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A Note from Our Editor: "Men in Black II" and Apologetics

Last November’s annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society, held in Colorado Springs, featured papers and discussions on the so-called "Openness of God" theology, as espoused by Clark Pinnock and others. The forthcoming Toronto conference of the ETS promises to do the same (20-22 November 2002). In the present issue of the GLOBAL JOURNAL, considerable practical light will be shed on this critical issue by Joao Mordomo. His paper is titled, "Missiological Misgivings About 'Openness of God' Theology."

The topic of human rights is central to political, legal, and ethical thinking today. Our International Academy, held each summer in Strasbourg, France (www.apologeticsacademy.eu), contains an important human rights component, and the Editor's book, Human Rights and Human Dignity, is an evangelical manifesto on the subject. Thus it is entirely appropriate that we are publishing German theologian Thomas Schirrmacher's article, "Human Rights and Christian Faith." Professor Schirrmacher is one of Europe’s leading evangelical thinkers: founder and dean of the Martin Bucer Seminar (an independent Faculty of Theology), prolific author, and head of the publishing company which has just issued this Editor’s Christ Our Advocate and Tractatus Logico-Theologicus (available from www.ciltpp.com). He also serves as chairman of the Theological Division of Hope for Europe, an evangelical think-tank impacting the European countries both East and West. His wife, in her own right, is a distinguished analyst of the Muslim world; we trust that the GLOBAL JOURNAL will benefit from one of her contributions in the future.

Continuing the human rights theme, Dr Dan Lioy discusses a vital issue of Seelsorge: “Spiritual Care in a Medical Setting: Do We Really Need It?”

Having made some rather negative remarks about Calvinism in the Editor's Introduction to the previous issue, we demonstrate our (relative) objectivity by including in this issue two essays on Calvin. Dr David Andersen treats Calvin's use of the philosophical axiom, "The finite is not capable of the infinite," and Dr Paul Tambrino asks, with tongue in cheek, "Was Sherlock Holmes a Calvinist?" (To be sure, readers of the GLOBAL JOURNAL with an interest in Holmes should prepare themselves for this treat by immediately obtaining a copy of the Editor's recent book of thinly disguised literary apologetics, The Transcendent Holmes, published by Calabash Press, British Columbia, Canada [www.ash-tree.bc.ca/calabash.html]!)

***

6 August 2002: The July programme of our International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights has ended—not “with a whimper but a bang” (to rephrase T. S. Eliot). Twenty students had a wonderful academic and spiritually productive time in the French Rhineland. Now Strasbourg is very tranquil, the French having taken off for their annual August holiday, meaning that they have simply travelled to another part of France for several weeks, since to go abroad would require eating non-French cuisine, and that would be no holiday at all. In the Alsatian peace and quiet, my wife and I go to see (en avant-première: advanced showing) “Men in Black II”—“M II B” to the cognoscendi.

The movie reviewer for the chief Alsatian newspaper, Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, declared in his article the following day that the film, unlike the original “Men in Black” of five years ago, did not contain the same level of social criticism and would be instantly forgotten on leaving the movie theatre.Perhaps, but there is an interesting theological-apologetic issue raised in the film (and doubtless intentionally, considering Steven Spielberg’s involvement—remember E.T.?). Since the film has (we are told) broken all weekend box-office records in the U.S., the following discussion may be useful to readers of the GLOBAL JOURNAL in their continuing witness to unbelievers.

Towards the end of “Men in Black II,” our erstwhile duet (Tommy Lee Jones and W. Smith) check out a locker at Grand Central Station.In it is a miniature world of mice with a strong religious orientation:they have created revelatory Commandments out of a piece of advertising and have spokesmen who sound uncomfortably like American megachurch evangelists.As the film concludes, this mini-universe is transferred into Smith’s locker (to console him on the loss of his beloved who has gone off, as the princess of another world, to save it and ours).Finally, in response to an earlier comment that the mice should really be allowed to see that their world is but the tiniest part of larger existence, the film ends with the suggestion that our own world is itself just a mini-universe (a locker) among many, many others in a larger cosmos.

The unbeliever, following this line of reasoning, may well counter your presentation of the evidence for the truth of Christian faith:“You Christians have no way of knowing that you have the final word.It is surely possible that the universe is infinitely larger than anything we know and that our values are simply the product of a limited perspective.Biblical revelation may be a piece of trivia from the standpoint of a larger universe in which we are imbeded.”

Such “science-fiction” style arguments are becoming more and more common, especially in light of New Age and Postmodern thinking.What is the answer?

Worth noting is the remarkable parallel with Kant’s suggestion that the world might be no more than a dream in the mind of God. Let me quote from my latest work, a comprehensive apologetic titled, Tractatus Logico-Theologicus:

2.3212 The world could be no more than a dream in the mind of God . . . but, if it were, we would have no way of knowing it and would have to operate in it exactly as we do.

2.32121         Pertinent is the story of the Christian Scientist who said, afterbeing stuck with a pin, “I will admit this much: the illusion of pain is as bad as I imagine pain would have been.

And:

…. There is no positive evidence for a succession of universes, nor presumably could there be, since the conditions of scientific investigation are necessarily limited to the universe in which the investigator finds herself….

The central point is that, as rational human beings, we have no choice but to operate on the evidence of the world, which we have before us.Speculation as to what is possible—what might conceivably be the case—is of no use whatsoever in deciding what to believe or not to believe.There are an infinite number of possible worlds—and in our contingent universe it is conceivable that any given fact might be different from what it is.But no one lives on the basis of such possibilities: you would starve to death if you relied on such “reasoning” instead of finding your way to McDonald’s by the route you have discovered by past experience will take you there.

It follows, therefore, that the genuine searcher for truth will need to assume that our world is the only world available in which to search for truth, and she will need to look in this world for solid evidence of God’s presence.That evidence still centres on the historical incarnation of God in Christ, and has been provided by way of “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1).Science fiction is fun, but eternity had better be based on the historically verifiable fact that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Corinthians 5).

-- JOHN WARWICK MONTGOMERY

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