By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – September 22, 2015) — I’m privileged to co-host a weekly radio broadcast entitled Theology Thursday, airing on Star 88 FM . The program is a round table discussion with friends. Together we tackle topics relevant to theology and culture, taking phone calls, emails, and Tweets from listeners around the U.S.
More often than naught, I’m asked my theological and apologetic position. Some listeners want to know if I’m a Calvinist, an Arminian, or something else (hint: I prefer historic Anglican thought: Scripture, tradition, and reason). And still other listeners like to determine my apologetic slant (presuppositional, classical, evidential, etc.). When I tell people I’m a two-sided coin, classical and evidentialist, some will say, “cool;” others will raise their eyebrows and mumble, “huh?”
Classical theology and classical apologetics are based upon historical theology and the classic proofs of God’s existence, as expounded upon by orthodox men and women through the ages, with the big-three A’s, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, leading the way. The proofs can be summarized as the ontological argument, the teleological argument, the cosmological argument, and the moral law argument. Modern proponents of classical theology and apologetics are Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, and Richard Swinburne. Author, Brian K. Morley, summarizes the classical approach well: “God is proved by theistic arguments, and Christianity by evidences .”
Evidential apologetics is facts-based. Again, Brian K. Morley: “Facts point to interpretations, and critical facts point to Christianity.” Two of the main proponents of Evidentialism are John Warwick Montgomery and Gary Habermas. Both Habermas—via his books—and Warwick via seminary and his books—played a pivotal role in the formation of my thinking.
I was honored to have both Norman Geisler (Veritas Evangelical Seminary) and John Warwick Montgomery (Trinity Seminary) among my teachers. And it is because of these two that I have the split personality of both classical and evidential approaches. For me, Giesler’s training as a Bible teacher, philosopher and theologian, and Montgomery’s training as a lawyer, librarian, and philosopher, and theologian, help provide an internal check-and-balance that I desire in my thinking, providing both a practical and philosophical approach.
But generally speaking, I appreciate the two-tiered approach of John Warwick Montgomery: tough-minded Christianity and tender-minded Christianity.
With tough-minded Christianity the Christian is encouraged to “act vigorously in the practical world and to think with logical precision in the intellectual world.” Together, the words, “act,” and “think,” “form a coherent whole, one that is necessary for affirming God as both creator and redeemer” . Brian Morley sees Evidentialism, and thereby tough-minded Christianity, as an approach that “holds…facts objectively, without bias toward one interpretation and to some extent the facts will point us to the proper interpretation.”
In statements such as these, objective terms rule: “logical,” “facts,” and “proper interpretation.” These words and phrases form the core of tough-minded Christianity: to think hard, to reason, to present facts, and to examine—and cross examine—all the evidence that is before a person. The end result, claim proponents of tough-minded Christianity, is that truth will prevail—particularly the historicity and reliability of the Bible and Christ’s resurrection.
Simply put, with tough-minded Christianity—the head/mind—is essential for a proper understanding of the facts when presented with clarity and precision.
But the head is not the only thing in a person; there is a heart. And hence, the flip side of tough-minded Christianity, is tender-minded Christianity. Here, an appeal to the arts, literature, and music finds a place in the world of apologetics and the Christian life. Concerning tender-minded Christianity, Brian Morley states, “an entirely different approach may be useful for a growing number of people. While some are ‘tough-minded’ in that they are searching for objective facts, others are ‘tender-minded,’ seeing life in subjective and existential terms.” With tender-minded Christianity, individuals such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien provide an example—through literature—to present a Christian worldview that is both effective and engaging.
In the book, “Where Christ is Present,” contributor, Craig Parton, uses the music of J.S. Bach to highlight a more tender-minded approach. How did Bach use music to reach people? Parton suggests four ways: First, Bach “understood the depths of his personal sin and the falleness of the world and experienced this in his own personal life.” Second, Bach “mastered whatever medium he attempted.” Third, Bach “saw all music as pedagogical or a vehicle for teaching truths.” Forth, Bach “reveled in his freedom in Christ.” True, some of these areas presented by Parton are subjective, but that is the point of tender-minded Christianity; there is a link to personal experience and emotion that the arts can help cultivate, creating a longing for truth, beauty, and goodness. Where as tough-minded Christianity appeals to the head, tender-minded Christianity appeals to the heart.
With tough-minded and tender-minded Christianity, the whole person is absorbed in the Christian life: from the head (objective-oriented), to the heart (subjective-oriented), to the hands (doing-oriented). Put another way, the Christian life is knowing, experiencing, and living-out the Christian faith. And with tough-minded and tender-minded Christianity held in balance, the Christian is encouraged to engage the world as a whole individual—just as God created us, loving God with our heart, soul, strength and mind (see Luke 10:27).
2) Morley’s book, Mapping Apologetics, is a marvelous overview of various apologetic schools of thought. I recommend it highly.
3) Dembksi, William, Tough-Minded Christianity.
Photo captions: 1) Dr. Norman Geisler. 2) Brian Nixon and John Warwick Montgomery (with worship leader, Tamra Aragon, in the back). 3) Tough-Minded Christianity. 4) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon or https://twitter.com/BnixNews .
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