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Wednesday Wisdom from Thinker Marvin Olasky

By Kenneth R. Samples - February 11, 2020
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If you’re like me, you appreciate learning about and living by the wisdom of others. Many Christians, past and present, serve as examples for us. One such thinker is also one of my favorite writers and journalists, Dr. Marvin Olasky. His articles, especially his book lists, in World Magazine always draw my attention. A couple of years ago he even highlighted my book God among Sages.

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Olasky (born 1950) was educated at Yale University and the University of Michigan. He is the editor-in-chief of World magazine and is the distinguished chair in journalism and public policy at Patrick Henry College. Olasky is the author of more than twenty books including The Tragedy of American Compassion (1992) and World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life (2017). He is a convert to Christianity from atheistic Communism.

In an interview with the Gospel Coalition,1 Olasky was asked the following question: “What are you learning about life and following Jesus?” The quotes below are his answers. I include my own analysis of Olasky’s responses.

#1 On the Essence of the Gospel

  • “God saves sinners.”

Olasky’s quote here comes from evangelical theologian J. I. Packer and reflects what Packer calls “one-point Calvinism.” Whether one is theologically Reformed or not, this pithy statement that Olasky relays reflects the summarized core of Christianity’s soteriological message. God redeems sinful people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift of grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

#2 On the Sovereignty of God

  • “God’s in charge, we are not.”

God as the sovereign Creator and Lord is providentially in control of all things. Olasky’s concise expression likely reflects a Christian’s common experience of thinking they are in charge of their lives—the so-called “masters of our own fate.” But suffering quickly reminds believers that God alone is in charge. The biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty can be a great comfort to people who face difficulties of all types.

#3 On the Christian Influence on Culture

  • “Be salt, not sugar or vinegar.”

Followers of Christ are called by their Lord to be salt and light to the culture in which they live. Salt is a preservative and can keep meat from spoiling. So believers can help to preserve culture from moral and spiritual decay. Olasky contrasts salt with sugar and vinegar. Christians can err by being too sweet (accommodating) and too bitter (confrontational) in relating the gospel to people and culture. Being moral salt and spiritual light is the believer’s goal.

#4 On Depicting the World

  • “Practice biblical objectivity.”

Olasky’s trade is journalism. In his critical vocation “biblical objectivity” refers to working to depict the world as it is in reality. The Christian definition of truth is that which corresponds to reality. Olasky thinks today’s conventional journalistic objectivity shows a tendency to favor blind secular materialism or, on the other hand, an acceptance of relativistic subjectivities. In an age plagued by fake news, we need more truth-seeking Christians in journalism.

#5 On Facing Death

  • “Apart from Jesus, we fear death and annihilation.”

In the secular worldview of atheistic naturalism, humans are mere mortal creatures stalked by death. On naturalism, people will die, die soon, die alone, and will remain dead forever. Physical death then brings the end of life and conscious existence. Yet the hope of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has conquered death through his historic and glorious bodily resurrection. That seminal event birthed the church and offers today’s believers courage and hope in the face of death.

Marvin Olasky is a theologically conservative Presbyterian (PCA) and his writings have influenced conservative politics in the twenty-first century. His diligence has provided all of us with plenty of Wednesday Wisdom.

Reflections: Your Turn

Are there writers and journalists that you follow? Who are they and what did they teach you? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Endnotes
  1. Ivan Mesa, “On My Shelf: Life and Books with Marvin Olasky,” The Gospel Coalition (website), February 16, 2016,
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/on-my-shelf-life-and-books-with-marvin-olasky/.

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