by Mike Ratliff
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ESV)
During His earthly ministry, as our Lord walked through Roman occupied Galilee, Samaria, and Judea and other parts of what we call the Middle East in our time, the “so-called educated experts” criticized Him with respect to His education credentials (John 7:14-15). What was His response? Did He back down? Did He buy into the authority of these men as carrying any weight that He must take into account in regards to the truth He taught and preached? No! He countered by challenging their competence. Think of the outrage today if someone like me who has no letters after his name like Doctor of Theology or whatever were to do as our Lord did and directly challenged one of these high placed religious leaders whose fruit of apostasy is continually being revealed as they refuse to follow the will of God. However, that is the very basis our Lord used to disqualify those who challenged Him (John 7:17, 19).
Is it possible for the obedient Christian walking in the Lordship of Jesus Christ to do this? According to John 7:17 and John 8:31-32, the Christian, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and dwelling in Christ’s Word knows the truth. The reverse is also true. Those outside the will of God, even if they hold high office in some church have actually refused to acknowledge God and the truth about Him, which will lead them into futility and error in all fields of thought (Romans 1:18-21). On the other hand, the obedient Christian knows the truth because all things pertaining to life are granted through knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3).
The obedient Christian who defends the faith can challenge the reasoning of these people no matter what their standing because their unrighteousness blinds them. No matter how sophisticated or well educated an apostate is, he or she can be presented an effective apologetic by any believer.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV)
However, this does not mean that we should all just drop what we are doing and go on the attack with those theologians with whom we disagree. No, we must follow a properly guided method paying careful attention to refrain from appealing to the autonomous principles of secular thought to bring understanding to those with who we are in disagreement. The unbeliever’s method, standard, and starting point are inherently contrary to that saving understanding at which we must aim. Autonomy and understanding are mutually exclusive. We will fail miserably and most assuredly, quickly, if we rest our case on the very same presuppositions that infest those with whom we are debating. The apostate or unbeliever has his or her presuppositions firmly rooted in an attitude of autonomy; since these are the source of their lack of understanding they assuredly cannot provide us the path to bring them to understanding.
The entire human race is dead in trespasses and sin, falling short of the glory of God (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Romans 3:23; 5:15); because of this, no one seeks after God or has understanding (Romans 3:10-12). There are no exceptions within the ranks of the unregenerate. Sin has led the unbeliever to exalt his own imaginations and to ignore the revelation of God, and thereby the unbeliever’s reason is always deflected into futile erroneous, and unrighteous conclusions. What does the unbeliever say from his or her heart (from which are the issues of life)? He or she says that there is no God, and thereby shows that they have no knowledge or understanding (Psalm 53:1-4; Romans 3:10-12).
When the apologist defends his or her faith, it is against these people and some of them are professing Christians with high titles and positions in denominations and churches, seminaries, and universities. Of course, some of them claim to be Jesus followers while trying to take your web site down through any means possible, legal or illegal. Not all enemies of the Cross and the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ are professing atheists, but they all fit the description in the paragraph above. Yes, that is right unbelievers can be very religious. They lack understanding and their reasoning is unprofitable. In their minds, they are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). His or her mind is at enmity with God and they are unable to do God’s will (Romans 8:7).
When the apologist defends his or her faith, the sinner’s intellectual assumptions, operation, and competence are on trial, not the revelation of Christ. The rebel thinker walks according to his own thoughts and is, therefore, locked into the foolishness that proceeds from his heart (Isaiah 65:2; Mark 7:21-22). Apostates are those who have departed from the faith so they unavoidably speak falsehood and teach demonic lies (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-2; Romans 1:25)
Now, if you took what I have written so far and put it through the politically correct, it’s a sin to offend anyone value system that is diluting the power of the church in our time, this all seems harsh and, I am sure, will be unpopular with most people. Because the church is so compromised in our time and contemporary apologists are so often sharing the autonomy of secular thought, they are unwilling to indict its root foolishness hence the rampant apostasy amongst our Christian leaders because those who should be calling them out are not doing so for the most part. We must understand my brethren that the principle antithesis between Christian epistemology and apostate epistemology must be underscored instead of merely tolerated or overlooked for the sake of a false “unity.” In contrast to the man whose thoughts are vain stands the man who is instructed out of God’s law (Psalm 94:11-12; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:20). The Christian rejoices that he operates, not according to fleshly wisdom, but according to God’s grace (2 Corinthians 1:12).
What kind of apologetic, if it is not to share the autonomy of unbelieving thought, can be successful in bringing the unbeliever to an understanding of the truth? Like faithful preaching, faithful defense of the Gospel must be rooted in the Word and the Spirit. God can only be known by a voluntary revelation by the Son and Spirit of God (Matthew 11:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10). Together they deal with man’s ethical hostility to God’s revelation and enable him to have a saving knowledge of his Creator.
Unbelievers come to faith as God give them understanding which they formerly lacked when their mind has been opened (Luke 24:45) and they have been convicted by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:8). This Spirit continually witnesses to Christ, conducting His case before the world as Christ’s legal representative for the defense (i.e., the “Advocate”; John 15:26). The success of apologetics depends on the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:3, 8). As the unbeliever comes to abide in Christ’s Word, he or she has God and knows the Truth (John 8:31-32; 2 John 9). Until he or she gains the mind of Christ, they are completely unable to know Spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16). Having the mind of Christ requires humility (cf. Philippians 2: 5, 8), that thereby the renunciation of self-sufficiency in order to obey the truth of God. One can only come to knowledge of Him who is Truth (John 14:6) when the Son grants him the understanding that is lacking (1 John 5:20). I am sure you also see that only those who are under the Lordship of Christ are in this blessed company.
The apologist is called upon to give a faithful witness to the truth, rather than to attempt to improve on the Lord’s wisdom by autonomous arguments. No one was ever argued into the Kingdom of God. Being confident of his or her ability to challenge apostate thought, the believer must reason, not according to the principles of secular thought, but on the presupposed truth of Christ’s word, and looking to the power of His Spirit to bring conviction, conversion, and understanding. A successful apologetic, being given according to Christ’s Word and Spirit, is a function of the grace of God, not human cleverness and wisdom.
As I defend the faith prayerfully, totally reliant on the grace of God and His truth from His Word, I have never faltered or, as some would say, “blown it.” On the other hand, when I first started out in this ministry, that was most certainly not the case. I had to “blow it” and learn to not play by the rules of those who hate God’s truth. I had to learn to depend entirely on the presuppositions that God’s truth is all we have and that those who oppose it have nothing but the wisdom of this world, which actually destroys the truth. It was as I learned these things and structured the rules for debate here on this blog that God began to use this ministry to both edify the saints and shut the mouths of His enemies.
I am just a δοῦλος of the Κύριον ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστόν.
Soli Deo Gloria!