A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

How do Christians live out their faith in an age often critical of their distinctive beliefs and values? And how can they successfully communicate their faith to others and defend it effectively when it is challenged?

Models for Today

A great resource available to us today for learning how to live a consequential Christian life can be found in the past. Church history and historical theology provide many lessons, both good and bad, for contemporary Christians. So while Christians don’t live in the past, in a very important sense the past lives in us through our historic faith.

I think every Christian today who is interested in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics should consider selecting a significant Christian thinker from the past and learning deeply about that person’s life, ideas, contributions, and writings. This select Christian thinker can serve as a type of historical model for how to navigate through challenging issues relating to Christian thought, values, and overall worldview orientation. This thinker will also help connect today’s Christian with believers from the past and thus promote a true continuity of the communion of the saints.

Since all Christians are forgiven sinners with elements of brokenness and fallenness in their lives, this historic person will inevitably reveal their own weaknesses and challenges. But that admission can help us learn how to grow in a life of grace and godliness in the midst of failures and setbacks. Learning from both the strengths and weaknesses of believers who have come before can provide inspiration and wisdom for those living for Christ today.

Evangelicals can especially benefit from such a project because, unlike the other branches of historic Christendom—Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism—today’s evangelical Protestants are sometimes not well-connected to church history. Evangelicals typically have a knowledge of Scripture but are unable to name and relate to significant church fathers, medieval philosophers, and past historical theologians.

A Beginner’s Guide

My book Classic Christian Thinkers can serve as a place to begin an appreciation for some of Christendom’s leading thinkers. I introduce church history and historical theology to evangelicals through the use of biography, exploring the following nine thinkers: Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Pascal, and Lewis. The book is written as a true beginner’s guide, so virtually anyone can pick up the book and benefit from reading it. I include introductions to the thinker’s key writings, ideas, and accomplishments. I also list things to be learned from these men, along with how their lives and writings relate to modern-day apologetics challenges.

So, who is willing to take on this project and learn from the Christian past? This endeavor will bring many rewards, not only in reading and learning but also in stretching your mind and soul. I am positive that investing in one’s past Christian heritage will pay immense dividends in the present.

Reflections: Your Turn

Which Christians thinkers of the past do you find intriguing? Why? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Kenneth Richard Samples, Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2019).

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

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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