Communicating Our Convictions

Greg Koukl, the president of Stand to Reason, has for many years now provided both hours of engaging radio commentary and a host of insightful articles. Greg is on the International Advisory Board for the Summit Oxford Study Centre (which I founded and currently direct), and he also is a friend.

Well over a decade ago Greg began speaking at Summit Ministriesstudent summer conferences. Personally, I was very pleased to have him on our faculty as his contributions were intelligent, clarifying, experienced, and mature. Greg is a careful thinker and speaker, conscious of which words are better to use and how best to use them. One learns not only from the content of his messages but also from the manner of his messaging.

The Power of Storytelling (1.1)

Robert McKee, in his book, Story: Substance, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, says the following about storytelling.

In 388 B.C. Plato urged the city fathers of Athens to exile all poets and storytellers. They were a threat to society, he argued. Writers deal with idea, but not in the open, rational manner of philosophers. Instead, they conceal their ideas inside the seductive emotions of art. Yet felt ideas, as Plato pointed out, are ideas nonetheless. Every effective story sends a charged idea out to us, in effect compelling the idea into us, so that we must believe. In fact, the persuasive power of story is so great that we may believe its meaning even if we find it morally repellent. Storytellers, Plato insisted, are dangerous people. He was right.

I imagine that along with poets and storytellers one could include actors and journalists and politicians. Regardless, there are several things to take from this.

For one, the power of story has been known and realized for a very long time. However, this is not to say that everyone realizes the power of story.

Also, because stories can convey what is the opposite of the good, the true, and the beautiful, we should be ever-conscious when we encounter stories, both those with presented with the explicit intent to persuade hearers of some conviction, as well as those that are not so explicit.

A third observation is that in our desire to persuade others of the truth, it behoves us to be able not only to present rational argument, and not only to embody the very truths we seek to convey, but also that we endeavor to couch what is good, what is true, what is beautiful, and what is just in compelling narratives.

UPDATE: 1.1

On the next page McKee writes:

Robert George on Holding Fast to the Gospel

The following video contains remarks by Robert George on holding fast to the gospel. George is a Roman Catholic. I am just catholic. But this matters not at all. He is my brother in Christ. For that, I am grateful.

Robert George is a prophetic voice for this very moment in our cultural history. Listen to what our brother says. Hear, hear!

If you care to read his remarks, you may find a transcript here.

This video was trimmed by Splicd.com, a helpful little service!

Summit Oxford • 2014 Summer Term

Readings @ Summit Oxford • 2014 Summer Term

It undoubtedly is a truism that one can be wearied by the reading of many books. Perhaps even more so, the reading of many online articles, a bulk of blogs, frenzied Facebook statuses, hasty hashtags, and awful opinions. Even so, some publications actually can be enlightening and perhaps challenging. Some most certainly are fuel for our conversations at Summit Oxford.

Often I am asked about what we are reading in the Summit Oxford program. The list changes a bit from term to term. (Here is the list from Hilary term 2014. It is similar to what I’ve posted below.) New books are published, older ones seem less pressing or helpful, and there is ever a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. We do read a lot, mind you, most often approaching 2500 pages. (And our students read many times this number of pages for their Oxford tutorials. It is a good thing that we are so close to the world-class Bodleian Library.)

For the upcoming coming Summer Term (10 June – August 8), along with a selection of articles, essays, and other items, we are reading and discussing the nine texts below. I have listed them roughly in the order we will read them. I also have provided links to Amazon, if you care to purchase any of them.

Summit Oxford Study Centre - www.summitoxford.org

Free Audiobook – Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer

The free audiobook this month at Christian Audio is Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer

This is a classic on evangelism. There is no good reason not to download it and give it a listen. It won’t be free forever. Get it now and enjoy!

Free Downloads on Christianaudio – Your One-Stop for Christian Audio

In Defence of War: Nigel Biggar

There has been a bit of a glut lately of articles and books discussing war and peace, and the place of Christian participation in either or both. Perhaps the most recent publication is that of Nigel Biggar, In Defence of WarBiggar is Regis Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and Director of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life at Oxford University. I have come into brief contact with Biggar, and have two friends who have been advised by him in their studies here in Oxford. 

I am slowing working through parts of In Defence of War and aim to post some quotes from it here and there. I am not usually very good at following through on such plans, however, so please do not feel a need to depends on my doing so. Regardless, here are some gems from chapter 1, “Against Christian pacifism.”

Not even pacifists object simply to acts that result in the deaths of other people, for they themselves are prepared to perform deliberate acts of omission, which permit innocents to die at the hands of the unjust. (30)

I am apt to sum up this point by noting that the peacemaker is willing to lay down her life for others while the pacifist is willing that others lay down their lives. Of course, the peacemaker also is willing to lay down the lives of the unjust to protect the innocent.

Biggar also draws out a larger vision of Christian (and human) responsibility in this world.

Our capacity to determine the effects of our action, and so to control the direction of history, is very limited; and when, rising up against frustration and despair, we resolve to impose our will at all costs, the results are ruthless and unjust. Sometimes it really is better to do nothing; sometimes prayer is (at least) less harmful than action. Nevertheless, human beings are made in the image of God to tend the world. We are made to care for what deserves to be cared for, and to flourish in its service. We are made to take responsibility under God—to take responsibility while being responsible. Therefore, in full knowledge of the irony of history and of the fragility of whatever we achieve, we must do what we can to defend and promote what is good—but within the limits of what we may. The question, then, is whatever war can ever tell the difference between what can be done and what may be done, and whether it can allow the latter to govern the former. (31)

More may follow.

UPDATE

Craig Blomberg on the Bible

Professor Craig L. Blomberg, of Denver Seminary, has just published a book addressing the trustworthiness of the Bible: Can We Still Believe the Bible?. Only twice have I pre-ordered a book so it would be delivered to my Kindle on the morning of publication. Blomberg’s book arrived in the night and waited patiently. I’m eager to read it as soon as I am able (which likely will be smallish portions for the coming three weeks).

Blomberg’s books are characteristically clear, both in prose and argument, and sound in scholarship. He does not tend to cut corners, over-simplify issues, or caricature the opposition. Indeed, at times I feel he has been overly generous to non-Christian perspectives (as he was in his book discussing Mormonism, How Wide the Divide?), and perhaps less generous to fellow Christians (as in Neither Poverty nor Riches, or, again, in How Wide the Divide?). Even so, if you want an example of knowledgeable and careful Christian scholarship and a generous spirit, I recommend that you read Blomberg’s works.

Here is the table of contents for this new volume:

  1. Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?
  2. Wasn’t the Selection of Books for the Canon Just Political?
  3. Can We Trust Any of our Translations of the Bible?
  4. Don’t These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy?
  5. Aren’t Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical?
  6. Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical? 

Sermon on Ruth 4

Well, I’ve put it off long enough. Now, with our worldview intensive* running strong at the Summit Oxford Study Centre, I’ll not likely have time to work further on my posts about the book of Ruth. It is a wonderful, if short, little book, with a pungent narrative and a pregnant message (yes, pun intended!). There is so much I could write about it, but I’ll leave what I’d say for now with the sermon posted below. Enjoy!

Part 1: Of Jews and Gentiles

Part 2: Love Between Women

Part 3: The Blessing of a Moabitess

download mp3

* The worldview intensive at Summit Oxford is a time in the term when we meet from 10am to 6pm, weekdays, for two or three weeks straight. It is a time of glorious fellowship, if intense investigations, of tension-filled and earnest discussions, of satisfying enlightenment, and so much more. One result, I hope, is a deep loyalty, one that transcends our appreciation of each other and encompasses the universal and ancient body of Christ.