Ronald H. Nash, a great evangelical philosopher and apologist, died early this morning in Florida. Nash was a longtime professor at Western Kentucky University, Reformed Theological Seminary, and, until a stroke last year, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was an heir of the theological tradition of Carl F.H. Henry, and was an lifelong admirer and student of Augustine of Hippo, his favorite philosopher.
Nash wrote so many books, it would take too long to recount them here. One reads them with special enjoyment, however, when one has been around Professor Nash for any length of time. His students knew what it meant, for instance, when he swayed his hips from side to side when quoting a theologian or philosopher. It meant he believed what he was reading aloud was at best ridiculous and at worst heretical. I remember asking him the first time I ever met him about the then latest statement of a liberalizing evangelical preacher then popular on the evangelical campus circuit. "He's a snake," Nash said. "He's a great communicator, and he's using that to undermine the gospel. That's serious business."
Some might wince at the perceived lack of charity here. But Nash sounded an awful lot like the apostle Paul taking on the wolves. That's because both believed the gospel was more than an ideological parlor game for scholars. Real lives and real souls were at stake.
When the biblical inerrancy controversy erupted in the Southern Baptist Convention, Nash understood and communicated what few were willing to say: the "moderates" in the SBC didn't just have a different view of the phenomenon of Scripture. They had a different understanding of truth and revelation. Nash understood that debates over "problem passages" weren't going to get us past the impasse. The issue was lost at the point of whether God had spoken; indeed, whether he could speak. I think of this insight often when I see younger evangelicals, including some Southern Baptists, falling for the absurdly postmodern emo-liberalism of the "emerging church" wind of doctrine now sweeping through evangelical dorm rooms and blog sites.
This man believed his scholarship was a matter of spiritual warfare. And, in an age of cowardly academics and tentative philosophers, Ronald Nash played the man. His fight is over. I pray that those of us left behind will remember in days to walk in his steps, to pray while studying, to sway our hips when appropriate, and to call a snake a snake when the gospel hangs in balance.