John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Rochester and his most recent book is "When Athens Met Jerusalem"(IVP, 2009). He is husband of the Fairest Flower in All Christendom and the father of four.
He loves Plato, the Packers, and Star Trek.
RSS feed for this author
Monday, October 25, 2010, 12:51 PM
Some sins are easy to start doing, but hard to quit. Gluttony is like this. The more I eat, the less satisfied I am, but the harder it is to eat properly. The first three weeks of a diet are so difficult that quitting “cheating” is easier than continuing.
Even when the weight is lost, my immoderation toward food may not have changed. My self-denial might seem real given my weight, but still food is my master. I have not made real progress if I do not eat, but think always about eating. Food must return to its proper place.
This is much harder than not eating, but if I don’t change this way I will soon give up and go back to my old habits. Worse would be to never give up, but spend a life miserably longing for my false god of food while restraining myself by not eating. I would sell my birthright for cheesecake, but then not eat the treat.
This simple observation came to mind when reading Dante’s Inferno. This profound book has many deep lessons for me, but on this reading I came to a simple one. People cannot always let go of desires, even when those desires no longer make them happy. (more…)
Friday, October 22, 2010, 3:45 PM
The future is bright.
Jesus is Lord.
The American Christian future is bright.
The American foes of the Faithful are part of a fading generation and a youthful global population is turning to Christianity. Global Christianity will save the fading West, because of their Christian charity. Don’t head for the hills of Idaho, but for the cities of America, because it is from the polyglot American cities that a great revival will come as the global mission work the American Church has done comes home grown up.
Monday, October 18, 2010, 6:26 PM
Once upon a time in a Kingdom by the wine-dark sea, there lived a very silly king. Like most kings of his day, his kingdom was very small, but he had better people than he deserved. The castle was famous for its intricate design and the care the servants took with it. The King was also blessed with a wise Lord High Chamberlain who managed most of the estates. This was a good thing, because the King took it all for granted and was always looking for something new to distract his very short royal attention span.
One day a jester came to the court. He was very bright and able to do many things. The king was entranced with his tricks and with the improvements he made all over the castle. Soon the King was spending most of his time with the Jester and his toys, but this did not bother his royal servants. They were there to serve and were happy for anything that jollified the King. The rest of the staff was fond of the amusing fool, but he was not so fond of them. (more…)
Monday, October 11, 2010, 4:10 PM
A brick may be used in a pagan temple, but then reverently placed in a Christian church. A cave may be used as a stable, but then turned into the birthplace of God. No metaphysical system is safe from plundering by Christianity, because Christianity is afraid of no good idea, object, or word.
The system in which a great work of art is trapped may be corrupt, but we can reinterpret that work and so redeem it for Christ.
Is this process dangerous? Of course, because there is always the danger of being corrupted by the object of redemption before it can be reimagined. What is more dangerous is the cowardice that would leave any good, true, and beautiful thing to the Evil One. We must reclaim everything for King Jesus.
All religions that have lasted for a very long time will contain valuable insights and great ideas. These wise ideas will be deeply embedded in demonic wickedness and vice, but a Christian that engages their culture must work to redeem what is good and not leave it to empower and attract others to evil. (more…)
Friday, October 8, 2010, 1:26 PM
Two Shows We Try to Watch as a Family
Monk is gone. The most reliable family entertainment to appear on television disappeared last year. Occasionally (ahem!) even our family likes to watch television and when we do we wish to watch it together. Tony Shaloub knew how to keep a diverse Reynolds room engaged in a series.
He was a rare and blessed actor and producer.
At some point, the members of the culture without an Arab Christian heritage or working for Pixar decided a “General Audience” (G-rating) meant a show so stupid only a five year old could live through it. Those doubting this never sat through the Piglet Movie. Compare it to the original Disney classic, or better the books read aloud, and think what this says about the estimate of your intelligence and attention span on the part of the respective studios. (more…)
Monday, October 4, 2010, 1:15 PM
Americans are much less sure of the existence of Hell than of Heaven. Hopefully this is because they have had such glimpses of the Divine that Hell seem fuzzy to them. There seems, however, some chance that it is because they have become too nice to believe anyone is in Hell.
In chatting with regular folk, not the sort that teach at colleges, often one only need mention Hitler to convince them that someone must be in Hell. Do we really want to ruin Paradise by potentially having Adolph (and Eva!) as neighbors?
This argument might be effective, but it is not an argument Christians can use. Called to love even our enemies, we know somebody is in Hell, but really shouldn’t root for any particular person to be there. With the exception of Judas, Christians don’t know that anybody is there for sure. It is none of our business and given the nature of Hell there is something inappropriate for wishing for a specific man to go there.
If this is so, then why do Christians believe in Hell?
Friday, October 1, 2010, 2:56 PM
A wise father gives good advice to his children.
My oldest joins the scores of Torrey Honors students who have spent a semester taking classes in the excellent Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities exchange program in Oxford. As a good father, I have tried to do research in order to give my son and any other current or future Biola student at Oxford advice on how to handle their academic careers this term. (more…)
Monday, September 27, 2010, 2:50 PM
I don’t know whether to blame fairy tales or Oliver Twist. I was reading Exodus 16 and ran into the passage where God commanded the people of Israel to go gather manna. Immediately childhood images from David C. Cook’s Pix and Uncle Arthur came into my head.
I knew the lesson I should learn: don’t take too much manna or it will be full of worms. The applications were endless: kids who eat too much candy on Halloween throw up, people who eat too much over Thanksgiving have a harder week at the gym, and people who think every great book should be as enjoyable as C.S. Lewis will remain ignorant.
Fairy tales make this obvious: pain before pleasure. You cannot find a hero who gets to skip from once upon a time to happily ever after without facing some dragonish problems. Don’t wish for more wishes in Dungeons and Dragons or the malicious DM will put you in a time look wishing for more wishes. If you are with Abu in the Cave of Wonders make sure that he does not touch any extra treasure or you might have to burn a wish to get out.
Friday, September 24, 2010, 3:36 PM
This great twentieth-century scholar loved Plato, wrote Christian apologetics, and was a first-rate scholar with secular publications still in print. Sadly, A.E. Taylor was not C.S. Lewis, lived about the same time, and is little read by anyone but specialists while Lewis continues to drive whole industries.
Monday, September 20, 2010, 7:50 PM
Once upon a time I was a siren.
Being a siren is not difficult; when a mommy and daddy siren loves each other very much . . . baby sirens come along. Humans find us ugly, because we are ugly. There is no way around what constant inbreeding has done to us, but Homer and the lying poets did not have to tell lies about us.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 1:44 PM
Beowulf contains a great many lessons relevant to daily living. First, don’t go to sleep near the hero or the monster will eat you. Second, after you kill a monster don’t go to sleep before knowing whether the monster has a mother bent on vengeance. If you don’t take care, she might use your head to decorate her yard.
Following all this practical advice, the saga also contains more spiritual wisdom. As you get older, don’t get proud and cheap . . . keep giving presents to your old and new friends. A favorite gift at the time of Beowulf was a ring and so a good lord gave a good many rings as gifts.
Thursday, September 9, 2010, 3:04 PM
Burning the Koran is stupid, offensive, and generally wicked.
It is easy to show that burning the Koran is stupid for a Christian to do. You might think a woman’s beloved husband unworthy, but burning his picture is a bad opening move. You certainly will get her attention, but not her sympathetic attention. A decent rule for relationships is that starting off badly on purpose is stupid.
It is even simpler to show that burning the Koran is offensive, because a good many people are offended. I take it as an axiom in evangelism that offense must come, but woe to he who offends unnecessarily.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 5:26 PM
Or, Living Supernaturally Without Being a Wizard
What is a poor Muggle to do?
Muggles lack magic, J.K. Rowling tells me, and there is no doubt I am a muggle. My students are Muggles too, but worst of all instead of Dumbledore in class, they get me. Sometimes I get on the elevator in my two-story building and hope that it will open to Narnia, but it always opens to the carpet stains on the polyester floor.
We are warned against magical thinking as a solution to our cultural problems and it is a good warning. I have known a few people who try to live magically and they ended up either deluded or wicked. Thinking magically didn’t get these folk to Narnia, but looks like it might get them to bankruptcy, the psych center, or Hell.
Friday, September 3, 2010, 4:10 PM
What are the cool kids reading after Harry Potter? Well, okay, the “cool kids” never read anything, so it is better to ask: What are the future leaders of America reading after Harry Potter? One answer to this question is a series on Olympus starring one Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon and a human mother. The plot is clever, as it assumes a “mist” surrounds most of us muggles—I mean, regular humans—so we cannot see the actions of the gods. (more…)
Monday, August 30, 2010, 4:23 PM
Reflections after reading Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Slavery was the original American sin.
I don’t know anyone who justifies race-based slavery, but I have known seemingly good folk with more than a dollop of sympathy for the Confederacy. Growing centralized government makes “states’ rights” look good, and self-determination is a popular modern cause.
If the South wanted to be free, why use brutal force to bring it back within the Union?
Friday, August 27, 2010, 2:41 PM
I have lain on the floor under the power of God . . . at least, I must say to my skeptical reader, it seemed so to me. At some points in my life, it felt as if God came and took power over every faculty and left me weak, utterly powerless, before His glory.
When praying for Pentecost, sometimes we receive it and nothing is like it. Power comes to us not through any labor we have done, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have wept under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and laughed with great joy in the Lord.
We are tempted to demand that God always give us His grace in this same way. We know our effort can do nothing and so hope that He will never require us to do anything. But when it is not Pentecost, Pentecost will not come however hard we seek it. We cannot manipulate God with our sincerity or our many prayers.
Revelation is a great good, but it is not a good we can produce at will. (more…)
Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 7:04 PM
Somehow I missed soaking in Salinger as a young adult. In this, if my current students are any indication, I am a rarity. They know Catcher in the Rye the way I knew That Hideous Strength. If I worried about being Mark Studdock, then they worried about being another misunderstood Holden Caulfield.
When two students I greatly respect told me that I must read Franny and Zooey, I submitted to their wisdom. I not only wanted to read Salinger, I wanted to know why so many generations of my gifted students loved him. After twenty-six years of teaching Salinger fanatics, I wanted more than what I had.
Setting out to read all the printed Salinger is very easy. He wrote one great novel and several short stories, and his collected works can easily be read in a weekend. But soaking in Salinger took me an entire summer and left me well aware of how much more time would be required to say anything insightful about these works.
Friday, March 26, 2010, 10:52 PM
I get tired, and I know I’m not alone. We are tired of all we do. We are weary of words. There are so many of them. When I think of writing anything, but am wary of words, I get tired. How can I write on a topic without presumption that has been covered so many times by so many skillful people?
Perhaps, just perhaps, hope can be found in our weariness. Being hungry does not prove there is food to eat, but does give hope that there was once food. My weariness of words and my failure to communicate gives hope that, perhaps, there was once real communication and rest. (more…)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 11:02 AM
I have decided to list the books that changed my life . . . not the best books I have read. How to get on the list? First, I have read it more than ten times. Second, I can see the cover of my first copy in my mind’s eye. Third, it is a book I have carried to an event that had nothing to do with the book. Fourth, I sometimes quote it by acccident. These are not all great books, or even good books, but at some time in my life they moved me to action.
1. The Bible
I don’t remember a time when the stories of this book were not being read to me and I read it every day. My parents raised me in an atmosphere super-saturated with this Book of Books.
2. That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis)
Torrey is based on the image of Saint Anne’s in this book. This is the truest account of the state of the West written in the last one hundred years. I have read it every year since I was ten (or so).
3. Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
I have read this book every year of my life since seventh grade. Even the smallest hobbit can do great things for God.
4. Republic (Plato)
The two years spent with this book and Al Geier were the most academically productive of my life. Since then, I have come to find almost every truth needed in the pages of this book, saving only the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. Nicholas and Alexandra (Massie)
This book seized my imagination and still makes me cry.
6. A Severe Mercy (Vanauken)
My favorite book on love, marriage, and the problem of pain.
7. Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
I still hope the elevator in Sutherland (my college building) will open to Narnia someday.
8. Divine Comedy (Dante)
The most influential book of the last four years of my life.
9. Timaeus (Plato)
This is the first and last word on science for me.
10. Reason in the Balance (Johnson)
The book that still shapes the educational experience at Torrey.
Thursday, March 18, 2010, 10:33 PM
I have quite a few bad habits, but here is one that can be told on this blog and not just in the confessional: I sometimes use too many adjectives.
This week I was reminded of this problem when I became irritated with a description on this blog of a political commentator as a Mormon. “What in the world does his Mormonism have to do with anything? Isn’t the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints exceptionally generous to the poor? ” I thought. It reminded me of people who put “extreme right” in front of everything a Republican says or use “teabagging” as a description of a senator. (more…)
Thursday, March 18, 2010, 1:34 PM
Some critics of Intelligent Design conflate the movement with creationism. Of course forms of Intelligent Design can be creationist, but arguably others (like that of Aristotle on some readings of the philosopher) are not. I am both a creationist and one who believes there exists evidence for Intelligent Design in nature. (more…)
Saturday, March 13, 2010, 1:54 PM
Once I had a membership card in the Moral Majority and my wife listens to Dr. James Dobson.
We work at Biola University, a flagship university for conservative Christians in the United States.
Recent media reports about our fear of the Tea Parties certainly describe our feelings . . . though they underplay the terror and loathing that fills our souls as we think about these acts of rebellion against the Leviathan. (more…)
Thursday, March 11, 2010, 9:26 PM
There are shows that died before their time, such as Firefly. There were certainly shows that suffered from a lack of love and budget cuts, see the third season of Star Trek: The Only Non-Derivative Version. (more…)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010, 12:11 PM
One thing critics of ancient cultures often miss is how easy “freedom” and “liberty” were to achieve in the ancient world and how hard order was to maintain.
One could curse the king easily in the ancient world with almost no chance the king would ever hear of it! Any society was just a few bad harvests from chaos.
Ancient cultures tended to develop rules, for good reasons, that emphasized justice and good order, because in those times order was harder to maintain.
Technology helped the central power . . . and has made order easier to maintain. I would argue it has made it too easy! As a result modern thinkers began to emphasize keeping the central government out of our lives. The king could do things in a modern context that ancient kings could do in theory . . . but never in practice!
So one reason “liberty” is less emphasized in any ancient text is that “order” was often a bigger priority . . . and harder to abuse.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010, 12:02 PM
« Newer Posts
This is a brief response to my critics, mostly Frank Turk.
I think the heart of our disagreement is the Bible and how to read it. I think the Bible is true and binding on a Christian. If it says a thing, we must do it.
Sadly, reading a book is not as easy as one might think. The Bible was written to a particular people and time . . . and has to be contextualized to be understood. When it comes to salvation, the news is good: we get it. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” and we are saved.
Even then, of course, understanding what it means to “believe” can be difficult!
When the Bible gives economic advice, things get trickier. For many of us the advice to own goats for milk would be counterproductive. We don’t get our clothes from lambs. Most of us have no problem with this, we contextualize the advice.
Proverbs warns about being lazy, but the signs of laziness in a farm based culture are not exactly the same as those in “word” based culture like our own. You can do a good bit of work from bed in our day!
My view of the forms of government described in the Bible follows this pattern. The Bible gives us no sanctified form of government for this life. The government God established on Mount Sinai was for that people, at that place, at that time. Some laws were as shadows for the rest of us (dietary laws) to teach deeper theological truths and have no relevance to me today. (I can eat ham!) Other laws were the best that could be sustained in poor and nomadic cultures. Our much richer and non-nomadic culture can, for example, establish prisons.
— Older Posts »