If you have followed me on social media for a while, you know that I have a weekly segment called Thursday Theology, where I provide quotes from important theological thinkers past and present. A theologian I quote often is Michael Green. One of his apologetics books, Runaway World, had a big influence on me as a young Christian and whet my appetite for further apologetics study. I went on to read many of Green’s other books on theology and apologetics that helped ground me in the faith. He was very gracious in writing an endorsement of my book Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction even when he was soon to have heart surgery.
What follows is a brief biography of Green along with four of his provocative quotes on theology and apologetics that I’ve used in my social media Thursday Theology segment. I also react to these nuggets of wisdom by elaborating so we can feel their force.
Who Is Michael Green?
Michael Green (1930–2019) was a British evangelical theologian, apologist, evangelist, and Anglican priest. He was educated at both Oxford and Cambridge and had a long, distinguished career and ministry. Green served in various ecclesiastical and educational posts through the years, including professor of evangelism at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada and head of evangelism and apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.
1. On God’s Providential Preparation
“What with Jewish faith, Greek language, and Roman Empire, the world was uniquely ready for the coming great one.”1
God providentially prepared the world for the coming of the Savior. The religion of Judaism revealed Yahweh as the Creator and Savior of the world and Jesus was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. Koine Greek became the universal language, allowing the gospel to be communicated clearly. And the Roman Empire’s Pax Romana (“peace of Rome”)gave the Western world stability so the gospel could easily spread.
2. On the Person of Jesus
“The character of Jesus is immensely attractive. It embodies all that we ourselves would, in our best moments, like to be. . . . And the claims of Jesus are so startling that they stop us in our tracks and challenge us to make up our minds about this most remarkable person.”2
The most appealing part of Christianity is clearly the person of Jesus Christ. Whereas people fail to live up to moral standards, he exemplifies perfectly the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. He also makes extraordinary claims about being God in human flesh. And the best evidence that God exists and cares for human beings is found in the life of the lowly yet magnanimous carpenter from Nazareth.
3. On the Credibility of the Gospels
“[N]o books in all the world’s literature have been subjected to such thorough and persistent scrutiny over a period of hundreds of years, as the Gospels.”3
Green is correct in noting the extraordinary critical examination that has been brought to bear on the four Gospels of the New Testament. And yet these ancient biographies of Jesus have held up amazingly well. Such intense testing of the Gospel narratives shows how historically trustworthy and reliable they truly are.
4. On the Persuasive Power of Christian Evidence
“The evidence for the Christian case is very strong. Though incapable of compelling faith, it is quite sufficient to warrant it.”4
There is a difference between evidence on one hand and volitional persuasion on the other. The apologetics case for the truth of Christianity is indeed probative. It does not compel a person to believe, but provides plenty of evidence to justify the truth claims of Christianity. St. Augustine believed that reason does not cause faith, but reason everywhere supports it.
Michael Green was a careful scholar who wrote clearly and with an engaging style. A truly prolific author, he wrote more than 50 books. His diligence has provided all of us with plenty of doctrinal wisdom to consider.
Reflections: Your Turn
Are there Christian theologians that you’ve learned from? Who are they?
- See my article honoring Michael Green: A Memorial to Christian Thinker Michael Green
- See my introduction to Michael Green’s powerful book about Jesus: Take Up and Read: Who Is This Jesus?