Fleming Rutledge is a preacher and teacher known throughout the US, Canada, and parts of the UK. She is the author of eight books, all from Eerdmans Publishing. Her most recent book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, is the product of the work of a lifetime and is being described as a new classic on the subject.
One of the first women to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, she served for fourteen years on the clergy staff at Grace Church on Lower Broadway at Tenth Street, New York City.
Fleming and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2009 and have two daughters and two grandchildren. She is a native of Franklin, Virginia.
Discerning God's Work In The World: Tips From The Times For Preachers: Arguments for and against God?
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Arguments for and against God?We might as well get ready for an exponential increase in aggressive atheism. I didn't pay any attention to it for a long time but it has now become an entrenched cultural trend, particularly among young people who are always attracted to whatever is cool at the moment. A "most emailed" interview posted yesterday on The New York Times Opinionator puts forward some of the basic "Arguments Against God."
I have never been drawn to apologetics--trying to offer rational arguments for Christian faith. The gospel was spread by telling the story of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God and Messiah of Israel, who died and was raised for the salvation of the world. "Come and see," is our motto. Arguments for and against God (whoever "God" is) have nothing to do with it. At no time does the Bible put forth arguments for the existence of God; in fact, it is laughable to think so, when one recognizes that the world of the Bible is "a strange new world" (Barth) which speaks of a God who lives, acts, judges, promises, delivers, and creates out of nothing. God is so far beyond our conceptions of what a god should be like that we cannot invent him. The Old Testament bears witness to an elusive presence (viz. Samuel Terrien's book by that name) that comes and goes at the divine will, never to be captured in a tabernacle or temple, let alone philosophical arguments.
Andy Crouch, editor at Christianity Today, recently reported that he had visited a church school where he met with a self-selected group of students who were interested in learning more about the faith. He discovered to his dismay that none of them knew even the most famous parables of Jesus, or the stories of his deeds or of his exchanges with people. Will Willimon has repeatedly said that biblical ignorance, and ignorance of the basic content of our faith, is the biggest problem facing the church today. It is a waste of time trying to convince people of the existence of "God," whoever that is. It is in the face of the Lord Jesus that we see God. Unless we introduce people to Jesus, our"arguments" are worthless. We have a story to tell. The shape of this story is not so much the story of "how I met Jesus." It is the story of who he was and what he did. If you can get hold of Theodore Ferris' little paperback What Jesus Did, it will give you the idea of how one famous preacher introduced the Lord to thousands of hearers at Trinity in Boston. And you can get all the sermons of Charles Spurgeon on line. Reading these preachers, with their passion and biblical knowledge, puts "arguments against God" to shame.
Not everyone is called to faith. There is a mystery about that. Our Lord himself, and his apostle Paul, grieved over those who rejected the gospel. But that is in the hands of our Creator. Our business, whether we are preachers or not, is to bear witness to the One whom we have met, who is alive, and whom we know to be able to save according to his promises, for "there is no other God who can deliver in this way" (Daniel 3:29).
PS. I don't know why the link is not "hot." You will have to cut and paste. (I am not sure it's worth the trouble.)
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