Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jeffrey Ventrella: "Living in Sin...Well."

Recently our church concluded our summer series entitled "Christianity and Contemporary Challenges."  We had four lectures:
1.  James White "Islam: What Every Christian Needs to Know"
2.  Richard Klaus "The Historical Adam: Biblical Reality and Current Challenges"
3.  Wayne Grudem "Why and How Christians Should Seek to Influence Government for Good"
4.  Jeffrey Ventrella "Living in Sin...Well: Faithful Living in Babylon" 
I wanted to draw particular attention to Dr. Ventrella's presentation.  (Audio and lecture notes are HERE)  He is a phenomenal speaker and I found him challenging, insightful, convicting and faith building.  Dr. Ventrella, as a Senior Vice President with Alliance Defending Freedom, is uniquely situated to speak to the cultural issues of our day and how Christians should respond.  Dr. Ventrella spoke from Jeremiah and applied the insights of this prophetic book to our time.  In this he reminded me of Francis Schaeffer who did something similar in his 1968 lectures which became the book Death in the City.  We live in a time of cultural decline but this is not the first time that God's people have faced this kind of crisis.  Drawing from Jeremiah 29 Dr. Ventrella shows how God's people are to respond in this kind of cultural captivity.

One of the points that I found helpful came out in the question/answer period.  I mentioned that I had recently read the essay What Is Marriage? by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.  This is an attempt to provide a non-religious argument for traditional marriage.  It is an example of natural law reasoning.  My question revolved around the propriety of this kind of argumentation.  In his response, Dr. Ventrella mentioned the example of Daniel refusing to defile himself with the king's food (Daniel chapter one).  The argument Daniel makes is a prudential argument:
Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.  Daniel 1.12-13
This is a not a "we must obey God; not man" argument.  Rather, it is an appeal to pragmatic issues.  There are times when these types of arguments can be used and used effectively.  This is not deny that explicit Scriptural arguments ought to be used.  And at times we should speak of our fundamental religious commitments as constraining our obedience--this happens in Daniel chapter three when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego simply refuse to bow before the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar.  Here there is no prudential reasoning.  There is just flat out obedience to God and disobedience to the king's decree.  Of course, wisdom is needed in understanding the contexts in which the various kinds of reasoning can and should be used.

For more from Jeffery Ventrella be sure to see "Square Circles?!! Restoring Rationality to the Same-Sex 'Marriage' Debate".

Also, I began watching a debate Dr. Ventrella had with professor Mary Anne Case on the issue of same-sex marriage.  That video can be accessed HERE.