by Mike Ratliff
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— (Ephesians 4:17-20 ESV)
Earlier today I was listening to an episode of Dr. James White’s “The Dividing Line” from August 10th. In it, he played part of a “debate” that took place on a radio show in England. The person Dr. White wanted us to hear was a man who professed to be a Christian, but was what I would call a perfect example of the product of “Liberal Mainline Christianity.” He denied the verity of Scripture. He denied the deity of Christ. He denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Well, you name it, whatever we believe by faith as Christians, he denied. I found it interesting that I listened to that after I had studied two Greek words from the passage I placed at the top of this post that are ματαιότητι, which is translated in the ESV as “futility” in v17 and ἄγνοιαν, which is translated as “ignorance” in v18. That mindset which looks at what we call “Orthodox Christianity” and our completely firm stance of non compromise on any of it with a jaw dropping arrogant, bullying attitude stance is what we are encountering more and more throughout the visible church because most of it has been given over to the darkness it loved more than the light of truth. Those with this mindset simply cannot comprehend God’s truth nor do they love Him or those who belong to Him and follow the Son.
Here is Ephesians 4:17-20 from the Greek New Testament.
Τοῦτο οὖν λέγω καὶ μαρτύρομαι ἐν Κυρίῳ, μηκέτι ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν, καθὼς καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἔθνη περιπατεῖ ἐν ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν, ἐσκοτωμένοι τῇ διανοίᾳ, ὄντες ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς διὰ τὴν πώρωσιν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, οἵτινες, ἀπηλγηκότες, ἑαυτοὺς παρέδωκαν τῇ ἀσελγείᾳ εἰς ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας πάσης ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ. ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν,
Here is my word for word translation from Koine Greek to English:
This then I say and I testify in Lord, no longer to live just as also the world lives in futility of the mind of them, having been darkened in the intelligence being, having been alienated of the life of the God through the ignorance the being in them, through the hardness of the heart of them, who being calloused themselves they gave over to the debauchery into working of unclearness all in greediness.
Just because a person claims to be a Christian or belongs to a so-called Christian “organization” or “church” or whatever means nothing. If they περιπατεῖν, καθὼς καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἔθνη περιπατεῖ ἐν ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν, “live just as also the world lives in futility of the mind of them” then they have proved that they are actually of the world and not of God. They are living in the ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς, that is, the futility of their mind. What does this mean? This word, ματαιότητι, can also be translated as “vanity.” Paul is describing people who are walking in the vanity of the mind. This a mindset which is aimless, futile, empty, fruitless, and worthless. Why? Because it is man or self centered instead of God Centered.
From where does the right knowledge of God come? It comes from a proper attitude toward God. We must first fear Him. I noticed in that Radio debate or show or whatever it was that Dr. White was playing that the “Christian Liberal” who did most of the talking had zero fear of God. He had no concept of the sovereignty of God or His absoluteness or His eternal wrath. Without these starting essentials, the truth of God will never be found. Science without God creates evolution. Philosophy without God produces existentialism, humanistic psychology, and a man centered mess that only points away from God. Religion without God spawns everything from violent fanaticism of Islam, to the worship of a rock or stick by pagans, to the works-righteousness of the seeker-sensitive paradigm. All knowledge begins with God, and that beginning is a fear of Who He is.
The fellow on the radio also displayed extreme ignorance of God’s Truth. I could not believe some of the utter nonsense he said that was intended to be Biblical. Isn’t it interesting though that we get our English word agnostic from the Greek Word ἄγνοια or agnoia,which is the lexical form of ἄγνοιαν or agnoian, which is translated here as ignorance. This ignorance is not caused by something external, but by man himself. Ancient Greek use of this word could refer to a man who lives without knowledge either because he has not heard the truth or because he has refused the truth, and that if he “had received it, it would have freed him from his ignorance of his origin.” He just closed his eyes to the truth and refused to believe what was right in front of him. The agnostic is willingly ignorant. I think all “liberal Christians” fit this very well and that would include Emergence Christianity and all followers of Brian McLaren and all flavors of that. Romans 1 says very clearly that God has revealed the truth to all, but these people are willfully ignorant. Man will do anything to suppress, hold down, and withhold God’s truth.
If you listen to some of these new Christian liberals like McLaren their whole schtick is that you and I will come to know God through letting go of all that old religious doctrine and legalism (that’s what they call obedience to God’s truth) and pursue the enlightenment of ignorance. Then they say we can be like Jesus as we simply go green, help the poor, take from the rich and give to the poor, et cetera. This social redemption is not the Gospel nor is it Biblical in any sense. Jesus and the Apostles told us to preach the Gospel and remember the poor and this we should do, but what these people are advocating is something entirely different.
So how did you learn Christ?
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24 ESV)
We learn Christ by hearing the Gospel, believing the Gospel by the grace of God and from that time on, God will work in us to sanctify us to make us more and more like Christ through the purging of all in us that is of this world while transforming us more and more unto the very image of Christ, but this is not from a position of ignorance or futility or vanity, but one of knowledge and obedience as our Lord’s δοῦλος (slave).
Soli Deo Gloria!