Part 5 of a 16 part series…
To catch you up, my father, Dr. Michael Ruth (an author, family therapist, and pastor since the late 70’s) gave me an assignment to read the book Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock and to write a 1-2 page response to each of the chapters. It might be a little difficult to fully understand my responses to or summaries of the chapters without reading the book, but I wanted to share my work anyway.
Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock
Chapter 5: The Breaking Point
Though it comes late in the chapter, I believe the following excerpt best captures the entirety of what Pinnock is trying to drive home in this chapter: “In every man there are moral motions which he can no more eradicate than fly. These are rather to his condemnation than to his credit, but they do expose the point of contact for the glorious gospel of Christ. The good news calls man back to the Living God, the fountain of all rationality, love, significance, morality, and freedom.” In other words, evangelicals have an edge! It is in our nature as humans to be drawn to a higher order. Apologists can use this inclination to our advantage today when contrasting the absurdity of the cultural and sociological answers to our basic questions with the sensible logic of the gospel message.
Pinnock points out that, although it has naturally driven man toward a more nihilistic view of his world, the death of Romanticism was a good thing for Christianity. Romanticism lulls us into thinking that moralism can get us to heaven. As Pinnock points out however, “…it is the godly, not the good, who will be saved.” Moralism as a religious philosophy of life is simply another way to hell. It is necessary to drive out this way of thinking in order for the gospel message to be taken seriously.
Those who have left the romantic world behind only to merge on to the path of humanism have a bleak outlook indeed. All individuals, as well as societies as a whole, have a breaking point. Choosing to live a life separate from God naturally creates a schism within the soul that drives man to this breaking point. Pinnock quotes R. J. Rushdoony to clarify his point, “Wherever man asserts his independence from God, saying in effect, that, while he will deny God, he will not deny life, nor its relationships, values, society, its sciences and art, he is involved in contradiction. It is an impossibility for man to deny God and still to have law and order, justice, science, anything, apart from God. The more man and society depart from God, the more they depart from all reality…”
It is virtually impossible for a non-Christian to live a consistent life. On the one hand, the non-Christian wants to claim autonomy; on the other hand, in order to live any sort of sane existence, he must borrow – whether he knows it or not – from principles found in the gospel. Surely even the criminal only wishes to steal…not to be stolen from. To cite a cultural example, Hugh Hefner – the founder of Playboy – was asked if he valued qualities in a woman that he himself espouses (unlimited sexual license for example). His response…of course not! He was quoted, “…intellectually I may think in a certain way; practically I may act in another way. I am and I remain a combination of incoherencies that I uselessly try to reject.” At least he is honest, I suppose, for this is, in fact, the truth of existence for the non-Christian individual. As Pinnock states, “Having first discarded God, he (mankind) tends to jettison anything which smacks of association with God, which, as he finds in the end, is everything worth having.”
This brings us back full-circle to Pinnock’s statement in my opening. If we, as evangelicals and apologists, can expose man to his inconsistency, gently and respectfully, then we may in fact be able to win more souls for the kingdom. We are all created in God’s image, but the acknowledgement of this fact can be buried deep in those who reject Him altogether. “There are more atheists in lip than there are in life,” as Pinnock says, and if we nudge in the right direction we have the ability to expose the foolishness of mankind’s illogical position and instead present the logical case for salvation in Christ Jesus.
Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth