Christianity Is the Best Explanation

Yesterday I said I’d share Mark Noll’s explanation of America’s successes and failures in the matter of race. Here is his summary which penetrates to the bottom of the “both-and” nature of the God-loved, God-cursed world we live in.

To explain the simultaneous manifestation of superlative good and pervasive malevolence in the history of race and religion, neither simple trust in human nature nor simple cynicism about American hypocrisy is adequate.... [Something else must explain the pervasive commingling of opposites.]

That commingling has included domination with liberation, false consciousness with genuine idealism, altruism with greed, self-seeking with self-sacrifice, economic independence with economic exploitation, tribalism with universalism, hatred with love. Any final explanation for the conundrums of American history must be able to account for a mind-stretching conjunction of opposites.

It must evoke both the goodness of the human creation and the persistence of evil in all branches of humanity.... It must show how the best human creatures are sabotaged by their own hubris and the worst human depredations are enlightened by unexpected shafts of light.... It must be able to hold these contradictions, antinomies, and paradoxes in one cohesive vision.

Is there such a vision? Noll believes there is. He calls it “Historic Christian Faith.”

God made humans, and the creation was good – yet at the same time, humankind is fallen and will never escape the effects of sin. Further, God offers in the work of his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, the transforming prospect of redemption— yet redemption never equals perfection; the redeemed must always recognize their own shortcomings and be filled with gratitude for all the gifts of creation, including all other human creatures.

Ultimately, because the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ is, at the same time, so thoroughly human and so thoroughly divine, so completely infinite and so completely finite, the heart of the Christian faith offers the hint of an explanation for how the commingling of contradictions, antinomies, and paradoxes can occur in other spheres of life. (God and Race in American Politics, 180-181, paragraph breaks added)

In other words, the very paradoxes of good and evil in history bear witness to the Christian vision as the best explanation of why things are the way they are. The true historian becomes in the end an apologist.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.