Bill Muehlenberg

Lessons from “One Life”

As I say, believers can sometimes wonder what sort of life they are living. The truth is, for most of us, the full and final revelation of what good we may have done and what lives we may have impacted or even helped save (spiritually speaking) will have to wait for the next world. Who knows, there might even be in one sense “Muehlenberg’s Children” – at least in the next life. Yes, we may from time to time be told by someone in this life what an impact we had on them. Perhaps we inspired or encouraged them during a really dark period. Perhaps they sensed our prayers during a needy period. You may even have helped prevent a few folks from committing suicide. We just do not know all that we may have achieved.

I just did something I very seldom do of late: I saw a film. It was about rescuing children. Perhaps the only other movie I went to see during the past four years was also about rescuing children, from sexual traffickers: The Sound of Freedom.
This one was about saving young children in Prague – most of them Jewish – from the Nazis in 1938-1939. It is called One Life and it stars Anthony Hopkins who plays a true character: the British stockbroker and humanitarian Nicholas Winton. He had become deeply concerned about these poor children, many orphaned, all in precarious positions, given the Nazi threat they were facing. It was just a matter of time before Hitler took all of the nation.
All up Winton and a dedicated team managed to save 669 children and bring them to England, just before WWII broke out. The film looks at his life both during the late 1930s, and in the 1980s. It is a powerful and moving story, and tissues will be needed to help you make it through.
Ordinary People
Several lessons emerged from the film – at least for me. One is the fact that much of what happens in life is achieved by ordinary people – both for good and ill. One important book that looks at the great evil ordinary people can do – in this case, during the Nazi era – is entitled Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning. One write-up says this about the volume:
‘Ordinary Men’ is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions.
But this film of course features a far different sort of ordinary man – one who spent his life working for good, and not for evil. It is an inspiring and moving story of how so much can be achieved by a few committed individuals. Indeed, in the film Nicky refers to his helpers as an ‘army of ordinary men’.
The Power of One – and a Small Group
This film certainly shows just what one person can do to make a difference. Winton kept insisting that he was no hero and that others were heavily involved in this work.
Read More
Related Posts:

Christianity and Civilisation: Science

“Some religions, like Judaism have made many contributions to the civilised world. Others have been much less involved in Western progress. As [historian Rodney] Stark and others have demonstrated, only those religions that have had a place for reason and logic have had a real impact on science, progress and technology. The Judeo-Christian worldview certainly gives reason a good run. Thus important thinkers such as Alfred North Whitehead and Robert Oppenheimer – neither of them Christian – have argued that modern science could not have developed were it not for the Christian worldview that provided the soil from which it arose. The greatest achievements of Western civilisation are mainly, but not completely, the results of the Judeo-Christian mindset.” 

To speak of Western civilisation is to speak about Christian civilisation to a very large degree. Without Christianity (and the Judaism that preceded it), the West as we know it today would simply not exist. One of the most recent commentators to make this case is Tucker Carlson. A few weeks ago he gave a speech on how Western civilisation is under attack.
He emphasised how the secular left is really at war with Christianity itself. As he said in part: “Why are they doing this? The goal is to overthrow Western civilization. What is Western civilization? It’s Christian civilization. That’s what it is.”
Entire libraries are filled with the volumes documenting how so much of the West is the product of Christianity. Some months ago, I listed twenty top books on how Christianity made our world. It included titles such as How Christianity Changed the World and What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? That piece is found here.
Christianity and Science
Simply looking at the arena of science is enough to show any unbiased observer what a remarkable contribution Christians have made here. Even non-Christians have acknowledged all this. For example, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, in America’s Real War (Multnomah, 1999) put it this way:
“Well over 90 percent of all the scientific discoveries of the past thousand years have been made in nations where Christianity is the prevailing religion. Virtually every major discovery in physics, medicine, chemistry, mathematics, electricity, nuclear physics, mechanics and just about everything else has taken place in Christian countries.”
And consider this stunning remark by the atheist blogger Tim O’Neill from a decade ago:
It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong. http://www.strangenotions.com/gods-philosophers/
Of interest, this excerpt was taken from a book review he had penned. I happen to have the book, and it could easily have been included in my top 20 listing (along with many others). I refer to the very important volume God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam, (Icon Books, 2010). It was released in America as The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (Regnery, 2011).
There is so much that can be said about this crucial volume. Perhaps the best I can do here is simply quote from it, hoping that will encourage you to get a copy. In his introduction he says this:
Popular opinion, journalistic cliché, and misinformed historians notwithstanding, recent research has shown that the Middle Ages was a period of enormous advances in science, technology and culture. The compass, paper, printing, stirrups, and gunpowder all appeared in western Europe between 500 and 1500 AD. True, these inventions originated in the Far East, but Europeans developed them to a far higher degree than had been the case elsewhere….
Meanwhile, the people of medieval Europe invented spectacles, the mechanical clock, the windmill, and the blast furnace by themselves.
Read More
Related Posts:

How Not to be a Grumpy Old Man or Woman

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).  So if you do not want to turn into a grumpy old man – or to become a fool – then learn how to curb your tongue. And learn how to listen and read better. Just imagine how many unnecessary arguments and fights could be avoided if we followed these commands. And they are indeed commands, not mere advice!

I suppose it is not too late if you are still wondering what New Year’s resolution you might make. Well, as my title indicates, seeking to minimise as much as possible what many people turn into over time – a grumpy old man or woman – could be a real goer.
Of course sadly some folks do not turn into this over time – it seems they always have been grumpy! But old age can see an increase in this. And the obvious solution for the believer is to seek to be as Christlike and Spirit-led as possible. That is the ultimate antidote for most of our problems!
Putting Christ first in all things and saying no to self is the main way we press ahead in the Christian life and is the main way we can avoid heading into grumpitude, if I can coin a term here. But there are also other practical things we can seek to do as well.
The Christian Communicator
One thing we all can work on is being much more careful in how we speak, how we write, how we read, and how we listen. So many problems arise when we do not seek to excel in these areas. Daily conflicts and arguments occur when we do not take great care in these matters, and much of our grumpitude can stem from this.
We all should be concerned about the importance of good communication – Christians included. In fact, this is especially crucial for the Christian, since we have been entrusted with the gospel message that we are meant to share far and wide. And that involves communicating. That involves using words. That involves making ourselves as clearly understood as possible.
Yes, I know, our life should be a witness as well. But it is not an either/or – it is a both/and. We MUST share the gospel with words, but our lives should back up and reflect what we are saying. Paul in Romans 10:14-15 speaks to this:
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”
Some years ago I penned a whole article on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/12/15/if-necessary-use-words/
When I put up a post, say on the social media – even a very short post – I try very hard to make sure it clearly says what I intend it to say so it will not unnecessarily be misunderstood. Yet it always amazes me how often someone will come along and totally miss the point of what I am saying, or totally misconstrue it.
Worse yet, they will attack what they thought I said instead of what I actually said. This happens far too often. The truth is, we should be just as careful in our reading and listening as we are in our speaking and writing. Scripture speaks to this matter quite often.
James for example puts it this way: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Sadly we usually reverse the order here. And there are plenty of Proverbs that address this matter. Here are just a few of them:
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Read More
Related Posts:

Why Not Both?

Over and over again in the Bible we are told that if we love God we will keep his commandments. And that is not just Old Testament stuff. It is repeated constantly in the New as well. Jesus made it clear that if we are to love him, we must keep his commandments. The idea that we must choose between loving God and obeying God is as dumb as saying we must choose between breathing in or breathing out. 

A false dilemma is a logical fallacy in which an either/or is being demanded, when a both/and is the way to go. One can get rather technical about all this, but let’s keep it really simple. An obvious and easy-to-understand example features a TV ad for tacos.
Adults are arguing and debating about which must be used: soft or hard taco shells. A little girl rightly asks, “Why not both?” Why not indeed! It is a false dilemma to demand one or the other when both can do. In this case it is a personal preference – a matter of choice. Thus there is no right or wrong answer.
When it comes to more important matters however, we must be a bit more careful. Some things clearly ARE a case of either/or. Let me offer just one quick example of this. You can either embrace and affirm the teachings of Islam or you embrace and affirm the teachings of Christianity, but you cannot do both.
The reason for this is quite clear – and quite logical. At the very heart of the Christian faith lies the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that he died on a cross and rose again for our sins. Islam denies this. So if you accept the core beliefs of Christianity, then you cannot accept the main teachings of Islam. They are mutually exclusive.
But in many other areas we do have clear cases of both/and. We do NOT need to pick one while denying the other. Instead we can affirm both. But so often I find rather fuzzy thinking in this regard. When I find the need to emphasise a certain truth, that does NOT mean I am negating or minimising another truth. In many cases we can usually affirm both truths simultaneously. Let me offer a few examples of this (out of many).
1. Evangelism or social action – why not both?
This is something I likely have penned a few dozen articles on, but it keeps coming up. Some believers insist that we should only evangelise, and ignore any works in society around us. But it has always been both. Simply read some church history here.
Wherever Christians have gone with the gospel, they of course told people the good news that Christ died for their sins, but they also performed many good works. The early church could not do this quite as much because of all the intense persecution.
But as things quieted down, believers led the way in so many charitable works and causes, be it in education, caring for the sick, helping the poor and destitute, and so on. They set up schools (and eventually even universities, they built hospitals, they worked with the poor and helped those in prisons and in so many other areas.
The two went together, and that is how it should be. But as mentioned, I discuss all this in plenty of detail in other articles. Here is just one: https://billmuehlenberg.com/1997/10/10/the-case-for-christian-social-involvement/
2. Love or obedience – why not both?
This is another area where too many Christians can get things wrong. So many believers (often progressive or lefty or liberal or biblically illiterate types) will claim that all that matters is that we love.
Read More
Related Posts:

Sometimes They Must Be Named and Shamed

As is often the case, we need some care, wisdom and discernment as to when and how we might deal with the sin, error or failings of others. But contrary to the views of some, there certainly is a place for public rebuke – even for naming and shaming. It is interesting to see this with the Apostle Paul for example. There seem to have been at least eight individuals who were publicly named by Paul as having failed him or gone off the rails. Whether for betrayal or for sinful activity, Paul had no problem in calling them out in public.

Balancing biblical truths is always a tough gig. We can easily go off into one extreme while trying to avoid another. Consider the issue of dealing with other believers. On the one hand we are told repeatedly in Scripture that we are to be kind to others, forbearing, patient, forgiving, gentle, humble, and so on.
A main reason for all this is because we tend to be guilty of the same things we dislike in others. We all can be just as proud and rude and impatient and unloving and unfair as the next person. So we need to offer grace to others, just as God offers us grace. Let me share just three verses on this.
Paul in Ephesians 4:32 puts it this way: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” And Galatians 6:1 speaks about how we should consider ourselves while we deal with others and their sin.
He says this: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” That verse does deal with the issue of rebuking others and calling out sin – but more on that in a moment.
A third text we should bear in mind is Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’.” That is actually one of the most encouraging texts in all of Scripture. I fail the Lord every single day, and yet he still forgives ME. So I need to extend that much forgiveness to others as well.
But on the other hand, Scripture tells us repeatedly that we are to call out sinful behaviour and false teaching. It tells us often about the need to challenge one another, to rebuke, to warn, and to sound the alarm. We are not to be indifferent or careless about the need to hold others to account, just as we are to hold ourselves to account.
So how are we to reconcile these two seemingly opposing sets of commands of Scripture? How can we love and be forbearing with others, yet at the same time uphold high standards and call out sin? One way to understand this is to keep this oft-heard principle in mind: private sin, private rebuke; public sin, public rebuke. I have discussed this elsewhere: here.
As I explain in that piece, there is in fact a place for calling out others – but it depends on when and where and how we do this. If a person I know of has some sin problem, I am to go to him alone, as in Matthew 18:15-20. The whole world does not need to know about the matter, and a private conversation will do, hopefully.
But if, say, a person writes a book for the whole world to see, and it contains some rather unhelpful and even unbiblical material, then one can publicly deal with that book if needed. Some years ago a noted Australian Christian leader put out a quite bad book with the title, You Need More Money. It was so bad that I penned a review of it, and also shared that review with other Christian publications.
Read More
Related Posts:

Naomi Wolf Wants Us to ‘Face the Beast’

“We were not in a normal time of normal bad human politics and normal bad destructive material choices. I realized gradually that the degradation taking place on the material plane simply reflected or manifested a much larger battle—indeed a spiritual battle; one between Good and Evil themselves, and that God—whom till now I hesitated to mention in public—was of course central to what we were witnessing; and He is central, I slowly realized, to whether or not we will survive. And I discovered that it is only in human love, care, and intimacy, ultimately, that God lives, and moves in, and rescues, if they are to be rescued, our lives.”

It is interesting how some individuals make a radical about-face as they become aware of inconvenient truths and unpleasant realities. That was true of so many people who endured the Covid years. They came to see that something was not right, and that so much of what we thought to be true just wasn’t. They came to realise that they were being lied to. They were being conned.
Many such people can be mentioned, but American writer Naomi Wolf is certainly one of them. She has been on a real journey in this regard.  In her brand-new book, Facing the Beast: Courage, Faith, and Resistance in a New Dark Age (Chelsea Green, 2023) she continues to speak out on vitally important issues that she has addressed in previous volumes.
For example, in 2007 she released The End of America, and in 2022 she came out with The Bodies of Others. See my review of that later volume here.
Everything that happened in 2020-2022 really turned her world even more upside down than it had been. Like so many others, she came to see that something very sinister – even Satanic – was happening. She had been such a key part of the woke, progressive left for so many years, but the Covid Wars made it clear that most of the left was NOT on her side anymore. Or rather, she was no longer on their side.
Her new book deserves a proper review, which I hope to do soon. But just alerting people to it, in the form of quoting from her Introduction, will have to suffice here. It alone is worth sharing far and wide. Early on she speaks of how the world changed, pre- and post-Covid. She says this about how things so radically changed:
This story begins in the “Before” world.
“Before” the years 2020 to 2022, when a set of policies based on abject lies posed an existential threat to our democracy and our way of life….
“Before” the Left – the subculture that used to stand for human rights, freedom of speech, real science, critical thinking, and skepticism about Big Government and Big Corporations, let alone about their merger, and that used to fight against discrimination and inequality—fell into a trance in which that same group became champions of censorship, and of a two-tier society in which some people, as the pigs declared in Animal Farm, are “more equal” than others; and fell prey to magical thinking and cultlike behavior.
“Before” the media—which used to see itself as the source of investigation of elite powers; which used to ask questions about received narratives; which used to demand that its journalists produce evidence and independent verification before drawing conclusions in print—were bought out by Big Government via the CARES Act, and by Big Pharma directly, and by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to the extent that almost all legacy media became unquestioning stenographers for interested parties aligned with the global powers who dictated the harmful nonsense.
I miss the “Before Times.”
She goes on to discuss in detail how she was cancelled by the very people and organisations she was once such a big part of:
The moment I began asking basic questions on my Twitter feed specifically about the novel mRNA injections—the kinds of questions I had asked for three decades about silicone breast implants; about high estrogen levels in birth control pills; about dangerous IUDs; about vaginal mesh, or industrial hospital birthing practices and high for-profit C-section rates—my bio changed everywhere, online, and all at once.
Read More
Related Posts:

The Left, Geopolitics, and Believing Lies

“Enough stupidity and blindness. The barbarians are no longer at the gate. They are inside — inside our cities, our civilisation, and our souls. Too many clamour, in consequence, to once again punish Jews. The bloodthirsty desires and doctrines motivating and justifying such behaviour must be identified, understood and rejected, before things get seriously out of hand — and that could happen sooner and with more devastating force than even the most pessimistic among us might be inclined to think.”

In a radio interview I recently did (concerning the willingness of British young people to actually ban the Bible if they find it offensive), I mentioned that the left used to be known as standing up for free speech and opposing censorship. ‘Used to be…’
Now of course the secular left is all about defending woke ideology, and that routinely means cancel culture in all its ugly forms. It means censoring different points of view; it means preventing others from being heard; it means punishing those who do not think and say the “right” things.
In addition to today’s left seeking to silence all forms of dissent and contrary thought, a related hallmark is this: a willingness to believe a lie. Indeed, truth takes a hammering as falsehoods are embraced and promoted. We perhaps see no better example of how both these traits of the left are being played out today than in its blind support of Hamas and its frenzied hatred of Israel.
This sort of moral and mental madness is really no different from those who seek to argue that somehow the Germans and Japanese were actually the good guys during WWII. And yes, I just unfriended a social media “friend” for saying just that the other day!
All up we can say that the left is really morphing into the new Nazis of today. Two important thinkers have just penned pieces on this very matter, and they deserve to be heard. The first is titled “Has Hitler won on the left?” by Carl R. Trueman. He writes:
When is a crime victimless? When its perpetrators enjoy the status of victims, at least according to the nihilistic tastes of the West in our day. That is the lesson of reactions to various events in recent years, from the looting that accompanied many of the “mostly peaceful” BLM protests of 2020 to the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 this year. The response to the violence in Gaza was especially chilling. While there is always room for debating whether a response is proportionate to the act of aggression, the jubilation and exhilaration expressed by American academics, students, and some politicians over the Hamas attacks started before the Israeli counter-attack.
The contradictions at the heart of the modern morality of victimhood have now been exposed to all with eyes to see, even to many who have been pressing it in the political sphere. When members of the LGBTQ lobby express support for Hamas, it is another reminder that many progressives have lost any sense of a moral compass. But this was predictable. When oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim are the decisive categories by which to understand the world with no broader moral framework for defining those terms, political morality defaults to that of ressentiment, a reactive stance that simply opposes on principle whatever is. It is the spirit of negation.
He finishes his piece with these words:
Watching the displays of anti-Semitism and pro-Hamas support on the streets of Western democracies over the last few months, I was reminded of two books. One is Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. In that work — the foundational text for critical theory — they argue that the Nazis needed the Jews because they required an inferior race to dominate in order to establish and justify their own superiority. Today, that necessity for demonizing Jews seems to be felt most acutely by the left. And that connects to the second book: Philip Rieff’s My Life Among the Deathworks. Near the end he recalls that his grandfather did not want to be buried in America, where he lived, but in Israel, where he had grown up.
Read More
Related Posts:

Difficult Bible Passages: Romans 2:4

The whole structure of Romans 1-8 shows us how Paul first reveals our condition as sinners under the law, and then how we can find grace in Christ to rescue us from this nasty situation. The opening chapters condemn us all—Jew and Gentile alike—while the following chapters tell us of the way out of the mess that we are in.

One mistake Christians can often make is to single out and highlight one biblical text and act as if it was the only scriptural passage that can be brought to bear on a particular issue. Yes, there might now and then be a verse which seems to be all rather unique. But on all the key biblical truths, such as something like salvation, there would be numerous passages to consider. All of them must be taken into account when trying to understand an important biblical doctrine.
Let me offer a case in point. Recently on the social media someone shared a meme about how the good news of the gospel must be preceded by the bad news of the gospel. That is, before we can tell people that they can be saved, they first must understand that they are lost. To tell people that they can have their sins forgiven and be delivered from divine punishment requires that they first know that they are indeed sinners, and are now under the wrath of God.
And this is quite correct, biblically speaking. But someone came along seeking to dispute all this. He did so by quoting one passage—or part of one passage—thinking this had just refuted everything this meme was seeking to teach. He had shared part of Romans 2:4. The NKJV puts it this way: “the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”
So this fellow, on the basis of one text—or really, one partial text—sought to argue that we must start (and end) with God’s love, goodness and mercy. So who is right? Should we just ignore the bad news of the gospel and only share the good stuff with non-Christians?
Obviously this is not a ‘difficult’ passage as such, but as with many verses I have studied in this series, it can be misunderstood and misused. So let me discuss this further. The first step, as always, is to put the text into its context. Romans 2:1-4 (in the ESV) puts it this way:
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
There can be differing views on who exactly is being addressed here by Paul. Some commentators see the Jews as being in view, while others think this is about morally superior Gentiles. Either way, Paul is dealing with those who judge others yet are doing the same thing.
They may think they deserve God’s goodness, kindness and patience, yet they are not showing it to others. Yes, God is kind and patient, but these divine attributes which are lacking in us are meant to show us our need of repentance. So it is this Gentile hypocrisy Paul is focusing on here. But the overall argument of the epistle makes it clear in what direction he is moving.
The whole structure of Romans 1-8 shows us how Paul first reveals our condition as sinners under the law, and then how we can find grace in Christ to rescue us from this nasty situation. The opening chapters condemn us all—Jew and Gentile alike—while the following chapters tell us of the way out of the mess that we are in. John Stott in his commentary on Romans puts it this way:
Read More
Related Posts:

Calvin, Culture and Common Grace

The biblical teaching on common grace is related to yet somewhat distinct from other issues, such as the cultural mandate, general revelation, and natural theology. The long and short of it is that what Paul teaches us in Romans 1-2 is that we have enough revelation in creation and conscience to condemn us for not believing in God, but not enough to save us. Special revelation and the Spirit of God is needed for us to move from darkness to light. But we can still praise God that all people can have SOME insight and understanding of the good gifts God has bestowed upon us. 

While not popular in some quarters, I am a firm believer in the doctrine of common grace. The simplest biblical passage on this would be Matthew 5:45: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” See my introductory piece on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/02/08/on-common-grace/
The doctrine is especially found in Calvinist/Reformed circles. Before turning to Calvin himself, let me mention just one Reformed writer and literature professor who I had mentioned yesterday in my piece on Christians and fiction: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2023/12/09/christians-and-fiction/
Leland Ryken in his chapter on “Calvinism and Literature” (found in Calvin and Culture edited by David Hall and Marvin Padgett (P&R, 2010) says this:
As with the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of common grace represents a distinctive contribution of Calvinism to literary theory. Whereas the doctrine of creation speaks particularly to the production of works of literature, common grace relates more to the reading and study of works already composed. Nearly all of the writing on common grace has been produced by theologians in the Calvinistic (and even Dutch) tradition – Calvin himself and names such as Hodge, Berkhof, Kuyper, Van Til, and Osterhaven. The doctrine of common grace holds that God endows all people, Christian and non-Christian alike, with a capacity for the true, the good, the beautiful. Calvin himself is the best starting point…
Before looking at what he said, let me point out that some (certainly Calvin critics) might try to argue that given his views on total depravity, there would be no room for such a thing as common grace. But that is to misunderstand what he said on this. Total depravity does not mean we are all as bad as we can possibly be, but that sin has affected every area of our lives.
Calvin had written about common grace in various places, including in his commentaries. Here I will confine myself to his Institutes. The whole second chapter of Book 2 could be offered here, but I will feature just some relevant quotes from sections 14 to 17:

Next come manual and liberal arts, in learning which, as all have some degree of aptitude, the full force of human acuteness is displayed. But though all are not equally able to learn all the arts, we have sufficient evidence of a common capacity in the fact, that there is scarcely an individual who does not display intelligence in some particular art. And this capacity extends not merely to the learning of the art, but to the devising of something new, or the improving of what had been previously learned. . . . Though natural to all, it is so in such a sense that it ought to be regarded as a gratuitous gift of his beneficence to each. Moreover, the invention, the methodical arrangement, and the more thorough and superior knowledge of the arts, being confined to a few individuals cannot be regarded as a solid proof of common shrewdness. Still, however, as they are bestowed indiscriminately on the good and the bad, they are justly classed among natural endowments.
Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient lawgivers who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity?

Read More
Related Posts:

Anti-Christian Bigotry: History Repeating Itself

Because Päivi Räsänen dared to quote from the Bible, all hell broke loose. For simply highlighting what the word of God has taught concerning homosexuality, the police began going after her just as passionately as Saul had gone after the early follower of Jesus. But now, after four long years, it seems she finally has been vindicated. After years of grief and turmoil, she is now hopefully finished with this ugly secular witch-hunt. 

The timing is interesting: In my morning perusal of Scripture I have again been reading about the amazing things God was doing with the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. The new believers in Jesus were persecuted terribly by the powers that be. Saul was one of those who was very eager to hunt down these pesky believers in Yeshua.
Yet he too had an encounter with the risen Christ, and that put an end to his anti-Christian bigotry. As I just posted on the social media: There are many biblical moments which would have been amazing to witness. The scenes of the newly converted Saul would have been one of them:
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:26-28)
Imagine the big grin on Paul’s face as he hugged the disciples and told them, ‘Hey, I am one of you now – I am a follower of Yeshua!’ But of course persecution continued, as it has for 2000 years now. But the church grew and grew. It spread throughout Europe, and we saw it becoming the real cradle of Western civilisation.
We had the Reformation, the great revivals and awakenings. So much has happened over the centuries. But sadly we have basically gone full circle since then. Europe today is almost as pagan as it was back when Saul was head-hunting believers. It certainly is the most secular and anti-Christian continent on the planet. It is in desperate need of being re-evangelised.
Because Europe has rejected what made it great – its Christian past – we see more Saul-types today doing all they can to silence Christians and intimidate those of the faith. There are countless examples of this. Let me highlight just one of them – but with a terrific outcome.
Over four years ago I wrote about one such case. It involved a Finnish politician who was being hounded by the powers that be because of her faith. Because Päivi Räsänen dared to quote from the Bible, all hell broke loose. For simply highlighting what the word of God has taught concerning homosexuality, the police began going after her just as passionately as Saul had gone after the early follower of Jesus.
In my piece I called her “the Finnish Israel Folau.” I concluded my article about her at the time with these words:
In my books Päivi Räsänen is a real champion. We certainly need more bold and sold-out Christian politicians like her. She puts to shame all the limp-wristed and cowardly Christians who refuse to take a stand and speak out, be it in parliament or in any other public forums. Please pray for brave Päivi. She is a wonderful witness for Christ. God bless you Päivi. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/09/16/quoting-from-the-bible-will-get-you-into-trouble/
But now, after four long years, it seems she finally has been vindicated. After years of grief and turmoil, she is now hopefully finished with this ugly secular witch-hunt.
Read More
Related Posts:

Scroll to top