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Saturday, October 28, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Evangelism

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
Faith is not created by reasoning, but neither is it created without it. There is more involved in witness to Christ than throwing pre-arranged clumps of texts at unbelieving heads; the meaning and application of the gospel must be explained to men and women in terms of their actual situation. This requires hard thinking. THe biblical revelation was given in terms of Eastern culture, environment and thought-forms, all very different from our modern, industrial, Western world, and it has to be translated into modern terms before modern men can fully grasp its relevance. Biblical terms and images (sin, justification, sacrifice, covenant, holiness, priest, blood, spirit, for instance) are not self-explanitory; it is therefore our task as witnesses for Christ to seek out ways and means of making their meaning clear.
Notice, Packer does not say the answer is to avoid these themes, but rather to explain them. We don't redefine them, nor to we ignore them. We define them for people.
Not that we may alter or revise the gospel in order to make it more palatable to our modern mind. That would be treachery to Christ. Our business is to present the Chrsitian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms. Our business is to interpret and criticize modern thought by the gospel, not vice versa.
Just for note, he does not mean "modern terms" in the sense of modernity/postmodernity, but rather contemporary.
Nor, again, may we present the faith as a philosophy, to be accepted (if at all) on grounds of rational demonstration; we must always declare it as revealed truth, divinely mysterious and transcending reason's power to verify, to be received humbly on the authority of God. Faith involves the renunciation of intellectual self-sufficiency; we must always proclaim the gospel in a way that makes this clear.
As a bonus, Packer quotes J Stott:
In evangelism, then, we shall need to recognize that the men whom we preach have minds. We shall not ask them to stifle their minds, but to open them, and in particular to open them to receive a divine illumination in order to understand the divine revelation. We shall not seek to muder their intellect (since it was given to them by God), but neither shall we flatter it (since it is finite and fallen). We shall endeavour to reason with them, but only from revelation, the while admitting our need and theirs for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
You've heard good words from Stott and Packer, you don't need any further thought from me.


  • At 1:40 PM, Blogger Looking Upward said…

    If we reason with them from revealed truth, admitting that we need enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and renounce intellectual self-sufficiency, how will we know when and if this is ever being accomplished?
    Further, if we don't or can't know, then why the books about it explaining it, i.e. why are we wasting our time?
    I have grown up in a culture that accentuates faith largely. Lately I have studied reason and intellect. It seems to me that faith is always based in intellect and knowledge. How else can someone believe and put their faith in something? They have to know something about the object of their faith.

  • At 6:49 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    that's why it is the foolishness of the cross, yet the folly of God is greater than the greatest wisdom of man.

    rationale and logic are never removed from faith, but rationale and logic alone cannot bring someone to faith.

    he explains it better throughout the book. perhaps i've whetted your appetite to read it!

  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger Looking Upward said…



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