Session 9, Robert Godfrey — 2012 National Conference
The ninth main message of the 2012 Ligonier Ministries National Conference was from Dr. Robert Godfrey and titled, “Ignorance is Not Bliss.” Dr. Godfrey reminded us of the importance of rejecting anti-intellectualist approaches to the culture and to engage the philosophical, scientific, and religious challenges of the day in a fully-informed, Christ exalting way.
Here is a brief overview of Dr. Godfrey’s session.
Dr. Godfrey opened today’s lecture with a reading of Psalm 49.
The Psalmist reminds us that life is a riddle.
- The Psalmist focuses on one riddle in particular – why do the wicked prosper? Why does history run the course it does?
- We observe a steady decline in the influence of Christianity, and Christians are often treated patronizingly today.
- It is true that professing Christians have been guilty of wicked deeds in the past.
Dr. Godfrey observed that there comes a time to engage with post-Christian culture and ask how their ideas have worked out in history.
- What were consequences of these ideas?
- Christians should point out the outworking of Hegelianism known as communism. We should point out that Stalin was a shepherd of death to millions of people.
- What about the scientific ideology of Nazisim – the idea of the survival of the fittest applied to human beings?
- If there is no transcendent God or morality, why shouldn’t the strong have their own way? Hitler too was a shepherd of death.
- Postmoderns who deny God should have to face what the denial of God has done in the last century.
- We have to ask the world, “Who will be your shepherd?” The true shepherd or the shepherd of death?
Dr. Godfrey asked us, “What vision of this life can Christians hold up as an alternative to the postmodern worldview?”
- We as Christians have done a good job of engaging theologically? We have wonderful resources to help us to think theologically.
- But when we move beyond the realm of theology, we are not doing well in engagement.
- We don’t engage well with politics. We need to be smarter than we have been in our engagement with politics.
- Abraham Kuyper provides a helpful example of how a Christian can engage with politics.
- Kuyper applied the idea of regeneration to individuals, ideas, and institutions. He established a daily newspaper, a weekly Christian devotional, a university, a new denomination, a Christian labor union, Christian day schools, and a political party.
- One of Kuyper’s key ideas was that this world is abnormal. This is not the way God created this world – it is the result of sin and the Fall.
- Kuyper said, the way modern thought is going, we are going to end up either with societies where the state becomes tyrannical and runs everything or we are going to end up with societies where the individual is a tyranny and destroys all institutions.
- Kuyper said we only avoid this by recognizing that God alone is sovereign, and God has created spheres of responsibility – the state, the family, the church – and each is responsible to God.
- Kuyper challenges us in profound ways to engagement.
- He calls for a distinctively Christian way of thinking.
- Ignorance is not bliss. Knowing Jesus Christ is bliss.
Dr. Robert Godfrey is the president of Westminster Seminary California, professor of church history, and a Ligonier Ministries Teaching Fellow. He is a member of the board of Ligonier Ministries and the author of An Unexpected Journey and many other titles.