Notice the careful choice of words in the quotation above; particularly the words “indefinitely large.” Philosophers and mathematicians, as in this example, are careful to avoid the word “infinite.”
It was just such an instance which led me to attempt to contact Ronald Nash about a year ago. I was listening to a recorded lecture in which Nash took on the explanation of middle knowledge, quantitative modal logic, and possible worlds. During the course of the lecture Nash warned his students about the danger of using the word infinite in regard to the number of possible worlds.
I understand why Nash was exhorting his students to be careful with their choice of words, but I disagreed with Nash’s claim that it was inappropriate to use the word infinite regarding this topic. I theorized that if we live in a “closed-ordered system” then Nash would be correct and that the word infinite should be avoided. And, if the Open Theists are correct in their understanding of God then the word infinite should be removed from our philosophical and theological lexicons. However, living in an “open-ordered system” created and sustained by an omnipotent, omniscient God means that it is appropriate to speak of infinite possible worlds.
I wanted to discuss my thoughts with Nash so I went online to see if I could locate current contact information for him. I was stunned when my search results led me to Ronald Nash’s obituary. I had just been listening to an Mp3 of him on my iRiver, — he couldn’t be dead.
I closed my office door and cried like a baby.
I had never met Ronald Nash. I had never spoken with him on the phone. I had never corresponded with him by letter or email. And yet, I was heartbroken. I felt like I had lost one of my closest friends.
In many ways I had.
While pursuing my PhD studies I worked as an office manager for Borders Books. In that position I spent most of the day by myself in a tiny little office. To use this time to its greatest benefit I ordered in tapes from Ligonier and Reformed Theological Seminary and while I counted down drawers, prepared deposits, and processed human resources paperwork I listened to R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Robert Godfrey, …. and Ronald Nash.
I listened to Nash’s series on the History of Philosophy and Christian Thought so many times that I had every word on all twenty-four tapes memorized. His words became so embedded into my own noetic structure that they were inevitably sprinkled into my own lectures, sermons, and conversations. Nash’s thoughts became my thoughts such that it was often difficult to differentiate between them and give proper citation and credit to Nash. The downside of this is that I even found myself telling his corny jokes that were bad the first time around and certainly did not need to be repeated.
I think this illustrates a Scriptural truth that we neglect to our own harm. Many Biblical passages exhort us to be so saturated with the Word of God such that we think God’s thoughts after Him, resulting in an authentic faith and authentic life.
Here are a few of the passages of which I am thinking:
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!” (Psalm 119:2-3)
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
“The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” (Psalm 37:31)
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45)
The above is just a sampling. There are numerous other passages which could be added.
Why is it that we Christians have Carrie Underwood on our iPods rather than the Bible? Why is it that we watch O’Reilly rather than the Visual Bible. Why is it that we know the jingle behind every major add campaign since the 1960’s but we have so little of the Bible committed to memory.
“Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”
I have learned many things during the years that I have been listening to the lectures of Ronald Nash and reading his books. But the most important thing that I ever learned from him was the value of having someone else’s thoughts inhabit your own person.
I want to be saturated in the Word of God, I want to think God’s thoughts after Him, I want to say the things he would have me to say and do His will in all things.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
* Quoted Scripture is from the English Standard Version.
The below links are to free audio series of Ronald Nash made available by BiblicalTraining.Org. You will need to register to listen to or dowload the lectures, but the process is simple and the reward great. The lectures were recorded in a Seminary classroom.
And here are a few more audio lectures.
Books (in no particular order)
Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988). – This was the primary textbook in a Philosophy of Religion class I took seventeen years ago taught by James Parker. The book is not perfect, but it is very useful and I highly recommend it. In preparation for the the final exam in that class I wrote and memorized poems about all of the major sections of this book. If I can find those poems I will post them for you at a later time.
Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction To Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, July, 1999). – Philosopher Douglas Groothuis speaks of the book as displaying both clarity and wit.
Christian Faith and Historical Understanding (Richardson, TX: Probe Books, 1992). – I read and reported on this book in a PhD Seminary I was taking on Faith & Reason. I loved watching my lapsed Jesuit Priest professor squirm. Every thinking Christian needs a developed philosophy of history and this book will help you achieve it.
The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992). – I have read this book so many times that the cover has come off and it is held together with staples and paperclips. I guess I need a new copy. This is a very important book on epistemology. Absolutely must reading!
The Closing of the American Heart: What’s Really Wrong with America’s Schools (Probe, 1990). Those interested in public education will want to get a copy of this book and read it several times. However, beware! You will be appalled by the state of public education as described by Nash. I’m not sure why this book doesn’t show up at Amazon and other retailers, but it is still in print and available directly from Probe.
Worldviews In Conflict (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992). – A nice introductory book on worldview thinking. An excellent introduction for those interested in becoming more analytical in their approach to the cultural milieu.
When A Baby Dies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999). – “Is my baby with God now? What does the Bible say to such a question? What hope does it offer parents grieving the loss of a precious child? The answers are merciful; however, the implications are not simple. Is God a universalist? Is there salvation after death? What is the role of infant baptism? And what about the doctrine of depravity? If a baby is born into sin, then what? For parents seeking solace for their grief, and for pastors looking for biblical grounds to offer comfort and assurance, this timely book offers insights that are rich in hope and grounded solidly in Scripture.”
Is Jesus The Only Savior? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). – “The popular question has spawned the need for a discussion of religious pluralism, presented here in an accessible fashion for the educated lay reader by a leading evangelical theologian-philosopher.”
The Concept of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983). – “This work explores philosophical theology, focusing on classical and contemporary discussions of the divine attributes, and is a supplemental text for courses in theology proper, theism, philosophy of religion, and apologetics.”
The Meaning of History (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998). – “Is history constantly repeating itself, or is civilization evolving toward a predestined utopia? Is history in God’s hands, or does it depend on the whims of man? Tracing the arc of civilization — from the New Testament to today”
A Biblical Economics Manifesto: Economics and the Christian Worldview. (Creation House, 20002) – “Combining biblical insights, scholarly research and common sense in this hard-hitting economic treatise, James P. Gills, M.D. and Ronald H. Nash, Ph.D., expose current systems threatening true liberty and prosperity. Anyone looking for a balanced review of current world economic systems and the long term consequences of popular trends will find this to be a clear, concise analysis.”
What About Those Who Have Never Heard? with John Sanders and Gabriel Fackre (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1995).
The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge (University Press of Kentucky,1969).
The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? (Richardson, Tx: Probe Books, 1992). – ” Formerly titled Christianity and the Hellenistic World. A critical examination of the claim that Christianity borrowed some of its essential beliefs and practices from Hellenistic philosophy, Greco-Roman mystery religions, and Gnosticism.”
Social Justice and the Christian Church (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992).
The New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963).
Ideas of History, 2 vols. (editor) ( New York: E.P. Dutton, 1969).
Poverty and wealth: The Christian debate over capitalism (Richardson, TX: Probe, 1992).
Freedom, Justice and the State (Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 1980). – “What do the terms “freedom” and “justice” mean? What is the State? Is the existence of the State justified? What are the proper limits of the power of the State? What about the intervention of the State in economic matters that gives rise to the disputes between advocates of capitalism, socialism, and the welfare state? These are some of the broader questions addressed in this book.”
Process Theology (editor), (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987).
Beyond Liberation Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).
Dooyeweerd and the Amsterdam Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962).
Evangelical Renewal in the Mainline Churches (editor), (Wheaton: Crossway, 1987).
Evangelicals In America (Nashville: Abingdon, 1987).
Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians (Colorado Springs, Co., l993).
Liberation Theology (editor), (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).
Why the Left is Not Right: The Religious Left: Who Are They and What do They Believe? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996).
Choosing a College (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1995).
Economic Justice and the State: A Debate Between Ronald H. Nash and Eric Berversluis, John Bernbaum, editor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).
Christianity and the Hellenistic World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
The Case for Biblical Christianity (editor) ( Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969).
The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark (editor) ( Philadelphia: Craig Press, 1968).
Articles and Excerpts
- What is Money
- Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagans?
- Open Theism: An interview with Ronald Nash
- Ronald Nash’s review of Bargaining With the State by Richard Epstein
- Tributes from the folk at Reformed Theological Seminary
- Baptist Press – Ronald Nash, Bold and Brilliant at Defending the Faith
- Albert Mohler’s Memorial Statement
- Russell Moore’s Tribute to Ronald Nash
- Douglas Groothuis on Ronald Nash
- Fides Quaerens Intellectum – Ronald Nash, Rest In Peace
Updates to the above lists of resources will be made at Kevin’s Annotated Bookmarks.