In this episode, Kurt and Ted are joined by Kenneth Samples to discuss classic Christian thinkers. You can purchase Ken’s new book here.
Kurt: Thank you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics and society. Very nice to be with you here. This is episode 145. I believe we’re almost quite to three years doing this program week after week. And before I forget, let me say this next week we’re taking off because we it’s the Easter holiday weekend. But we also did a special episode on Thursday night with Jay Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell. And if you haven’t had the opportunity to watch that video, I want to encourage you to to do so go to our Facebook page and watch the video or hop on to our website veracity hill.com, where you can click on all the episodes that we’ve done to date, where we have brought new content to you week after week. And let me say this if you’re one of our longtime supporters and fans, I know Tony out there was actually texting me saying hey, what’s the podcasts on today, if you’re one of our fans, I want to encourage you to give us a review on iTunes or our Facebook page, or whatever app you might be using to listen to our program. Really those reviews help folks that are new and just come across our page to learn, hey, what do other people think about this program, so it’d be a great help there. And also, if you want to support our program, you can go to veracity hill.com, and click on that patron tab to begin supporting our program today to help us to continue to go and grow. Well, I’ve just got one quick announcement here about an upcoming event. May three and four. The defenders media team will be in dire Indiana, and we will be presenting for a conference at village church dire discovering truth in an age of opinions. And we’ve got an event page on Facebook, go check it out. You can see the wonderful video that Chris, our technical producer here today. But of course he’s our multimedia guy here at defenders he created this great little graphic video promotional video. So check that out. And if you’re in the area, Chicagoland Northwest Indiana, maybe even Western Michigan, we’d love for you to come and join us for that weekend event. To learn more, you can go to the defenders conference.com/dire. And so we would again love to see you there. Well, today this afternoon, I am joined in studio by Ted right. Ted, great to have you here today. And we are talking about classic Christian thinkers. And joining us via Skype is Professor Ken samples, who is a senior research scholar from reasons to believe. Ken, great to have you on our program today.
Kenneth: Well, hello, Kurt, it’s good to talk with you again. hope things are going well.
Kurt: Yes, yes, indeed they are. For those of you who might recall Ken’s voice here. He came on I think last year it was maybe a year and a half or some some time ago to talk about the some Eastern religions or worldviews can worldviews is kind of one of your areas of specialty, isn’t it?
Kenneth: Yeah, it’s an area that I think is very fruitful in terms of comparing and contrasting different perspectives. And I have a book on that topic. And I really think it’s a great area for Christians to develop.
Kurt: Yes. And before continuing on, let me say this, you were one of my professors, back when I did the MA in apologetics at Biola. And one of the things I really appreciated about you and your style of communication is that you are so accessible, you make some of the hard ideas and topics easy to understand for anyone. And that’s, you know, that makes you a great communicator. So I’m really pleased to have you on our program today to talk about some of these Christian thinkers from history. You know, there, they all were dealing with all sorts of heady issues, but you just have a way of bringing things down to earth for us. So thank you for that.
Kenneth: Well, thank you. That’s a great compliment. I think it was CS Lewis who said that, you know, thinkers really need to be able to talk about ideas in ways that as many people as possible can understand. So I that’s certainly something I tried to do. So I’m glad it’s helpful to you and others.
Kurt: Yes. Now the thrust of our program today will be focused on your recent publication, classic Christian thinkers, which is actually published by our TV press. So you guys have your own press. There are reasons to believe you’ve got so many scholars on staff, you’ve got your own machine press Only just cranking out books?
Kenneth: Well, we do have some really fine scholars at reasons to believe. And we’ve found that having our own publishing our rather than going with outside publishers gives us a little freedom maybe to do books that may not be what, you know, other publishers needs. So I’m really proud of our TV press. I liked the way my book came out. And our TV is moving ahead.
Kurt: Yeah, great. So let me first start off with this question. You know, usually folks have a motivation for writing a book, they see a gap in the literature. What was your thinking, in terms of how you how and the why you wanted to bring forth this publication?
Kenneth: Yeah, I’m glad you asked that question, Kurt. I really think that evangelicalism is experiencing somewhat of a crisis. And you know, that crisis can be sometimes people don’t know what they believe or why they believe it. That’s why people like you do what you do. But I also think it extends to the idea that a lot of times, we don’t know how we came to believe the things we do, we don’t, we don’t know how the Trinity was formulated, or how the Incarnation battled with other heresies. And one of my concerns is that a lot of times, people will opt for, let’s say, Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, because they don’t always feel the roots, the historical roots in evangelicalism. So this is my way to try to invite people to get to know some of the great thinkers in church history, and maybe have a closer connection to that historical context.
Kurt: Yeah, you know, I can speak a little personally to that as well. My area of academic research is historical theology. And so I like exploring some of those roots as well. There’s nothing new under the sun. And so when we talk about Mormon, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, we’re already talking about issues that the Church Fathers have dealt with. And people don’t realize this. So when we can learn from the church fathers, not that we always have to agree with them. And in fact, they didn’t agree with themselves on a number of issues. But certainly, we can learn from them. And I’m thankful to go into academic speak, I’m thankful for paleo orthodoxy, and the work of Thomas Oden and others who have sort of reinvigorated Protestants with an evangelicals with a sense of history, theological history. So much, so. Okay, so now you’ve got that kind of correctly, nine different folks that you write about in the book, and give us just a quick list of who the the nine folks are. And I’m hoping we’ll be able to get through at least, you know, a good chunk of them today.
Kenneth: You bet. I’m kind of a baseball manager, I’m putting together nine great thinkers, well, three of them are church fathers. So in in the West, the era of the Church Fathers runs usually from the second to about the fifth or sixth century. So I address Aaron as Athanasius and Augustine, three very significant church fathers. Then I shift to the Middle Ages, and I talk about Anselm And Aquinas, two of the great Catholic thinkers. Then moving forward, I talk about, I think, the most important of the reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin. Then I moved to the era of the age of science, and I talk about Blaise Pascal. And I close the book talking about the great CS Lewis. So that’s my lineup card. And all of those thinkers have had a big influence on me. And I think they’re well worth knowing, I think knowing these nine thinkers will will really be a blessing in your life.
Kurt: All right, so let’s first start with Irenaeus and I want to start with him because I’m a bit sympathetic to his view of the fall and human nature, more so than say, St. Augustine. Now, of course, there’s still debate on Augustine and there’s an early Augustine and later Augustine for those familiar with some of the scholarship on on the matter. But so why is Iran as a figure that Christians should look into and read more about?
Kenneth: Yeah, I think that Irenaeus is probably the best theological thinker in the second century. Aaron, as is an individual that has a very advanced theology. He defended the Trinity. He had a high view of Christ’s humanity and deity. As you mentioned, Aaron as has ideas that will probably be a little bit new to evangelicals. He advocated a type of Theosis for example, ample. Moreover, he had a strong connection to apostolic tradition, what’s really critical about Irenaeus is he’s only a generation removed from the apostles era, as studied under Polycarp. And Polycarp. knew the apostle John. So we’re going back to some of the early parts of, of historic Christianity. And I think that the big emphasis in your in as is, he takes on a very significant and dangerous heresy called Gnosticism. And, in many ways, Aaron as holds the ship, he fights the Gnostics at least to withdraw. And so I see you’re in as is as one of the central figures of historic Christianity of the, the second century.
Kurt: And if you could just give us the gist of what Gnosticism is.
Kenneth: Yeah, you know, even in Scripture, you see a group that that is called First, uh, docetists, doceo in Greek means to seem they would argue that Jesus didn’t have a real body, that he only seemed human, but it was not fully human. So what Docetism came, was fully formed into Gnosticism. Gnosticism said that matter was evil and spirit was good, that there was an esoteric knowledge that that believers should should adopt, and that the Creator God, Jehovah was not the ultimate god. And so this was a very powerful and influential heresy. I mean, if matter is evil, then what does that do to creation? What does it do to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection. So Aaron, as was very articulate in his book against heresies. That book I think, does a good job of what I would call the golden rule of apologetics. Aaron as was very fair minded and careful in describing Gnosticism, then he brought a very solid critique of it, and Catholics and Protestants, I think, owe a great deal to Irenaeus and as well as Eastern thinkers.
Kurt: One of the things I appreciate about the the book is, you have you have a section in each chapter on sort of an evangelistic or apologetic application. Not only do you provide a timeline of when these guys lived, and thereby out, you know, a biography, you go into the, the details of of critical doctrine that they dealt with, and they wrote on. But then then you basically say, why is it important for us today? And it’s just a wonderful section for folks to realize, oh, yeah, this is, this is why I need to learn more. And then of course, you’ve got more resources. So each chapter is as a great format for folks to consider. I do just want to say this, for those that are joining us via our live stream, I’m keeping tabs of the comments, if you have a question for prefer for Professor samples, I’d be happy to, to relay that to him. Also, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to our texting plan. I’m keeping tabs on that today. And I sent out a quick message to our followers there through the texting plan. If you want to join, just text the word veracity to the number 555888. And you’ll get updates from us from time to time on topics. And you can even request request show topics or guests yourself. So sort of one way I stay connected with some of our followers there. All right, Ken. So let’s move along to to Athanasius. And he is,… oh Ted. Did you have a question about Irenaeus
Ted: Just a kind of a follow up? And Ken, such an awesome book, thank you so much for writing. And again, just want to sort of bounce something off of you sort of as a question. You know, Solomon said that there’s nothing new under the sun. And one of the benefits of knowing historical theology is knowing how Orthodox Christian thinkers answered some really important questions. And so what I want to here’s what I want to bounce off to you, Ken. And that is, isn’t that good that Christians know this? Because aren’t some of the same errors today? Are they around still today? And the reason why people don’t know the answer is because they don’t know how Christian fathers answer these questions. That sort of makes sense.
Kenneth: Yeah, absolutely. Ted, I completely agree with you. I mean, Gnosticism has Irenaeus I think gave a death blow to Gnosticism. But it never went away totally. And we see it today. It’s had a revival in the 20th and 21st century as I see it in the recovery of the Gnostic gospels in the Nag Hammadi library in Egypt. So many scholars are now talking about the Gospel of Thomas the gospel of Mary, etc. But you also see it, Ted, in a very personal way or in a in a layman way. In that you have the Davinci Code you have…
Kenneth: Oprah Winfrey has people on who advocate Gnostic ideas. So, you know, cults today have their roots in history and Gnosticism is unfortunately still well and and influencing people.
Ted: So maybe RTB could could create a movie instead of the Avengers have, you know, the Church Fathers, you know, they’re all the superheroes and the answer all the bad thinking,
Kenneth: Well, if I could play Athanasius or Augustine I…
Kurt: Great. Okay. wonderful opportunity to segue over to Athanasius. And for, for this classic Christian thinker, it was Athanasius contra mundum Athanasius against the world. Why was that? Why was it that Athanasius was fighting what seemed to be a last fight, and yet somehow came through, you know, a number of times as being exiled. He came through and his position ended up becoming the view of the Catholic or Orthodox Church.
Kenneth: Yeah, I, I have a high regard for Athanasius. He’s one of my favorite Christian thinkers of all time. Athanasius, of course, lives in the latter part of the third and into the fourth century. Athanasios was out at the Council of Nicaea. He didn’t have a vote, but he was there with his bishop, Alexander Athanasius, became the great defender of the deity of Christ, the deity of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of the Trinity. And of course, Arianism had a cast a huge shadow. It’s hard to know which heresy is the worst of all the heresies they all carry, a detrimental effect, but Arianism struck right at the heart of Christianity, because if you distort who the person of Christ is, you’ve distorted historic Christianity Athanasius battled Arianism for 50 years, because even though even though Arianism was condemned at Nicaea, it’s still lingered. And Kurt, you’ve mentioned the very famous Latin statement, Athanasius contra mundum, Athanasius against the world, you know that there was a time when it look like the Aryan forces were, were starting to be in the majority. And the story is that that some of the bishops kind of taunted Anthony just by the way he was an Egyptian man. He had dark skin he was rather short. And they would, they’d say bad things about him because he was such a, such a strong individual thinker and reasoner. But some of the bishops of Arianism came to him and said, Athanasios, don’t you realize that the whole world is against you. And Athanasia said calmly, and clearly said is the whole world against Athanasius than its Athanasius against the world, and he was exiled five times for a total of 17 years. I think Athanasius did something very similar that urine as did toward Gnosticism. I think Athanasius stopped Arianism cold by his reasoning, and in the in my chapter on urine as I use some of his arguments, and I suggest the next time a Jehovah’s Witness knocks on your door, because the witnesses have a Christology that’s very similar to Arianism. I suggest you use some of Athanasius has biblical ammunition. And so, by the way, when I was four years old, I was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith. And I was baptized at the parish, St. Athanasius Catholic Church, and on the front of the door, it said Athanasius contra mundum. So, I see my ministry, in some ways is in the Spirit of St. Athanasius.
Kurt: Let me take a side trip here. I guess I hadn’t known that you were baptized into the Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church. So tell me a little bit more about your your journey, I guess out of that and into Protestant evangelicalism.
Kenneth: Yeah, I was. My father was a World War Two soldier. He was in Italy and Rome when it was liberated, and that had a big influence on my my father. In the early 60s, my parents converted to Catholicism from evangelicalism, I was baptized as a four year old. I didn’t have a deep connection to Catholicism. It was somewhat nominal, but we went to Mass on Easter and Christmas and on many days, and when I was about 20 years old, I had an experience in my life that made me take the big questions of life more seriously, my older brother, who had had some drug addiction and problems with the law have committed suicide. And it really drove me to ask who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? I started looking at religious challenges and I went back to the Catholic Church. In fact, I thought about being a Roman Catholic priest. But there are two people that that led me to decide not to be a priest, my my girlfriend, Joan, who is now my wife. She had a big influence. We can imagine so, and Walter Martin, I bumped into Walter Martin. Wow, a lot of discussions with him. And Walter was always respectful of Catholicism. He never viewed it as a cult, but he had strong differences and so through a various issues and looking at issues, I embraced the teaching of the Protestant Reformation and became a Protestant. Again, I some of my favorite thinkers, though, have a deep influence in the Catholic faith. People like Augustine people like Aquinas and many others.
Kurt: Yeah… And we’re certainly going to explore Aquinas a little later but let’s talk about as I say Augustine, you say Agustin…
Kenneth: Yeah, yeah. Well. The most important thing is that you read his confessions whether you pronounce his name correctly. I say Agustin because most of the literary or Catholic scholars who study him say Agustin, but I’ll forgive you for calling him Augustine.
Kurt: Okay. Now, let me let me give you a…
Ted: We had a little friendly debate about this
Kurt: Yeah, let me give you a little pushback here, if I may. So how would it…Do you know how it would be pronounced in the Latin?
Kenneth: Well, he was named after two Roman Caesars. And so his name would be Augustinus And it would, it would have come after Caesar Augustus. So that Roman element, I would say would push it toward Augustine, but that’s interesting,
Kurt: because I had heard from some Latin professors, that would be augustinus. Okay, so I mean, maybe we’ll have to, we should we should serve a Latin, you know, scholars and see. Yeah, because I call it Augustine because I, at least I’ve been told that it’s closer to the Latin.
Kenneth: So I don’t know any Augustine scholars who say Augustine, they all say Agustin Yeah. So I may be influenced by them.
Kurt: Yeah. Okay. Well, the debate will rage on. Okay. So Augustine is, he is perhaps the most prolific church father, certainly in western civilization. His his corpus of writings, is only paralleled on the east by John Chrysostom. And many Westerners are simply just unfamiliar with golden tongue or golden mouth. But so certainly in western civilization, he has been the most influential, not just on theological anthropology or the study of the nature of man. But, you know, with regard to the role of the Christian in civics, you know, City of God, personal conversion experiences, the confessions. I mean, it’s just his work just spans across so many areas. And, you know, such a prolific writer and speaker use an orator that he had such a huge influence. But, but you’ve certainly written more on him. So I’ll let you tell us more.
Kenneth: Yeah, I would. I’d make the case that that Agustin may be the most influential Christian thinker outside of the New Testament authors. Now, it’s certainly true that in in Eastern Church, he’s viewed more critical. Critically, they are not so they see him as very pessimistic about original sin. They’re not enamored by the late Agustin ‘s view of predestination and election. But in the Western Church, Carl Truman, a very popular and distinguished Presbyterian theologian said that, that Augustine may be as important to Protestants as he is to Catholics, he is he is the church, father of the West. There are people who make the case and I would be one of them, that he was probably more prolific than anybody in the ancient world, Latin or Greek. There are a few people that would compete with him. Chris Austin, and I think one of the Bazel, I think is another very prolific author in the East. But you’re absolutely right. I mean, Augustine is influenced the Western churches thinking about humanity about the fall. His book on the Trinity is one of the great treatments, the City of God, his critique of the Greco Roman world, his book confessions, which is a statement about his lifelong journey into hedonism and Manichaean ism and Neo Platonism ultimately arriving bumping into Bishop Ambrose, embracing historic Christianity. I would say that, I think it was InterVarsity. They pick 64 great Christian classics from apologetics theology, literary areas, and they did a they did a March Madness type of bracketing pass. I think the Final Four or the final two was Mere Christianity and confessions and confession was picked the greatest Christian book in history. So Augustine casts a huge shadow, and he battles play Jainism he battles Donta, terrorism, he battles, various issues, and I think that his theology is is in many respects the most important of all the thinkers in the West. You know, he influences Aquinas, he influences Anzo, but he influences Thomas Grabner, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Blaise Pascal, the num… The names go on and on.
Kurt: Yeah, yes. Yeah, certainly is. Yeah. His influence and inspiration just has continuing effects through Western civilization.
Ted: Let me ask you one question. I’m a I’m a lifelong student of Agustin as well. And one of the things that interests me, I’m an archaeologist, but I’m also trained as an apologist, little background in theology as well. But one of the most fascinating of Augustine is books, besides the confessions is the city of God. And in my writing, understanding that the city of God is was considered to be in the ancient world, one of the first really philosophies of history, but it’s really more of a theology of history, in which Augustine looked at all of human history through the lens of theology through the lens of Scripture.
Kenneth: Yeah, that’s right. You know, a big challenge because Agustin lives in late antiquity, he lives at a time a Rome was sacked, and for 10 years, right, and the the Western Roman Empire is really coming apart at the time of Augustine. And some of the Roman citizens said that Rome’s problems is because they had embraced a new faith. Whereas in the city of God Agustin argues that, no, it’s not the new faith, it is. It is the unjust foundations in which the Greco Roman world was was founded. And the city of God is a classical critique of, of a philosophy of history. But as you said, and I think, right on target, you know, Augustine sees theology as the Queen of the sciences. And if you’re in any great books program, Biola has won. You know, not too far away from where I live, you have Thomas Aquinas College, if you’re to open up the great books of the Western world, edited by Mortimer Adler confessions, the City of God are always right at the top of the list of the great books. So I’ve read the confessions, I can’t tell you how many times I tried to read it every year. I when I read the confessions, I actually think Augustine is talking to me. In fact, I think, when he wrote that book, he wasn’t just writing about himself. I think he was writing about all of humanity’s search for to find rest in peace. And…
Kurt: before we take a break here, we do have a question from one of our viewers today. Ken, comes from Jonathan. He’s asking you, which translations do you prefer when reading the father’s? He asks is Philip Shafts and company translations still adequate?
Kenneth: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ll make it very specific here. I think. I think a lot of people when they read the confessions, don’t find a good translation. I like the penguin classic of the confessions of pine coffin is the translator. But there are some other good ones that have come out of late. A woman scholar bolding, I think she’s Catholic has a new translation of the of the confessions. Peter Kreeft, has books where he’s taken ideas from the confessions and talked about them. So in my book, I recommend specific sources on Aaron as Athanasius and Augustine that I think you might find helpful, Jonathan.
Kurt: Great, thanks. All right. On today’s episode, we are joined by Professor Kenneth samples, a senior research scholar at reasons to believe he’s the author of the newly published book, classic Christian thinkers, put out by RTB press and We’ll be sure to put a link to the book at our website. You can learn more about Professor samples at reasons dot o RG. And of course the book is for sale available on Amazon. So we’ve got a short break here, but stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, or if you just want to be someone who chips in a few bucks a month is one of our patrons, you can go to our website veracity hill.com and click on that patron tab. And on today’s episode, we are joined by Professor Kenneth samples. He’s the author of classic Christian thinkers and introduction put out by our TV press available on Amazon and reasons.org as well I’m sure you can purchase the book Ken. So before we left off we were talking about in the first half of the program, I should say we covered urine as Athanasius and Augustine or Augustine depending on how you say it. Next I want to skip over to Anselm will hit up and some next and I know he’s famous for Cur Deus Homo or why the God man. But tell us why why is Anselm someone that we should give our attention to?
Kenneth: Yeah, now with Anselm, we’re moving into the Middle Ages and so his dates are 1033 to 1109. And so he was born into a Christian family. He likes Agustin a great deal he so he has those kinds of influences, and so on becomes a very significant church leader. In fact, he is a leader in the church of England. And Anselm is powerful in many different respects. He is a very creative, philosophical thinker. We later attribute to Him the ontological argument, we can talk about that if you’d like. He also writes a classic book that you mentioned, core Deus homo, why the God man or Why has God become man? So he’s defending the idea that we should look at Christianity through the prism of the Incarnation, and that only only a person who is both God and man can reconcile God and man, and so further develops a particular view of the Atonement known as satisfaction theory. And he is in many respects, kind of the father of the Scholastic school that looks at Christian theology and argues that there are rational grounds for the faith and so on. Anselm is a very significant person, I think the ontological argument whether you accept it or reject it, it really has kind of set Western theology and philosophy on its ear for, you know, the last 100 years. What I mean by that is some of the some of the brightest bulbs in the western world have been reading endzone for 1000 years.
Kurt: Yes, certainly. And one of the greatest living philosophers in America, although he’s retired from the academic life now, Alvin Plantinga, has written on the ontological arguments sort of presents a modified version of it. But what’s the gist of the argument?
Kenneth: Yeah, you know what’s interesting here, Kurt, and Ted is that Anselm is a very devout Christian. He also produced a book that published a lot of his prayers. And Salem is reading Psalm 14. And the beginning of that Psalm says, The school has said in his heart, there is no God. Well, Anselm argues that God is a God is a being that in which none greater can be conceived God is a maximally perfect being. And Enzo then argues that a being that exists only as a thought in the mind, but not in reality would not be as great as a being that existed in reality. And then and some takes an interesting turn, he argues, what we might call a reductio ad absurdum argument. He said that if you reject that a maximally perfect being exists, then you would have to assume that there is there is a greater being than ultimate perfection. So anzam, in many respects, is trying to say that atheism reduces to an absurdity. An atheist would have to say I can conceive of a greater being than the greatest conceivable being. And some, therefore argues that God exists now. Even thinkers at the time, bozo was one of the critiquers of Anzo. You know, people like Thomas Aquinas rejected the argument. Immanuel Kant, but many others Descartes. And as Kurt mentioned, even today, Alvin Plantinga, has a version of the ontological argument. So whether it is a proof for the existence of God, I certainly think at minimum, it illustrates the rationality of God being a perfect being. And so, again, it’s the most controversial of all the arguments, but for many people, it is a very powerful way of thinking.
Kurt: I know some people have described the argument as sound, meaning that it’s truthful, but unpersuasive toward others.
Kenneth: Yeah, that’s right. You know, and of course, the question of, you know, what kinds of arguments are people persuaded by? You know, some people like the fact that Anselm is essentially arguing that all you need do is think carefully about God, and you’ll know that he exists, they like that kind of rational operatory type of argument. On the other hand, as you mentioned, many people are much more persuaded by an a more evidentiary or empirical based reasoning. And some though, is a person you don’t want to miss. He is, he is clearly one of the great Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages.
Kurt: Very nice. Alright, let’s move along to Aquinas. And I especially want to spend some time talking about Thomas Aquinas here because Ted here is a Thomas. Oh, when it comes to metaphysics, sure, and some of it can be meaty. So hopefully, we can keep this. As you say, Ted, how do you how do you say something about the cookies? Cookies on the bottom shelf? Let’s keep for Kurt sake, let’s keep the cookies on the bottom shelf. So first, can let’s just start with you. Let’s get get an overview who was Thomas Aquinas and why is he someone that evangelicals should should look into?
Kenneth: Yeah, so now we move a little higher into the Middle Ages 1225 to 1274. Thomas accomplishes a great deal in only 49 years. I mean, a very short life but Thomas is born in a castle. His family is a little reluctant to him becoming a priest. But Thomas in many respects, is the other great Catholic thinker. Thomas is his his philosophy of tome ism, has had an extraordinary influence not only on Catholics, but on Protestants as well. I have many friends who Who, while they may differ with Thomas on his view of the sacraments, they may differ with you, on his view of justification, they like his basic principles, they like tome ism, as a system of philosophical thought. Thomas is known very strongly for his five ways or his five proofs for the existence of God. But he’s also known for the idea that all language about God is to be understood and illogically. Moreover, he is he argues for divine simplicity, the idea that, unlike us, God is not just a being God is being itself. I would, I would argue that, I think Thomas may have been the brightest mind Western civilization has ever seen. I agree. And so, you know, from a Catholic Protestant point of view, Thomas also has a very high view of Scripture, I don’t want to say that Thomas would have agreed with Luther, as as opposed to the Catholic faith. But when you read people like Augustine, and then later Thomas Aquinas, Thomas always wanted to be called a scholar of Scripture. And so I find him, I find him to be masterful, I think his development of a Aristotelian Christian synthesis, bringing together ideas from Aristotle, and of Christian theism, I think is absolutely masterful, even if you just disagree with him. He is a person you have to you have to take seriously.
Kurt: So, Ted, let me ask you this question. Again, cookies on the lower shelf here. So if you could give a gist of what Thomism is?
Ted: Yeah, well, it’s just like Ken was saying, I mean, it’s, obviously, well, I’m a Protestant, slash Anglican. So I don’t follow his, you know, his view of the sacraments or anything like that, but, but his metaphysics and his epistemology and his understanding of God talk, you know, keeping the cookies in the bottom shelf? There’s three different ways that we can talk about God, you can you can univocally equivocally, or ontologically. So, you know, that was a question that thinkers struggle with in the Middle Ages is that how do we talk about this infinite being, and Aquinas Of course, using using Aristotelian categories? Really, it’s a great way to think about talking about God. And that is we, we don’t understand God, there’s not a one to one correspondence. But there is a similar correspondence so so we can say something about God. So we’re not left completely agnostic or in the dark, about knowledge about God. And God communicates to us in human language. And so the human language that we use is is analogical. But tome ism is is, you know, it’s a it’s a systematic way of looking at the world, through the lens of philosophy and theology. And Aquinas one of the things that I like about him is that, you know, it was said years ago, and I think one of the biggest blunders, and I don’t know, if Francis Schaeffer, it was totally his fault. But Francis Schaeffer, the great, you know, Christian apologists in the presuppositional side, and one of the things he said about Aquinas is that he separated faith and reason, and kin can maybe clarify this and more for us is that that’s actually the complete opposite of Aquinas, Aquinas actually saw that faith and reason are complementary. And in fact, they’re very complementary. And he actually put even more of an emphasis on faith. So it’s not that he was against faith or reason, he thought that they were very complementary. And so I look at it as you know, Faith will never contradict reason. And so I think the Thomistic system is the best answer to try to put all that together.
Kurt: How does that sound Ken?
Kenneth: Sounds pretty good to me. I think, I think Thomas is unfortunately at times misunderstood. I think he you know, people say silly things like he baptized Aristotle’s god. Yeah. But when you when you read the Summa Theologica, or Summa Contra Gentiles, this is too great. Sumos.
Kenneth: …annual or a summary of the faith. what you discover is that Thomas is a student of Scripture. He quotes Agustin a lot he gets old scripture a lot. He quotes Aristotle. I think that I think if you’ve if you’ve missed Thomas and and again, Thomas is not easy to read Summa Theologica is 2 million words. You better better be on your your highest level to take Thomas serious. But nevertheless, I think Protestants at times have have rejected Thomas for yes. Maybe in an uncharacteristic way. And so I think Thomas is an enormously influential thinker, and I think he I think Protestants have a lot to learn from the angelic doctor.
Ted: Amen. Ken, I wanted to …just to add a couple of things here one is a you’re absolutely right about Reading Aquinas and as a young seminary student, of course, we had to read a lot of the Summa. But there are some really good books out there. And one of them is, you mentioned Peter creped. Earlier he wrote a book called A Summa of the Summa. And it’s sort of like a Living Bible version of the Summa. The students wanted to sink their teeth into that. But one other observation want to make and can you can you tell me if I’m wrong here, I think this is the right way to understand this. But both Agustin And Aquinas, Augustine, of course, was drawing on Neoplatonic thought, you know, not necessarily Plato, per se, but really VF Plotinus and Aquinas is drawing a lot on, on Aristotle, but where these Greek philosophers went astray, they were careful to separate where they thought that they, you know, their ideas would not be compatible with Christianity. They were careful to splice that away and stay strew true to what Scripture says. Is that, is that correct?
Kenneth: I think that’s right on the money. I think that you know, Agustin gets criticism for his dabbling in Neo Platonism. Thomas gets criticism for his Aristotelian bent, but I think in terms of both of them, they were much more deeply influenced by Yes, the scriptures by a historic Christian perspective and, and whether we agree with them totally or not, we can learn from them. And believe me, I don’t want my evangelical friends to go through life and not know who St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, here here.
Kurt: That’s the truth. All right. Now, I proceed that if we talked about Luther and Calvin, we could do that for like hours on end. So for the sake of our time here, and what’s left, I want to skip ahead and talk about someone that I think is actually quite underrated, even in the apologetics sphere. Pascal, Blaise Pascal, yes. I am sympathetic to the wager. I think the wager is a good good thing when you know what it is and how he argued it. I think a lot of people maybe they just they misunderstand the wager or they’re, they’re given a strawman or they just don’t realize how, how great actually of an argument it is. But Blaise Pascal, why should we learn about this renaissance mathematician?
Kenneth: Yeah, Pascal is born in the 17th century. He is born into a French family. And he has a dramatic conversion in midlife. He’s a physicist. He’s a mathematician. He’s a logician. He invents the first calculator in, in the 1600s. Many people to today say in terms of technology, it was the first step toward a computer. This guy has more brains, then then you can imagine. Pascal, I think, had a very powerful conversion. And a lot of times people I think failed to appreciate that. Pascal makes arguments about the heart here, we’re back to this question of how does how do arguments affect the persuasion of an individual person? Yeah, I like the wager. I think it’s very powerful. I think the way Pascal intended it was for a cost benefit analysis a way of trying to get somebody to give consideration what could possibly be awaiting me and death? What are my what are my possible philosophical options? And Pascal reason you have, you have all benefit comes from believing, and all the dis-benefits come from disbelieving. But Pascal was also very strong in his apologetic, he appealed to the emergence of the church prophecy, the resurrection of Jesus. Moreover, when you look at the Ponce’s This is his book, which is translated in French his thoughts or reflections, I have to say, even though this book was never completed, because Pascal died at 39 years old, had something like stomach cancer and never finished his masterpiece. But I’ve read the Pensees many times and his discussion of diversion. His discussion of what’s ailing human beings, I think, is just a masterful book, Pascal, at the end of his life, he had a large library because he was wealthy. He gave away all of his books, but to his Bible, and St. Augustine is confessions. And Pascal, I think, is as you said, Kurt, very underrated. I think he is in many ways, a person that we can use today for people who think maybe more about the heart than they do the head. And so I Pascal was one of my favorite Christian thinkers if I had to pick my top three, why it’s hard, but it probably would be Augustine, Pascal and Lewis with Athanasius in the warm up position.
Kurt: Let’s see what’s the bass in the hole? Is that the…
Kenneth: Yeah, on deck circle? Yeah.
Kurt: Yeah. great. And one of the things I like to about Pascale, he sort of answers this concern. Well, what if what if you’re not feeling it? What if, what if you don’t have that same feeling that Christians have? Well, his advice is to just go and start going to church, start meeting with Christians, and start acting as if you were one of them. And he says, basically, if you do that, eventually you will catch on. And so the emotion perhaps, that people are seeking or the peace that passes surpasses all understanding will come to you. So it takes time for some people for the heart to catch up with the head. Yeah, well, sir, just just a great thinker. And like you said, Ken, about his almost like a psychologist. I mean, he just recognizes the human condition so well, certainly.
Kenneth: Sometimes he’s criticized as a fideist, but I don’t think that that’s fair. I think Pascal is is really looking at the human heart. What, how do we understand the human heart? How do we reach it? And, you know, Pascal was one of the brightest people of his age. My colleagues at our TV, they know him as the physicist Moscow. Yeah, I know him as the apologist and the the philosophical thinker, but you don’t want to go through life and not encounter Blaise Pascal
Ted: couldn’t agree more. Yeah, absolutely. Especially in our day and age in which feeling is a really big thing. Pascal is a really relevant apologist, and many of his arguments are very powerful. I think they’ll play very powerfully in our culture today.
Kurt: All right now, Alister McGrath has called this fellow the patron saint of American evangelicalism, CS Lewis, someone who smokes cigars and like drinking is alcohol, not exactly what the pipe artistic Americans are used to. But oh, the pipe smoking. What did I say?
Ted: Cigar is, uh, that was … a Spurgeon.
Kurt: Okay, sorry, pipe smoker, at any rate, but Lewis has had a simply profound influence both from his fictional writings, many people know the Chronicles of Narnia, and the perelandra trilogy and others, but also for his, you know, his worldview works. Mere Christianity, one of the best selling books in America. My favorite is miracles. Just a profound to use a WWE term, even though I was never into wrestling, a smackdown of David Humes philosophy, just miracles is an excellent work that I think everyone everyone should read. So CS Lewis, why should we care about a 20th century Brit?
Kenneth: Yeah, well, I have to say the first Christian book I ever read was Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, it really impacted me. I was 20 years old, I go to parties and have my Mere Christianity, my back pocket and I pull it out and read passages and my friends would say,
Kurt: what parties would you go to?
Kenneth: I was transitioning from the party life to the Christian life. But Lewis is an extraordinary thinker. He really is a literary apologist. And in many respects, I mean, there are three Cs Lewis’s there is, first of all, the author of The Great Chronicles of Narnia sold over 100 million copies. He then is the lay theologian, apologist, the author of Mere Christianity, miracles, the problem of pain and cetera. And then thirdly, he was a first rate literary critic that wrote about renaissance and medieval literature. Louis had a conversion in his early 30s. First to theism, then to Christianity was part of the great Inklings literary group JRR Tolkien Oh, and Barfield, various others, Charles Williams, fact, Reasons to Believe took a summer trip last year to Oxford and I visited the place where the Inklings met, they called it the bird and the baby. And I was rubbing the wall hoping some of the magic wand to me, but I think Louis is really arguably the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century. His argument from reason his Argument from Desire, his his Christological argument, probably none of those arguments are original with him. But they they come forward with great clarity and crispness. And I remember I remember reading Lewis and thinking, wow, I, I never thought a Christian could speak so clearly and so intelligently. And so CS Lewis is is one of my favorite Christian authors.
Kurt: If you could name a couple of your favorite works of his what would they be?
Kenneth: Yeah, well, I think because Mere Christianity was the first book I ever read, that would be very, very high on my list. But I like his treatment of the problem of pain, both the problem of pain later his book, A Grief Observed, very powerful. I also like till we have faces some of his more literary stuff. He authored about 30 books. I’ve never grown tired of reading CS Lewis.
Kurt: Yeah, he’s just someone you begin to read and you think I need to read more and more and more and more. That’s right. And then, even now, and I haven’t read them in quite a while. It’s like, Man, I need to go read them again.
Kenneth: He’s like one of the most quotable people. I mean, yes. comes up with these quotes. There’s one that I love that. He says, You know, God whispers in our conscience. God whispers in our pleasure. He shouts in our, let me let me get the quote, right. It’s so good. I can’t get it. Right. God whispers in our pleasures. He speaks in our conscience. But he shouts in our pain in his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. I mean, there are times I look at things he’s written, and I think I could never write that.
Kurt: Yeah, same here. Same here.
Ted: Ken, What do you what do you think about the weight of glory? That’s probably one of my favorites.
Kenneth: Oh, that’s such an outstanding. That’s, that’s a book where he has various essays on various topics. You know, Lewis, I think, was a very sophisticated thinker, even though he was a lay theologian. I liked his idea of Mere Christianity. I, I tend to come from the reformed tradition, but I personally think Christians have so much more in common than what where they differ, yes, I liked he tried to bring Christians of various denominations together. I love his books. And, and I love it that my kids love CS Lewis, they grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia. He can speak to so many different people at so many different levels. And so, you know, he was in World War One was wounded in World War Two, he would go to the RAF and talk to the pilots about Christ was on the BBC, Winston Churchill wanted to give him a medal after the war, because he thought his talks on the BBC were so influential. There’s so much to know about the great CS Lewis.
Kurt: You know, Ken your kids wouldn’t appreciate CS Lewis, if you had become a Catholic priest?
Kenneth: That’s, that’s… well, that’s right. Yeah. I don’t have a counter argument.
Kurt: Great. Well, we’ve got to come to a close today. And we’ve been talking about your recent publication, just out classic Christian thinkers and introduction, put out by RTB press. Let me I try to ask my guests sometimes a question that I know you know, with sometimes with these types of guests, we you’ve got multiple interviews. So I’ve tried to think of a question where maybe someone hasn’t asked you yet, or won’t. So here’s, here’s my last question to you. If you have a 10th person that you wish you would have squeezed into the book, who would that have been?
Kenneth: Well, I you know what, there? I was initially thinking I might go 10 or 12. And for various reasons, I ended up at nine, a baseball season was starting one but there was a number of others that I definitely considered early on. I thought about a possible chapter on Jerome. It later in the book, I thought about dealing with Jonathan Edwards, Soren Kierkegaard. So those there were a numbers and I thought about dealing with one of the Gregory’s in the Eastern Church. So in Chris Austin’s name kept coming up. Sure. Well, there was about a half a dozen that I, I don’t know that I’ll write a part to but I’d love to write. Well, there you go. Yeah.
Kurt: That’s sort of not necessarily second edition, but a second volume. Yeah. Yeah, that would be great. Awesome. And I would love I like Chris Austin, quite a bit on what he has to say. And, and a lot of folks again, like, like I said, they just don’t realize how much he had written. And even Augustine, or Augustine, had been reading Chris Austin, I’ll be in a translation. But in one of his letters, he notes that he’s going through one of his works. So it’s always great when you see these guys, you know, interconnecting with each other. It’s like…
Kenneth: I’ll tell you Kurt, in closing. I see them as my friends. I see them as my mentors. I see them as as people who encourage me and uplift me. I also see their warts I see their sins and I realize that God loves center Since I’m, I’m an imperfect person, so it’s encouragement to me.
Kurt: Yeah. Great. Well, Professor samples, thank you so much for joining us on our program today. May God continue to bless you and the ministry work that you’re doing through your speaking and teaching and writing.
Kenneth: Well, Kurt and Ted, it’s been a pleasure to be with you. I really enjoyed this time together. So thanks again. And you guys keep up the good work.
Ted: Thank you so much.
Kurt: Thanks. Yeah, we’ll be in touch. All right. Oh, by. All right, well, that does it for our show. Today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are defenders media, consult Kevin, the sky floor, rethinking Hill, the Illinois Family Institute and Fox restoration. And actually, I don’t know if Ken knows this, but we’ve been in talks with reasons to believe for them to become one of our sponsors as well. We’d love to help promote their work. Thank thank you to our technical producer, Chris, for all the fine work he does week in, week out. And Ted, thank you for joining us today. And also to our guest, Professor Kenneth samples, you can learn more about him by going to reasons.org. That’s reasons to believe the ministry that he is at. It’s very much like a think tank where they’ve got staff devoted to researching and writing. It’s a wonderful organization. And last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.