Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Ronald Nash

ronnash

Ronald Nash was one of the most influential evangelical Christian thinkers of the last half-century, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to the Christian apologetics enterprise? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Ronald Nash—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Ronald Nash?

Ronald H. Nash (1936–2006) was born in Cleveland, Ohio and studied philosophy at Brown University (MA) and Syracuse University (PhD). As an ordained minister, he served as a pastor at several different evangelical churches, and was married to a woman named Betty Jane, with whom he had two children. He was a lifelong student of St. Augustine of Hippo, his favorite philosopher, and was influenced by evangelical scholars Carl F. H. Henry and Gordon H. Clark. He was an evangelical Baptist philosopher and apologist in the Calvinistic theological tradition. Nash served as a professor of philosophy at Western Kentucky University, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ronald Nash was known for his razor logic, his quick and biting wit, his penchant for storytelling, and his unswerving commitment to the truth of historic Christianity.

What Did Ronald Nash Write?

Nash was a prolific author, having written or edited over 30 books. His works addressed such disciplines as philosophy, theology, history, economics, and apologetics. He once quipped that he didn’t think he had a thought he hadn’t published. Arguably his two most important books are Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith and Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. The first volume serves as a Christian introduction to the fields of apologetics and philosophy of religion. The second is Nash’s introductory textbook to the study of philosophy.

CRASH COURSE- NASH

What Did Ronald Nash Believe?

As an evangelical Protestant (Calvinistic Baptist), Ronald Nash affirmed the doctrinal orthodoxy of historic Christianity. He rigorously defended Christian beliefs in the following ways:

  1. Nash insisted on seeing historic Christianity as encompassing a vibrant and robust world-and-life view. Refusing to view the faith as a jumble of theological bits and pieces, he lectured and wrote eloquently about how the Christian worldview impacted all critical areas of life and the world.
  2. Nash defended the position of Christian particularism (also called exclusivism) against the positions of religious pluralism and inclusivism. Christian particularism affirms three basic points: (1) Christianity is the one true religion; (2) Jesus Christ is the only Savior; and (3) conscious faith in Christ is necessary for salvation.
  3. Nash defended an Augustinian rationalism in which reason and rationality are grounded in God’s eternal and infinite mind and are made available to humans through being made in God’s image. Nash believed only Christian theism was able to account for the laws of logic and genuine knowledge and truth.

Why Does Ronald Nash Matter Today?

Ronald Nash is sometimes criticized for his bold style and his candid (and at times biting) criticism of some of his opponents. Yet his impact as a Christian thinker, professor, author, and pastor has been deep and wide, and his apologetics legacy endures. Nash was unique as a theologically and biblically astute philosopher. Though formally trained in philosophy, he was also well acquainted with systematic, historical, and biblical theology and wrote with great insight into the truths of Christianity. His commitment to a basic Augustinian Protestant theology shone through his work.

Evangelicals can learn a lot from the life and career of Ronald Nash. He was a fine scholar and had the courage to stand up for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He inspired many Christian students to enter the study of philosophy and apologetics.

Other articles in the Christian Thinkers 101 series: St. Augustine; C. S. Lewis; Blaise Pascal; St. Anselm; St. Athanasius; St. Thomas Aquinas; Jonathan Edwards; Søren Kierkegaard; St. Bonaventure; Martin Luther; John Calvin; Irenaeus; Tertullian; St. Basil; St. Jerome; Justin Martyr; Walter Martin

Reflections: Your Turn

I am one of many who benefited from Ronald Nash’s encouragement and support. He even wrote the foreword to my book Without a Doubt. Which contemporary Christian thinkers and leaders have influenced you in your faith commitment?

Resources

  One thought on “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Ronald Nash

  1. Steven Rosen
    December 6, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Hello Ken,
    I’m embarrassed to say that I was not aware of Dr. Nash’s passing. I have been through many a Christian authorsover my twenty plus years in the faith. I have listen to Dr. Nash via lectures and I believe that he is the author of The Gospel and the Greeks which I found most helpful.
    I identify with Dr. Nash due to a similar quality. My comments and passion for Christ can be a bit abrupt and pointed. I recall this same character in the lectures by Dr. Nash.
    Thanks Ken for this short tribute to a fine follower of Christ. If I could have even 25% the influence he had I will here, “well done good and faithful Servant.”

    • December 6, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Steven:

      Greetings.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Nash was unique and gifted.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  2. December 6, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Loved Nash. Not only was he brilliant in apologetics and philosophy, he’s aptitude in theology, politics, economics, education, and historiography was exemplary. Some works in those fields respectively: Beyond Liberation Theology; The Concept of God; Freedom, Justice and the State; and Poverty and Wealth; The Closing of the American Heart; and The Meaning of History.

    Another contemporary Christian thinkers who has influenced me is John Warwick Montgomery and his work The Suicide of Christian Theology along with his work in apologetics and philosophy of history.

    Great posts Ken. Thanks for your contribution.

    • December 6, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Great comments, Steve. Nash was wide and deep as a scholar. He understood and applied the Christian worldview to various areas.

      I used to attend John Montgomery’s lectures at Simon Greenleaf. He had a big influence on me. I’d include Montgomery in my Christian Thinkers 101 series but I’ve decided to only write about thinkers who are dead. Glad Montgomery is still alive at age 85!

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

    • December 7, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks, Stephen, for the reblog.

      Ken Samples

  3. December 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Ken, thank you for this overview of Ron’s teaching, writhing and thinking. It was my joy and privilege to be Ron’s pastor in Orlando for almost 10 years. He was a friend and scholar that I respected very much. I miss him, but I’m grateful that though his books and many recorded lectures/messages he continues to speak. His is a voice that our day needs!!

    • December 7, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Dear Pastor Hayes:

      Greetings in Jesus’ name.

      Thank you for your comments about Dr. Nash. He was an amazing man and I miss him too. You’re so right–our time needs his voice.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

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