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Posts tagged ‘Alister McGrath’

The Light of His Glory.

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.
Psalm 27:4

Recommended Reading
Psalm 73:16-17, 23-28 (,%2023-28&version=NKJV )

At a meeting of the Socratic Club in Oxford, England, in 1945, the Christian apologist C. S. Lewis said, “I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” In his biography of C. S. Lewis, Alister McGrath explains what Lewis meant: “We can look at the sun itself; or we can look instead at what it illuminates — thus enlarging our intellectual, moral, and aesthetic vision. We see the true, the good, and the beautiful more clearly by being given a lens that brings them into focus.”1

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( )

The psalmist Asaph had a similar enlightening experience. He was confused and frustrated about the prosperity of evildoers in the world — “Until I went into the sanctuary of God;  then  I understood their end” (Psalm 73:17). When he went to the temple to worship God, suddenly he saw the answer — the answer was God! Somehow, when we “worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2), life looks different.

We worship God not only because He is God but because we see everything else more clearly in the light of His glory.

In the light of God, human vision clears.
James Philip

1Alister McGrath,  C. S. Lewis: A Life—Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet  (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2013), 277.

1 Corinthians 1-4

By David Jeremiah.

C.S. Lewis: 50 Years After Death, More Popular Than During Lifetime.

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis

When Clive Staples Lewis breathed his last on Nov. 22, 1963, the world was looking elsewhere. The beloved American president, John F. Kennedy, had just been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Oddly, science fiction writer Aldous Huxley also died the same day, creating a trifecta of influential deaths. But 50 years later, one of the three deceased stands above the rest in terms of continued global impact.

“[C.S.] Lewis is now more popular than he ever was,”says Robert Banks, an author and professor with a particular interest Lewis. “And each year he becomes more popular than he ever was by far in his lifetime.”

Lewis was known both for his popular fiction–including The Chronicles of Naria series and Space Trilogyand his theological non-fiction, such as Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain. The Lewis canon of literature have sold more than 100 million copies and have been translated into 40 languages. It’s estimated that Lewis’ books still sell around two million copies annually. His books have been turned into screenplays and major motion pictures, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars, and Lewis’ life has been profiled by numerous biographers including recently by British evangelical Alister McGrath.

To commemorate his life and legacy, Harper Collins, who owns rights to publish Lewis’ works in the U.S., is releasing an annotated version of The Screwtape LettersPaul McCusker, an author and playwright, was hired to write the annotations for the new version. Here, I talk with McCusker about Lewis’ legacy and what we’ll miss in his work if we aren’t careful.

Reading Lewis is a bit like reading the Bible—in that we think we understand it, but might not even realize what we’re missing. Paul, what are some of the references that a 21st century American reader would most likely not catch?

For people who don’t know the Bible very well, Lewis’ references to Biblical phrases and ideas could be missed. Lewis was also a man of literature, who often quoted or alluded to the works of Milton or Homer or even more obscure authors and books that his readers at the time may have known, but we have long-since forgotten. In one of Screwtape’s letters, Lewis spends a bit of time dealing with George Bernard Shaw and a particular philosophy few now would know (though elements of that philosophy exist in people’s thinking today). Lewis also assumed a common understanding among his readers of the Church of England’s liturgies, which Americans in general – and Evangelical Protestants in particular – might not recognize. My hope with the Annotations is to bring all of those to light.

And what about Lewis’ context? Was he addressing particularities of his historical context that we’re not hearing?

As timeless as The Screwtape Letters can be, we have to remember that they were written in a time of war. And not just any war, but a war that brought the fight to the doorsteps of Lewis’ readers as the Germans relentlessly bombed England. And his readers were the subscribers to a Church of England newspaper, many of whom were well-read ministers or theologians. So Lewis wrote with specific assumptions about things like the Home Guard and air raids and bomb shelters, about the books his readers would have read or what they all experienced in their churches. Few of us now understand all of that. But the insights into humanity still make Screwtape compelling for us now, in the same way Shakespeare touches us, though the original context may be lost to our thinking.

What about funny mid 20th-century British dialect? Are there words that you needed to define in the notes?

My editor and I went back and forth on which words and phrases needed to be defined and which didn’t. We didn’t want to assume too much or too little–and finding the right balance was hard. We didn’t want to offend people’s intelligence. But we made sure to identify British places–Wantage was one, I think–and British names for things (like a “building estate”), or liturgical words (a “Collect,” for example), British expressions (“priggish” and “done a corner in”), uncommon words (“accretions”) and even a dish like ”sole colbert.” The good thing is that, if you know the words, you’ll read on without stopping. If you don’t know the words, then you can glance at the footnote for the definition without too much of a break in the flow.

Were there sections of The Screwtape Letters that, today, sound particularly relevant to our modern context? Ones Lewis could not—or could!—have anticipated?

Just about everything in Screwtape is relevant, but I was particularly amazed by Lewis’ insights into trends. He accurately captures everything from sexuality to how people dress to art to philosophical notions and literary criticism, as if he knew where culture was headed. I found very few outdated ideas. Perhaps that’s because of the inherent humanity behind the letters, or Lewis’ understanding of how history seems to repeat itself.

In your opinion, Paul, what modern issues would Lewis have included if he were writing today? How do you think he’d contextualize Screwtape Letters for this generation?

I suspect Lewis would have had Screwtape address the fairly unique phenomenon of the internet and social networking and its impact on our relationships. Perhaps he would have talked about the reduction of complex ideas to sound bytes and Twitter messages (though Screwtape does address the demonic strategy of keeping us from thinking and reasoning at deep levels). Otherwise, the letters seem to touch on most of what we’re experiencing now.



The Rise of Neo-Enlightenment Theology.

Dr. James Emery White

Is it just me, or is Evangelical Christianity falling into a theology that is based more on individual reason than revelation?  For example, theological reflections and pronouncements offered in books and blogs seem to increasingly intimate:

*that personal feelings and relationships should dictate theological conclusions (“I have a gay friend who feels…”)

*that whether Jesus “said it” is the only definitive word on whether there is a true “word” from God to consider (as if the rest of the New Testament, much less the Old Testament, is a second-tier level of inspiration from the Holy Spirit)

*that how many times something is mandated or mentioned in scripture is the determinant of whether it really matters biblically (as in “do you know how few times it’s even mentioned in Scripture?”)

*that overarching theological themes, such as “God is love,” are isolated to become the overarching hermeneutic over every other didactic statement made in Scripture (as in “Yes, it says that, but God IS love, after all”, and then whatever you don’t like is swept away with God’s “love” hand)

I could give other examples, but the move is always the same:  pull out the Enlightenment card.

The bitter irony is that they don’t know they are pulling it out, much less that the Evangelical movement largely began in reaction to the Enlightenment.

Game for a quick review?

Those who lived in the eighteenth century had little doubt that they were living in an enlightened age, one that had emerged from a time of twilight.  “An increasing number of European intellectuals used new ideas about the natural world, society and the nature of things to attack the established churches,” writes historian Mark Noll, as well as “to question traditional views of divine revelation.”

Henry May captures the message of the Enlightenment as the belief in two propositions:  first, that the present age is more enlightened than the past; and second, that we understand nature and humanity best through the use of our natural faculties.  The Enlightenment “project” was the rejection of revelation, tradition or divine illumination as the surest guide for human beings.  Instead, autonomous human reason reigned supreme.  The motto of Immanuel Kant, one of the most significant thinkers of the time, was Sapere aude! – “Dare to use your own reason” (or simply, “Dare to know”).  In fact, this was his personal definition of the Enlightenment.

There are several words worth noting in Kant’s challenge:  First, the word dare, meaning that if one did use reason, they would inevitably come up against traditional authorities, namely the church.  But that was the point.  There could be no authority over the exercise, or conclusion, of reason.  This idea of authority is critical, for the Enlightenment was a rebellion against one source of authority – that of the church and its appeal to God and His revelation – and the enthronement of another authority, that of human reason.  For someone like the French philosopher Voltaire, the Enlightenment offered emancipation from “prone submission to the heavenly will.”

That the reason we use be our own also highlights the independence of human intellect, answerable to none and best able to function separate of anything thought to come from God.

And then there is Kant’s use of the word reason, which for most Enlightenment thinkers, such as the Scottish philosopher David Hume, meant some form of empiricism.  Empiricism elevated sense experience above all other sources for the gaining of knowledge.  Sense experience means that which could be seen, tasted, touched, heard or smelled.  Introduced through the scientific method of experimentation of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), what could not be observed, or at least replicated, was met with skepticism.  The fundamental idea was that we could begin with ourselves and gain the means by which to judge all things.

And not only that we could, but should.

The challenge this brought to Christian faith was profound.  Alister McGrath charts the development concisely, noting that it was first sympathetically argued that the beliefs of Christianity were rational, and thus able to stand up under any amount of intellectual scrutiny.  It was then argued that the basic ideas of Christianity, being rational, could be derived from reason itself, independent of divine revelation.  Then came the final step; the idea that reason was able to stand over revelation as judge.  If reason was omnicompetent, as Enlightenment thinkers believed, it was supremely qualified to judge Christian beliefs and practices.  If reason could not produce a particular tenet of Christian faith, then that particular tenet was suspect.  Only what human reason could demonstrate became enshrined.

So while the early writers of the Enlightenment, including Rene Descartes and even John Locke, attempted to put their “enlightened” reflections within a Christian framework, the way had been cleared for others who would follow in their footsteps and embark on an increasingly secular assessment of the world.  Their increasingly radical pronouncements fell like seed on fertile soil, watered by the headlines of the day.  A foundational shift had taken place:  from “faith seekingunderstanding” to “faith requiring justification.”  No longer did reason exist to serve faith; faith existed, if at all, on the basis of whether human reason deemed it acceptable.

Which brings us back full circle.

Evangelicals are increasingly embracing an Enlightenment maneuver.  The original Enlightenment maneuver elevated reason over revelation in order to discount the mystical and miraculous.  Neo-Enlightenment thinking, at least among Evangelicals, demonstrates the same action.

Only instead of using reason to overturn the miraculous, it is being used to overturn the ethical.

The authority of the Christian faith is the triune God, as revealed in Scripture, as conveyed in a heritage, as made real in experience, both corporate and personal.

And in that order.

Did you notice what was last?

The personal.

James Emery White



James Emery White, Serious Times.

Mark Noll, Turning Points.

Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America.

On Kant’s thinking, see Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and What is Enlightenment.

Gerald R. Cragg, The Church and the Age of Reason 1648-1789, The Pelican History of the Church, Vol. 4.

John Locke, Reasonableness of Christianity.

Alister E. McGrath, “Enlightenment,” in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought

Neil B. MacDonald, “Enlightenment,” The Dictionary of Historical Theology

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book isThe Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

How to Share Your Faith With Seekers and Skeptics.

Editor’s note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Alister McGrath‘s new book, Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith (Baker Books, 2012).

If thinking about the concept of apologetics (communicating the core themes of Christianity to people who don’t yet have relationships with Jesus) brings to mind worries about getting into defensive or even hostile conversations with people, stop right there. Sharing your faith with others through apologetics doesn’t ever have to be a negative experience.

In fact, apologetics can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor whenever you approach it in the right way. Jesus calls everyone who follows Him to help communicate the Gospel message in compelling ways, so don’t shy away from your role as an apologist. Here’s how you can pursue apologetics in a positive way to help seekers and even skeptics find faith in Jesus:

Turn your worries into prayers. Yes, the task of communicating the Gospel to people whose souls are at stake is a weighty responsibility. But you don’t need to be worried about the task, because God has promised to empower you to do whatever He calls you to do. So whenever you catch yourself worrying about how inadequate you feel for the task, pray for the help and confidence you need, and God will provide it.

Understand the three parts of apologetics. Apologetics involves defending, commending, and translating your faith. Defending means finding out what barriers people have to coming to faith and answering their sincere questions in caring and thoughtful ways. Commending means communicating the Gospel message in ways that help people see its truth and appreciate its power to change their lives for the better. Translating means explaining Christianity’s concepts in terms that people who are unfamiliar with the faith can best understand.

Get to know your own faith well. Before you can effectively tell others about Christianity, you must know why you personally believe what you believe, and why it’s important to you to follow Jesus. Be prepared to give others reasons for your faith. Keep in mind that when others observe Jesus’ power at work transforming your soul and life, they’ll be drawn to Him themselves.

Get to know your audience well. Make time to learn about the people you’re hoping to reach. What’s important to them, and why? What hopes and dreams do they have? What struggles and concerns do they have?

Find points of contact in people’s lives that can help them relate to the Gospel message. Identify people’s current values and experiences that relate to what the Gospel has to say, and then use appropriate points of contact to bring up the subject of faith in conversations with them. Some of the possible points of contact include: the origins of the universe, how the universe appears to be designed for life, the orderly structure of the physical world, people’s built-in sense of morality and longing for justice, people’s deep sense of yearning for something transcendent (which can only be fulfilled by discovering God), the beauty of nature, people’s fundamental need to exist in relationship with others (and how Christianity is a relational faith), and people’s sense that they were made for much more than just brief lifetimes on Earth (a sense of eternity and the eternal hope that Christianity gives). Talking with people about any of these or other points of contact can help them discover how the Christian faith can help make them sense of their lives.

Present the whole Gospel. Don’t restrict the way you present Christianity to just the parts that you enjoy the most; be sure to faithfully communicate the entire Gospel message – even the parts that may be hard for others to hear (such as the effect of sin on their lives) – and trust that God will help them receive the message.

Show people that the Christian faith is reasonable. Study the evidence that supports Christianity so you can tell people about it when they ask. Explain how Christianity makes more sense of reality than its alternatives.

Use different gateways to communicate the Gospel message to people. Gateways are means by which people can come to understand the reality of their own spiritual situation and how Jesus can transform it. Different gateways include: explanations (simply telling people what the Gospel is about), arguments (giving people good reasons for believing in Jesus and trusting Him), stories (showing people the power of a relationship with Jesus at work changing lives), and images (visually communicating the Gospel’s truths and how it transforms people’s lives).

Deal well with people’s questions about faith. Welcome people’s honest questions about faith rather than viewing those questions as threats. Realize that when someone expresses questions about Christianity to you, it’s usually to signal interest and a willingness to listen. When people ask you questions about faith: be gracious, ask them to explain why each question is a particular concern for them (so you can find out any questions behind their questions), listen carefully, and avoid prepackaged answers while seeking to thoughtfully address each specific question. Observe how other people who regularly share their faith with others handle questions, and learn from their approaches. Ask people you trust to observe how you deal with questions from seekers and skeptics, and get their feedback afterward so you can make changes as needed.

Develop your own apologetic approach. As you incorporate apologetics into your everyday life and refine your efforts through practice, you can develop your own distinctive approach to it. Figure out how God has gifted you to best be able to share the Gospel message with others. Keep in mind that you can do so beyond the conversations in which you talk with others; you can also do so through writing, or even just through the example you set to others of how you live your life (your attitudes and actions).

Adapted from Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith, copyright 2012 by Alister McGrath. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.,

Alister E. McGrath (DPhil and DD, University of Oxford; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts) is professor of theology, ministry, and education, and head of the Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King’s College, London, and president for the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including the award-winning The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind. A former atheist, he is respectful yet critical of the new atheist movement and regularly engages in debate and dialogue with its leaders.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a contributing writer and the editor of’s site on angels and miracles ( Contact Whitney at: to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.

Publication date: April 5, 2012

By Whitney Hopler.

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