What a Turkey! Part 5: Another Parallel between Islam and Contemporary Calvinism

If Ohran Pamuk’s setting of northeastern Turkey reveals how the simple religious act of a woman donning a scarf becomes a vigorous expression of political Islam, Nafisi’s book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, shows the extent to which political Islam in an Iranian setting will go for the sake of covering women, whether Muslim or not. Her memoir follows her experience as the daughter of the mayor of Tehran before the Islamic revolution, her education in the United States for graduate training in literature, and her return to teach in Tehran, first at the university and then privately. Along the way, Nafisi, whose religious identity is unclear, has to go from wearing jeans and T-shirts as a graduate student, to blouses and slacks as a professor, and then to a chador under Iran’s Muslim republic.

The book is less about politics and more about the way zealous believers read (or misread) literature. Hence Reading Lolita in Tehran is of use once again for Reformed Protestants who advocate w-w and Christian education. This is not meant to be a cheap shot. It is rather a way of considering parallels between totalistic claims upon knowledge and ways of understanding. If w-wists do not want to look like a Christian version of political Islam’s reading of Western literature, they could well learn from Nafisi and consider whether the reach of a w-w needs to be as entire as neo-Calvinists sometimes claim.

One particular passage from Nafisi struck and moved me. The book, thankfully, is not entirely about Nabokov’s very dark novel about a middle-aged man’s illicit relationship with a girl. Nafisi also uses discussions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James to explore her experience within Iran. Since I am an inveterate romantic (all about me), I am also a sucker for Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which I consider to be arguably the greatest American novel and the teaching of which was crucial to my budding intellectual awareness. Nafisi’s reading of the novel is as persuasive as it is arresting and comes in the context of a university classroom trial where dedicated Muslim students wanted to prosecute the novel for its immorality and decadence, thus, embodying the evil United States’ secularism and materialism.

Here is one part of the prosecution’s case against Gatsby:

“Okay,” he conceded, “but the values were such that adultery went unpunished. This book preaches illicit relations between a man and a woman. First we have Tom and his mistress, the scene in her apartment, even the narrator, Nick, is implicated. He doesn like their lies, but he has no objection to their fornicating and sitting on each other’s laps, and, and those parties at Gatsby’s . . . remember, ladies and gentlemen, this Gatsby is the hero of the book – and who is he? He is a charlatan, he is an adulterer, he is a liar . . . this is the man Nick celebrates and feels sorry for, this man, this destroyer of homes!” . . . . “The only sympathetic person here is the cuckolded husband, Mr. Wilson,” Mr. Nyazi boomed. “When he kills Gatsby, it is the hand of God. He is the only victim. He is the genuine symbol of the oppressed, in the land of, of that Great Satan!”

Nafisi (as well as one of her sharp students) will have nothing of such a surface and pietistic reading of either Gatsby’s longing for Daisy or the American Dream:

The reality of Gatsby’s life is that he is a charlatan. But the truth is that he is a romantic and tragic dreamer, who become heroic because of his belief in his own romantic delusion.
Gatsby cannot tolerate the shabbiness of his life. He has an “extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness,” and some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.” He cannot change the world, so he re-creates himself according to his dream. . . . Gatsby’s loyalty was to his reinvented self, which saw its fulfillment in Daisy’s voice. It was to the promises of that self that he remained faithful, to the green light at the end of the dock, not a shabby dream of wealth and prosperity.

The city is the link between Gatsby’s dream and the American dream. The dream is not about money but what he imagines he can become. It is not a comment on America as a materialistic country but as an idealistic one, one that has turned money into a means of retrieving the dream. There is nothing crass here, or the crassness is so mingled with the dream that it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the two. In the end, the best ideals and the most sordid of realities all come together. . . .

Nafisi then quotes from Gatsby’s final pages:

“‘And as the moon rose higher the in essential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island where that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplating he neither understood nor desire, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.’”

Part of Nafisi’s point is that religious zeal misses the higher and even spiritual dimensions of Gatsby and his quest. If viewed only from the standpoint of the antithesis between belief and unbelief, or between obedience to God or sinful disobedience, the political Islamic reading of Gatsby has merit. But applying the antithesis in this way also misses what could plausibly be Gatsby’s own quest, as deformed as it may be, for spiritual fulfillment and even for a new heaven and new earth. Someone might even argue that Gatsby’s condition is what all persons experience this side of paradise lost.

Still, the point here is not about the best reading of Fitzgerald but the limits of w-w thinking that relies so heavily on the antithesis. That division between believers and unbelievers, between the city of God and the city of man, is a spiritual reality that goes all the way down to a person’s inclinations and final destiny. But it is not the last word on human beings even if it is the ultimate one. Persons are bodies as much as they are souls, and while inhabiting planet earth between the advents of Christ, people are still capable of remarkable accomplishments and aspirations. The reason is not because they are free from sin or unbelief but because they are created in the image of God and the residue of that image is responsible for those noble even if unholy longings that sent Jay Gatsby to his soggy death.

If w-wers can produce that kind of intellectual agility – if they can recognize the doubleness of human existence and the dance among spiritual longings, human ingenuity, and the imperviousness of original sin – then we need to pay them more attention. If not, then they sound like just one more version of identity politics to be shelved near the section with political Islamists who also rely overwhelmingly on the antithesis.

55 thoughts on “What a Turkey! Part 5: Another Parallel between Islam and Contemporary Calvinism

  1. That certainly was an interesting read. Does it have implications for church discipline and being more tolerant of others struggles with their sin? Or, was this just a cultural observation that should help us appreciate the cultural contributions of those who want nothing to do with the church? That perhaps we can learn more from the unchurced than we think? I am miffed as usual.


  2. I think Bob Dylan wrote “Ballad Of A Thin Man” for somebody who has a ” total worldview including metanarrative” and who therefore no longer needs to think. I have met these people. They are not “moderates” who always wants to stay in the gray middle, but they tend to be people who can’t really see themselves because they’ve got everything reduced down to “the one” antithesis behind which you can’t see them either.

    You try so hard
    But you don’t understand
    Just what you’ll say
    When you get home.

    Because something is happening here
    But you don’t know what it is
    Do you, Mister Jones ?

    You raise up your head
    And you ask, “Is this where it is ?”
    And somebody points to you and says
    “It’s his”
    And you says, “What’s mine ?”
    And somebody else says, “Where what is ?”
    And you say, “Oh my God
    Am I here all alone ?”

    You’ve been with the professors
    And they’ve all liked your looks
    With great lawyers you have
    Discussed lepers and crooks
    You’ve been through all of
    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
    You’re very well read
    It’s well known.

    Because something is happening here
    But you don’t know what it is


  3. I guess I don’t see where the problem is. Van Til always accounted for the valid thoughts and accomplishments of the unbeliever with common grace. The antithesis never took away from valid outcomes (ie, an unbeliever can rightly say 2 + 2 = 4), but rather the foundation or epistemological basis for the truthfulness of the outcomes.

    Or am I misunderstanding the question?


  4. John, I don’t think the implication here is for church discipline. It does have something to do with the way we as Christian persons regard the faults and doubts of other believers. But officers still need to point the right way and if sheep stray apply the proper remedies. The better implication is the w-w one — how to regard the ideas of others and whether a w-w is going to put everyone on the same page, even when it comes to reading a text. Think Christian schools, not Christian churches.


  5. Jon, why call it gracious when creation will do? When you account for the accomplishments of unbelievers by grace, it seems to me you are in the realm of redemption — hence the drive among neo-Cals to redeem culture when simply being human will do. I don’t see why you can’t chalk up the accomplishments of unbelievers to their being created in the image of God (creation) and having life and sustenance of their created gifts by God (providence).


  6. DGH,

    I think the reason I would put it in redemptive terms is due to the noetic effects of sin. No doubt God originally created us with all the faculties necessary to come to true conclusions about the world, but post-fall, we are constantly trying to re-interpret reality without God in the center. This constant skewing of the facts would lead men to false conclusions about reality were it not for the restraining power (common grace) of God.


  7. DGH,

    First of all, I did not say regeneration was necessary for thoughts to cohere, at least in part, to reality, but rather common grace (or restraining grace).

    Secondly, I also did not say IQ. I said that the thoughts of an unbeliever are unfounded and will always skew in a perverse direction if not restrained by God. Unbelievers can be formally logical, while starting with false premises.

    Do you really believe that sin affects every part if us, except our minds and brains? Is it rational (or alternatively stated, does it cohere with reality) to conclude that male-male or female-female intercourse is natural? Paul says that it goes against nature to think such. NATURE. That means that in our natural created state, humans will see homosexual sex as unnatural and perverse. But what leads people in droves to deny this creational concept? The answer is SIN. Sin keeps people from seeing the plain truth of nature. That is why God’s restraining grace in necessary to come to “natural” conclusions about human sexual behavior.


  8. Jon, so what makes unbelievers wiser than believers? You say common grace. But you discount creation and ability when you say this. It is the case that unbelievers are smarter than believers, and that unbelievers study some aspects of human life more than unbelievers, in which case their wisdom is as much about natural abilities as it is about grace. Again, why resort to grace when creation works just as well. Do you really mean to regard creation and providence so minimally?


  9. DGH,

    Sorry for the delayed response. An unbeliever can’t be wise – by definition. “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

    Fear of God only comes by regeneration (grace) and therefore cannot be attributed to natural ability.


  10. I will bring up an example of what I think you are talking about in this post about spiritual longings that gives us a broader perspective of the human condition than antithesis thinking does. I just finished watching Hemingway and Gellhorn again on HBO (with Clive Owen playing Hemingway and Nicole KIdman playing Gellhorn) and I got a completely different perspective on who Hemingway was than I got from the reconstructionists who used to talk about Hemingway a lot. He kind of fits into their mold of what masculinity is supposed to look like minus the frequent breaking of the Law of God that Hemingway was prone to. What I did not know was how Catholic one of his wives was and I believe a lot of turmoil Hemingway went through was a internal conflict he worked hard suppressing for most of his life. Anyways, the reconstructionists continually wanted to point out his sins and focus on that instead of the remarkable man that he was in many ways. He lived a fascinating life that was full and passionate and he was involved in many of the confusing issues of his time- especially he and Gellhorn’s fight against Fascism and the failure they encountered along the way. They were even labeled communist “fellow travelers” by those who misunderstood what they were trying to do. I am not sure if the documentary was accurate to what actually happened but it sure seemed like the producers took pains to try to make it so. I bet the makers of the documentary were not being influenced by antithesis thinking. And they made a point of it to show all his failures and sins along with his courage and strengths. He met his match in Gellhorn who really got to him. Her, along with all of his internal conflicts, drove him to madness. I thought the movie/documentary was a powerful depiction of a life not so well lived but interesting none-the-less.


  11. Jon, Try fitting Wendell Berry and Leon Kass into your pipe and smoke it. These men are both theists but not necessarily regenerate. And they are wiser than you and I put together.


  12. Darryl,

    As a writer, I am pretty sure you would really enjoy it. My favorite scene in the movie is when they are in Spain, covering the Spanish civil war, and Gellhorn is having writers block and approaches Hemingway tentatively with her problem. Hemingway (who used to stand at his typewriter when working) scolds her and says writing is easy you just bleed what you believe in- get in the ring and start throwing some punches.


  13. So, my choice is to either believe the Bible that says unregenerate men can’t be wise or Dr. Hart who says they can. I think I’ll go with option A.


  14. Jon,

    The problem is, Scripture does refer to wise men who are not regenerate, just that their wisdom does not lead them to godliness, and in the end is subject to futility as are all things on earth. The statement that God “confounds the wisdom of the wise” would have no meaning if it were re-worded to say “He confounds the wisdom of those who appear to be wise but really aren’t, making God smarter than a band of idiots”? The fact is, man is still in the image of God, and capable of wisdom; wisdom that leads to Godliness, no; but wisdom that averted the Cuban Missile Crisis, yes – and most of the eastern seaboard, and the citizens of Moscow are thankful that they did.


  15. Jon, you left out C. You could be generous, read Calvin and Kuyper on the ancients, and recognize the abiding goodness (not blessedness) of God’s creation. In other words, you could become wise.


  16. Jed,

    I would question what you mean by a “wisdom that leads to godliness.” Is the wisdom that leads to godliness something that we can inquire about and find within? Is it something that the Holy Spirit can work in us? How does one obtain this wisdom that leads to godliness? Consider this quote:

    Sanctification in terms of Imputation

    Any application of the principle of imputation to sanctification should find its basis in the idea that, if a thing is true re: justification then it must also be true of sanctification. Thus, in the same way that an individual is incapable of justifying his/herself, that individual should accordingly be understood to be incapable of sanctifying his/herself. Along the same lines, if justification posits that a person cannot be justified by works, so then we should assume that imputation assumes that a person cannot become sanctified through a works-based model, but, rather, by faith. If a Christian is justified on account of Christ’s accomplishments, then, likewise, they must become sanctified by the same means. It is through this train of thought that a very different picture from the commonly held infusion model for sanctification rises to the fore. In the same way that McGrath points out that, “one of the central insights of Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone is that the individual sinner is incapable of self-justification,” we can assume that, when applying imputational framework to sanctification, a sinner is consequently “incapable” of self-sanctification (p. 440). Imputation simultaneously requires “passive” sanctification and abolishes synergistic understandings of transformation.”

    I think you are allowing Jon to remain gloating in his very subtle form of self-righteousness, ie., I am glad I am not like Hemingway (unregenerate) in any way. And I did hear how some over at Zrim’s site are calling out 2Kers on their attitudes and polemic against theonomists and reconstructionists.
    I am taking a risk in saying this because of the differing views and ranges of sanctification that still remain within the accepted measures of orthodoxy. However, if Luther is more correct, in regards to sanctification, than the “wisdom that leads to godliness” has absolutely nothing to due with us at all (intrinsically) and everything to do with Christ and his work for us (outside of us).


  17. Jed,

    I have to disagree with your interpretation of the passages referring to worldy wisdom. The whole point of the statement that God “confounds the wisdom of the wise” is that their “wisdom” is only apparent. Though it appears to have worldy success, it eventually leads to futility and death. True wisdom originates with God. In the same way, worldly men who appear “strong” are actually weak in that they are mortal, subject to death, and their strength again leads to futility.

    I think you could say that unbelievers can be quite intelligent. But to say that true wisdom can be obtained apart from God goes directly against the plain text of Scripture.


  18. DGH,

    While I admire your wit and rhetorical ability to make me look like a fool, what I am looking for is real interaction with the text. What I am asking for is a real exegetical case supporting the claim that true wisdom can be found outside of God or Christ. I just don’t find it anywhere in Scripture.


  19. John Y,

    You are too generous in your analysis of me. Really.

    But like I said above, I am looking for analysis, not a vote (“I agree with X.”) I assumed as much. I am much more interested in WHY you agree with X.

    But your logic is deplorable. If it is self-righteous to say that God granted me the ability to have true wisdom when he regenerated my heart, then it is also self-righteous to say that I have seen real progress in progressive sanctification compared to myself 10 years ago. Believing the promises of God is not self-righteous. Afterall, I understand the source of wisdom to be God himself. You believe that you are just naturally smart enough. Who is the humble one? (Such claims almost start to sound Arminian.)


  20. Jon, and how far does your not finding it go? Do you not think non-Christians like Aristotle or Jefferson were wise? BTW, the Ephesian town clerk in Acts 19 seems pretty wise.


  21. Jon,

    You are a theonomist correct? I think we have dialoged before on this site, if you are the same Jon.

    I agree with Darryl about the ability of the unregenerate to become wise because I too believe in a doctrine of creation, and I differ with most Lutherans in this regard. Luther believed that the image of God was totally eradicated by the fall and can only be regained by redemption. However, at times, Luther did speak of a potential in the unregenerate in regards to things earthly. Calvin did not accept a total eradication of the divine image. I could get into a long argument from creation but I really do not want to go there. Also, I think there are a few passages in scripture where Jesus Himself claims that the children of this world are often wiser than the children of light; if you want to go the scripture route. Like most theonomists you are probably going to go off into a tangent about what biblical wisdom really is (like how the theonomist’s try to redefine justification and sanctification with their own law based presuppositions about their individual fulfilling of the law as the foundation of their thinking- with God’s infusing his grace progressively into your souls).

    I noticed that you avoided the word imputation. The logic of imputation and the logic of infusion leads to a different kind of spirituality. Inherent in infusion is a intrinsic righteousness which was the subtle self-righteousness that I was trying to communicate to you. I am curious as to how you know you have progressed in regards to your sanctification. I certainly do not now feel as though I am as holy as you are because I still consider myself 100% fallen (or still 100% sinful intrinsically) along with 100% justified because of what Christ did outside of me. Whether that 100% sinful becomes less and less is irrelevant to me, because until the day I die I will need the 100% justified outside of me to have any kind of relationship with God and be accepted by Him. Whenever you go subjective and believe you are getting progressively better you are in danger of becoming self-righteous. That is inherent in theonomy soteriology. Now you are going to tell me that you adhere to the Westminster standards in regards to soteriology, right? That is why I agree with the Lutherans in regards to their doctrine of sanctification.


  22. It would take to long to go into a scriptural argument with what I said in the previous post. Suffice it to say for now that we have been arguing these points at old life for more than 3 years now and the theonomists don’t want to listen anyways.


  23. DGH,

    You are going to hate this answer, but I truly believe that where unbelievers’ knowledge does correspond with reality, they are indeed borrowing from the Christian worldview. But they are not wise in the Christian sense.

    Have you ever read Robert Reymond’s book on apologetics? (“Faith’s Reasons for Believing”) I like how he talks about the pou sto: the vantage point from which one can view reality. Only God has the true “pou sto” so that’s why he has to reveal knowledge to us. We can’t think “up”, he has to think “down” to us. I might be messing up Reymond’s point, but I think it was really interesting.


  24. John Y.,

    I know I will be opening myself up to criticism here, but I hesitate to define myself as a theonomist because I haven’t studied the subject enough to give a 100% endorsement of any one side. But I definitely lean heavily towards the theonomic position right now as it seems to give me the most convincing answers. But to commit to a single position before I THOROUGHLY research all sides would be most ignorant of me. Part of that process is asking questions on this blog.

    I am definitely not R2K as it honestly makes zero sense to me. It also goes directly against everything I believe in terms of apologetics and epistemology.

    As far as defining Biblical wisdom, I think we need to let the, well, Bible define the term. Aristotle’s thinking had elements of truth to it, but the system as a whole was as far away from Godly wisdom as anything else. Revelation is the only solid ground we have.


  25. Jon, have you considered there are two kinds of wisdom, one pertaining to eternal things and one to earthly? This is how the Protestant Reformers thought (see Stephen Grabill’s “Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics,” Emory University Studies in Law and Religion).


  26. PS. Although, I have to say, having any kind of civil discourse on this topic is almost impossible. Everyone here seems so battle-hardened and edgy. Every question I ask DGH seems to merit a sarcastic or cutting response. I know I have been guilty of this myself, I will confess. But it’s too bad we keep forgetting we are on the same team here. Perhaps calling it a truce for a while and letting the barrels cool would be wise? (Did I just use that word again? :)).


  27. Zrim,

    You are correct that we should define our terms. I am thinking about the wisdom that leads to life. This would correspond to what you call “eternal wisdom.” But it also has much earthly value in the here and now.


  28. Jon, so let’s play this out. Would you vote for a political candidate who was not regenerate? How about a physician? Or a financial planner? I believe that the gifts God gives to people, intelligence, capacity for study, creativity, account for a lot of the knowledge and wisdom that believers actually use in their daily lives. I don’t see how someone who stresses the noetic effects of the fall the way that some do can account for such Christian dependence on non-Christians.


  29. DGH,

    I work as an engineer and I would absolutely hire an atheist who was a good engineer before a Christian who didn’t live out there worldview in the workplace. But we are arguing roots here, not leaves. This is similar to when I tell atheists that their worldview can’t serve as a basis for their sense of morality. They always reply “I am a good moral person, even though I don’t believe in God.” To which I reply “Of course you are a good moral person, but you are so IN SPITE of your worldview, not because of it. Your materialistic worldview has no room for moral values. You believe in them simply because you are created in the image of God. You are borrowing from the Christian worldview when you appeal to a moral law.”

    It is the same thing here. I would gladly vote for a president like Jefferson, who lived out a (mostly) Christian worldview in his view of government, etc., rather than a regenerate Christian who essentially believes that we should put our faith in Big Government to take care of all our needs, instead of God. G.W. Bush, for example, did not follow Biblical guidelines when he gave government the role of caring for widows and orphans, rather than the church, as Jesus commanded.

    R2K people have no way of combatting big government addicts. At least that I know of.


  30. Jon, but that’s not the question. The question is really whether you can learn from someone who is unregenerate? The way you construe the anti-thesis makes it seem as if you can’t, even if someone solves algebra problems better than you. Doesn’t proficiency in math count as wisdom?

    2k people have an important way of combatting big govt. It’s called secession. But that’s not legal any more.


  31. Jon, what value does eternal wisdom have for earthly pursuits? I know this sounds impious, but faith hasn’t improved the created failings with which I was born. It hasn’t done much to unflatten my feet or light up dim eyesight or expand limited intellect. And so the idea that faith has earthly value the way you are suggesting seems like a variant of prosperity gospel.


  32. John,

    Good to hear from you amigo!

    I would question what you mean by a “wisdom that leads to godliness.” Is the wisdom that leads to godliness something that we can inquire about and find within? Is it something that the Holy Spirit can work in us? How does one obtain this wisdom that leads to godliness?

    To be brief, wisdom that leads to godliness is always preceded by the fear of the Lord. Meaning, the person who is fit to acquire godly wisdom already has a disposition that is able to receive it. This is a wisdom that I think all of God’s people should strive to grow in, and is part and parcel of sanctification – the ability to think God’s thoughts after him and to begin to view life and the world through godly eyes, informed by the clarity and reliability of God’s word. Hope that clarifies a bit.


  33. DGH,

    I think there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Algebra is knowledge. Unbelievers can be great at it. But wisdom is the application of knowledge. Knowledge can’t be properly applied sans the Christian worldview.


  34. Jon, so it looks like no matter what I say you will trump it with your own definitions. But I would encourage you to consider that algebra is not merely knowledge. It is a wisdom about the order of creation. It is discernment about how reality fits together or makes sense. Engineering may be knowledge in your terms. But I think you sell vast quantities of truth short.


  35. Jon,

    It is good to hear that you are at least questioning and listening, although I think it is often a long process to be sufficiently convinced in order to change the way you think about certain issues. I read theonomy and reconstructionist literature for many years (between the late 70’s to the late 80’s) and became very self-righteous without really realizing it. Except it started to effect my marriage and other relationships I had- I became dissastisfied with the lack of spiritual growth in others who were close to me without realizing my own failures and sins. I had to go through a very difficult period in my life in order for me to be convinced of my still deeply fallen nature. Now, however, it is sometimes difficult for me to not fall into despair because of that difficult period I went through. So, I have now come to the place that I agree that I am simul iestus et peccator, ie., I am 100% fallen still yet 100% justified too. I keep my eyes off of myself, and my progress, and keep them fixed on Christ and the work he performed for me. This has brought me much more peace and contentment and it allows me not to expect too much from others too. My difficulty is now with despair not with self-righteousness; although the Old Adam still wants to make himself known whenever and however he can. That’s just the nature of the beast. I do not buy into the idea that the new creation (our new nature) diminishes the Old Adam progressively anymore. They coexist, side by side, so don’t be so hard on those Christians you know who are not living according to the world-view you want to put on them. Look upon them as fellow sinners who need your service, care, concern, insight, exhortation and encouragement. That also is helpful in dealing with the unregenerate. They smell self-righteousness very quickly and it causes the Christian more difficulty then if they did not smell it.


  36. Jed,

    Good to hear from you too. I have trouble with the concept of me being godly inherently in any way. The Holy Spirit inside of me and Christ inside of me gets all tangled up in my Old Adam. I have bought into the idea that the only thing the Holy Spirit inside of me does is convince me of my sin and self-righteousness through the Law and then point me to the Christ on the cross (the Gospel). Whatever work happens inside of me I prefer for it to remain a mystery and outside my consciousness. I get into trouble when I start thinking of myself as either too sinful so that grace and mercy can have no effect or too righteous where I start thinking I do not need Christ anymore. Either way I get into deep doo doo quick. So, I know not what you say when you say that you can begin to view life and the world through godly eyes. But that is not to say that I may be missing something and could learn from what you say.


  37. DGH,

    We may disagree on the definitions of knowledge vs. wisdom, but my main question to you is this: how do you interpret the passages in Psalms and Proverbs and Collosians that root wisdom in a relationship with God (which is restored via grace)?

    Simply saying “unbelievers can have wisdom” in response to passages that indicate otherwise doesn’t do much to further understanding.


  38. Jon, I don’t deny those passages, but I also don’t interpret such wisdom to apply to “all things.” I’ve spend enough time around the saints to know there is a lot of folly among Christians, and that non-Christians excel, not about the gospel, but sometimes about rearing children.

    So the question for you is how you account for the folly of believers if regeneration is so efficient in producing wisdom?


  39. DGH,

    To me it is the same as salvation. Before salvation, you cannot please God (Rom. 8:7-8). After salvation, you can either do good or evil. (Oversimplification, but the general idea.)

    Same with wisdom. Apart from a relationship with God, you cannot have TRUE wisdom. After salvation, the potential is there to attain true wisdom, but you also still have many remnants of the fall that affect your thinking and cause you to be unwise (i.e., thinking autonomously).


  40. Jon, so you would only go to a regenerate physician or Christian financial planner? Don’t non-believers have all sorts of wisdom about the body and finance? If so, isn’t that wisdom? If it isn’t, doesn’t that seem a little ungrateful for the good gifts God has given, to call someone like Adam Smith a fool?


  41. DGH,

    If Adam Smith doesn’t fear the almighty God of the universe, then he is a fool. Not my words – they are the Bible’s.

    I am simply taking what you already believe ontologically, and applying it to epistemology. You would agree that unbelievers’ best works are filthy rags, so also, their wisest wisdom is foolish by God’s standard.

    I believe that the onus is on you to show why the effects of the fall are purely physical and spiritual, but not epistemological (or even just mental?). Surely, the mind is not preserved from the effects of sin? So, the question is how do we define the effects of the fall on man’s thinking, while still acknowledging the accomplishments of pagans. I believe Van Til’s antithesis/common grace paradigm does this better than any other theory I’ve heard.


  42. Jon,

    When you write “true wisdom,” if you mean wisdom that spiritually discerns, then yes, it is only for believers. But the Lord did commend the wisdom of unbelievers – “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8). It think that is the type of non-Christian wisdom Darryl is commending.


  43. Jon, because I actually leave the home and trust lots of people — on the roads, in the banks, at the post office — to get some things right and even excel in the realm of the created order. You do go out and drive, right?


  44. Now that’s a productive reply. I’m pretty sure I leave the house and interact a lot more with the outside world as a businessman than an ivory tower theologian.


  45. Jon, you still haven’t answered whether you take advice on finances, health, and even education from non-Christians, and if you do how your understanding of wisdom squares with that.

    BTW, 2k affirms that wisdom comes from God. Some of that wisdom comes from a mind created by God that studies the natural order of things and tries to submit to it. Other kinds of wisdom — about Christ — can only come from the work of the H.S.

    No 2ker is denying the importance of regeneration. Some would say you are demeaning regeneration by trying to conflate all wisdom into the work of the Spirit. You seem to deny the good gifts of God.


  46. “Other kinds of wisdom — about Christ — can only come from the work of the H.S. ” I guess it comes down to the question: What is Christ’s domain? If Christ has been given authority over all things, then it would seem to me that Christ’s wisdom is the same as all true wisdom. Correct me if I’m wrong.


  47. Jon, no 2ker is denying that Christ’s domain is cosmic. What 2k does assert is that there is a difference between his rule in creation and his rule in redemption. Christ rules his people differently from the way he governs all things. The way he governs all things includes wisdom for unbelievers (thanks to smarts and study of the natural world) that escapes some believers.


  48. DGH,

    “What 2k does assert is that there is a difference between his rule in creation and his rule in redemption.”

    Is there a place where I can see a systematic delineation of this idea? I would need to see how r2k works out this principle.


  49. Jon,

    Read anything Van Drunen has written, he is excellent at systematically delineating how Christ’s rule is expressed differently in his church than over the kingdoms of this world. If you want to read something brief, he has an essay in Themelios (34-3) entitled “Bearing the Sword in the State and Turning the Cheek in the Church”; his books are excellent as well.


  50. Yes, I know that the same rules don’t apply to the American homeland which apply to Turkey, but what I can’t remember is why the USA is exceptional. Is it because Americans are uniquely secular or is it because Americans impose “religious freedom” on the rest of the world? https://theintercept.com/2016/07/18/would-turkey-be-justified-in-kidnapping-or-drone-killing-the-turkish-cleric-in-pennsylvania/?mc_cid=ffc407a75e&mc_eid=fb0fd7ebf6


  51. mcmark, the U.S. is exceptional because we take people from all over the world and have a modicum of order and freedom. Let’s see the Scandinavians do that.


  52. Tonto’s question—what do we do with these people we take? We take in more people than Germany? We have more order than Germany? http://pilgrimunderground.blogspot.com/2016/07/a-false-coup-pinned-on-deep-state.html

    “We all become well-disguised mirror image of anything that we fight too long. That which we oppose determines the energy and frames the questions after a while. Most attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot.”
    ― Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life


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