Part 13 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 13: The Living God
This chapter is a refreshing aside from the hard-hitting defenses of the previous four. It is also inserted at a very clever point in the book, for it is at this point that Pinnock says, in essence, “Here I have given you all this tangible proof…but just as important a component in all of this is the fact that God speaks to your life and your spirit to such a degree that no man, however educated or not, can claim ignorance on the day of judgment.”
He does well to hold the argument to this point because he has rightly contended that an existential experience alone is not necessarily enough – especially to sway the thinking skeptic – and especially in light of the fact that post-modernism deifies experience to the degree that it waters down critical essentials of the Christian faith. However, once we see that there is plenty of objective evidence available to build a case for Christ, then we can begin to stress the importance of the personal experience of salvation in its rightful place; for we know from the words of Christ in John 6 that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. It is our job as apologists to provide a defense and a case, but salvation is still a personal call.
Pinnock begins this chapter by reiterating that faith and knowledge go hand-in-hand – “…that the living God has shown himself in historical events which cannot otherwise be explained than by acknowledging his existence.” But how should we handle the problem of the person who has not had evangelical exposure to the Gospel? Here Pinnock naturally turns to Paul’s most excellent response to this problem in Romans 1 – all men, at all times and in all places, are always confronted with the fact of God’s existence. Pinnock suggests that theistic proofs for God’s existence – such as were made by Thomas Aquinas – serve to rationally explain what the soul already knows instinctively. Pinnock states, “But for the Bible, the deepest proof of God’s existence is just life itself…If only God could be written off neatly and cleanly, how simple things would be. But the hound of heaven pads after us all.” Pinnock ties this universal truth to the origin of man as recorded in Genesis. Man was not only created, but he was created in God’s image, and he cannot survive as a creation apart from his creator. Pinnock continues, “Without God, man is the chance product of unthinking fate and of little worth. The current loss of identity and the emergence of the faceless man in today’s culture is testimony to the effects of losing our God.”
Once again it helps to turn to Paul’s dealings with these very same issues in Romans. God, in His creation, has given us evidence of His existence. Romans 1:19-20 reads, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them (men), for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they (again, men) are without excuse.” Even though the majority of his book has, to this point, focused on the historical evidence and proofs that bear witness to Christ, Pinnock admits that nowhere in the Bible is unbelief tied to an individual’s I.Q. or a lack of sound evidence. Time after time in scripture we learn that man’s unwillingness to open his eyes to the “invisible attributes” that “are clearly seen” is due to his refusal to surrender his prideful autonomy and bow to the offense of the cross…to admit that he needs a Savior because he knows that he is incapable of earning his freedom by his own merits. As Pinnock says, “The data present in the natural order which testifies to God’s reality gets through to every man, but his reaction to it is conditioned by his state of soul.” He continues later in the chapter, “The world is not a mechanistic cage and man knows it. God speaks from within man’s nature as created in the image of God and summons him back to the Father’s house.”
Pinnock concludes this chapter by again saying in the final paragraph that, apart from the historical evidence, life itself is the greatest proof of God’s existence. He also lists four distinct ways that His existence is essential to us as His creation:
1) Logically – we assume the order, rationality and design of a created world
2) Morally – God provides the shape and foundation for morality
3) Emotionally – we require an immediate and ultimate environment, not chance existence on a rock hurtling haphazardly through space
4) Personally – every material possession in the world can still not satisfy our heart’s desires
And finally, after all of this, Pinnock simply quotes Psalm 139, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”
Copyright © 2013 Jonathan Ruth