Archive for the ‘Pensees’ Category
This lecture focuses on Christianity’s response to Nietzsche and the problem of Foucault.
I. Recapping Nietzsche’s objections to Christianity:
A. Intellectually impossible
B. It demeans humanity
C. Its morality is fatal to life
II. In Christianity’s Place are Nietzsche’s Affirmations:
- Be a free-spirit
- Be curious
- Be nomadic
III. Christian Responses
Dostoevsky – Brothers Karamazov
Blaise Pascal – Pensees
Francis Schaeffer – true/livable
IV. The Problem of Foucault
V. Talking Points
A. Is the Nietzschean worldview true?
B. Is the Nietzschean worldview livable?
C. Does Foucault present a problem for Nietzsche’s worldview?
D. Does Nietzsche really understand Christianity?
This is a highly selective list of what I think are both good and useful apologetic works.
1. Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame [y, l, e, p, s]
At the end of the day, I think the presuppositionalists have the most Biblical and best defense of Christianity. This is the best of the presuppositional works.
2. Pensees by Blaise Pascal [y, l, e, p, s]
This book should come as no surprise considering the title of this blog. Pascal speaks to the heart and the mind. His analysis of man’s greatness/wretchedness, propensity towards boredom, and love of diversions make so much sense of the human experience in light of the Christian story.
3. Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga [p, s]
This is Plantinga’s magnum opus. He presents his epistemology. It is not an easy read, a background in philosophy would be very helpful.
4. Tactics: A Gameplan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl [y, l, e, p, s]
While not necessarily an apologetic work, this is a helpful book for creating discussion about your faith. I included it here because it is so helpful and practical.
5. Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe [l, e, p, s]
See write-up here.
6. The Reason for God by Tim Keller [c, y, l, e, p, s]
Keller presents a third way between pure science/reason and pure faith.
7. Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought by John Frame [e, p, s]
If you are seriously interested in presuppositional thought, then this is a good place to dig deeper.
8. Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul [y, l, e, p, s]
R.C. has put together a very solid and readable introduction to apologetics. A good first book on the subject.
9. God and Other Minds by Alvin Plantinga [p, s]
Here, Plantinga discusses the classical arguments for/against God. Also, his God, Freedom, and Evil is pretty good. It is not an easy read. A background in philosophy and/or logic is very helpful.
10. Every Thought Captive by Richard Pratt [c, y, l, e, p, s]
This brief book is an accessible and good read for everyone.
(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)
You will never have more discretionary time than while in college. This is a critical time for you to develop your character and mind. This is a list of what I think are the most important books to work through during your time as an undergrad. These books focus on developing your heart to affection (orthopathos), renewing your mind to truth (orthodoxy), and provoking your hands to kingdom work (orthopraxis). Take 10 books a year and devote 30 minutes a day – you’ll finish the list, perhaps even early.
Note: I have listed them in order of how I think they should be read and not necessarily in order of how good they are. For sake of space, I am not going to do a writeup on each of these. If you have a question(s) about a book(s), just post in the comments.
1. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
2. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
3. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
4. Designed for Dignity by Richard Pratt
5. The Fuel and the Flame by Steve Shadrach
6. Tell the Truth by Will Metzger
7. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
8. Holiness by J.C. Ryle
9. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable by F.F. Bruce
10. Universe Next Door by James Sire
11. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
12. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
13. Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray
14. Pensees by Blaise Pascal
15. No Place for Truth by David Wells
16. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
17. Culture Wars by James Hunter
18. Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper
19. Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John Frame
20. Desiring God (or something else more substantial) by John Piper
21. The John Frame Trilogy: Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, Doctrine of God, Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame
22. The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington
23. Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson
24. Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe
25. Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
26. Love the Lord Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland
27. Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson
28. Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark
29. Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
30. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
31. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Fee and Stuart
32. He Gave us Stories by Richard Pratt [there is a nice summary here]
33. Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin
34. Confessions by St. Augustine
35. Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
36. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (I included this book because it is important for us to study antithetical works, I will make a list of books like this one later)
37. What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile
38. Habits of the Mind by James Sire
39. Why We’re Not Emergent: From Two Guys That Should Be by Ted Kluck and Kevin Deyoung
40. Baptism and Fullness by John Stott
What books would you add?
1. Holiness by J.C. Ryle [y, l, e, p, s]
Put your helmet and pads on because you are gonna get trucked. This is probably the most convicting book I have ever read. I got to visit Ryle’s grave in Liverpool, England, he was very tall and had a large beard.
2. Pensees by Blaise Pascal [y, l, e, p, s]
Most do not think of Pensees as a devotional work. I do. Read it slow and meditate, it will warm your soul.
3. Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer [c, y, l, e, p, s]
Chapters 1-3 alone are worth the price of the book. Tozer wrote this one night on a train ride! He gets at the root of sin.
4. Pursuit of Man by A.W. Tozer [y, l, e, p, s]
Almost no one has read this gem. In my view it is almost as good as Pursuit of God and better than Knowledge of the Holy.
5. Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards [y, l, e, p, s]
Edwards makes sense of our emotion and affection for God. He was also instrumental in reuniting the Presbyterians who were divided on what to think about the First Great Awakening.
6. Desiring God by John Piper [y, l, e, p, s]
This book can be slow and awkward at times but it is well worth the read. He defines and defends the idea of Christian Hedonism, borrowing heavily from Jonathan Edwards and #5 on this list.
7. Devotional Classics by Foster and Smith [c, y, l, e, p, s]
This book is on this list for the wide variety of authors/traditions you get to read over the course of church history.
8. The Call by Os Guinness [y, l, e, p, s]
Guinness covers systematically God’s calling on the Christian and employs several vignettes into the lives of wonderful Christians through church history.
9. Knowing God by J.I. Packer [c, y, l, e, p, s]
10. Puritan Paperbacks by Various: Most notably – The Christians Great Interest, The Valley of Vision, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Doctrine of Repentance, All Loves Excelling, The Sinfulness of Sin, The Bruised Reed, The Mortification of Sin, and Guide to Christ. Entire set can be found at monergism books. [y, l, e, p, s]
The Puritans are a treasure chest of wisdom and keen insight on the human condition. They require patience to read but can be very rewarding.
(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)
I see a place for all the apologetic schools in defense of Christianity. There are some that are firmly entrenched in their particular school or tradition, and for the most part I understand where they are coming from. I happen to think the presuppositionatlists are head and shoulders above the other schools and I happen to agree that their approach is the most Biblical, and therefore the most God glorifying. However, I see a lot of value in the classical and evidentialist schools and I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water. From a personal perspective, intelligent design, the teleological argument, and the ontological argument had a profound impact on my life.
I think the main value of evidences are to bolster pre-existing faith by showing that our faith is not unreasonable, unjustified, or unwarranted. I think the main value of presuppositional apologetics is calling all non-Christian worldviews to task over the fact that they hold mutually exclusive propositions and cannot account for all things.
Perhaps its a silly analogy, but I liken apologetics to the three phases of football: offense, defense, and special teams. The presuppositionalists are on the offensive challenging false notions in other worldviews. The classical and evidentialist apologetists are defending the reasonability of the Christian faith. Then there are guys like Blaise Pascal, and Alvin Plantinga that specialize in kickoffs, punts, PATs, and field goals. Together they present a coherent, consistent, and believable Christianity that makes sense of existence intellectually, emotionally, and experientially.
I can think of no Christian writer, not Newman even, more to be commended than Pascal to those who doubt, but who have the mind to conceive, and the sensibility to feel, the disorder, the futility, the meaninglessness, the mystery of life and suffering, and who can only find peace through a satisfaction of the whole being. – T.S. Eliot
If you do not know me (or could not guess from the main title of this blog), then you may not know of my sincere affection for the thoughts of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). Previously on this blog, I wrote this short bio:
Blaise Pascal was a scientist, mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. In science, he essentially invented the hydraulic press, syringes, vacuums, and the barometer. In mathematics, he made advances in probability theory, game theory, geometry, and foundational presuppositions to economics. In philosophy and theology, Pascal had one work published after his death – Pensees (French for ‘thoughts’). Pascal lived an anguishing and brief life of intense physical pain (likely stomach cancer and brain lesions/damage) and joy. He died at age 39.
Adding to this, later in life Pascal was a Jansenist. Jansenism was a small branch of Catholicism highly influenced by St. Augustine (354-430). Following Augustine, Jansenism has a high view of God and highlights God’s sovereignty in salvation. Augustine was critical and seminal in the Protestant Reformation and, as such, much of Pascal’s thoughts appear Protestant and Calvinistic.
Pascal was substantially ahead of his time in science, mathematics, and philosophy (and may still be). Pascal also transcends many different categories. He is esteemed by both (some) Catholics and Protestants. He is balanced on the role of reason and faith. In the wake of the Thirty Years War, a European civil war over religion, which most historians point to as the death of religion in Europe, Pascal was vehemently defending Christianity. He was a sharp critic of Rene Descartes and the foolishness of the Enlightenment Project, three hundred years before it became vogue to bash on modernism and the Enlightenment. Pascal was both incredibly thoughtful and emotionally passionate in his Christianity.
Pascal’s apologetic is brilliant. His argumentation does not necessarily follow the paradigm of Premise 1, Premise 2, Premise 3, Premise 4, and therefore Conclusion. Pascal appeals to individual experience, community experience, reason, and the Scriptures. While the others of his day were extolling the absolute infallibility and perfection of pure reason, Pascal pointed out its weaknesses and inability to provide the necessary answers to being and experience.
Pascal starts by showing the boundaries of what reason alone can and cannot do:
173. If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.
183. Two excesses: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.
188. Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble in it does not go as far as to realize that. If natural things are beyond it, what are we to say about supernatural things?
Pascal continues to challenge scientific rationalism (the Enlightenment Project), mainly by pointing out weaknesses in Descartes:
On Descartes (and by corollary the Enlightenment Project)
78. Descartes: useless and uncertain
553. Write against those who probe science to deeply. Descartes.
Pascal then examines many opposites, paradoxes, and antinomies: Faith and reason. Greatness and wretchedness. Meaninglessness and Meaning. Heart and Mind. Certainty and uncertainty. Boredom and happiness. Diversion and rest. He concludes that the true religion must account for all of these extremes. He also puts forth an epistemology:
110. We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. The sceptics have no other object than that, and they work at it to no purpose. We know that we are not dreaming, but, however unable we may be to prove it rationally, our inability proves nothing but the weakness of our reason, and not the uncertainty of our knowledge, as they maintain. For knowledge of first principles, like space, time, motion, number, is as solid as any derived through reason, and it is on such knowledge coming from the heart and instinct, that reason has to depend and base all its argument. The heart feels that there are three spatial dimensions and that there is an infinite series of numbers, and reason goes on to demonstrate that there are no two square numbers of which one is double the other. Principles are felt, propositions are proved, and both with certainty through different means… Our inability must therefore serve only to humble reason, which would like to be the judge of everything, but not to confute our certainty. As if reason were the only way we could learn!
185. Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.
Pascal shows his reader the wretchedness of his estate, the weakness of his reason, and shows him the true happiness of Christ and the Gospel against that dark backdrop. Pascal transcends the different apologetic categories we have listed thus far. He was far before his time and embodies the essence of the classic Richard Pratt quote, “Because the deck of life is always shifting balance can be nothing more than momentary synchronicity.”
In this writers opinion, if the modern era had read Pascal more widely the arrogance of the Enlightenment Project and modernism may have never occurred and Europe might still be substantially Christian today. Pascal’s non-linear methodology also suits a third way between the arrogance of modernism and uncertainty of post-modernism. Tolle lege!