A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

We can all benefit from succinct, well-stated insights from people who have thought through theological ideas. I like to draw attention to these nuggets of wisdom on my Facebook and Twitter feeds in my weekly #ThursdayTheology segment. Today, we’ll consider several quotes from theologian John Jefferson Davis.

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Dr. Davis is a veteran evangelical Protestant theologian and author. He is a professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he has taught for more than 40 years. He has written several books in the areas of Christian theology, doctrine, ethics, and science. His book Handbook of Basic Bible Texts is one of the most helpful works I’ve used in my research and study of Scripture and theology. When I write and speak on biblical and theological topics I always refer to Davis’s book.

Here are four quotes from Davis and some thoughts on them.

1. God’s Love for Sinners

“God takes the initiative in love, loving those who can claim no merit or favor in and of themselves. The eros of the Greek tradition responds to attractive features in the beloved; the agape of the God of the Bible is love for the unlovely.” 1

It is amazingly encouraging to know that as a sinner I have nothing to attract God; nonetheless, he loves me. While God doesn’t need me, he wants me. Our salvation in Christ is unmerited, unearned, and undeserved. From first to last, it is a gift of grace from an infinitely loving God.

2. On the Life of the Mind

“This great impetus to intellectual advance came from the conviction that the Bible was indeed a written revelation of divine origin and authority. Christianity, a ‘religion of the book,’ fostered literacy and education on the most comprehensive scale.”2

To be made in the image of God makes people intellectually endowed. As followers of the Logos (Jesus the Word, John 1:1), Christians engage in a knowledge tradition of learning. Reading and study are necessary to understand the propositional revelation from God. Christians are a bookish people who can and should seek the life of the mind to the glory of God.

3. On the Incomprehensible Mysteries

“While human logic can assist in preserving revealed mysteries such as the Trinity and the incarnation from heretical distortion, human logic in and of itself can never fully comprehend them. Human logic points to the mysteries, and guards them, but can never claim to fully possess or control them.”3

The mysteries of Christian religion (Trinity, incarnation, atonement, etc.) cannot be fully fathomed by the finite mind of human beings. Yet these truths do no damage to reason itself and the principles of reasoning even help to articulate, define, and defend these Christian verities.

4. On the Two Books

“The results of modern science, properly understood, are no threat to Christian faith. Christian faith and scientific method are understood to be complementary ways of knowing God’s creative work, each having its distinctive ways of knowing, methods and areas of validity.”4

The book of nature (God’s world) and Scripture (God’s Word) are compatible and harmonious because they both come from the hand of the Creator. Interpretation of the books may conflict but not when the books’ explanations of truth are understood and properly applied.

John Jefferson Davis’s writings are insightful for the study of Christian theology, philosophy, and science. His diligence has provided plenty of doctrinal reflection to enrich our understanding of our loving Creator.

Reflections: Your Turn

Are there Christian theologians that you’ve learned from? Who are they? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

See my introduction to Davis’s book in “Take Up and Read: Handbook of Basic Bible Texts”

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
  1. John Jefferson Davis, Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine and Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 30.
  2. John Jefferson Davis, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 215.
  3. John Jefferson Davis, Theology Primer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), sv. “Logic,” 29.
  4. John Jefferson Davis, The Frontiers of Science and Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), 7.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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