This sermon was preached September 16, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the fourteenth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached September 16, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the fourteenth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
You probably hear these adages all the time! But are you hearing them as they were intended? The Bible is not merely a collection of quotes, or one-liners, but is the telling of history. The Bible is a comprehensive story, from the beginning of the world to the end – not ending 2000 years ago or in the present, but at the end of the world at the return of Christ. The end is not unknown, but is already written. The Bible is a perfectly cohesive collection of 66 books by ~40 authors, and is divinely uniform. Despite the uniformity of the Bible, verses are all too often misinterpreted or quoted out of context. If I was to write, “You should never read a Bible verse,” and you were to quote that phrase by itself, you would severely misrepresent my intent if the next thing I said was, “You should always read an entire thought or even an entire chapter to properly understand a verse’s context.”
Unfortunately in our quote crazy, sound bite loving, tweet happy world, information now comes one line at a time. The reality is that chapter and verse markings were actually not added to the Bible until over 1500 years after its writing. The Bible was never intended to be read one verse at a time. Below are what seem to be the Top 5 most frequently misused “Bible verses,” that misquoted or taken apart from the context of the rest of the Bible, become tragically misunderstood.
5. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
This verse comes out of the Exodus narrative in which the Israelites, who are fleeing their Egyptian oppressors, become trapped between the impending doom of Pharaoh’s approaching soldiers and the Red Sea. In their fear the Israelites began to cry out to Moses that they would have been better off had they never left Egypt. In the NIV translation, Moses responds by telling them not to fear, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” This version of the verse has been lifted and placed onto a plethora of Christian items…home decor, T-shirts, bookmarks, bumper stickers, etc. Many Christians have latched onto this verse as encouragement that as they face trials in their lives they need only to wait in their current situation and the LORD will deliver them. Oddly enough, other Bible translations like the New King James and the ESV translate the verse as “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace,” and, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” respectively. These translations indicate the verse has nothing to do with holding your ground. The Hebrew word translated here does not have an English equivalent, but means all of the things stated in those 3 translations…to be still, peaceful, and silent. Basically, Moses was not telling the paranoid Israelites to stand firm, he was telling them to remain calm. This all becomes further troubling when you read the next verse (which is never included on the Christian merchandise).
Exodus 14:15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
Move on?! In 14:14 Moses tells the Israelites they need only be still, and in 14:15 the LORD says to Moses, “move on.” And people have gone and quoted what Moses said here. Why is that? Moses says be still. God says get moving. And people have decided to take their reassurance in the words of Moses? Really? Clearly we know in the Exodus story that the Jews did not stand their ground on the shore of the Red Sea…they got moving.
When we read verses 14 and 15 together it becomes far more clear that what we are being told here is that our reaction to mounting trials should be two fold. First, we are to remain calm and remain steadfast in our hearts. Know the LORD will fight for us. But that’s only half of the message. Don’t stop there. Second, we must move in faith. Don’t stand still! God says, Get moving!!!
Still your heart. Quiet your emotions. Trust in God. Then get moving in faith. GO!
4. This too shall pass. Ecclesiastes 3:??
This is a great proverb! But…to the surprise of many…it’s not in the Bible. Historical records often attach this phrase to a fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will give him happiness when he is sad, and keep him from taking for granted the times when he is happy. After deliberation the sages present him a simple ring bearing the words “This too shall pass.”
The great king is humbled by the simple phrase. Jewish folklore casts King Solomon as the humbled king of the fable. Still, the fact remains, this phrase does not appear in the Bible. The portion of the Bible that most closely resembles this oft quoted piece of wisdom is chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes (authored by Solomon), which says: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… a time to weep, and a time to laugh…
3. Money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10
This is a misquoting of the verse: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” In the Bible “sin” is identified as the root of all evil. Sin is any action that transgresses the mark set by God’s Holy Law. Sin is the byproduct of want. Want is bred by either fear or lack of trust in God. Lust, desire, greed, and temptation (all forms of want) stem from a lack of trust in God’s promises and a fear that God’s provision will not provide His promised perfect fullness for our lives. In the Garden of Eden we see sin first enter the world when Adam and Eve fail to trust that God has given them a perfect existence, and wanting the knowledge of God, eat the forbidden fruit. Money in and of itself is an amoral object. In the Bible Christ calls His followers to properly steward money and other resources for the furthering of the Kingdom of God. In this case, money can be used righteously. Nowhere does the Bible say it is money that is the root of evil.
It is the love of money, a sign of want and greed, that is a root of all kinds (but not all) evil.
2. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13
The famous coffee cup verse that sends us boldly and confidently forward into our day! This verse, while extremely powerful in proper context, is typically grossly distorted from the original intent in the writing of the Apostle Paul. At the time of the writing of this letter the Apostle Paul had finally reached his desired destination of Rome, but only after being taken prisoner, shipwrecked, and placed on house arrest chained to a Roman soldier. Further he was facing potential execution, and was mentally preparing himself for the not too distant reality that He would be leaving this world. Paul is not saying here that through the strengthening of Jesus Christ we can overcome all obstacles or succeed in all things. What Paul is saying is that through the strengthening of Christ we can press forward and endure through all hardships…even death. This verse does not infer that by having faith in Christ we will achieve or prosper in all we aspire to, but rather in Christ we find the sufficient comfort and support to carry on through all adversity. The preceding verse, Phillipians 4:12 provides proper context to verse 13.
Phillipians 4:12-13 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
1. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Matthew 7:1
The mother of all Biblical misrepresentations. Let us “twist not a scripture lest we be like the devil” (Paul Washer). The most frequently misused verse in the Bible is without question, Matthew 7:1. Often misstated as “Judge not.” or “Jesus said don’t judge.” The most humorous aspect of the misuse of this verse is that it invariable occurs in such a way that the person misusing the verse, in referencing it, actually declares a judgment on the person they feel is being judgmental. Hypocrisy much? Someone will say, “You’re being judgmental. Jesus said don’t judge.” And in their pronouncing a person as judgmental, they too have judged. Additionally, If you’re perceptive enough you will notice as well that Jesus Himself is passing judgment here on those who improperly judge. Clearly this interpretation of this verse doesn’t make sense.
The verse actually reads “Judge not that ye be not judged.” This verse is often swung as a gavel to bring about an immediate cessation of discussion of another person’s behavior. The incorrect understanding of the verse is that we are completely forbidden to call to attention any areas in others’ behaviors that demand correction. This is a clear misinterpretation of Christ’s teaching. The words of Christ:
John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Matthew 7:16 “You will recognize them by their fruits…”
Luke 17:3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Clearly here, Christ says we are to judge righteously, recognize and discern good from evil by peoples’ actions, and rebuke our brothers and sisters when they sin. To rebuke a brother we must first identify that they have sinned. To identify a person’s sin, we must obviously first judge their behavior. Without the authority to judge others’ behaviors there is no permissible authority by which we could uphold governing laws, discipline children, select leaders, choose teachers and childcare providers, or discern which Bible teachers are profitable to listen to. Our selections of spouses, friends, and business partners are all based on judgments of character and ethics. Christ said, “You will know them by their fruits,” meaning we are to discern between a person who bears fruit, and a person who does not.
Leviticus 19:15 You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
To see what Jesus is actually saying when He says, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” it is helpful to read the subsequent verses:
Matthew 7:2-5 “For in the same way 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 your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
We see now that Matthew 7:1 is not a warning against the judging of any action or behavior. It is a warning against self-deception, self righteousness, and hypocrisy. If you are going to correct someone then you must expect to be held to the same standard. If you judge with harshness, you can expect to be judged harshly. If you judge with gentleness and good intent, your brothers and sisters are more likely to return the kindness. Note that a speck of sawdust and a log are both of the same essence…wood. Jesus here is referring to the hypocrisy of casting judgment on another for a sin of the same essence as a sin of which you yourself are guilty. Jesus declares here that You must first overcome this sin in your own life before you will be any help to your brother. Notice in verse 5 that Christ does not prohibit us from pointing out our brother’s sin, or from assisting him in removing it. Jesus does not command we say nothing about the speck in our brother’s eye. Jesus commands us to first address this particular issue in our own life, and then assist our brother in love.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
**For a look at another incredibly intriguing, and perhaps unrealized, modern misquotation of the Bible, see my article on Pulp Fiction and Ezekiel 25:17
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, preacher, and Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Time and time again we hear that we should seek God’s direction for our lives. We are told that we should seek God’s guidance in making big decisions, we should pray for the answers to life’s big questions, and we are told that we should aspire to carry out all our actions in accordance with God’s plan for our lives.
We have all been guilty at times of being overly confident in our own abilities. Our egotism has at some point given each of us over to an overinflated sense of self-assurance. Having experienced some success we become apt to believe that we can function without the guidance of the LORD. In other cases, many of us start in the right way – fervently seeking the guidance of the LORD – and as He promises, He guides our steps. As we begin to develop a level of comfort that the LORD is with us, and is smiling upon our endeavors, we sometimes then begin to seek the LORD’s guidance less, and trust more in the unfounded confidence in our own hearts. It is easy for Christians to believe that we are in alignment with God’s will and we are capable of making our own decisions. After all, we have been saved by grace, we are His chosen, and we live by the aid of the Holy Spirit. We begin to believe that our own decision making is sound, and forget that it was because of God’s good providence that our decisions were blessed to begin with. In either case it is by an overgrown sense of self-righteousness that we then cease seeking God’s guidance in all our decision making. When we begin to believe we are “good” people, and believe we operate with “good” intent, we become confident that our decision making is consequently “good.” We then become dependent on ourselves for our own guidance, and unfortunately, as has been demonstrated by thousands of years of history, self-reliance ultimately leads a person far from the LORD and, the more ambitious a person is, the more catastrophic the results can be. Jesus teaches, “No one is good except God alone (Luke 18:19).” We must not begin thinking that because we have come to know Christ that we are now “good” people capable of making righteous decisions. The truth is, we are sinners, soiled by sin, making decisions with a fractured conscience and deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Though we are justified to God through Christ, it is by Christ’s righteousness alone, and not by any good of our own (Ephesians 2:8). No person does righteously apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must remember who it is that is good – He who makes us good – and seek His advisement always.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
The Bible very clearly teaches and demonstrates that those who lean on their own understanding, rather than acknowledge the LORD in all they do, will indeed eventually falter. Man is completely and fully corrupted by sin, and there is no one righteous apart from the Lord, not even one (Romans 3:11). Even those with the best of hearts and the best of intentions are sinful, and are betrayed by their own hearts. We must depend on the LORD for our provision, and we must understand that we truly succeed when we desire our lives be more of Christ and less of ourselves (John 3:30). Wisdom comes from the negation of self, and the entire reliance upon the LORD.
What must be done to know the will of God you ask? First, have no will of your own.
When seeking direction from God we must remember that His voice may be heard in many different ways. Sometimes God’s message to us is clear as day. Sometimes God’s answers appear in black and white in the Bible. Sometimes we feel as though we are being unmistakably called to a certain action. Sometimes we receive a sign that is undeniable and rocks us to our very core. Sometimes we receive a pressing instinct that, by faith, pushes us to move. Sometimes, the unfolding circumstances around us elicit His desired reaction from us. Sometimes we have no choice, and react simply out of survival. Sometimes someone speaks a prophetic word that drives right to the heart of an issue we are dealing with. I’m sure there are countless other ways the LORD reveals himself that I am leaving out here, but I know many people who can speak of the amazing ways our LORD has revealed His will to them and changed the course of their lives. It is truly incredible when The LORD moves in these kinds of ways and manifests Himself and His will so clearly. Other times, the LORD’s will for our lives is not clear at all. Not all of God’s revelations come in an earth shaking show of fire and wind. Sometimes the LORD speaks to us in a gentle whisper. Be always prepared to hear the LORD in the event that He may speak to you in a subtle way (1 Kings19:12). Sometimes in all of our running, we fail to listen, or to be observant.
“Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Still, Many times, even while we diligently seek God’s will in our decision making, we do not see His answer. We feel we are left to make decisions on our own – relying on our own best judgment. We ask questions like, “What does God’s will for my life look like? How do I know?” And we say things like, “If God gave me a clear answer to my prayer, I never knew it.” At this point we either take decisive action on our own, or we flounder. We all know from experience that either can sometimes be to our detriment. When we pray for guidance and we feel we receive no answer it feels as if we are calling for help and there is no one on the other end of the line. In times like these it is important to remember that God always has His hand on our lives. Nothing in this world happens outside of His provision or allowance. Where we are fervently seeking the LORD, He is there. Many have heard the song that says, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” No truer words could be spoken regarding this matter. Trust that God knows the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
Having established that we must consult the LORD in our decision making, and that the LORD determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9), how then do we know that the clear message we are receiving truly is a message from God? How can we confirm that we are not being deceived by the desires of our own hearts, but know that our decision is indeed the will of God? And, if we are not receiving a clear answer, what can we do to seek God’s will for our decisions?
1. Pray Unceasingly
Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Do not be discouraged when you do not immediately receive answers to prayer. Jesus says, “Ask, seek, knock. (Matthew 7:7),” and instructs that we ought always continue to pray without being discouraged.
Luke 18:1-8 And (Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
Pray with persistence. If an unrighteous judge will respond to persistent pleas, certainly our just and loving God will give His response to our continuous prayer.
2. Test Your Decision Against Scripture
Does the Bible specifically address this issue? The scripture is the infallible Word of God and is the first litmus test against which we must measure all decisions. Does your decision honor and glorify God? Does this decision further the Kingdom of God? Will this decision be helpful to your Christian brothers or sisters, or be a stumbling block to them? Is this decision being made in pursuit of godliness, or as an indulgence of worldly, temporal, material things? Will this decision bring you closer to Christ, or will it serve to distract you from your walk with the Lord? The Bible does well to define what honors God and speaks specifically to many issues we are faced with everyday.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. Proverbs 9:10 “…knowledge of the holy is understanding.”
Some people like to think of “B.I.B.L.E.” as an acronym for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Truly the word bible is simply Greek for “book.” The Bible is “The book of books.” The Bible may not be a step by step plan for living (fortunately it is more entertaining than a droning list of instructions), but it does indeed outline the principles for living righteously, coping with death, and receiving eternal salvation. The Bible’s instruction is spread across nearly 1200 chapters and over 31,000 verses so opening it up once and expecting to quickly find answers is an unrealistic expectation. It is wise to be well versed in the scripture in advance of making decisions. My best advice is to start reading your Bible now in preparation for the future. It is a certainty decisions are coming. If, however, you need answers immediately, we live in the age of Google. You can search “What does the Bible say about…,” and find verses that speak specifically to just about any topic.
Fasting is something that seems a taboo in our society of abundance and self-indulgence. We live a lifestyle that rarely, if ever, denies us any fundamental need.
Christ, when seeking to properly prepare himself at the beginning of His ministry first fasted 40 days. Christ’s stated expectation was also that you and I will fast.
Matthew 6:16 “Whenever you fast…” 17 “But when you fast…”
Christ does not say “if” you fast; He says “when” you fast. While fasting you will find that every time you are hungry, and every time you avoid a particular food, you are reminded of the reason why are you are fasting. You are making a sacrifice in your desire to become more closely aligned with God. This is very effective in keeping the LORD at the forefront of your mind, and making you more keenly aware of His presence. Most of us are much better at talking to God, than we are at listening to Him. It is very difficult to forget to listen to God when he is forced to the forefront of your mind in this way. There are few times when I have engaged the LORD so intimately and consistently, or been as acutely aware of God as while fasting.
4. Seek Counsel from Godly Advisers
What do the Godly people in your life, who have wisdom, experience, and a track record of Biblical living have to say? Even if you believe you have received your answer from the LORD it is still wise to seek the advice of the people you know who are qualified to give Biblical counsel. I am speaking mainly of your ministers and church elders here. Be discerning in whose advice you take, and don’t seek out someone that you think will give you the answer that you want to hear. Be open to receiving honest and unbiased advice from someone who knows the LORD. Ask your pastors. It is their responsibility to guide you. The LORD has blessed them with wisdom for this very task, and they will be happy to help as they have dedicated their lives to the very service of shepherding the Lord’s flock.
Psalm 1:1 How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked… Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
5. Remain Faithfully Open to Correction
This is arguably the single most difficult thing to do. For most people it is a painstaking task to develop the humility necessary to openly receive and appreciate rebuke from others. Being that all people sin, it is very easy to respond with a “Who are you to correct me?” attitude. Many people are also quick to go directly to “Judge not lest ye be judged,” discarding any good point that could have actually been made by the person offering them reproof. Though Christ instructed that we should not judge, for we will be judged in the measure by which we judge others, the Bible does consistently instruct (across the Old and New Testaments) that we have a responsibility to teach, develop, and correct our brothers and sisters. Sometimes the one needing correcting is us. Are you open to that? Or do you really think you are perfect? Some correct out of love, and others out of contempt. The truth is, a wise man knows this does not validate or discredit the content of the criticism. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters are more graceful in lovingly rebuking us than others. Often times, graceful or not, it is hard to hear. What we must come to understand is that the intent of the person offering us correction is not important. What is important is that we receive what they have to say and examine it for truth. Are we in need of improvement in our thinking, or in our actions? Are we being honest with ourselves in our decision making, or is God speaking to us through this person? It is incredibly important that we remain faithfully open to correction. The Bible demands it.
Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 15:32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
The absolute last thing that we want to be is the King who has everything, but brings destruction upon himself because he despises the wise words of a prophet (2 Chronicles 16:10), or a Pharisee who dedicates his life to the pursuit of righteousness, only to end up crucifying the Lord because He is too prideful to receive the Lord’s correction. We must swallow pride and remain humbly aware that we ourselves are not perfect. We are far, far from it. We must seek counsel from God, from the Bible, and from our church leaders. We must be open to receiving correction from our brothers and sisters. This is how Godly decisions are made. Decisions made outside of these confines are decisions made in sinful self-reliance due to pride. Being mindful of all these things, and seeking to hear the guidance of the LORD in it’s many forms will help us find the path to righteousness. Narrow is the path that leads to righteousness (Matthew 7:14), but God assures us that if we listen to Him and follow His commands He will make us abundantly prosperous in all our endeavors (Deuteronomy 30:9).
Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, preacher, and Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Of the 50+ postings I’ve made on TruthByGrace.org, the runaway most-read post remains the “Top 5 Most Misquoted, Misused, and Misunderstood Bible Verses.”
Given the preoccupation with misused Bible verses, I want share what I find to be, by far, one of the most intriguing, and perhaps unrealized, modern misquotations of the Bible. In a 2004 poll, Samuel L. Jackson’s misquotation of Ezekiel 25:17, in Pulp Fiction, was voted the fourth best movie speech of all time.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the scene. Jackson says,
“Do you read the Bible, Brett? Well there’s this passage I’ve got memorized – sort of fits this occasion. Ezekiel 25:17.”
Then Jackson goes on to deliver what appears to be a tremendously dramatic Bible exhortation:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
*The following video contains violent content not suitable for all viewers.
The thing is, the quotation above is not at all a proper rendering of Ezekiel 25:17. The actual verse reads as follows:
Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
Sure Jackson’s quote finishes along the same lines as the Bible verse, but the preceding lines in Pulp Fiction’s rendition appear nowhere in the Bible, and certainly not in Ezekiel chapter 25. Additionally, there are a couple of theological inconsistencies present in the Pulp Fiction monologue. Admittedly, Quentin Tarantino, the writer and director of Pulp Fiction, dreamed up this quotation as a re-imagining of several Biblical themes, and reworked them as a monologue that he believed best expressed the drama intended for the movie scene.
Pretty much all of the themes Jackson’s passage incorporates are found in different places in the Bible, but they are all re-workings, not true to the original text. The portion of the monologue about the tyranny of evil men is inspired by Ezekiel 34. The portion about the valley of darkness refers to King David’s words in Psalm 23, and the portion about being one’s brother’s keeper refers to the first human death, occurring in Genesis 4, in which Cain, after murdering his brother, asks the LORD, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
It should be noted that this post is neither an endorsement of Tarantino’s re-rendering the Bible, nor of the movie Pulp Fiction as a theological guide. I would hope that much would be obvious. But, what I do find most interesting, and want to point out, is that often over-looked in this incredibly popular film is the salvation story of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield. Toward the end of the movie the savage bounty hunter experiences what clearly seems to resemble the effectual calling of the LORD.
Winnfield, who seemed to have always had a passing fascination with the way the words of the Bible sounded (rather than what they actually meant), comes to confess that in the context of (his rendition of) Ezekiel 25:17, he has always been “the tyranny of evil men.” But by divine revelation (or as he called it, “a moment of clarity”) he has come to the realization that he must denounce his wicked ways and strive to ”be the shepherd.” Jules Winnfield has experienced what Ezekiel 36:26-27 tell us is a regeneration of the heart.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
*The following video contains language not suitable for all viewers.
As the end of the movie nears, this enlightened Jules Winnfield, rather than kill a man that he previously would have, says this about (his rendering of) Ezekiel 25:17:
“Now… I been sayin’ that *** for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ***. You’d be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I popped a cap in his ***. But I saw some **** this mornin’ made me think twice. […] See, now I’m thinking it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that. But that **** ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.”
And for that reason, rather than kill Ringo, Jules shares this brief testimony and gives Ringo his wallet (which Ringo was trying to steal). In doing so he begins the process of repentance, turning from his prior way of life.
Lost in the melee of the artistic brilliance and grunge that Pulp Fiction truly is, lies a beautiful, realistic, and moving depiction of God’s sovereign grace in the redemption of lost men. See, God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Nothing we have done on our own qualifies us more than another for the saving grace of God. It is of no advantage to a person who feels they have lived more righteously than another if they are without faith in Christ. The Bible is explicit in telling us that separate from being reborn in Christ there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:12). But the good news is that God wishes to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us through Jesus Christ, and by grace God saves the wicked through their faith. This faith is not anyone’s own doing; but it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:7-8.) This is the gift Jules Winnfield, in Pulp Fiction, is experiencing. You see, in sending Christ to die on the cross, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God. This is how wicked people, incapable of consistently doing the right thing, incapable of controlling our thoughts, incapable of controlling our mouths, and incapable of always acting rightly (guys like Jules Winnfield…guys like myself, and each and everyone of us)…this is how Christ brings us to reconciliation with God the Father. Jules Winnfield had his “come to Jesus moment.” By his faith he was made new. Maybe you’ve never picked up on that part of this movie before…maybe you have. But by your faith in the Lord, you can be forgiven. God will put in you a new heart, and give you a fresh start to live in right standing with Him. You need only repent and believe in Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
**I would like to add that this post is not an endorsement of the graphic content or unrighteous themes of the movie, Pulp Fiction, nor is it an endorsement of the movie as a theological guide. Rather, this post is an attempt to shine the light of Biblical Truth amongst movie fans that might otherwise not hear the gospel and choose to remain in darkness, continuing to view this movie quote as nothing more than (as Jackson’s character would say), “a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I pop a cap in his ***.”
***Download Full PDF Version (The PDF version is a more thorough, technical, reworking and elaboration on the contents of the original post further incorporating feedback and input from the comments section below. I chose to include this PDF as a separate document rather than editing the original post for fear of tampering with the effectiveness of the original post or damaging the integrity of the ongoing dialogue in the comments section. If you enjoy this post I do hope you will appreciate the PDF as it has additional content.) ***
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.
This sermon was preached September 9, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the thirteenth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached September 2, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the twelfth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached August 26, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the eleventh expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached August 19, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the tenth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached August 12, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the ninth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached August 5, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the eighth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached July 29, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the seventh expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached July 22, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the sixth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached July 15, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the fifth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached June 10, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Church in Silver City, NM on Chad Hussey’s first Sunday as Senior Pastor.
This sermon was preached July 8, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the fourth expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
In a special outdoor worship service at Little Walnut Campground, Pastor Chad Hussey preached from Ephesians 1:7-10, exhorting Indian Hills Baptist Church to never take for granted God’s lavish grace in making known to us the long-awaited revelation of “The Mystery of God’s Will” In Jesus Christ!
This sermon was preached June 24, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM; and is the second expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached June 17, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Chuch in Silver City, NM, and is the first expositional message in the study of the book of Ephesians.
This sermon was preached in view of a call on March 25, 2018, at Indian Hills Baptist Church in Silver City, New Mexico.
This sermon was preached Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, at Church on the Rock Katy, from the Gospel of John.
It’s been five years and over a half-million views since my brother purchased this domain, and our buddy Joshua Belland got it off the ground. I’ve been blown away by the ways God has used this little blog, written by a guy who, at the time, really didn’t have much business writing about such weighty and glorious things.
Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:16)
I continue to be amazed by the impact God has used Truth By Grace to have, both on my life and the lives of others. In many ways, even being a born again believer and a student of the Word, it is overwhelming that God allows me to write and speak about such precious matters.
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3)
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalm 139:6)
So today, five years later, the same as it always has been, all glory and praise belong to God!
For when I preach the gospel, it gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16)
My only hope remains, as it always has been, that God will lead someone out there on the interwebs to experience the same saved life and incredible love of Christ that I have, and that my simple reports of the things I’ve seen and studied might help to deepen others’ faith, bring great hope, and clearly extol the amazing grace and prefect character of our glorious God!
So thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you, and for the five years of support that all began at Easter, 5 years ago, with this simple little post…
A synopsis of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.
In Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn makes the logical argument that science can never be purely rational because it requires scientists make subjective value judgments in order to perform the “normal science” out of which their findings arise.
Revolutions coined the phrase “paradigm shift,” sold over 1 million copies, was the most cited book in the arts & humanities between 1976 and 1983 , and created significant doubt in science’s ability to ever be objective or purely rational.
This presentation was given to pastors and seminarians at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as part of a master’s level course on Christianity, truth, and culture.
E. Garfield, “A Different Sort of Great Books List: The 50 Twentieth-Century Works Most Cited in the Arts & Humanities Citation Index, 1976-1983″, Current Contents no. 16, 20 April 1987, pp. 3-7
A survey of the historical development of ‘Reformed Epistemology,’ tracing the ‘divine spark,’ the ‘divine seed,’ and the ‘sensus divinitatis (divine sense)’ toward developing a philosophical defense for the rationality of man’s belief in God.
One of the most important ideas introduced to Christian philosophy in the twentieth century was reformed epistemology, a thesis most notably propagated by renowned Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Reformed epistemology offers a powerful defense of the rationality of Christian faith against opponents who have attacked Christian belief as irrational or intellectually disreputable. Plantinga develops a model that argues Christian belief does not need to be supported by evidentialist arguments or generally accepted premises to be warranted but instead suggests knowledge of God is plainly perceived in a basic way by those with a properly functioning sensus divinitatis. This sensus divinitatis, or divine sense, is a “disposition or set of dispositions to form theistic beliefs in various circumstances, in response to the sorts of conditions or stimuli that trigger the working of this sense of divinity.” Put another way, the sensus divinitatis is a “belief-producing process . . . [which] works under various conditions to produce beliefs about God.” This divine sense is not knowledge of God, but the natural capacity for a person to obtain knowledge of God. By his own confession, Plantinga reveals this notion, which is a foundational piece of reformed epistemology, is adopted directly from the work of John Calvin. This article will make an examination of reformed epistemology, its dependence on the sensus divinitatis, and trace the historical development of this model. This paper will argue that the divine sense, which lies at the heart of reformed epistemology, originated not in Christianity, but in Hellenistic philosophy. To demonstrate this point, this article will examine the concepts prolepsis and the divine spark in Cicero’s works, will recount the Christian reformulation of these notions in the work of John Calvin, and then make an extended study of reformed epistemology’s dependence on the application of Calvin’s sensus divinitatis in the Aquinas/Calvin (A/C) Model which is central to this philosophical system.
Considered to be “the greatest orator and Latin prose writer of all time,” Cicero lived in the time of Julius Caesar and contributed a lasting influence on ethics in the West. “Cicero champions the doctrine that humanity is a brotherhood that shares a divine spark and is cared for by a divine providence.” In his seminal work, On Obligations, he discusses the topics of prolepsis, preconception, a priori knowledge, natural law, human rights, and the divine spark. For Cicero, the divine spark is what sets humans apart from the animals. This glimmer of divinity is the foundation for “human fellowship [which] in its broadest sense unit[es] all men with each other.” Cicero is concerned primarily to develop a universal moral philosophy, and his interest in the divine spark is primarily as a ground for his notion of human moral obligations which operated as a historical precursor to the development of natural law and human rights.
In undertaking an effort to interpret Epicurean theology, Cicero develops an epistemology that contends knowledge of the gods is inherent to all humanity. Cicero contends, “nature herself has imprinted a conception of [the gods] on the minds of all mankind.” This conception is a universally given “prolepsis” (or preconception), which is something “without which nothing can be understood or investigated or discussed.” In other words, this knowledge of divinity is a “prior notion,” and an “innate concept” that is “engraved,” and universal within all people. Cicero asks, “What nation or what tribe of men is there but possesses untaught some ‘preconception’ of the gods?” Cicero defends his position saying, “Those who have committed [an impious crime] . . . are not only unable to rest peacefully [afterward], but cannot even breathe without fear.” Depravity, however, diminishes this divine light, and “under the corrupting influence of bad habits and beliefs, we . . . become infected with deceptions so varied that truth gives way to unreality.” In Cicero’s account, even those who would attempt to deny God’s existence could never fully escape what they inherently know to be true, which is that God exists. Thus, belief in God being a universally shared belief among all people is sufficient proof that the belief must be true.
Cicero gained the vocal admiration of a number historic Christian theologians. “His doctrines were received and purified in the Christian tradition and they continue to inspire” Christian philosophers in the present day. Saint Augustine reports in the Confessions, that it was Cicero’s work that, at a young age, won the esteemed theologian to philosophy. Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, made extensive references to Cicero within his work, and Erasmus went so far as to say that his appreciation for Cicero’s stirred in him contempt toward educators who found nothing noteworthy in Cicero beyond the splendor of his language. John Calvin, in the first five chapters of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, turns to Cicero for far-reaching support in his theological writings, and, as will be demonstrated, employed Cicero’s notion of prolepsis and the spark of divinity in every man to pen his reflections on man’s natural knowledge of God.
Largely recognized as a student of classical antiquity, “it is not difficult to gather the names of renowned scholars who are prepared to acknowledge John Calvin’s far-reaching indebtedness to humanism.” The famed sixteenth-century theologian showed a remarkable affinity for the writings of Cicero in the formulation of his biblical interpretation of the sense by which man comes knowledge of God. Egil Grislis observes “several close parallels between the insights of Cicero and Calvin,” and goes so far as to claim that Calvin’s argument is “essentially a restatement of Cicero’s insight.” Charles Partee is less certain of Calvin’s dependence on Cicero as the source of his ideas. Because Cicero was thoroughly eclectic, it is instead possible that Calvin and Cicero both borrowed from a common source. Partee agrees with Grislis, however, that “the parallels [between Cicero and Calvin] are clear.”
Like Cicero, Calvin adopts the idea that there exists a universal “seed of religion” present within every individual that produces a ‘certain understanding of [God’s] divine majesty.’ This seed is a type of knowledge of God’s existence, apart from Scripture, that can be perceived by all human beings. This awareness of divinity, which Calvin describes as a naturally inborn instinct and disposition implanted by God, Calvin coined the sensus divinitatis. Edward Adams explains that, for Calvin, the sensus divinitatis is not merely an intuition but a cognitive intellectual consciousness of God the creator.  Calvin further contends that even the most brutish people contain this seed, and this “sense of divinity inscribed in the hearts of all” cannot be “effaced.” Like Cicero, Calvin says that all people possess a “natural disposition,” and a “light of nature” that allows for knowledge of God, and “some conception of God is ever alive in all men’s minds.” Adopting the notion of prolepsis, Calvin claims that natural knowledge of God “is not a doctrine that must first be learned in school, but one of which each of us is master from his mother’s womb and which nature itself permits no one to forget, although many strive with every nerve to this end.” Again agreeing with Cicero, Calvin posits atheists never fully escape the very sense of God they strive so ardently to avoid. “[Those] who deny that God exists . . . from time to time feel an inkling of what they desire not to believe,” and “the worm of conscience, sharper than any cauterizing iron, gnaws away within.”
While both Cicero and Calvin agree that divine prolepsis is the primary sense by which people come to the knowledge of God, they also “desire to pay attention to the additional evidence which can be gathered by use of empirical reason.” For example, Cicero writes, “Indeed, who is so witless that when he gazes up into heaven, he fails to see that gods exist, and imagines that chance is responsible for the creations of an intelligence so transcendent that scarce can the highest artistry to do justice?” Calvin agrees, “There are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on earth that declare [God’s] wonderful wisdom . . . which thrust themselves upon the sight of even the most untutored and ignorant persons, so that they cannot open their eyes without being compelled to witness them.” Ultimately Calvin does not go so far as to follow Cicero in making the claim that the universal preconception of God is sufficient proof for the existence of God, but Calvin instead asserts that God, having “implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty,” sufficiently “prevent[s] anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance.” In taking up Calvin’s sensus divinitatis, Alvin Plantinga takes a slightly different tact. Where Calvin’s interest the sensus divinitatis is to provide answers to theological and epistemological questions about man’s acquisition of knowledge of God, Plantinga’s concern is to employ the divine sense for the apologetic purpose of defending Christian faith against those who would challenge the rationality of theistic belief. In the sensus divinitatis, Plantinga finds the basis for identifying belief in God as a properly basic belief.
Embracing the thinking of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx, twentieth-century assailants of theism staked the claim that regardless of whether Christian belief can be proven false, it is not possible that one can reasonably hold theistic beliefs. These opponents of faith asserted that, while the claims of Christian belief cannot be categorically disproven, belief in God is without warrant and intellectually irresponsible. Freud and Marx had differing opinions as to why Christians arrive at belief in God. Freud contended theism is spawned in a subconscious desire people have for comfort in a cruel world. He claimed Christians find this comfort via fantasy wish fulfillment. Marx, on the other hand, argued that theistic belief is the result of cognitive-intellectual malfunction resulting from economic emotional distress. While Freud and Marx differ on how they understand Christians’ arrival at belief in God, the two writers share the conclusion that Christian belief is aimed at something other than truth.
Responding to these objections, Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga begins by pointing out both Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin agree humans possess an innate sense of the divine. Plantinga alerts readers, “Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin concur on the claim that there is a kind of natural knowledge of God (and anything on which Calvin and Aquinas are in accord is something to which we had better pay careful attention.)” Thomas Aquinas, the most famous classical proponent of natural theology, writes in the Summa Theologiae, “To know in a general and confused way that God exists is implanted in [mankind] by nature.” Rather than follow the natural theology approach, which attempts to produce an inferential argument that deduces God’s existence from independent evidence or premises, Plantinga suggests instead that some axiomatic beliefs are foundational and accepted apart from people’s lacking the ability to appeal to evidence to justify them. Plantinga’s move here is monumental. This argument that some knowledge is foundational posits that some beliefs are not produced or defended by rational deliberation. That is, they do not appeal to more primitive beliefs or evidence to justify them, and they encounter no compelling evidence to suggest they are false. For example, perception, memory, and a priori beliefs fit this description. These beliefs are properly basic. They are either self-evident or incorrigible – meaning one can believe them without possibly being proven wrong.
Plantinga is convinced there is not sufficiently good evidence for belief in God in the way that evidentialism demands. Thus, Plantinga abandons the evidential dependence of natural theology and turns his approach to foundationalism. To do this, Plantinga employs Calvin’s sensus divinitatis, which he takes to be a belief-producing faculty, to make the case that justification and warrant for Christian belief as knowledge comes from the belief’s arising in a properly basic way. In this sense, Christian belief arises from the reception of the sensus divinitatis and is foundational in that it is self-evident and does not arise from other prior beliefs. Like other properly basic beliefs, knowledge of God’s presence in the world is intuitive, obvious, immediate, and non-inferential.
Plantinga further argues that Christian belief can be perfectly rational and sensible. Christians violate no intellectual duties in holding their beliefs, and objections to the rationality of Christian belief necessarily depend on the assumption that Christian belief is false. Plantinga’s conclusion demands that any objection to the rationality of Christian belief requires the objector must first disprove the existence of God. At the foundation of Plantinga’s model is the ‘sensus divinitatis.’
Where Calvin seems to think knowledge of God is innate “from the mother’s womb,” Plantinga makes a critical and controversial point of divergence. Plantinga conceives of the sensus divinitatis not as knowledge itself, but as the cognitive faculty providing the ability to develop such knowledge. Plantinga says, “What one has from one’s mother’s womb is not this knowledge of God, but a capacity for it.” The sensus divinitatis is the sensory system or organ in which a wide variety of circumstances trigger the disposition to form the occasion on which beliefs about God arise. People do not have these beliefs embedded within them inherently, nor do they choose to have them, but instead, have the sense to develop them when this faculty encounters circumstances. For Plantinga, the sensus divinitatis takes the circumstances as input and issues theistic beliefs as output. “The sensus divinitatis resembles perception, memory, and a priori belief,” and in the same way that being appeared to occasions particular beliefs that are properly basic, and not accepted on the evidential basis of other propositions, so it is with beliefs arising from the sensus divinitatis.
Granting the notion that beliefs arising from the sensus divinitatis are properly basic, Plantinga asserts that “there is no sensible challenge to the rationality or rational justification or warrant of Christian belief that is not also a challenge to its truth.” And thus, Plantinga explains the sensus divinitatis’ foundational role in reformed epistemology.
The sensus divinitatis is a belief-producing faculty (or power, or mechanism) that under the right conditions produces belief that isn’t evidentially based on other beliefs. On this model our cognitive faculties have been designed and created by God’ the design place, therefore, is a design plan in the literal and paradigmatic sense. It is a blueprint or plan for our ways of functioning, and it has been developed and instituted by a conscious, intelligent agent. The purpose of the sensus divinitatis is to enable us to have true beliefs about God; when it functions properly, it ordinarily does produce true beliefs about God. These beliefs, therefore, meet the conditions of warrant; if the beliefs produced are strong enough, then they constitute knowledge.
This is the central thesis of the reception knowledge of God in the reformed epistemology model. “God has so constructed us that we naturally form the belief in his existence under appropriate circumstances, just as we do the belief in perceptual objects, the reality of the past, and so forth. Hence, belief in God is among the deliverances of reason, not faith.”
Reformed epistemology continues by next explaining that the sensus divinitatis has been marred by sin. Plantinga explains, “Original sin involves both intellect and will; it is both cognitive and . . . primarily an affective disorder or malfunction.” Sin is like a disease which affects the receptive organ of faith, the sensus divinitatis. Much like the way in which disease affects other organs, sin is a degenerative disorder that corrupts the cognitive function of both intellection and affections, confusing human loves and hates, distorting human understanding, and directing affections toward the wrong objects. Thus, human affections, corrupted by sin, no longer work in accord with God’s original design plan, and while the affected individual sees what is right, he prefers what is wrong. However, while this corrupted state provides a “fertile field for ambiguity and self-deception,” sin merely corrupts the sensus divinitatis but does not completely obliterate it.
What is needed for Christian belief is a properly functioning sensus divinitatis. Enter the redemptive gospel of Jesus and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. In Plantinga’s model, it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for the reparative work of the divine sense in bringing about faith in believers. The activity of the Holy Spirit involves means by which belief is regularly produced in regular ways. In this, the cognitive process by which the Spirit instigates the perception of faith “resembles memory, perception, reason, sympathy, induction, and other more standard belief-producing processes.” Faith often has the phenomenology that goes with suddenly having eyes to see something to be true, but while Christian beliefs may contain excellent arguments, Christian belief, as arises from the sensus divinitatis, is not accepted based on propositional logic, but is the result of genuine religious experience. More than propositional belief, faith requires the right affections. “The demons believe and they shudder” (James 2:19), but the demons do not have faith. The person with faith has not only the right beliefs but also the right affections. “Conversion, therefore, is fundamentally a turning of the will, a healing of the disorder of affection that afflicts us.” As Jonathan Edwards wrote, “True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections,” and Thomas Aquinas explained, “The Holy Spirit makes us lovers of God.” Thus, the restorative work of the Holy Spirit is not just one that enables a person to rightly perceive of God but also heals the disorder of affection that afflicts mankind. By the reparative work of the Holy Spirit, the person comes to see the great truth of the gospel and hear Christ’s voice in His Word. In this way, the truths of the gospel and the Scripture are properly basic for believers because they are self-authenticating, and do not receive their warrant on the evidential basis of other propositions.
Reformed epistemology allows that “the full panoply of Christian beliefs” may be properly basic if God exists. In Plantinga’s Extended Aquinas/Calvin Model, believers need not justify their beliefs by evidence or argument because they have warrant for their Christian beliefs in the basic way. God has constituted people such that they naturally come to believe in Christ when placed in the appropriate circumstances through properly functioning cognitive faculties repaired by the work of the Holy Spirit. These cognitive faculties inherently possess a natural ability (sensus divinitatis) to perceive of the divine when operating as God designed (free from the corruption and brokenness resulting from sin). Hence, God is perceived by the natural senses, known in a properly basic way, and faith is among the deliverances of reason.
Consequently, “Plantinga drops a bomb into mainstream epistemology by proposing . . . that one’s cognitive faculties are functioning properly only if they are functioning as God designed them to. . . . God has so constituted us that we naturally form [belief in God’s existence] under certain circumstances; since the belief is thus formed by properly functioning cognitive faculties in an appropriate environment.” This flips the assault of the atheists on its head. On Plantinga’s account, the argument of Freud and Marx that Christianity is irrational and aimed at something other than truth becomes a valid conclusion only on the assumption that God does not exist. Conversely, in the case that God does in fact exist, it is Freud, Marx, and the atheists whose beliefs are irrational. Thus, Christian belief is warranted in so far as God exists. This disallows the antitheist to contend that Christian belief is irrational, unjustified, or unwarranted; and leaves it to the atheist to disprove the existence of God.
Reformed epistemology is among the most important Christian philosophical works of the last century and has significantly undercut the arguments of philosophers who attempt to brand Christian belief as unwarranted. This modern defense of Christian faith against the most powerful assaults of the twentieth century rests on reformed epistemology’s diffusion of their claims. Plantinga’s suggestion that God has implanted mechanisms which could produce a powerful warrant for belief in God through a natural sense of the divine, strengthened and restored by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, is dependent on Calvin’s contributing conception of the sensus divinitatis. At the same time, Calvin, and Christians, in general, owe a great deal of appreciation to the pagan philosopher, Cicero, and his eclectic dependence on the Epicureans, for providing Christianity with foundational aspects of this core epistemological concept upon which the powerful defense of warranted Christian belief is built.
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer from Houston Texas – a husband, father, preacher, and Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 173.
Alvin Plantinga, Knowledge and Christian Belief (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2015), 45.
Plantinga, Knowledge, 33.
Thomas P. Scheck, “Humanitas in Cicero’s Moral Philosophy and its Christian Reception,” in Ave Maria Law Review (2012), 405.
Cicero, On Obligations, Book I trans. P. G. Walsh (Oxford University Press, 2000), 11-17.
Cicero, On Obligations, 49, supra note 3.
Egil Grislis, “Calvin’s Use of Cicero in the Institutes I:1-5 – A Case Study in Theological Method,” in Archiv fiir Reformationsgeshichte, 62/1 (1971), 5.
Cicero quoted in The Loeb Classical Library I. XVI (London: Harvard University Press, 1933), 43.
Loeb I. XXIII, 65.
Loeb I. XVI, 43.
Loeb III. I, 2, 224-226.
Loeb I. XVII, 44, 46.
Scheck, “Humanitas,” 406.
St. Augustine, Confessions trans. Edward B. Pusey, Book III (P. F. Collier & Son, 1909), 134.
Harald Hagendahl, Latin Fathers and the Classics (1958), 348-381.
Desiderius Erasmus, “Letter from Desiderius Erasmus to Johann von Vlatten (1523),” in 10 Collected Works of Erasmus trans. R. A. B. Mynors & Aleander Dalzell (University of Toronto Press, 1992), 96-98.
Grislis, “Calvin’s Use of Cicero,” 5-37.
Grislis, “Calvin’s Use of Cicero,” 5.
Charles Partee, Calvin and Classical Philosophy (Westminster: John Knox Press, 2005), 43.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), I.iii.3.
Calvin, Institutes, I.iii.3.
Ibid, I.iv.1, I.iii.3.
Edward Adams, “Calvin’s view of Natural Knowledge of God” in International Journal of Systematic Theology, 3 (November, 2001), 284.
Calvin, Institutes, I.iii.3.
Grislis, “Calvin’s Use of Cicero,” 8.
Loeb IX, 19, 338.
Calvin, Institutes, I.V.2.
Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 170.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), I, q. 2.a.1, ad 1.
Alvin Plantinga, Faith and Rationality (London: Notre Dame, 1983), 58-59.
Plantinga, Knowledge, ix.
Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 173.
Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 179.
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 40.
Plantinga, Knowledge, 49.
Plantinga, Knowledge, 51.
Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections ed. John E. Smith (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1959), 95.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles trans. Charles O’Neil (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), IV.21-22.
Plantinga, Knowledge, 74.
Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 261-262.
Craig, Reasonable Faith, 40.