Cultural Apologetics: Attack on Truth: The Believer’s Response: Part I
The series: The Attack on Truth and the believer’s response is designed as a wake-up call. Since the fall, there has been tsunami of falsehoods that are now sweeping across America. Sadly, many deny this fact. Post-fall, truth and the God of truth have been under attack. Only the believer is equipped to define the attack on truth and to respond victoriously.
Let’s consider the subject of apologetics. By the term apologetics I am referring to the activity of the believer by which he fulfills the command to give an answer for the hope that he has (1 Peter 3:15: But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentles and respect.).
God created every person hope-based which is grounded in some truth claim. In some form, the person will defend the basis of their hope. Therefore, everyone is an apologist! However, only the believer has true hope and is a true apologist (see my book: Out of the Maze: A Covenantal View of Hope).
Should 1 Peter 3:15 be interpreted as me simply speaking to another person or interacting with the culture in terms of their hope? The Holy Spirit intends for the believer to begin by determining where the other person and the culture is and then presenting the antithesis (Proverbs 26:4-5: Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes.)?
Pushing the anthesis is defined as giving truth in a way that explains the fallacy of the person’s truth claims. Most people don’t know or care that they are in trouble with God (John 14-5, 10-11; Romans 1:18-23). It is not that they don’t know God and self; rather they know about God and self. But they use their knowledge to reject the truth that God is, and that they are dependent beings, creatures in His world.
Consider two first foundational issues of life. First is is-ness – being (ontology) – and its significance. Knowing that he is forces a person to consider origin – what is the origin of anything especially man and the universe. The second issue is knowledge (epistemology, facts, truth). Every person is and knows. But there is a but.
In Romans 1:18-23, Paul teaches that people are (ontology) and know (epistemology), but they don’t know God and themselves as they ought. No one can plead ignorance regarding the existence of God as Creator and Controller and their creaturely dependence on Him. In that sense no one is ignorant!
Further, Paul teaches that every unsaved person is a truth suppressor. That is, he futilely and miserably attempts to hold down truth. Consequently, he exchanges the truth of God and of himself for a lie – light for darkness (John 3:17-21). Attempting to dethrone God who he claims is not, he functions as master and serves the creature – himself. He is the idol-maker and worshipper because he is the idol! He is an idolater! Sadly, these truths are denied and rejected. Unsaved people love the darkness thereby rejecting the light (John 3:17-21)
Apologetics is a call to engage people by addressing the question of how we should think, desire, and live. God engaged Adam and Eve with Himself (ontology) and Truth (epistemology: His word): They knew God as Revealer, Creator, Controller, and Ruler and Maker. By knowing God, they knew themselves. They were not ignorant!
The same principle applies post-fall: every person knows God and himself. But they do not know God as they ought and as He is! Moreover, in their hearts, people know that they are alive in God’s world as a dependent being. They have their senses and by simple sense perception, they know and experience is-ness/being and knowledge – they are and they know! This is the common ground on which to engage any person! Such is the basis for 1 Peter 3:15 which was written to people amid hard times and persecutions at the hands of Rome and fellow Jews.
Peter’s congregation was faced with the fundamental question of life captured in Joshua 24:14-15: whom do you serve: God or self, sin, Satan, and the world’s system of thinking, wanting, and acting? The question and its answer are relevant no matter the circumstances!
In the passage (1 Peter 3:15), Peter instructs his people consistently and courageously to continue to set apart Christ as Lord. Peter encouraged continued loyalty, allegiance, and devotion due the Triune God as opposed to Caesar. Therefore, true hope abounded especially during hard times. Further, Peter instructed his congregation to be ready to explain their hope.
Paul and Peter taught the same truth: people are, and they know. First and foremost, they know God as Revealer and Creator: He is and He created the heavens and earth. Sadly, but predictably, unbelievers often invoke the name science to defend their idolatrous approach to life regarding being – God’s and theirs – and knowledge. Evolution is a masquerade for ignorant and or arrogant hatred of God. If there is no Creator, there is no sin and no Redeemer/Savior!
For centuries, philosophers and other pundits, have asked and answered the question of how and why we should live under the rubric of: who am I (my identity); what is my origin and my destiny; and what is my purpose (teleology)? Pre-Socratic philosophers focused on cosmology invoking non-biblical explanations for being including evolution and self-generation.
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle also addressed man’s existence and the question of how and why we should live. Morality entered the picture. Subsequently humanistic anti-God schools of philosophy have attempted to trump biblical truth. They offer explanations for life and man – man’s origin, identity, purpose, and destiny. They do so without God thus giving evidence of the truth expressed in such places as John 3:1:4-5, 1-0-11; 17:21; Romans 1:18-23.
The above assumes several truths taught in the Bible which I will re-visit: man is; he is a rational, thinking being; he is a morally responsible being; and he is a worshipping being who chooses. He is a theologian with faith (saving or non-saving) and hope (true or false). Further, he is a philosopher: a possessor and even lover of knowledge. Therefore, he asks and answers questions. He receives answers and acts on them which becomes a patterned way of life.
How does the believer engage people who know but don’t know and refuse to acknowledge his ignorance? How does the believer use truths that are at his disposal to answer and counter various proposed truth claims? How does the believer show the other person the “better way”? Specifically, how does he bring biblical truth into the conversation and how does he use it to help answer the four questions posed earlier (man’s origin, identity, purpose, and destiny). Where do you start? I will pick these thoughts in the next blog.
- Read 1 Peter 3:15, Proverbs 26:4-5, and Romans 1:18-23.
- What do they teach?
- Record how you agree and disagree?
- How will use them in answering the question: how should we then live?
The Attack on Truth: Part II
In this second section of the series: the attack on truth and the believer’s response, I continue to unpack the attack on truth and the believer’s response. Everyone is a theologian – a knower, seeker, and apologist. This is a fundamental teaching of the Bible and must be taken seriously, purposefully, and aggressively. Consider these truths:
- There are many wooing voices and calls that masquerade as wisdom.
- Jesus Christ was the Theologian and Apologist par excellence. Believers are to imitate Christ: they, too, are to be godly theologians and apologists.
- The Bible teaches how and why of each.
- The Truth (God, the Father, The Son, the Holy Spirit are truth) will set you free (John 8:31-32).
- God has revealed Himself in His Son and in His Word. God speaks, man hears via the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- Freedom from sin, self, Satan, and slavery is the result of God’s supernatural work of placing the now-believer in Christ by the Holy Spirit. These facts are expressed in such terms as regeneration or new birth (John 3:3-8);
- Freedom from is always freedom to truth and the desire to please God rather than self, and the joy of that freedom.
The Church and each believer are to fulfill the gospel mandate as God’s weapon to defeat the attack on truth and help fashion the believer’s response (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 6:11-18). Therefore, the believer must meet people where they are.
But! No matter who you are talking to, there are other non-negotiable truths that are to be presented: everyone lives in God’s world; are in relationship to Him; and have beliefs about Him. They are theologians! Yet, they deny these facts as well as the fact that God is Creator, and they are dependent creatures. But more! They deny that God is Revealer, Controller, Owner, Possessor, and Sustainer. As such He makes rules and sets boundaries.
As a corollary, fallen man is a dependent creature, the image of God, who lives in God’s world as a theologian. Not only does every person have beliefs about God; he is faith and hope-based; he thinks and desires according to a standard; worships something and someone. Moreover, he is responsible to God as a morally responsible being. In his heart, he knows these facts are true, the reality of life in God’s world. It is not only the believer who is a theologian. All people – from the youngest to the oldest – are!
So how do you engage any person: believer or unbeliever? First, we should and must! Jesus did and gave the Church and individual believers that privilege and responsibility. Do we begin with salvation – getting someone saved? Perhaps at times. Some think that we should begin with gospel especially from the pulpit. They interpret 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 as a proof text. The gospel, and all it implies, is to be number one: protos (Matthew 6:33). These passages assume the audience is predominantly believers. Often a redemptive approach is prominent in preaching.
Our times are only slightly different than at other times in history. There are more technologies and still a plethora of wooing voices. The message of today’s culture is in some form is the same as in the Garden (Genesis 3): we want you; what God says is irrelevant even harmful or absurd, all truth is relative except my truth.
In addition, there are many issues on the table in our day that are truly theological, but this fact is denied even among the Church. All cultures including America are loathed to embrace the fact of the reality of the onslaught on truth.
The mindset of today, and every age, is described in John 1:4-5, 10-11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:2-5. Jesus came to His own people, and they rejected Him. The goal of the world’s system (that mindset and way of life that is pro-self and anti-God) is to rid the world of its Creator and Controller.
As I mentioned above, the issues are not new and are fully expressed in our anti-God, psychologized culture. Sin is redefined as a disorder; for the sake of so-called unity and love, anti-biblical positions and practices regarding sexuality, gender, and race are sweeping the nation; the practice of and the receiving of medical care and personal ministry including counseling and stewardship are changing such that biblical truth is not allowed or if it is, only as an adjunct. In some of those venues and in some countries, biblical truth is to be excluded!
In the protos passages mentioned above, Jesus and Paul were speaking to presumed believers. A logical question for us today: where is the Church? In two of his letters: Romans and Colossians, Paul following the pattern of Genesis, pushes the truth that God is Creator and man is creature (Romans 1:18-23; Colossians 1:15-20).
Genesis begins with the truth that God is and He is Creator; Paul rejoiced in those facts. Paul understood the attack on truth and his response: if there is no Creator, there is no gospel.
Moreover, as mentioned previously, John begins his gospel with the same truth: God and Christ are Creator and Controller; Christ is life and light; and He was rejected because people loved the darkness (John 1:1-5, 9-11). People love that which dishonors God!
Moreover, God is introduced as the Rule Maker (Covenant maker and Covenant keeper). First and foremost, in the Old and New Testaments, even pre-fall, man is brought face to face with the living God in His world for His glory. If God is not Creator, God is not Controller or Savior. Salvation and help and hope for the present life does not exist.
If we downplay the above facts, God as Judge seems empty, naked. Rules are left to the individual. Sin is a non-entity. The bad news – man is a sinner destined to a miserable life now and eternally – is non-existent. If God is not Creator, He is not Redeemer.
Rather, this is God’s world – He owns it. An example illustrates these truths. Parents own the home and make rules; children live there and are expected to trust, obey, and reverence the parents and siblings and take care of the house.
However, so often children set the rules and parents are held hostage by their children’s sinfulness as well as their own sinful abdication of their role as godly theologians and parents. Sinners assuming God is dead or non-existent interact with the living God by denying the Creator-creature distinction. Self – the creature – seemingly rules!
From the pulpit, the preacher is to preach the gospel in and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2)! But the context can’t simply be eternal life as if everything including this present life is not yet! People are in the now and want to know how to function now! The attack on truth and the believer’s response is answered with biblical truth. The Bible offer God’s help and hope His way for His glory, and the believer’s good. The how as well as the what of the believer’s response is also critical!
- What is your standard truth and life? Give reasons?
- What is the importance of acknowledging and acting upon the truth that God is; He is Creator and Controller?
- What is the importance of God as Creator for salvation and growth in Christlikeness?
Attack on Truth: The Believer’s and Church’s Response: Part III
This is the third in the series: the attack on truth and the believer’s response. Let’s go back to the Garden with the following truths solidly understood. They are to be articulated in some form as main weapons for the believer’s, and the Church’s, response to the attack on truth.
We have established that man is God’s image and as such he is:
- Real: he exists as a dependent creature in God’s world.
- Relational: every person is in relationship with God and others.
- Revelational: he receives revelation from God and responds to it.
- Rational: he thinks – pre-fall, man’s thoughts were God’s thoughts.
- morally Responsible: he knows right and wrong.
- Religious: he desires, and he worships initially wanting only what God wanted and worshipping only God; God designed man to worship Him with all the fullness He deserves.
Further, everyone is hope-based and faith-based. True hope and saving faith are linked; their true basis in God Himself. Both are relational; they are linked to true knowledge of God, self, and creation.
In addition, man is a sensual being – he has senses and sense experiences. He perceives via his senses. He sees, hears, feels, tastes, and smells. He experiences the creation – God’s world and God’s presence (Psalms 19 and 139).
However, the senses were never intended to be man’s ultimate interpretative grid. They are conduits to receive facts, but it is biblical truth that is God’s gift to man by which man properly interprets facts about God, man, and creation. Those facts include origin, identity, purpose, and destiny. This truth applies pre-fall and post-fall.
In the Garden and pre-fall, Adam and Eve had proper sense experiences: they heard, saw, and tasted. They interpreted God’s revelation (His direct word, self, and the created order) correctly. Their interpretative grid was based on their sinless relationship with God and His revelation. They listened, believed, and acted according to a proper view of the Creator-creature distinction. Life must have been exceedingly and marvelously wonderful!
After sin, they were no longer directed by biblical truth. The attack on truth had begun on earth! Their grid for understanding and interpreting God and His Word changed. The “I want” ruled the day. They were the earth’s first idolaters! They worshipped self in lieu of God to get for self by self to self.
Moreover, they inverted and distorted the pleasure principle: enjoying living as a God-pleaser! They began to live the lie. Part of the lie was thinking they could live as if they were god. They chose to cover – hide – themselves from God and self. They chose self over God, the creature over the Creator and Controller.
Post-fall, all men worship the creation and the creature (himself) by dishonoring the Creator. A wrong of God and a wrong view of self are linked. Fallen mankind has formulated an approach to life that is a creed – propositional truth. It is based on their view of God as a Person and self as a person. They concluded: self takes center stage!
Moreover, self and getting for self at the expense of God and others was the content and object of their faith and hope. Such it was and is for all mankind. When self-pleasing is not accomplished, the sinner, whether believer or unbeliever, may speak of waning faith and dashed hopes. However, the object and content of their faith and hope is wrong! Resting in and wanting what God’s wants contrasts and constrains self-pleasing. Man was designed to find peace, joy, and comfort in the Lord and not self-pleasing. Jesus is the only person who sought and chose to please Himself via pleasing God!
The above truths are part of the answer for the attack on truth and the believer’s response. The other side of the coin is the use of that truth. Truth is not to be used as a club. Rather, truth sets you free because God sets you free by giving Himself and therefore truth.
In evangelism there is the tendency to begin with salvation – getting saved. However, I plead with preachers and those of us in the pews to consider salvation as a package: getting saved and living as one saved, as a child of God. Living as a child of God fits under the term progressive sanctification – growth in Christ.
The God who creates is the God who saves and sanctifies. Resurrection life begins at regeneration (saved) and continues through life on earth (progressive sanctification). Eternal life begins at salvation and rests in the Creator and Re-Creator God (John 17:1-5; Romans 6:9-11; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3)!
Therefore, we must begin with the Creator. Otherwise, we will miss engaging the person on common ground. Rather, we are to meet the person where he is. We know commonalities between he and us. So, we present a powerful and purposeful God who is Creator, Controller, Owner, Possessor, and Sustainer, and the person who is a creature living in God’s world.
Therefore, every person is required to give an account of every thought, desire, and action (Matthew 12:33-37; 25:31-46). While this fact can be and should be intimidating, knowing that this God not only is Creator and Re-Creator but bled and died for unlovely people who were His enemies (Romans 5:6-10). He then sent His Holy Spirit enlighten and energize His people to growth in Christlikeness.
We are accountable to the triune God who does not lose any of His people (John 6:37-43; 10:28-30). Life simplified and the believer looks forward not only for heaven (the not yet) but the journey to heaven (the now). The attack on truth and the believer’s response is part and parcel of the fallen world. God has supplied the believer with everything he needs for victory – for him and others.
- Review the non-negotiable truths given in the second paragraph. Record your response and how you relate them to any person especially a non-believer.
- What does every person know and reject? How is this common ground for engaging the person?
- How does sin complicate life and how does truth set one free?
- How will you use those truths to minister truth to another person?
Attack on Truth: The Believer’s Response: Conclusion: Part IV
This is the last in the series: the attack on truth and the believer’s response. Theologians characterize God’s power under the phrase God’s sovereignty. I repeat: the power to create is the power to save and to re-create (regeneration via the Holy Spirit: John 3:3-8). It is also the power that ensures growth in Christ which is often termed sanctification.
Within the Person of the Triune God is found wisdom, truth, and power. God knows and executes His perfect knowledge. He deserved to be heard and embraced.
What God has revealed is best. Accordingly, man is to think, desire, and act in sync with God’s revelation (1 Corinthians 2:16). Salvation and growth in Christ are secure, exciting, and progressive. Eternal life begins at the time of salvation and is a foretaste of heaven. Because God is Creator and Savior, the believer is more than a conqueror in Christ (Romans 8:35-37).
Acts 17 records Paul’s visit to Athens and his apologetic approach to engaging people, in this case unbelievers. The same principles apply when ministering to believers! The people in Athens were religious. They were idolaters. They rejected – misunderstood is too weak an adjective – the nature of God, self, and the creation. Paul engaged them by clarifying the obvious: you are religious – worshipping beings thereby meeting them where they were (17:22-23). He was proclaiming the truth found in Romans 1:18-23
They responded to his affirmation. But he also acknowledged their ignorance (17:23) – they worshipped an unknown god. In fact, they were proud of their ignorance.
Using this common ground: worshipping, religious beings, Paul asserted who the unknown god was. In fact, He was not unknown! He is the true God who has revealed Himself.
Moreover, He is not a needy god, but He is self-contained and the Creator of heaven and earth; He is the Giver and Controller of life (17:24-26). The true God has life in Himself, is personal, reveals Himself, and gives life.
He comes alongside of people and declares truth. God functions this way so that man, a seeker by God’s design, would seek and find Him in all His fullness because He is near in Christ by the Holy Spirit (17:27-28; Matthew 6:33).
What an apologetic testimony. Paul pushed the antithesis acknowledging that the Athenians were theologians but poor ones! He agreed with the inherent capacity of worship. All men are worshippers and morally responsible beings. Paul was interested in their well-being – their salvation and growth in Christ – because he loved the Lord who deserved to be honored and glorified.
Moreover, Paul knew if they mishandled creation and the Creator, they would mishandle the truth about sin, self, and the Savior, Redeemer, and Judge (17:29-31). They would miss the beauty of a crucified and resurrected Savior and King.
Bottom line: the gospel flows from creation, the fall, recreation, redemption, and glorification. Such is the answer for the attack on the truth and the believer’s and church’s response!
As individual believers and the Church, it is time to recapture the truth about creation and the Creator. The gospel must be seen in the context of the bad news. Sin, sinners, and sinfulness have entered God’s once-pristine creation. Sin, condemnation, guilt, misery, and death are the consequences for this life.
However, there is good news. Consider Dr. Peter Jones words: God created a universe that contains 200 billion galaxies, each with a billion stars! Some galaxies are 12 billion light years away. One light year is 6 trillion miles. This incomprehensibly powerful God revealed himself in Jesus who saves for Himself His people via the Holy Spirit (John 6:37-43; 10:28-30).
God saves and grows His people. Redemptive, re-creative power is a counterpart to creative power. The two are linked and are God’s weapons for the attack on the truth and undergird the believer’s response. We must get the Old Testament correct to correctly interpret the New Testament and vice versa. May God bless as we do.
- Read Acts 17:17-34: how did Paul meet people where they were?
- His first impetus was God the Creator: give reasons for this choice.
- He added the phrase – resurrection of the dead. To whom is he referring? How does resurrection power fit the picture of creative and re-creative power?
- How will you use the blog series to function as an apologist?