Thomas Aquinas Never Washed Socks

I was helping my wife fold the clothes still warm from the dryer. I had piled the socks to one side to sort and match them after the larger stuff was taken care of.

With some diligence I managed to get together seven pairs but was left with five unmatched socks.

“Where’s the rest of the wash?” I asked my wife.

“That’s it,” she replied.

“It can’t be,” I protested. “I’ve got five unmatched socks.”

“Happens all the time,” she responded.

“What’ll I do with them?”

“This,” she said, opening a drawer filled with mateless socks and tossing them in.

“What do you mean it happens all the time?”

“I mean I can put twelve pairs of socks in the washer and get out nine pairs and seven unmatched socks. Happens all the time.”

“That’s physically impossible!” I said. “If that were true it would bring into question the dependability and regularity of the universe.”

“I believe in the regularity of the universe,” she countered. “I regularly put in matched socks and regularly get out unmatched socks.”

“That’s not the kind of regularity I’m talking about. Let me explain it simply.”

“Don’t be patronizing,” she riposted. “If you’re going to become a male chauvinist you can just forget the whole thing. And by the way, what law says that I am charged with the responsibility for the family wash anyhow?”

Refusing to be sidetracked by peripheral matters, I continued, “What I’m trying to say is that the regularity of the universe is one point of the theistic apologetic. If you put in matched socks and get out unmatched socks that means the universe is not dependable, and where does that leave Thomas Aquinas?”

“Thomas Aquinas had his experience and I have mine,” she responded with unassailable accuracy.

“You don’t test theology by experience,” I pointed out. “It’s the other way around.”

“Correct theology doesn’t make matched socks out of unmatched ones,” she said, eyeing me coldly.

Experience, I have concluded, looms large in the formulation of personal belief. And that’s not altogether bad. One fellow, when told that his experience did not conform to orthodox theology, said simply, “One thing I do know: I was blind and now I see.”


From the December 3, 1971, issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Sermon Time

The editorial “Preparing For The Political Plunge” (Aug. 6) was timely and helpful. There came into my hands a copy of the apparent political newsletter you quoted as leaving a false impression about Jimmy Carter. Yesterday I used your information in my sermon. Today I wrote both the person distributing the report and the editor of that publication protesting the bearing of false witness.… Let me also say a word of appreciation for your July 16 issue on the theme of “How Can We Share?” Thank you for your diligence and good stewardship.

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St. Andrew’s Community Church

Memphis, Tenn.

To Have And To Have Not

I found the cover of your July 16 issue disgusting, and the articles inside appropriately inane, prejudiced, and misguided. The caricature of the bloated American starving the rest of the emaciated planet has no justification economically, statistically, or in any other way. The closest it comes to fact is that our country, through the blessings of God on its phenomenal efforts, does live better than much of the rest of the nations. But to imply that there is a great welfare plan that guarantees equal shares of everything is to perpetuate a basic Communist fallacy that cannot be justified.

Whether our country should continue its unparalleled generosity to the rest of the world is one question.… Your inflammatory writers imply that we not only do not feed the hungry abroad (in fact we somehow “steal” their food) but we also use up more than our “share” of raw materials. Do they not realize that, when we purchase oil from Arabs, bauxite from Jamaica, iron ore from Venezuela, rubber from Indonesia, etc. etc. etc. we are contributing to the economies of those countries, so that many people can earn their daily bread? If we stopped our consumption, those people would starve.… CHRISTIANITY TODAY should … put the worship of God first, and political, economic, and other matters second. Don’t follow the liberals in their tangential journeys away from the faith.


Broomall, Pa.

Your July 16 issue is one of the best I have ever read. Thank you for the terrific series of articles on hunger and the Christian response. The authors not only were very moving, but did a good job of answering the questions and the criticisms of the hunger crisis.


Silver Spring, Md.

I am not a regular reader of CHRISTIANITY TODAY but thought this issue on hunger was very good. The evangelical perspective on the problem tends to have a lot more guts than the liberal one with which I am more familiar!


New York, N.Y.

The Morality Of Hell

I found the article by Edward Fudge, “Putting Hell in Its Place” (Aug. 6), to be personally offensive and unworthy of your journal. It is difficult for many Christians to understand how a loving God could consign any of his creation (we never asked to be born) to an eternal punishment (the punishment should fit the crime). After all, Adolf Hitler only killed the bodies of six million Jews. Are some people still so much in love with the literal reading of the Bible that they have had their moral sensibilities virtually destroyed? Like it or not: the notion of an eternal damnation is the denial of the love of God, and represents the admission of the failure of that love—not to mention his power. I will not believe that God’s love is either perverted or limited.

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First Christian Church

Fort Dodge, Iowa

• Our moral sensibilities must be checked against biblical revelation. Men may not like the assertion that there is a hell, but Scripture witnesses to its existence. We accept the teaching of Scripture on this as on the other doctrines of the Christian faith.—ED.

On Knowledge Of God

The article by Ronald Nash on philosopher David Hume (Aug. 6) serves as another fine example of CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S determination to build up in the evangelical community an informed faith. Both the presentation of what Hume really thought (how seldom Christians seem to be careful at this point in their apologetics) and the assessment of where subjectivism has led us deserve commendation.

There is one thing, though, that I think might have been added as well: why Hume was wrong in denying that there can be knowledge of God. The problem, as may be seen in Nash’s exposition of Hume, is an equivocation on the usage of the term “knowledge.” In the sentence, “Therefore, if man cannot know these things (i.e., causality, or the transcendent) by reason and experience, he cannot know them,” the first “know” refers to having sufficient and compelling demonstration of something, while the second “know” refers simply to having information (which may be stated propositionally) about something which may or may not be provable. Yet Hume thinks that because he has proven the one, the other must also be true. This is not so, but is only a supposition about the bounds of reason—a supposition not ever accepted by God’s people. While our pivotal beliefs may “rest on something other than reason and experience” (such as the inward witness of the Holy Spirit), this does not mean that reason and experience can have no input at all into the things of faith.


Beverly, Mass.

The article by Ronald Nash is one of the most enlightening and discerning I have ever read on a philosophical subject. (Philosophers need not be obscure!) I especially appreciated the last few paragraphs in which he gives examples of “the new anti-intellectualism that threatens evangelicalism.” Thanks for alerting us, Professor Nash! Come again!

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Second Christian Reformed Church

Pella, Iowa

Ronald Nash carefully defends Hume from misconceptions in the first two sections, but then goes on to confuse philosophy with theology.… Philosophers cannot be heretics, only right or wrong. You can only be a heretic when you profess to teach the theology or inner logic of a religion, and Nash reminds us that Hume did not profess to do that.

The opening statement of section III unfortunately fails to define either “rational knowledge” or “objective religious truth.” Having told us that Hume’s idea of rational knowledge is confined to “areas where knowledge is possible, such as mathematics” (surely we all agree that our revealed Christian faith cannot be proved in that kind of way), Nash tells us that Hume was not a skeptic as regards “common sense” and “natural instincts.” He was as sure that the sun would rise tomorrow as we are, but the point was that this certainty was not a philosophic certainty.

Similarly as regards Hume’s supposed rejection of “objective religious truth”: if Nash means truth that can be proved by means of the techniques of modern science, then surely we all agree with Hume. If however “objective” refers to certainty that comes to us from objective Scriptures rather than a process of inner searching or intuition, then I suspect Hume would have been neutral as to these alternatives.

Our task as evangelicals is to clarify that faith in God is not provable by mathematics or logic, or by the constant conjunctions (Hume’s term) of modern science, but by a certainty given by God alone as a result of hearing and studying the Scriptures. And how could we prove that such certainty can be given before receiving it? Hume cannot be faulted for denying that such certainty could come from other avenues of knowing.


Associate Rector

Little Trinity Anglican Church

Toronto, Ontario

Anonymous Poison

I am writing to protest the poison-pen sarcasm of Eutychus VII in the July 2 issue. Eutychus obviously has not taken the time to sample the ministry of the staff or the laity of Scott Memorial Baptist Church of San Diego and El Cajon, California. Interestingly, neither anonymity nor sarcasm were qualities or characteristics of men of God of the Scriptures. If a Christian brother has a difference of opinion with a brother, he is admonished to go to him in love. Eutychus, hiding behind his pen name and speaking with a barbed, sarcastic tongue, does a disservice to your otherwise fine magazine.



Churches Alive!

San Bernardino, Calif.


The name listed in the erratum item in the September 10 issue should have been Keith Price, not Brian Price.

Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein spent forty-one years at Stony Brook School, not forty-nine as we said in identifying him in the August 27 issue.

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