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Word of God and the Mind of Man Paperback – February 1, 1992
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"A timely, important, and truly penetrating work. It makes a significant contribution at the controversial crossroads of debates over divine revelation." --Carl F. H. Henry
About the Author
Ronald H. Nash was professor of Christian philosophy at Southern Baptist Seminary. He authored more than thirty books and lectured at more than fifty colleges and universities in the United States, Great Britain, and the former Soviet Union.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the Word of God and the Mind of Man, Ronald Nash takes on the problem of explaining and justifying the ability of God to communicate, and man to understand, in a forthright argument based on the concept of the Logos.
What is this concept of the Logos, and where does it come from? The Logos is an expression of the personality, the vital life force, the will, of any living being. The basic argument from the Logos would be familiar to Christians who place a strong emphasis on man being made in the image of God --but the conceptual framework is drawn from Greek Philosophy, rather than the Scriptures directly.
Dr. Nash begins with Hume, explaining how Hume divorced faith from knowledge. This monumental divorce was effected to save religion from rationalism, in effect; rationalism claimed there was no way to prove God exists, so Hume, and other thinkers, removed God from the realm of rationality. Of course, rationalism can't prove rationalism, itself, either exists, or is rational, but most rationalist leave this small problem out of their thinking.
The author then traces this rationalistic divorce through a series of thinkers, including Kant and Ritschl, who took Hume's original idea and shaped into a more radical modern form, finally influencing Evangelical Christianity, from the anti-rationalist wings of the Fundamentalist movement (not all fundamentalists are anti-rationalist!), to the modern liberal thinker insisting that we can only know God through experience.
He then moves into a defense of propositional revelation, working from the concept of the Logos, or, if you prefer, the image of God in man. He shows how the Greek philosophy of the Logos underlies Hebrews, which he terms a book written to contrast the Greek idea of the Logos with the Christian idea of the Logos. This is an intensely interesting exercise, shedding a great deal of light on the structure and message of Hebrews.
To provide background into his assertions, he takes an interlude into the concepts of rationalism and empiricism, and the rationalism of Augustine. He brings the threads back together in a discussion about the religious revolt against reason, which returns to his earlier theme of how the rejection of reason as a means to know God has impacted Christian thought. Dr. Nash ends by considering the impact of divorcing reason and religion on language; if God cannot speak to men, the clear implication is that men may not speak among themselves, either.
If you've ever wanted to tease out the relationship between religion, truth, and language, or if you've ever wanted to sort out how reason and experience relate to one another in the Christian life, this book will provide a solid foundation in what is a short and extremely understandable read.
If I understand him correctly, you can only understand the scriptures correctly if consistently your ultimate starting point is the scriptures themselves.
The alternate is Impericism - Using your senses & intellect to make decisions. Well, how do you know you can trust your senses & intellect? What gives credence to them is the Word of God. In some sense, they are reliable.
God's truth would decrease some of the angst we experience.
The book is now over 20 years old, and in spots, it shows its age, which will be discussed below. But Nash's analysis of revealed truth and whether such a thing is possible between God and man, coupled with his proposal that attempts to build a bridge between God and man is still worth reading and is in many ways, still insightful. Nash starts by charting the progression in philosophy of ruling knowledge about God out of bounds in terms of legitimate knowledge. Both Hume and Kant, and their successors, developed philosophical constructions of varying complexity that had the practical effect of consigning God to the realm of the unknowable as it related to propositional truth, though Hume and Kant took different roads to arrive at this point. Nash's contention is that this basic dichotomy that erects a barrier between God and mankind in terms of propositional truth has not only come to dominate secular philosophy but has also invaded the Church as well. Nash correctly notes that there are anti-intellectual strains within the Church that champion religious feeling and emotion as the only true knowledge of God and our only way to relate to God, and that this overemphasis on feeling is the direct result of a deliberate deemphasis on propositional truth as being a valid way of achieving knowledge of God.
Nash then proceeds to propose a Logos construction that argues that there is something of the divine mind included in human existence through innate ideas. Nash draws strongly from Augustine in his proposal that the imago dei (the image of God) of man warrants such a proposal. Nash believes that this proposal builds a bridge between God and man where knowledge and truth are concerned, and that while human beings clearly do not have exhaustive knowledge of God, we know a lot more than nothing not only because God has revealed Himself in Scripture, but also because our very nature, though corrupted by the Fall, still exhibits the imago dei through innate ideas.
Nash's book suffers from two weaknesses that compel me to the 4 star rating I'm giving it. First, as others have noted, Nash's appraisal of Van Til's epistemology is problematic. Van Til did not endorse the severe level of dichotomy between truth according to God and truth according to man the way Nash believes. On this score, Nash regretably follows Clark's lead in a way that is simply inaccurate. Secondly, Nash's section on language fails to deal with the Vienna School (Wittgenstein) that has really fueled the distrust with the reliability of language to communicate truth. Nash's book could have been better had a more in-depth study of deconstruction been undertaken here. Because this doesn't occur, Nash's discussion here becomes very compartmentalized, though in many ways, I agree with his ultimate conclusions. This section also shows its age because modern deconstructionists like Rorty, Derrida and Foucault are not dealt with.
In conclusion, there are more strengths than weaknesses here, and particularly in Nash's analysis of modernist philosophy, much can still be learned not only about how we've gotten to the point we currently find ourselves in (arguing not so much over truth claims, but having to argue over the possibility of even being able to utter truth claims about God based on truthful knowledge of God), but also in how to fight against it.
There are many good arguments presented here against modernist trends away from any propositional truth, and movement towards post-modernist tendencies as well.
What lacks is distinction between human logic and reason and God's thoughts, e.g. Isaiah 55:8-11. For such a distinction maintained see Seigbert Becker's excellent volume "Foolishness of God" which might possibly lately been reprinted by CPH.