Saturday, December 21, 2013

Blaise Pascal on Jesus, from Pensees

Jesus Christ. Offices.—He alone had to create a great people, elect, holy, and chosen; to lead, nourish, and bring it into the place of rest and holiness; to make it holy to God; to make it the temple of God; to reconcile it to, and save it from the wrath of God; to free it from the slavery of sin, which visibly reigns in man; to give laws to this people, and engrave these laws on their heart; to offer Himself to God for them, and sacrifice Himself for them; to be a victim without blemish, and Himself the sacrificer, having to offer Himself, His body, and His blood, and yet to offer bread and wine to God…

Friday, December 06, 2013

Frigid Cold and Frozen Souls

Frigid Cold and Frozen Souls

I had seen her before. A bell-ringer for The Salvation Army sat in her wheel chair about ten feet from the opening and closing automatic doors of King Soopers. It was zero degrees outside. She sat and stared outside as I shopped. I kept looking over at her and wondering. When I checked out, I said hello and asked if I could help. She had called a cab company twice to pick her up. No one had come. I called the cab company and insisted they send someone soon. She had no cell phone.

I won't tell all of the rest of the story, but will adamantly make one point. No one in the store, neither the workers, nor the few customers did anything to help her. When I came back later, she was not by the door, but was wheeling her manual wheel chair across the store. Meanwhile about six employees chatted among themselves, since there were no customers to speak of. If anyone ever looked pathetic and needy, it was Lisa; and Lisa was wheeling herself at a glacial pace across the store. Yes, she has a name, damn it. Lisa had rung the bell all day in freezing cold and could not buy a ride home. Lisa had waiting well over an hour for a cab that never came. Lisa was, as far as I could tell, was abandoned in an upscale King Soopers (near "The Presserve") with well-to-do people rushing in and out, stepping by Lisa.

"As you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, so you have done it to me"--Jesus Christ. Have you heard of him? He was sitting in the cold all day and could not get a ride home.

No, I am not mentioning this for my ego, blast it. I am a stupid sinner, believe me.  I am mad as hell about people's neglect of those at the margins of society, those too easy to pass by. These poor souls are made in the image and likeness of God, like it or not. These folks should interrupt our precious schedules, like it or not. And you don't have to do that much to show them some heart. Buy them a hot drink. Ask them their name. If they look like they are distress, see what you can do. You do not have to take them home or be their social worker. But you can do something, anything in love.

Will you please pray for this dear soul and remember, too, those without homes when it is cold out enough to kill?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Philosophy of Card Writing

1. Use your own handwriting. Chose a tasteful pen. Write slowly.
2. Write for consolation, encouragement, or to share you life with a close friend. Or write strangers whose work you appreciate. I write musicians, authors, and more They almost never write back. The exception is Peter Brötzmann.
3. Ponder before you write. Pray, too.
4. Perhaps adorn the card with stickers or your own drawings.
5. Although I always want my cards reciprocated in some way, I almost always write more than I am written to--at least since my mother died. If someone never writes back after two or three cards, I usually give up.
6. Be creative in conveying truth and love in this way. It can mean much to many. I know.

Preface for the Korean Edition of On Jesus


I was delighted to discover that On Jesus would be translated into Korean, especially since I have and esteemed Korean colleague, Dr. Sun Wook Chung, and several beloved Korean students at Denver Seminary, and because of the resurgence of Christianity in Korea in recent decades. I hope that its translation will contribute to wise philosophical discussion about Jesus and Christianity in Korea and among Korean readers elsewhere, whether these readers are followers of Christ or not.
While some of the cultural references employed may be unique to American culture, the essential issues that are raised in On Jesus are not uniquely American, but timeless. Jesus addressed issues that are perennial for human beings, and which have been categorized by philosophers as matters of metaphysics, epistemology, and morality. One thing that distinguishes Jesus from most philosophers is the metaphysics of his own identity. The Bible, Christian creeds, and orthodoxy through the ages have confessed and defended [SG1]  the claim that this prophet from Nazareth was both human and divine: one person with two natures. Therefore, this book discusses this significant claim in some detail. However, I discuss this topic in much more depth in chapter 21 my book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Christian Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2011).
If I had originally written this small book for a Korean audience, I would have added more comparison and contrasts between the teachings of Jesus with those of Buddhism and Confucianism. However, I hope that the attentive Korean reader will supply this analysis and bring the philosophy and identity of Jesus into a uniquely Korean context. Although On Jesus does consider some of the differences between Jesus and the teachings of other religions, Christian Apologetics deals with this important topic in more detail, especially in chapters 19-24. (This book is now being translated into Korean and should appear in 2014.)
Perhaps many Koreans will also be intellectually provoked by my chapter, “Jesus’ View of Women,” given the influence of the Confucianism view of women and the assumption of male leadership in the church.
I further hope that this small volume challenges more Korean Christians to confidently enter the philosophical calling, with Jesus are their model and inspiration. As he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” (Matthew 22:37-38; see also Isaiah 1:18).
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., September 12, 2012
Professor of Philosophy
Denver Seminary
Denver, Colorado, USA


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Insanity by Jonah Haddad

“Clear, compelling, and existentially fascinating book on the theory of knowledge (epistemology) that rationally support Christian theism are too rare. Yet this is what Jonah Haddad offers us. I applaud this exceptional achievement.”
author of Christian Apologetics

“Jonah Haddad is angry. He does not suffer in silence when he details the insanity of intellectuals, who place
confidence in the autonomy of human reason. His calm rejoinder shows how faith and reason are bound
together in a holy alliance with God who made us in his image and grounds our legitimate use of reason in God’s design for us as made in his image. His history of skepticism and the search for certitude is especially helpful.”
author of The Universe Next Door

JONAH HADDAD received his MA in Philosophy of Religion from Denver Seminary. He lives and works in Lyon, France.

God and the Theory of Knowledge

“Have you seen such men—peculiar, raving, foam-mouthed, and
straitjacketed—throwing themselves mercilessly at white padded
walls . . . ?” Such men are said to be insane. But there is more to
insanity than the images depicted in film and planted in our minds
by popular media. Insanity is a condition that affects us all. Unsoundness
of mind disrupts our ability to think clearly and to form knowledge
about the world. Our understanding is dangerously incomplete
and our minds are corrupt. We are all insane. How then can we
ever hope to know our world? Is it possible to form justified true
beliefs about anything? What possibility, if any, do we have of escaping
this condition of madness that keeps us from the light of knowledge?
In Insanity, Jonah Haddad explores these very questions by
introducing the main problems of the theory of knowledge and by
offering a response to our madness—a response grounded in God,
the ultimate Knower.
ISBN: 978-1-62564-229-5
$S20 / 172 pp. / paper

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Moral Case Against Darwinism

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.

A Moral Argument Against Darwinism

1.      If Darwinism is an adequate account of the biosphere, then human beings have no essential nature, since they evolved without design into their present forms.

2.      If (1), then various races of humans may be more adaptively fit than other races. Darwin himself states this in The Descent of Man.

3.      If (2), there is nothing intrinsically valuable about the human race as a whole. That is, some races may prevail upon other races given their selective advantages due to their unique evolutionary path.

4.      If (3), then there is no philosophical basis for the claim that humans qua humans have objective and universal human rights.

5.      But (4) is false. Our moral intuitions and the history of Western law treat every human being, irrespective of race, as possessing intrinsic human dignity and must be treated as such. The United Nation’s statement on human rights affirms this, for example, as does The United States Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.”

6.      Further, if (4) is true, then we have no objective basis to morally condemn the enslavement or even eradication of the “less favored races” (Darwin’s term)—that is, less favored by the impersonal processes of macro-evolution.

7.      But (4) is false, because of (5).

8.      Therefore (6) is false because of (5)

9.      Therefore, (1)—Darwinism—is false. This is by modus tollens, which in this case is a reductio ad absurdum (reduce the claim to absurdity).

Note: modus tollens (or denying the consequent):

a.       If p, then q.
b.      Not-q.

c.       Therefore, not-P.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Art Forgeries

Since The New York Times did not publish this, here it is:

November 5, 2013

To the Editor:

Blake Gopnik’s defense of art forgeries “as the art lover’s friend” is an impressive piece of sustained sophistry. All seven arguments he offers fail miserably.

First, if a forgery can fool an expert, it can give the rest of us pleasure. This is good. But pleasure does not justify deceit, nor does pleasure define the meaning of art. Second, the forger may reveal what the copied artist might have himself done; he may even reveal the artists inner essence. Lying imitations have nothing to do with artistic continuity or revelations. Third, forgeries are justified because artists often use assistants. This is a false analogy, since the artists authorized these assistants, unlike forgers. Fourth, art forgeries can “tame our absurd art market” by bringing down prices. This comment—if true—has no force, and it purely utilitarian. Two wrongs do not make a right. Fifth, forgeries endorsed by art experts teach us that “connoisseurship is not to be trusted.” This is illogical. Everyone already knows that connoisseurs are fallible. But they may be fallible and generally reliable, like all merely human judges. Sixth, because some ancient cultures endorsed the copying and augmenting of valued artworks, this justifies forgeries today. On the contrary, these copies were culturally-authorized and well-accepted—and not forgeries. Seventh, much of 20 Century art, such as Duchamp’s, “set out to undermine idea of unique authentic, hand-touched works of art.” This is true, but irrelevant. Duchamp’s ready-mades were not forgeries, because he did not claim to make them.
This ambitious essay fails to marshal any good arguments. We await a better apologist for artistic deception.

Douglas Groothuis,

Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Postmodernism and the Church

Here is the video for the panel discussion on postmodernism and the church, featuring Sarah Geis, Larry Burtoft, Doug Groothuis, and David Mathewson. This was sponsored by The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture on November 19, 2013.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Duke Ellington,
I should write a symphony
in your memory
a poem of tonality
to express the beauty
and sublimity of your
sonic personality.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Philosophy of Being on a Panel Dicussion.

1. Pray before, during, and after that truth will be made known, truth that transforms for the good.
2. Defer to those who know more than you do.
3. Do not dominate the panel.
4. Follow up on others' comments only when you have something significant to add.
5. Don't argue with a like-minded panel member.
6. Keep a sense of humor, but don't be a buffoon.
7. Don't mention your own work too much. I think I did this last night.
8. Mention your work if it can help someone get a better answer than what you can give on a panel.
9. Don't make jokes about your spouse.
10. Don't fall off your stool.
11. Stay afterward to minister to people who did not ask a question or who have questions that were not answered sufficiently. Try to be the last person out of the room.
12. Bring hand out or books that are pertinent to the subject at hand. That is, give something people can take home and learn more from.
13. Generally speaking, it is best to speak in public with an empty stomach, but we sure to hydrate adequately; otherwise, you voice may suffer.
14. If the discussion has anything to do with Christianity, present the Gospel clearly and cogently.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Danny Erbaugh's photo.

This includes Professors Craig Blomberg (New Testament), Richard Hess (Old Testament), and Douglas Groothuis (Philosophy).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why I am not a Continental Philosopher

Why I am Not A Continental Philosopher (CP)

First, unlike CP's, I'll define terms. An analytic philosopher (AP) emphasize the following philosophical principles:

1. Define terms carefully.
2. Obscurity is not profundity
3. Logical operations are primary for philosophy, such as the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions, types and tokens, necessary and contingent, and, of course, the basic arguments forms--deductive, inductive, and abductive. One should not have to guess about these points; they should be clearly stated.

Second, the orgins of analytical philosophy probably trace to Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore. It is a neutral method and is not committed, a priori, to any one worldview. Russell was an atheist; Alvin Plantinga is a Christian. Both are analytic philosophers.

Third, many claims to the contrary, the method of AP does not rule out large-scale philosophical questions about God, meaning, philosophy of culture (I do that!) or even aesthetics. CPs often make this erroneous claim.

Fourth, while some APs de-emphasize the important of the history of philosophy, there is nothing in the approach of AP that necessitates this; that is, it is not part of the definition of AP. The history of a philosophical concept, such as substance, is very significant in making any sense of it rationally.

Fifth, philosophers who are pre-analytic, such as Pascal, are subject to analytical criticism and reconstruction. I did so in my book, On Pascal. It has even been done with Nietzsche and Kierkegaard (see the work of C. Stephen Evans)!

CPs typically do not define terms or types of arguments carefully and revel in obscurity and false dichotomies, such as "those analytic apologists like J.P. Moreland, Bill Craig, and Doug Groothuis emphasize logic, but not love and community" (Myron Penner). Bullshit.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Modern (not classical) Liberalism is the political philosophy that holds an unconstrained vision of human potential in this world. Thus, it takes human limitations (such as poverty, inequality, and lack of education) to be addressed largely through the auspices of the civil government, which function on the basis of coercion, not persuasion. To do this, it must consolidate power at the top, game as much information from the activities of its citizens as possible and lesson the power of free associations (Edmund Burke's "little platoons," Peter Berger's "mediating structures," or Abraham Kuyper's "spheres of government' under God). It must also avoid or reinterpret America's founding documents, since they stipulate a limited civil government (federalism). To sum up. liberalism is Utopian; it is the unsubstantiated vision of the anointed (the ones who see reality unconstrained by history or human nature). It is an ersatz and false religion of humanity. Economically, it pits "the rich" against "the poor," based on the false assumption that making money requires ripping off others. Thus, those who general jobs and services are penalized for success through progressive taxation (something advocated by Karl Marx). But this money extracted from "the rich" (the category is subjected and fluctuates) is not given directly to "the poor) the category is subjective and fluctuates), but to massive, inept bureaucracies, which are not governed by the profit motive and are accountable only to "commissions." They also have "the power of the sword" (coercion).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Photo: Mark your calendars for our upcoming Lewis Center event, which is both free and open to the public!

"Beyond the Never"

Philosopher Attends "Beyond the Never," A Metallica Film

Tonight, alone, in a sparsely attended showing, shoveling vast amounts of pop corn and Coke down my gullet, I say the Metallica movie. I was about five minutes late, having gotten lost on the way. That is normal for me.

The concert footage was outstanding. The film did not use the unbearable fast cuts and jump cuts that are so common, but it did give multiple angels on the band and the audience (who seemed to be worshiping more than listening).

The physicality of this band is remarkable. Their music, while load and intense, is not simple. Yet, they walk and run around the stage, which, in this case was in the round. Yet all the tunes were perfectly executed. Yet I wonder if "Cyanide" does not excuse suicide, which is morally wrong. James screams to the hysterical crowd at one point, "How does it feel to be alive?" The implication is that it is right to be alive, and that this group experience contributes to that. But, then, why do "Cyanide?"

Now consider the nearly unbearable part. There was a secondary story of a roadie who was sent to obtain some object for the band. Along the way, he encounters horrendous and unexplained violence. These scenes are interspersed with the band's performance. Since these pointless and violent interjections included extra sounds (bodies being burned, crushed, slashed, and the like), I had a clue to close my eyes or just peek at the screen at the screen to see if the boys had returned to the screen--where they belonged for the entire film.

The secondary story make so sense whatsoever. It was not only senseless violence, but inexplicable violence. It marred the film. Good night, Metallica (especially with that elaborate stage set up) is dramatic enough!

There it is: Philosopher goes Metallica.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

1. In Whose Afraid of Postmodernism, Jame K. A. Smith puts me in the same category as Os Guinness, DA Carson, Millard Erickson and other critics of postmodernism. Thank you!

2. In the End of Apologetics, Myron Penner puts me in the same (evil) apologetics category as J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig. Thank you!

3. In The Next Reformation, Carl Raschke likens my apologetic method (which he rejects; he has no apologetic) to the philosophical rigor of Bertrand Russell. Thank you!

I am honored to be a part of these hit lists. I will continue to defend Christianity as objectively true, compellingly rational, and pertinent to all of life.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Jesus Christ

"Religion is wide, but truth is narrow. Truth captures reality in statements, and any statement that fails that task is erroneous. Error in religion is no small thing, and it can be a matter of eternal consequence if that error be egregious enough. The end of true religion must be truth, saving and flaming truth. According to Christianity, Jesus Christ is the eternal cornerstone of reality and truth incarnate (John 14:6). This is no idle claim, but is backed up by considerable philosophical and historical arguments. Christ is, therefore, the only source of undying liberation. To err at this point is catastrophic. While other religions contain elements of truth, they reject the most important truth of all: Christ crucified, resurrected and offered for the redemption of the cosmos".( Douglas Groothuis. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove:IVP, 2011. p. 598)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Does anyone have an contracts at Red Rocks Community College for employment in teaching? I have the web page, but am looking for humans.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Monday, October 07, 2013

On relevance in studies:

If one is in a creditable course of study, one should not bother with the question, "Is this relevant to the rest of my life?" Why not?

1. You do not know what the rest of your life will bring. Read Ecclesiastes on that.
2. You are a student (details), not a teacher. Perhaps the teacher (horrors!) knows better what is important in her discipline.
3. Perhaps the books (if books are still used in your course...) are worth reading. Even if they are not worth reading because they are good, you can practice your critical thinking skills on detecting falsehood, illogic, and plan bullshit.
4. Screening things out because of "irrelevance" will likely rob you of much of your education.
5. Even if the material does not directly relate to your vocation, the disciplines of learning will help you be a better person.
6. So there.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

My letter to The New York Times:

Jon Carannica is right: Let (the new) Miley Cyrus be Miley Cyrus, and let's ridicule the "hollow, declarations of cultural war from defenders of an innocent era that never was." Yes! "Pop as a whole...always needs flamboyant disrupters to survive," he writes. Consider Tony Bennett, whose recording of his 1964 performance was given a full-page add on the page next to Mr. Carannica's scolding. Mr. Bennett shocked with his tight, neon pants, eye-liner, sexual pantomime, and libidinally-laced lyrics--and all done with a wink of course. The same goes for Jim Croce, and Eric Clapton. Wait, maybe these three pop stars relied on...talent.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How "Assessment" Destroys Education

For statist reasons of control, there is more pressure on all schools to demonstrate "student outcomes" based on measurable and universal standards. Schools are not left to their history, choice of faculty, or institutional values; they must conform to alien criteria demanded from above.

This sad state erodes the essence of teaching and learning, which is (amazingly enough) the teacher-student relationship. The assessors become mediators, interlopers who neither teach classes nor know students. The teachers are not trusted to teach and grade according to their competence. Grades, which used to be the basic standard of assessment, are not enough. We must assess learning in other ways, too. So, we must ask, why not assess the assessors, and so on...forever?

Those who cherish the Western patrimony of knowledge needing students and students needing knowledge through teaching and learning will have a hard fight ahead. But I, for one, will not give up.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I am reading a bit in John Wilkinson's book, No Argument for God. So far, in just a few pages, he has committed several egregious logical and theological errors. He will serve as a negative example for my upcoming talk for The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture, September 23, 7:00 PM, Room #119. Come early; it may be full.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The first event for the Gordon Lewis Center for Thought and Culture is Monday, September 23, at 7:00 PM in room #119. My lecture is "Is Faith Above Reason?" On Tuesday, September 24, Mark Mittelberg speaks on "Understanding Secular Culture." Please pray for these events and mention them to your classes and others. Dr. Lewis is joining us and making brief comments after each lecture. Our goal is to make Denver Seminary Denver's Seminary by creatively reaching into Denver culture with the knowledge of God to further his mission.

Doug Groothuis

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Speak Up and Speak Well

1. Finish your sentences. 
2. Do not trail off at the end of sentences.
3. Learn to pronounce words correctly. My wife helps me with this!
4. Salt your speech with the Bible and great quotations.
5. Do not interrupt the other person.
6. Do not speak loudly if not necessary.
7. Make eye contact.
8. Develop and apt and ready vocabulary.
9. Try to avoid hackneyed expressions and worn out metaphors. See George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language."
10. Avoid stutter phrases and overused expressions. This is boring at best and annoying at worst. You lose credibility as a thoughtful speaker.
11. Read The Book of Proverbs, attending to what it says about the speech of a fool and that of a wise man.
12. Do not have gum in your mouth while speaking to someone else, even if you are not chewing. This is rude and can even make the other person nauseous. I know.
13. Do not speak so rapidly or slowly that this detracts from your demeanor and ability to communicate well.
14. Do not interrupt yourself. Even some well-known speakers do this constantly--Rush Limbaugh and Denis Prager, for example. This requires forethought and patience.
15. Protect your voice by hydrating enough and not speaking much when you have a sore throat. Yelling can also damage your voice.
16. Do not speak on a cell phone such that you interrupt or detract from unmediated discussions.
17. Do not repeat yourself if not necessary. Life is too short for that.
18. If you are funny, do not hide behind your humor.
19. If you seem to be more intelligent than the person to whom you are speaking, do not play on that.
20. If you seem less intelligent than the person to whom you are speaking, try to learn from the other person instead of being intimidated.
21. Try to speak as you would write (if you write well). See John McWhorter, Doing our Own Thing. He is a linguist.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

C.S. Lewis's demon, Screwtape, to the junior demon, Wormwood, from The Screwtape Letters.

The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long- term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbors as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbors. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Doug Groothuis and Mark Mittelberg Lectures: "Is Faith Beyond Knowledge?" and "Understanding the Secular Landscape"

The inaugural event for the Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture is coming up in September, and will be held at Denver Seminary. This is a two-night pair of lectures. The first is on Monday, September 23rd, at 7pm, and will feature Dr. Groothuis speaking on the relationship between faith and reason. His talk is called, "Is Faith Beyond Knowledge?" The next night (September 24th), at 7pm, Mark Mittelberg will speak on the relationship between apologetics, evangelism, and culture. Mark's talk is called "Understanding the Secular Landscape." After the second night, there will be a time for question/answer with both Dr. Douglas Groothuis and Mark Mittelberg. Both talks will be in classroom 119. Furthermore, both events are free for everyone, and we welcome students and non-students, Christians and non-Christians. The Lewis Center seeks to be a resource to the entire Denver community, so we would greatly appreciate it if you could help us spread the word about this event and ministry. 

Click here to join the Facebook event page.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Becoming Free is offering professionally facilitated support/recovery groups to those adults having suffered previous  involvement in various abusive and harmful religious or spiritual environments.
If you know  someone would benefit from this offer, consider the following 2 groups:
Group #1 (Ex-members group)  For those having exited formal cults or abusive churches.
Meets once per week, for 8 weeks, Tuesdays, beginning September 3rd at 6:30pm for two hours.  It will meet in the Littleton, Colorado area.  The cost for materials is $60.  Some scholarships may be available.  This group will be co-facilitated by Pat Knapp and Grace Dominguez.  Both of them came out of abusive churches many years ago.

Group #2 (Friends and Family group) For those having friends or family members currently in, or recently out of a formal cult or abusive church. 
Meets once per week, for 8 weeks, Thursdays, beginning September 5th at 6:30 pm for two hours.  It will meet in Lakewood, Colorado area.  The cost for materials is $60.  Some scholarships may be available. This group will be co-facilitated by Pat Knapp and Heidi Knapp.  Both of them came out of abusive churches many years ago.

More specific information can be found at the Becoming Free website: and additional questions can be addressed by email or calling our organization at 720-227-8695.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Man is both the most attentive 
most distractable of all earthlings.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When Bad Books Happen to Good People

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry

  • Gregory Alan Thornbury
  • Aug 22, 2013
  • Series: Denver Journal Volume 16 - 2013
Gregory Alan Thornbury, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2013. Paperback. 222 pages with Scripture index. $17.99.  ISBN-10: 1433530627; ISBN-13: 978-1433530623.
Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry Gregory Alan ThornburyA book of this stripe desperately needed to be written, given the intellectually devalued state of so much evangelicalism (if that term retains any determinate meaning).  Given the philosophical, apologetic, and theological decline so evident in postmodern, post-liberal, mystical, and post-rational versions of evangelicalism, a return to Carl Henry’s robust rational account of evangelicalism is a needed tonic. The man is too important to bury in a few footnotes
An author should rise to the accession of the seriousness of the topic engaged.  Some subjects at some times call for serious and even prophetic treatment. The need for evangelicals to reclaim the genius of Dr. Carl F. H. Henry is one such topic, as Professor Thornbury rightly claims. To make my point, please indulge me a few autobiographical comments.
In the summer 1981, while working for a campus ministry, I found that New College, Berkeley (now defunct) was offering a three-week course on Modern Theology taught by Carl Henry. Having read The Remaking of the Modern Mind and part of volume one of his God, Revelation, and Authority (1976), I seized the moment and began to prepare. Having vast quantities of time that summer for intellectual leisure, I purchased the other three volumes then in print (the series ran to six volumes, ending in 1983), and began in earnest a systematic reading of this herculean work. I read slowly, took notes, and was compelled to learn as much as possible from this magnum opus. Henry’s greatness was on clear display: an encyclopedic knowledge of theology, biblical studies, and philosophy combined with a heartfelt love for God and concern for the church’s mission in the world of ideas. It was intoxicating and deeply rewarding. I arrived at New College with these volumes carefully read and richly resonating in my soul. Now I would meet the master philosopher-theologian. I was not disappointed, but thrilled to hear his daily three-hour lectures to be followed by my long study sessions and the writing of a fifty-page paper on process theology. During this hothouse experience, I also heard Dr. Henry preach and give a masterful message on biblical inerrancy to a group of pastors of various theological persuasions. 
Carl Henry made an indelible mark on my soul. Reading the first four volumes of God, Revelation, and Authority, was a theological education in and of itself (and I do not hold any theological degrees). Henry situated historic orthodoxy in relation to all the major contenders, particularly the ponderous thought of Karl Barth. He defended orthodoxy thoroughly, without rancor, but with insistence. After all, God’s truth was on the line. I later read most of volumes five and six as well, and am planning to reread the entire set, some thirty years later. (Great books demand re-reading, as C.S. Lewis sagaciously observed.)
As a long-time professor of philosophy at an evangelical seminary (and an adjunct at secular schools), I cannot but recommend Henry to my students. Further, my immersion in Carl Henry enriched my apologetic engagement in campus ministry from 1981-1984, before I attended graduate school. In time I differed with Dr. Henry’s apologetic method and especially his case against natural theology, which was very similar to that of one of his major mentors, Gordon H. Clark. Especially redolent has been his astutely-argued, meticulously-nuanced, and necessary articulation of the meaning of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. This was a tonic to my mind, given that I had wondered about this doctrine after my exposure to the teachings of Clark Pinnock two years before at New College, Berkeley. Over the years, I found that Christian scholars such as Alister McGrath, Robert Webber, and others rejected much of Dr. Henry work because he was a “rationalist,” whose view of reason was far too high and whose philosophy of biblical revelation was too propositional. (The alternative to the propositional is the non-cognitive.) Henry, they claimed, should be relegated to the status of a learned, but curious, and ultimately irrelevant, relic—a relic fit for a theological museum because of his standing in shaping evangelicalism. Yet he should not be deemed as part of the canon of theological greats of the Twentieth Century. I found these dismissive comments as ignorant, arrogant, and egregious. These ejaculations were akin to deploying a defective pea shooter against a world-class armored tank. The tank stands and advances, even as many ignorantly applaud the underachieving pea shooters.
Now comes Professor Thornbury to set the record straight—to rehabilitate Dr. Henry’s legacy, and to apply Henry’s deepest insights to matters theological today: epistemology, theology proper, inerrancy culture, and evangelicalism in general. I had high hopes for this young college president’s book—hopes that were quickly dashed on rocks of a ragged, sloppy, and, at worst, excruciating book. These are strong words, and may seem out of place for an academic review. But please read on.
Chapter one begins with a sick thud when Thornbury sets an authorial tone (or pathos) that does not befit serious scholarship. His opening anecdote about “glam-rock” attempts to be clever, but fails. It also fails to adroitly advance the thesis of the book. Great (or even good) books may have bad starts, but in this case, the start is the substance.
However, Thornbury correctly laments and decries the near disappearance of Henry’s work and method in contemporary evangelicalism. In particular, he mourns the loss of philosophical prolegomena—including epistemology, theological method, and philosophical theology—in recent theological works by evangelicals. He mentions Wayne Grudem’s popular Systematic Theology as a prime offender. I unhappily noticed this defect when the work first appeared. It is orthodox and biblically-supported. I agree with most of its doctrines; but it does not cognitively situate itself in our pluralistic world of alien ideas. This was one of Dr. Henry’s (and Francis Schaeffer’s) fortes. Both were always concerned with gaining a respectful hearing from the non-Christian world and by comparing biblical revelation and historic orthodoxy with intellectual rivals, both secular and religious. That is, the approach was philosophical. This noble tradition continues in the work of Millard Erickson, who has just released a third edition of his modern classic, Christian Theology (Baker, 2013); and in Integrative Theology (three volumes) by Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest (Zondervan, 1996-2002).
One theme that unites all of these theologians is a burden to find the proper method for discerning truth about God, man, the cosmos, salvation, and history/eschatology. They do not merely extract a Christian worldview from Scripture; they defend it apologetically (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). While postmodernists want to bracket epistemology issues (thus insuring their own principled and pious ignorance) and fideists don’t think epistemology matters (or is dangerous as “worldly philosophy”), astute theologians embrace the challenge of epistemology and submit to its rigors. If Jesus Christ came “to make the Father known” (John 1:18; see also Hebrews 1), then the subject of knowledge in general and theological knowledge in particular should not be avoided by anyone passionate about extending the Kingdom of God under the Lordship of Christ Jesus to the whole of life (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).
Ironically, while Thornbury wants to enlist Dr. Henry to fill the chasm left by theologians who abandon (or vilify) prolegomena, this is exactly what Thornbury himself does in the disappointing second chapter, “Epistemology Matters.” In a paragraph that is, at best, off-putting, he avers that volume one of Dr. Henry’s God, Revelation, and Authority, should be pushed aside, since it is hopelessly esoteric and, consequently, irrelevant. The tone of this one-paragraph dismissal is both arrogant and flippant. Worse yet, it is flatly false and disrespectful to Dr. Henry’s meticulously measured philosophy of knowledge. Before coming back to this offending paragraph in more detail, let me say more about volume one of God, Revelation, and Authority.
Volume One: “God Who Speaks and Shows, Preliminary Considerations,” is foundational to the five long and rich volumes to follow. Again, perhaps the reader will allow some philosophical autobiography. I read the majority of his book in the summer of 1981, while working in campus ministry. My philosophical credential was a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Oregon (Eugene) in 1979, having graduating with a mediocre grade point average. I read the Volume One very carefully, taking copious notes and making comments in the margins. The ponderous volume had small print and no subtitles, charts, or diagrams. As I poured over the text, I was elated to find a philosophically-acute and theologically-informed knowledge of and critique of Kant’s epistemology (which had flummoxed me as an undergraduate). Further, Henry articulated a fine-tuned epistemology of his own, emphasizing a priori knowledge (rationalism, in the technical philosophical sense) and the failure of both empiricism and transcendental idealism (Kant’s view) to avoid skepticism and to deliver knowledge. Henry drew heavily on the earlier work of Gordon H. Clark, but expanded on it impressively. I was riveted by every page and found none of it inaccessible to my modestly-educated mind. Every one of the twenty-four chapters of that 409-page-book was profoundly pertinent to Christian witness and the advance of the Kingdom of God into the crucial world of ideas and arguments. Henry was intellectually fearless without being cocky. He dug deep, thought widely, but wrote intelligibly. After all, he began his professional career as a journalist. He assumed some rudimentary philosophical the theological knowledge, but never wrote merely to display his arcane academic assets—as many sadly do.
Now brace yourself for what Thornbury writes about this august and learned volume, that which establishes the underpinning and sets the appropriately exacting conceptual tone for all the volumes that follow.
Volume 1 (Preliminary Considerations) was a terrible leadoff batter. Esoteric and turgid, the book was extremely difficult to get through, and it reads more like a Windows computer manual of insider theological and philosophical agenda than an introduction into the defining convictions of evangelical theology. What a shame. The best approach is to set aside volume 1 and dive right into volume 2… (60).
When flippancy meets profundity the result is often absurdity. Consider five issues:
First, the metaphor of “leadoff batter” is inept and silly. Volume one was the epistemic and methodological foundation for what was to come. Leadoff batters bat first, but they in no way serve the same purpose in baseball as a prolegomena does for a major theological-philosophical work. But the garish glibness continues.
Second, even if the book was “difficult to get through” (which it was not for me), this is irrelevant to its purpose. Significant topics often require demanding treatments. The Book of Hebrews is difficult reading in places, and it is Holy Scripture. Every discipline—from philosophy to sociology to plumbing—requires and employs its own terminology and conventions. Dr. Henry, unlike many murky philosophers and theologians, did not use terms idiosyncratically or imprecisely. He does not show off his learning ostentatiously; nor is his writing redundant or cumbersome. His arguments are well-stated and well-documented (even when I disagree with him). He astutely addresses a long tradition of theology, philosophy, biblical studies, and cultural analysis (see chapter one, “The Crisis of Truth and Word”). The work is lucid, not turgid; it is expository, not esoteric.
Third, Thornbury’s simile that volume one reads like “a Windows computer manual of insider theological and philosophical agenda…” is not even grammatical. How can there be a “computer manual of…agenda”? We can here blame both the writer and editor for this misstep. But, worse yet, Volume One was written to insiders in the sense that it is addressed to serious students of theology, philosophy, biblical studies, and apologetics. It is not a graphic novel; it needs no graphs or charts; and it is not Theology for Dummies.
Fourth, it is insulting to Henry’s erudition and the gravity of the issues addressed to say that Volume One is “a shame.” One may have neither the learning nor the stamina to read volume one with the comprehension and appreciation that it is entitled to, but that imputes no shame to Dr. Henry. Rather, the shame resides closer to home. (It is remarkable that Thornbury, writing an entire book on Carl Henry, confesses his own inability to fathom one of Henry’s pivotal volumes.)
Fifth, if we take the author’s advice and “set aside volume one,” we commit two more errors: (1) We insult the author himself, who never intended the foundational material to be swept aside with a shrug. (2) Further, why try to climb Henry’s theological ladder without benefit of the first several rungs? Perhaps some can accomplish this, but why try? Why erroneously edit the lifelong labor of an encyclopedic Christian mind?
For these five reasons, Thornbury’s proposed redaction of God, Revelation, and Authority borders on bathos. Given this methodological maltreatment of Henry’s logical system, it is difficult to summon the desire to go on. I am tempted to end the review here. But a few more paragraphs may be in order.
Thornbury further exhibits philosophical imprudence in his discussion of Henry’s philosophy in relation to foundationalism, a term Thornbury never defines (but which I will below). After stating a very clear passage where Henry grounds all knowledge in God’s revelation, Thornbury issues the follow jumble of words:
In this sense, then, Henry defies the foundationalist level that some have recently attempted to place upon him by, a trend that began with Hans Frei’s response to Henry’s critique of narrative theology. Unfortunately for Henry’s legacy, the impression stuck and has been repeated by…postliberal writers such as George Hunsinger. Certainly, evangelical neo-Thomists such as Norman Geisler and R.C. Sproul might be surprised, to say the least, at the notion that Henry is somehow a cobelligerent with them in the realm of foundationalist apologetics and epistemology. For Henry, there is no neutral, antiseptic path to knowledge. Knowledge properly defined, is permitted, made accessible, and circumscribed by God himself (55; and the discussions on pages 100 and 154 do not help).
It is hard to know where to begin detangling this convoluted, poorly written, and just plain wrong passage.
First, foundationalism claims that our knowledge is divided into two categories, foundational and non-foundational (or inferential) knowledge. Philosophers dispute what knowledge should be put in the foundations, but these foundational items need no justification based on other beliefs. That is, they are self-evident, logically necessary, incorrigible, evident to the senses, and so on (depending on which formulation of foundationalism one adopts). Other beliefs are based on foundational beliefs in various ways (deduction, induction, or abduction).
Second, Dr. Henry was a foundationalist. Without entering the contested terrain of which (if any) version of foundationalism is true—or even spelling out all the specifics of Henry’s view—let us consider one principal part of Henry’s approach. Like his mentor, Gordon Clark, Henry believed that the laws of logic—his primary focus was on the law of non-contradiction—were foundational to all knowledge. One cannot arguefrom X to the law of non-contradiction, since the law of non-contradiction is required for all thought, meaning, argument, and communication. That is, all truth-claims to knowledge must be tested by foundational logic. Put yet another way, the law of contradiction is a necessary and negative test for all truth-claims. This means that if any truth claim or set of truth claims contains one contradiction or more, it cannot be true. However, logical coherence is not a sufficient test for the truth of any given claim. (For another compelling and clear treatment of noncontradiction, see Ronald Nash, “The Law of Noncontradiction” in Life’s Ultimate Questions [Zondervan, 1999].)
Third, these foundational (and a priori) truths are not independent of God’s being; and a foundationalist need not be autonomous in his reasoning. This, by the way, includes the much-vilified Rene Descartes. On the contrary, Henry grounds logic in the Logos, the eternal second person of the Trinity (John 1:1). He develops a masterful account of Logos Christology in Volume Three. God, as Logos, is the infinite archetype of logic who creates finite human beings in his image and likeness who have the ability to use logic. God, as Logos, cannot contradict himself; nor can his revelation contain contradictions. Thus, logic is neither the creation of man, nor can it be placed posterior to the being of the Logos. Sadly, Thornbury does not seem to fathom any of this—or, at best, he wrongfully ignores it. The word “Logos” does not appear in the index.
Thornbury does his best to marshal Dr. Henry’s insights in the chapters that follow and to defend him against charges made by evangelical theologians. That is to be commended, and Thornbury knows his way around the basic issues of the discussion.  But again, we find a major miscue. In the chapter “Culture Matters,” Thornbury rightly exposits Henry’s groundbreaking short work, The Uneasy Conscience of American Fundamentalism, but neglects the crucial first chapter of Henry’s supposedly “esoteric” Volume One of God, Revelation, and Authority, “The Crisis of Word and Truth,” which exegetes technological culture in relation to epistemology and biblical revelation. If “culture matters,” then Henry’s chapter matters; but Thornbury has already jettisoned it, as mentioned above. What a shame.
He extols, “Carson, Erickson, and Groothuis” as part of “a formidable host of scholars” who, like Henry, “understand that the gospel necessarily rests upon an articulable theory of truth” (41). I will leave myself out of the assessment, but agree with Thornbury’s judgment on Carson and Erickson. Thornbury says something similar on page 97, and rightly includes Albert Mohler. It is strange that Thornbury does not document the works to which he refers, and that he presumes his readers will recognize the authors by their last names only. He does not write D.A. Carson, MillardErickson, or Douglas Groothuis. Many readers will infer this, but not all. The first names of Erickson and myself are given on page 97; but D.A. Carson, one of evangelicalism’s most distinguished contemporary New Testament scholars, is never properly identified, nor does his name appear in the index. In addition, Thornbury fails to give any footnotes to document what works he has in mind by these authors. Millard Erickson wrote a fine book called Truth or Consequences [Crossway, 2001] pertaining to postmodernism and D.A. Carson wrote a similar book called Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church [Crossway, 2005]—to mention only two works of these prolific and insightful authors. This is simply careless scholarship. 
Despite Thornbury’s noble intent, given his overly jocular tone, his lack of documentation, and his omission or dismissal of essential epistemological concerns, we must look elsewhere for a work rightly commending Dr. Carl F. H. Henry’s pertinence to the renewal of evangelical theology. However, if this book manages to stimulate readers to take up Henry’s work for themselves and to critically heed his insights, it will serve at least an instrumental purpose.
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
Denver Seminary
August 2013

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The State Knows Best

The state must regulate music listening for the common good. Music stirs the passions and guides action. Given the unsavory elements in society, the Controllers must filter this for people's own good and for the Party. So be it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wood, Wonder

Siren sounds
of worldly wonder.

Lash me to the masts,
The churning sea
Has is allure, when
Voices raise their
Fleshly plea.

It is a whipping post,
Tied to it. No escape--

Not the axis mundi,
Not the stairway to the gods,
but a pike of wood and

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Some philosophical points about the Zimmerman-Martin case

Some philosophical points about the Zimmerman-Martin case

1. Juries know more than the common person about the case and the laws of legal evidence. The standard for criminal prosecution is "beyond a reasonable doubt."
2. One's race (which is often difficult to classify) has nothing to do with truth or knowledge (justified true belief). Members of any race may be right or wrong, justified or unjustified about any given proposition. Race is not, in itself,  the issue in epistemology, but, rather, competence in judgment given a particular circumstance.
3. To say that one race (or several) cannot rightly evaluate a controversy is to undermine democracy and to demean strangers (and friends) simply because of their race. This is wrong. Moreover, many are mixed race, such as Barack Obama and George Zimmerman. Where do they fit in?
4. America is not a systematically racist society. Consider who was elected president-- twice. Look back at the Civil Rights Act. Consider the canonization of Dr. Martin Luther King. To say so is rank ignorance or worse.
5. Outrage is not a good indicator of knowledge. One may be wrongly outraged or rightly outraged. But outrage does not determine the truth of the matter. Remember the crowd that condemned Jesus to death. One's emotions are easily untethered from good judgment and concern for proper reasoning.
6. If an injustice has been done in a trial, punishing and terrifying innocent people is no way to rectify or ameliorate the situation. If you think all members of one race are to blame, you have undermined the Western and American and Christian heritage individual responsibility. If so, you are wrong.
7. If you think that boycotting products from the state in which a verdict was rendered with which you disagree is just or even helpful, you are wrong. State's do not give sentences. Juries do that.
8. If you try to reveal the details of personal identities of witnesses in important trials, you are endangering them and undermining the entire legal system. If you think our system needs a total overhaul, find a better country. You are also harming the individuals in question, who are innocent. They, the jurors, are not on trial.