Instead of fruitfully opening people to all kinds of spirituality (Christianity included), postmodernity discourages rational discourse, is hostile to Christian truth-claims, and encourages relativism and philosophical pluralism. Against the flow of many evangelical trendsetters, Honeysett has not made his peace with postmodernism—and for this we should be grateful.

Second, Honeysett states his case in an understandable but intellectually responsible and deeply challenging fashion. This combination of being both accessible and accurate on challenging topics is indeed rare. (He also exhorts when needed, which is refreshing in a book not lacking in academic substance.) This is no simple task when dealing with such daunting themes and authors as complex (and often opaque) as Derrida, Baudrillard, Foucault, and Butler. Honeysett navigates the conceptual terrain deftly, summarizing difficult material without over-simplifying, analyzing it logically (often exposing internal contradictions in postmodernist theory), and assessing it biblically. He shows a knack for discerning just where postmodern thought collides with Christian truth, why this matters (and not just to academics), and what we should think about it.

It is encouraging that postmodernism is vigorously opposed by a number of Christians, especially among those leading the renaissance in Christian philosophical work in the analytic tradition—a tradition that is antithetical to the continental waters in which postmodernism was spawned.[i] Yet too many evangelical theologians have been accommodating to postmodernism in significant ways. For example, after discussing 1 John 1:1-3, an evangelical theologian, attempting to engage in apologetics, writes, “Postmodernity concurs. No human being knows anything for certain”[ii] The author implausibly sees John as merely giving his own impressions of Jesus, not as marshalling convincing and evidence for the objective reality of Christ. He thinks that the posture of epistemological uncertainty is appropriate for doing apologetics in the postmodern world. But this is ill advised for at least five reasons.

First, the Apostle John would never agree with the statement, “No human being knows anything for certain,” since he himself evinces certainty that Jesus is the Christ and endeavors to make this known throughout his apostolic writings (John 20:30-31; 21:24-25). Second, most postmodernists are not skeptics, but nonrealists or antirealists. Roughly speaking, skeptics hold that objective truth exists, but that it is not knowable. For nonrealists or antirealists, knowledge is not difficult but easy. Just assent to the language game (or social construction) in which you find yourself—unless you deem it a totalizing metanarrative like Christianity—and stop worrying about what doesn’t exist: objective truth. (Philosophical realism, on the contrary, claims that objective truth exists and can be captured through the right methods.) Honeysett clearly makes this point about nonrealism and antirealism throughout Meltdown. Third, if one is certain that no human being knows anything for certain, then it is not clear how one could know this proposition to be true. It looks self-refuting. If so, the statement is necessarily false, and falls into the same illogical ditch that so many postmodernists already occupy, as Honeysett adroitly notes. Fourth, there are plenty of counter examples of propositions that we know for certain to be true: (1) “Torturing the innocent for pleasure is always wrong,” (2) “The law of noncontradiction is universally true,” and (3) “There is a physical world.” Fifth, Scripture repeatedly promises that confident knowledge of God is possible for humans rightly related to their Maker (see Romans 8:15-16).

Honeysett’s treatment of Jean Baudrillard (who is something like an updated French nihilistic version of Marshall McLuhan) is, to my knowledge, the only Christian critique of this important thinker who challenges the very notion of objective reality in our media-saturated environment. Baudrillard has recently emitted some egregious statements about the twin towers of the World Trade Center committing suicide on September 11, 2001,[iii] which some have taken as grounds for dismissing him without reflection or critique. But despite his penchant for flamboyance and his tortuous prose, Baudrillard is a thinker with which to reckon.

Honeysett also keenly assesses key aspects of postmodern culture, which is every bit as important to understand as postmodernist philosophies. Few may read the philosophers, but all imbibe the culture. First, Honeysett investigates the postmodern ethos of the university culture—something he knows well as a thoughtful campus minister—and shows how to respond to it with integrity and intellect. I especially appreciated this advice in light of my twelve years of involvement in campus ministry. Sadly, evangelical campus ministries often fail to engage the intellects of students, leaving them prey to “arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This must change if Christianity is to win a fair hearing on intellectual matters.

Second, in discussing “postmodern Bible reading,” Honeysett rightly argues that too many Christians have swallowed a postmodernist rejection of all objective authority, which has corrupted their understanding of the Bible as God’s authoritative revelation of objective truth. The answer is to return to Scripture as the ultimate source for truth; it should not be deemed a subjective, self-help tool. This cannot be underscored too strongly. A popular and contemporary evangelical writer claims that a strong view of biblical authority is merely a modernist invention that postmodernist Christians should throw off as an aberration.[iv] This leaves the Christian in the postmodern ocean with neither an anchor nor a rudder for navigating the intellectual storms of the day. The question of biblical authority is a crucial issue at all times. Postmodernism has not rendered it a moot point.

Third, Honeysett notes that postmodern ideas have similarly undermined a biblical understanding of the church, which is too often viewed as more of a consumer item than as an institution founded by the divine Son of God for his glory (Matthew 16:13-19). Since American evangelicals are notoriously weak on ecclesiology (given their proclivity for individualism, innovation, and parachurch entrepreneurialism), this reminder comes as a needed tonic.
Fourth, Honeysett forthrightly attacks postmodern influence in culture as “immoral,” because it rejects God and fills the void with the autonomous self and its God-denying principles. Although he does not quote him, Pascal’s warning fits the spirit of Honeysett’s critique. “When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving toward depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point”[v]

Fifth, Honeysett observes that a leading engine of the postmodernist rejection of truth and authority is television, in both its nature and its content. Christians should, therefore, engage it critically and carefully and not be swept away with its unreality (as Baudrillard warns). Honeysett is one of the few evangelicals who understands that communication media are not neutral, but invariably shape their content according to their form. As McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” As long as evangelicals have their minds shaped by the medium of television (which favors the graphic over the textual and the titillating over the edifying), they will remain intellectually enfeebled and unable to discern and disarm the deceptions of postmodernism.

Honeysett concludes this rousing and thoughtful primer by emphasizing the need to proclaim
the “authentic Jesus” in a postmodern world of pluralism, syncretism, and outright hostility to the gospel. The authentic Jesus must be presented to the watching world in terms of a fully biblical and philosophically defensible concept of truth, a concept that cuts against the grain of postmodernism. While so many evangelicals scavenge for food among postmodernist philosophies, the worldview outside of Christianity that is gaining the most adherents has no truck with postmodernism whatsoever. It wins converts and promotes a view of civilization based on the concept of authoritative, universal, absolute, and objective truth. That worldview is Islam.[vi]

My hope and prayer is that Meltdown will be read and discussed by high school seniors in preparation for college, Christian university students and campus ministers, and by anyone who wants to make sense of the postmodern world and speak to it in the name of Jesus Christ, who is nothing less than the Truth Incarnate and the only hope for erring mortals east of Eden (John 14:6).

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he chairs the Philosophy of Religion Masters Degree program. He is the author of ten books, including Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism (InterVarsity Press, 2000).

[i] For an excellent example of Christian philosophy in the analytical tradition, see J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).
[ii] John Stackhouse, Humble Apologetics (Oxford University Press, 2002), 166. See also 232.
[iii] Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, Chris Turner, trans. (New York: Verso, 2002), 8.
[iv] See Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2001), 52-56.
[v] Blaise Pascal, Pensées. A. Krailsheimer, trans. and ed. (New York: Penguin, 1966), 699/382, p. 247.
[vi] See Irving Hexham, “Evangelical Illusions: Postmodern Christianity and the Growth of Muslim Communities in Europe and North America,” in John Stackhouse, ed. No Other Gods Before Me? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 137-160.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Doug Groothuis to Speak at Colorado State University

I am slated to give a lecture called, "Christianity and Science: Friends, Enemies, or Strangers" at Colorado State University (Fort Collins) on November 9 at 7:00 PM at the Lory Student Center Theater. The event is free and will include a detailed lecture outline with many sources and links. You can find directions here: The event is sponsored by Timberline Community Church. Your prayers for this outreach are much appreciated (Ephesians 6:18).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Review of Brian McLaren, "A Generous Orthodoxy"

Jeremy Green, a 2005 MA gradute of Denver Seminary (Philosophy of Religion), has posted his excellent review of Brian McLaren's book, A Generous Orthodoxy, at Denver Journal. You can find it here:

Doug Groothuis Review of "Restless Souls"

My review of Lee Schmidt's book, Restless Souls, was published in The Rocky Mountain News on November 2, 2005. It can be found here:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Critique of the Megachurch

Pastor Susan Arnold, worship Pastor of New Day Church in Boulder and Denver Seminary philosophy student, has written a superb critique of the megachurch on her web log. I highly recommend reading it.

--Doug Groothuis