Sunday, March 16, 2008

Truth That Transforms

Ravi Zacharias once compared philosophy and the gospel this way:

The greatest difference between Jesus Christ and moral and ethical teachers, who have been deified by men, is that these moralists came to make bad men good; Jesus came to make dead men live.
Ravi's words remind me of what Augustine said in "On True Religion."
If Plato and the rest of them, in whose names men glory, were to come to life again and find the churches full and the temples empty, and that the human race was being called away from desire for temporal and transient goods to spiritual and intelligible goods and to the hope of eternal life, and was actually giving its attention to these things, they would perhaps say (if they really were the men they are said to have been): That is what we did not dare to preach to the people. We preferred to yield to popular custom rather than to bring the people over to our way of thinking and living.

In other words, Plato and his philosophical circle did not even attempt on a wide scale to make bad men good. It was not in the nature of "the many" to be susceptible to arguments for virtue, much less for the love of what is intelligible and unseen. Augustine, himself philosophically learned, pours contempt on philosophy in comparison to Christianity because of its impotence. Philosophy, for all its boasts and ambition, has no power to transform people. If human vice, dare I say evil, were simply a matter of the uninformed intellect, then moral philosophy and public education would be sufficient for the progress and perfection of the human race. But you cannot simply argue someone into virtue, nor into the Kingdom of God.

Thus, those who are skeptical of Christ, and of the heart transforming power of his grace, will ask:

1. Do I need to be transformed? The issue here is, at its root, not education but repentance.

2. Does anyone need to be transformed? The issue here is the view of human nature, which is rooted in the view of oneself, which is at root the matter of repentance.

3. Can anyone be transformed? At issue here is the resurrection.

4. Has anyone been transformed? This is the question of the spiritual power of repentance in Christians, the resurrection life of Christ in Christians. Is Christ indeed risen and does he bring the dead to life with him?

Consider these questions--Christians and skeptics both--as you approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

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