FOREWORD – Strong Words With Strong Thoughts

FOREWORD – A SUMMARY

The foreword for “Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed” by Austin Fischer is given by Scot McKnight, Professor at Northern Seminary. Not much to summarize in this foreword as it acts like a foreword – brief summary, brief snippet, and a word of commendation.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FOREWORD

The foreword, like all the chapters in this book is relatively short. But the briefness of words does not limit this chapter to laying down some forceful blows. These statements and quotes by Scot McKnight (which I assume is echoed and expanded upon by the author) stood out to me

1) A question is raised about the “final end” (goal) of God

“I still read Calvin and Piper and Edwards, but with a hermeneutic of suspicion. I like their architecture, even if their furnishings need to be tossed into the garbage heap. I like the idea of God’s glory, but God’s love is the final end— not God’s glory.”

2) A question is raised about evil and suffering

“No one , he learned, can look Auschwitz in the face and not wonder how such a colossal act of barbaric evil can square with a God who determines all things. No one, he also learned, can stare at the prospects of hell in the traditional sense and not wonder about the goodness of God— or at least ask “Why?” And why would God create so many— the numbers stagger— knowing that most (again in the traditional Calvinist sense) will be there suffering forever and ever?”

3) A summary that acts as a commentary is given by Scot McNight

“In other words, he learned he had to believe some really horrible things about God to sustain his Calvinism.

And that God, he concluded, was not the God of the Bible. This book tells his story, and I hope you read it, and I hope you get a bunch of friends to read it together. Talk about it and ask one question, “Which view of God is best?” Or, “Is the Calvinist God the God of the Bible?” Or better yet, “Is the Calvinist God the God we discover when we look into the face of Jesus, the incarnation of God ?” Austin tells his answers to these questions at the age many need to begin answering these questions.”

MY TAKEAWAY

So what do I make of Scot McKnight’s foreword? In short – A LOT. But since this is just the foreword and he’s not the author and just providing a review, I won’t take time to engage it. Instead, I have just a few general thoughts:

1) This matters – I think Scot McNight nails it on the head when it comes to the major themes that is affected by the issues raised in this book. How I think about God  and how I think about evil and suffering in this world is 100% affected by how I view the line between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. And if that is the case, then it’s unfathomable to not wrestle with these issues. They’re not ideas made for ivory towers. These issues are the very fibers that forms our understanding (and faith) about God and about this existence we call life. Where we stand on these issues is where the abstract world of theology hits the real world of practicality.

Take for example the case when a child dies. How are parents to deal with this? Should they believe that “God had no part in this but will bring good from it” or should they say to themselves “I don’t understand all that God does, but I know He works for our good cause He loves us”. Those sound the same, but they are not. The difference in two are worlds apart and they are separated by how one views God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Expand this example out to chronic pain in life, to massive disappoints, to unanswered prayers, to bizarre chances of fate that either devastates or fulfills hopes and dreams. How do we explain these? How do we think about these things? We all give some answer because that’s what it means to be engaged in life – and those answers say something about God and about man.

In the end, for the faithful believer who loves God and His word, this issue of God and man and whose will is decisive for life is unavoidable.

2) I don’t get it – One phrase I hear often by those that detest (and that’s probably the right word), detest Calvinism (or the doctrines of grace or reformed soteriology or whatever you want to  call it) is that it makes God out to be a moral monster. Scot McNight reflects this sentiment when he summarizes the author’s finding in the foreword with statements like

“And that God, he concluded (speaking of the author), was not the God of the bible.”

and questions like

“Is the Calvinist God the God of the Bible?” Or better yet, “Is the Calvinist God the God we discover when we look into the face of Jesus, the incarnation of God ?”

What I don’t get is if a theology makes God out to be a moral monster or teaches God as  “not the God of the bible”, then shouldn’t that theology be declared as heresy and those that teaches it to be heretical teachers? Shouldn’t Augustine and Luther and Calvin and Spurgeon and Whitfield and MacArthur and Piper be put in the camps of Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses? What can be more heretical than painting God not as He is in the bible and what can be more blasphemous than to make God out to be a moral monster? So something seems off here. Either the wordings used against Calvinism is correct and stronger actions needs to be taken or new wording needs to be found, ones that demonstrates the nuance of opposition while affirming orthodoxy (in the most obvious sense).

(Related Previous posts)

– Introduction: A Journey In and Out of Calvinism

2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this Tony as these struggles come up over and over again. What I really despise is his quote regarding God’s love and God’s glory. I believe that when we demand God’s glory to submit to God’s love, we are actually injecting our emotional imbalance into a God that is not swayed or determined by emotions as we know them.

  2. These are all things that Michelle and I discuss at great length, and I don’t think we have a clear answer on the “Why?” as it relates to evil, suffering, and the God of the Bible. The question we always have to go back to is, how does God choose to reveal Himself to us through His Word. It seems to me incredibly arrogant to create a new theology based on man’s understanding of how God SHOULD be, because we don’t want to accept ALL of God, as He is revealed through the Holy Scriptures.

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