Ask Steve: What is Truth?

November 30, 2014 10:15 pm

Reformed

 

Currently Reading:

What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics

by R.C. Sproul

Category: Theology

1997, Baker Books

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, can you define truth and explain how we can know it?

Answer: Shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, Christ engaged in a brief conversation with Pontius Pilate about the nature of His identity and mission on earth. Pilate asked Jesus, “So you are a king?” Jesus replied, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” To this, Pilate comments sarcastically, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:33-38)

The question “What is truth?” has been a matter of debate through the ages. It is still an issue now in a postmodern era, which does not believe in absolute truth and error. The idea of real, defined truth is under attack because of society’s ever-increasing tendency to promote tolerance amidst different religions, ideologies, philosophies, and lifestyles. It appears that the only thing we can know for sure is that there is no such thing as absolute truth. No doubt, this statement is itself an absolute statement claiming truth.

Truth 1

Is there truth and can we know it? We certainly can. We know it not only because Scripture says so and demonstrates it (through Christ), but also because it is seen in every aspect of life (physics, chemistry, biology, morals, mathematics, etc). It is important to establish this idea of absolute truth, because without it, a person lives in delusion. He lives a misguided life. But most importantly, his eternal welfare is on the line.

Before I explain what truth is, it is best to have a discussion on what truth is not. Truth is not pragmatism. It is not what best works or what is most efficient and productive in a given situation, whether it involves vocation or relationships. Truth is not what makes feel people good. Just because people enjoy doing drugs, eating like a glutton, living a sinful heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle, or participating in a feel-good religion does not make it right or true. Truth is not simply our own personal beliefs. It is not subjectivism. We can sincerely believe that no harm will come to us when we cross a street with racing cars or that a futile vaccine can actually cure our deadly disease. But it does not change the reality of what will inevitably happen because of our choices. Truth is not what the majority of the population believes. A majority of the people can believe that slavery and racial genocide is right, but it doesn’t make it true. A majority of the people can believe that abortion and homosexual marriages are right, but it doesn’t necessarily make it true. Truth is not defined by a particular person’s stance or beliefs, such as the Pope, Oprah Winfrey, or the President of the United States. Truth is also not measured by intention. Someone may have good intentions for murdering a particular person (for the cause of a greater good). But that doesn’t make his actions, or the principle behind it, right or true.

So what is truth? Truth is whatever corresponds to reality. It is simply what is real and defined. It is the way it is, regardless of what one thinks about it or tries to redefine it. Truth is unchanging. It is absolute. It affects all people and sectors of life. No one or nothing is excluded. Therefore, anything that contradicts what is true is false and erroneous. As it regards morality, the opposite of truth is evil and sin.

Truth 2

In order for truth to be defined, real, and objective, it must be based on a transcendent source. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as truth, because every man would define what is right and wrong. No one can claim monopoly on truth. However, if there is an author of life who has designed and instituted fixed laws that govern the universe, as well as morality, ethics, and social relationships, then there exists truth. That source is God, who is author and definer of truth. He is the ruler, canon, and standard. In essence, God is truth.

John MacArthur provides a solid definition of truth as it relates to God: “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God.” Dr. MacArthur also accurately describes the origins of truth when he states: “The one most valuable lesson humanity ought to have learned from philosophy is that it is impossible to make sense of truth without acknowledging God as the necessary starting point.”

Because God created and sustains the world with fixed laws of nature (Gen 1; Col 1:16; Heb 1:3), there is such thing as truth. Because God operates in the moral realm by implanting His law into the hearts of all men (Rom 2:14-16), there is such thing as truth. Because there is truth, there is also falsehood. It is true that reptiles can never have dog offspring. It is true that 2 + 2 can never equal 5. It is true that the current orbit of Jupiter stops space material (like asteroids) from bombarding and destroying life on earth. To think otherwise would be ludicrous, because it has no basis in reality. The same applies to morality. God has a real code for human conduct, which governs the earth as much as the laws of nature timelessly govern the cosmos. Murder will always be wrong. Kindness will always right. Adultery will always be wrong. Marital faithfulness will always be right. Lying will always be wrong. Truthfulness will always be right. Covetousness will always be wrong. Gratitude will always be right.

Where do we find this standard of truth? It is in God’s word. It is in the Bible. The Bible is the revelation from God Himself concerning His being, character, attributes, and will. Man must come to it in order to learn how to be reconciled to a holy God and to live in a way that is pleasing in His sight. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Furthermore, He says of the Father, “…Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and all-sufficient word of God which alone guides people in how they are to conduct themselves in life, as the Creator and Author intended.

Truth 3

Although the Bible speaks important truths concerning science, geography, and history, it speaks ultimately of man’s main problem (sin) and where the solution is (Christ). Every man needs to heed the message of Scripture because it reveals the way of salvation. That is the ultimate truth that men need to hear – that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and eternal life (Jn 3:16; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:19). There is no other way to salvation, or even proper worship life, other than through Jesus Christ. Therefore, other religions, and their teachings concerning salvation, are false and even dangerous. There is no such thing as “all roads lead to Rome.” It is salvation either through Jesus Christ, or no salvation. This is truth, according to God’s word.

Is this saying that there is no truth apparent anywhere in other religions, philosophies, or ideologies? No. There is true statements and teachings in other sources. Buddhism teaches that suffering is bad and needs to be rid off. That is true. Islam teaches that there is only one God, and men need to worship God. That is true. However, the only reason these observations and convictions are true is that they are based on what God has revealed in His general revelation, which every person on earth has access to. The whole world knows that there is a Creator who designed the world and empowers life (Rom 1:18-20). The world knows that there is a real moral law that governs human behavior, which is apparent in social relationships and government statutes (Rom 2:14-16). This general revelation testifies to God so people are without excuse on Judgment Day, yet the truths apparent in general revelation do not save people or make their paths straight. That can only be done through God’s special revelation, which is in the Bible. Thus, things in life are true in so long as they do not contradict what God has revealed in Scripture. And the most important truth which men must heed is the message of salvation.

Truth is God, and He reveals Himself in Scripture, which is the source of truth (Ps 119:60; Prov 30:5). Men ignore, distort, and malign this truth everyday because of their sinful, depraved nature. If they were without sin, then they would come to God in humble, true worship. However, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), and they will be justly judged by the Creator someday, being held accountable to what God has already shown them in general revelation (and maybe even special revelation). That is why it is important to discover truth and to respond to it before it is too late.

Recommended Resource: The Truth War by John MacArthur

Book Review: Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear

November 28, 2014 12:14 am

Jesus Continued

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is ever present, but at most times misunderstood, unfelt, and sometimes ignored. Is having the Spirit inside you better than having Jesus beside you? This is the discussion of J.D. Greear’s new book, Jesus, Continued, which is a Christian living book that deals with this important and much needed topic in pneumatology. The aim of Greear’s book is to discover the Holy Spirit and to reconnect with Him in a biblical, yet vibrant way. It is a book about both knowing the theology of the Holy Spirit as well as a proper relationship with Him that leads to Him unleashing His power through a Christian’s life.

Greear begins by first discussing the Spirit’s lack of power, and sometimes presence, in the life of the Christian and church. That is the aim of Part One, which describes the problem, and the reason why the author writes this book. The Holy Spirit is described as an Advocate (Jn 15:26), a Teacher (Jn 14:26), and one who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8). The author describes how the Spirit’s ministry is so important to the life of a Christian. He is not only a down payment of the Christian’s eternal salvation, but also the agent of sanctification in a believer’s life. He helps the Christian grow in His salvation and uses Him effectively in the Great Commission. However, His power is curiously missing in many Christians’ lives. He is misrepresented and misrelated to. The author teaches that the Spirit and the Word of God (The Bible) must go hand-in-hand. The Spirit uses the word to sanctify the believer (pg. 25). Without the word, there is no power in the believer’s relationship with God or mission in the world, but only a misguided sense of mysticism and subjectivism.

Greear explains how a Christian sees the Holy Spirit’s ministry at work, which is the main theological discussion of the book. He works in the gospel, first and foremost. Without the gospel, there is no salvation. There is no Spirit working in a believer’s life. Then there is the word of God (Scripture), the believer’s spiritual gifts, the corporate church, and our everyday circumstances. The author ends by discussing how the believer seeks and takes hold of a vibrant relationship and leading of God the Spirit, which is through the word, prayer, and repentance (pg. 14).

Jesus, Continued is a solid book that speaks about the Holy Spirit’s ministry and how to best benefit from the Spirit’s work in your life. Because of that, it is both theologically informative and highly practical in a believer’s life. That is one of the book’s main strength. It identifies the problem (Part 1), explains the solution (Part 2), and gives application of the solution (Part 3). The author does not shy away from speaking about issues concerning the Holy Spirit, and provides practical guidelines on how to commune properly with the Spirit. The book is commendable in how it does not glorifies charismatic theology (since it speaks about many of the misconceptions and fanaticism of the movement). At the same time, it is a not a book that praises hyper-cessationism as well. Greear believes that the Holy Spirit works in miraculous ways now like He did during the apostolic period. Even though his definition of cessationism is not totally accurate (He claims that cessationism believe in the cessation of all modern day miracles, when this is not the case. Cessationism believes in the cessation of sign gifts by individuals, not miracles themselves), he nevertheless paints the sign gifts in ways that do not cater to the subjective and emotion driven whims of charismatic theology. He compares everything the best he can to Scripture, demonstrating the guidelines and caution surrounding the sign gifts in our times.

This is a book that I would recommend for reading if you not only want to grow closer to God, but also understand what it takes to excel as a man of God in ministry, and in the pursuit of the Great Commission. Like I said, it is biblical and practical, one that every person will benefit from.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary copy from Booklookbloggers.com. I was not obligated to write a good review, but only my honest opinion. 

 

This book was reviewed by Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible:

The Biggest Question: An Evangelism Resource to Consider

November 27, 2014 11:22 pm

Evangelism is important to the Christian life. It is our mission; what we’ve been called to do (Matt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15). Yet, many of us miss good evangelistic opportunities to speak to random people we meet in everyday life. The least we can do is give them a tract or DVD if we don’t have time to talk to them, or vice versa. 

Looking for that perfect DVD that proclaims the gospel in a simple, powerful, and accurate way? This may be what you are looking for: The Biggest Question. The gospel presented by Todd Friel, Ray Comfort, Emeal Zwayne, and Voddie Baucham. For information on how to get copies, visit: www.wretchedradio.com.

Give it out to a friend. Give it out to a co-worker. Give it to the cashier in restaurant or supermarket. Give it to a bank teller. Put it on a car windshield. It’s that simple. Do what you can to get someone saved. 

 

Grace Life London

November 26, 2014 11:01 pm

This is one of the most beautiful portrayals of a church plant I’ve come across. Commitment to the preaching of the inerrant Scripture, gospel in every message, holiness, close bond of brethren, and evangelistic desire. If ever I were to be a pastor of a church plant, I would definitely want it to be something like this. Keep these London guys in your prayers:

Ask Steve: The Christian Worldview

November 23, 2014 9:18 pm

Jesus con

 

Currently Reading:

Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You

by J.D. Greear

Category: Theology / Christian Living

2014, Zondervan

 

 

 

Question: Can you give me a broad explanation of the Christian worldview and what makes it so unique and better than other worldviews?

Answer: A Christian worldview is an indispensable one to have in order to live the proper, God-glorifying Christian living. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). The degree to which you understand the commands of Scripture will influence how you live your life. Without a proper understanding of Scripture, you will not have a proper worldview – one that will benefit you in the long run. 

The term “worldview” comes from the German word Weltanschauung, which literally means “to look onto the world.” So a particular worldview is how you look onto the world. It refers to the overall perspective from which a person or group both consciously and unconsciously understands and interprets the world. Of course, understanding and interpreting the world depends on the type of glasses you wear and look onto the world with. In other words, it begins with the laws and convictions you understand to be true, agreeable, or affirming. From this, you make decisions in life – social issues, politics, lifestyle choices, religious issues, and even liberty issues. A worldview takes into account a person’s presuppositions and beliefs about such issues as the existence of God, the meaning of life, the essence of right and wrong, and the fate of a person after death. How one understands these issues affect how he views reality and responds to it.

What makes a Christian worldview and how is it better than other worldviews? Like most other religions, philosophies, and ideologies, the Christian worldview seeks to provide answers and convictions concerning core life issues like ascertaining the truth of an absolute (“Is there a God?” “What is this God like: personal or impersonal?), humans (“Who is man?” “Is he any different or superior than other living things?), the universal problem (“Why is there evil and suffering in the world?” “Is there a solution?”), the solution (“Do I need to be reconciled to God?” “Do I need to be one with the universe?”), ethics (“How should I live morally?” “Is there such thing as real right and wrong?), life after death (“Is there a heaven or hell?” “Is it just non-existence?”), and other religions (“Are other religions wrong?” “Is there such thing as one true worldview or system to live by?). There are many modern religions and ideologies that compete with the Christian worldview, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, New Age, Scientology, Wicca, atheism, and even ideologies from within heretical Protestantism (liberal Christianity, Faith Word, etc).

Worldview

Even though it is popular in postmodern times to believe that all religions are true, or that they at least contribute something to the overall puzzle of reality, there is good reason to believe that the Christian worldview is the best and only viable option. This is obvious when one acknowledges the inspiration of Scripture. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). His words provide “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). History, archaeology, science, prophecy, and geography also attest to the total truthfulness and historical reality of the Bible, more than any other existing or non-existing religions, philosophies, or worldview. Aside from empirical evidence and philosophical logic, God’s Word also holds incredibly strong and logical when it is used as the starting point in explaining reality. If this is true, that that presupposes that whatever contradicts the Bible is erroneous, inconsistent, and does not adequately explain the mysteries of life.

For example, atheism strongly proposes to give solutions to the answer of the origins of life and, to some degree, how men are to live. All within this camp agree that “science” is the starting point and evidently explains everything there is about life’s existence. Some atheists and agnostics even believe that there is real right and wrong. Yet atheism cannot explain where everything in the world (and the universe) came from. Where did all the matter originate? How did it originate? How did everything in the world become so orderly and sustainable for life on earth? Atheism cannot account for why nature runs by certain laws that are timeless and immutable (ex. law of gravity, the rotation pattern of the earth, the survival skills of insects and mammals, the DNA cell which contain the blueprint for the person’s physical makeup). Atheism claims to believe in morality that leads to the common good and survival of humanity, but it cannot account for why people need to abide by a certain code of morality or ethics, especially if we all evolved from some impersonal force. Why should people be selfless and giving instead of selfish and self-surviving, especially if this life is all there is? Why do parents give up their lives for their children, and not vice versa? Why do people believe that hatred, racism, and genocide of others (even weaker and deformed ones) are wrong, even if an entire society deems it acceptable (ex. Nazi Germany)?

The only solution that reasonably answers this topic is the existence of a personal God who puts His law into the hearts and minds of people so they know what is objectively good and evil; right and wrong. God’s Word affirms what is observable in reality, as it regards objective, unchanging morality, when it says “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…” (Rom 2:14-15).

Worldview 2

If we stopped here, then we would acknowledge the reality of a Creator God, but not know who He is exactly. Which religion speaks truth about God’s essence and character, since there are quite a few monotheistic religions out there? The truth of Scripture stands in its ability to answer questions about God and to even reveal inconsistencies and/or lack of answers in other religions. For example, Islam claims that there is one God. He is Allah, who created the world and everything in it, commands how people are to live, and will judge the righteous and the unrighteous on Judgment Day. They insist that Allah is one Person within the Godhead, yet they cannot account for how this leads to the unity amongst diversity that exists in the world, whether with people or animals. Why are there people of many types of personality who unite in one movement or cause? The theology of God also does not really explain the reason why there is such thing as love and submission that is evident in government, religious organizations, family, and marriage. Why is it timeless and proper for women to submit to men, while men faithfully lead the marriage? Why do children submit to their parents, and not vice versa? Why is it proper for subjects to submit to the governing authorities?

Even though Islam, or even Judaism, does not give an obvious answer, the Bible does. It teaches that God eternally exists in three separate Persons (diversity), yet they are all one God (unity). Within this Godhead is a defined pattern of responsibility and function, in which each Person knows their role and acts it out perfectly. The Father plans and leads and the Son and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father (Luke 22:42; Jn 5:36; Jn 14:26, 16:7). In this perfect relationship, we see the perfect love of God expressed, and everything it entails (kindness, humility, service, selflessness, faithfulness). This explains why there is unity amongst diversity, defined roles, and even the existence of love, which is a big mystery if the world merely evolved from merely water and matter, or if God were only one Person (because the Father would have no one to show and exercise perfect love to for all eternity).

There are many more examples that can be given when it comes to using the presupposition of the Bible to answer questions and refute error, but this exercise ultimately demonstrates that God’s Word is not only true, but a necessary guide to one’s life. It is the only logical and safe one to put on, in regards to both salvation and Christian living. Failure to exercise a Christian worldview will not only lead to wrong answers about life’s questions, but a wrong lifestyle that is displeasing, if not abominable, to a holy, righteous, and true God. If there is a God, then there exists truth, which means there is real error. If God’s Word is true, then there exists falsehood in other religious books and ideologies. This is why a Christian worldview is important to hold, because a slight deviation away from it can lead to misguided, futile, and even dangerous choices in life.

Recommended Resource: Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Book Review: Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

November 22, 2014 11:12 pm

Vanishing

Philip Yancey’s new book, Vanishing Grace, answers the question, “How can Christians present truly Good News amid the changing landscapes of our time?” It is in response to the issue of why the reputation of Christians how been going so bad over the years. Yancey issues a call for Christians to be “grace-filled” in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs. He asks why “Christians continue to lose respect, influence, and reputation in our modern culture?

In many ways, Vanishing Grace explores similar themes to Yancey’s most renowned book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? This new book speaks about the Christians need to be dispensers of grace in a world thirsting, searching, or needing it, and how many believers have failed to live up to the task. The author does so by dividing the book into four sections: A World Athirst, Grace Dispensers, Is it Really Good News?, and Faith and Culture.

This book has both strengths and weaknesses. I say this not so much from a literary point of view, but from a biblical and theological one. This book is insightful in how it tackles the obvious trends of increasing antagonism against the Christian faith. This begins in Chapter 1, which states that popular opinion regarding the church was mostly favorable in the 1990s, and now only 16 percent has a favorable view of Christianity. What caused this downfall? It is based on many reasons, one of which is the church’s apparent failure to be dispensers of grace. Instead, they are deemed as judgmental, harsh, and untactful when dealing with major social and political issues.

Yancey is correct when he states that the church needs to be salt and light to the world. They need to be conduits of gentleness, meekness, forgiveness, and mercy. To that end, this book is pretty inspirational and convicting. As usual, Yancey masterfully includes many illustrations and stories from history, and from his own life’s observations, in support of the many themes that he talks about in the book.

As well-written, insightful, and convicting as this piece is, it is not without its flaws. The first one I’ll begin with is Yancey’s theme of “communicating faith in an appealing way to future generations.” Even though I agree that Christians are not called to be a stumbling block or add offense to an already offensive message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), this is not the same as toning or watering down the message itself. There are many instances in the book where Yancey seems to imply that the Christian message of the gospel is not suppose to be offensive to a watching world as long as it is presented with tolerance and gentleness. There are even times when the author seems to say that direct evangelism is not tactful, or is even too forced. On page 115, using the example of a Buddhist Soho Machida, Yancey quotes, “If they (Christians) have the slightest consciousness of themselves as the superior helping the inferior, or the faithful saving the unfaithful, they immediately lose their Christian dignity.”

So evangelizing those who are on their way to God’s end times judgment and hell is apparently something that is without dignity? I don’t know where Yancey was going with this comment, but it is an obvious sign that unbelievers (whether Buddhist or atheist) are offended by the gospel message because it is meant to be offense (1 Cor 1:18-31). Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt 10:34). The whole point of the gospel is that it will offend and bring division between people, which is why Christians have been widely persecuted, from Stephen (Acts 7:60) all the way to our present day. There is no way, no matter how one presents the message, will it always seem agreeable, or give Christians a better standing, in front of the secular world.

Another issue that is somewhat troubling about the book is the author’s definition of “grace.” What exactly is this grace that he talks about and where does its inspiration come from? From Christ obviously. But Yancey seems to define this grace as showing mercy and high tolerance towards others of different beliefs and lifestyles, with no room to confront sin or wrong doctrine when necessary. However well intentioned this sounds, it is not the biblical definition of grace. The Bible’s definition of grace is showing unmerited favor towards others, but not compromising the gospel or righteousness. It is based on the sacrificial death of Christ, in which He shows us grace by giving us the eternal life (and salvation from eternal hell), which we didn’t deserve. That is why we preach the gospel. Yet it seems that the author’s definition of “grace” is so pliable that it could make it seem like he is advocating for Christians to accept homosexuality, or even the fact that people of other religions will not be eternally damned for their actions. He blames the church so much for being intolerant and judgmental. Although it is true that some churches have indeed preached false doctrine and been harsh in their approach of sinners, preaching the gospel as it is (even if analyzing and confronting sin) is not being intolerant or judgmental. It is biblical (Rom 3:20; Gal 3:24).

Another somewhat troubling issue has to do with the gospel itself, this good news that we Christians are suppose to change the world with? What does Yancey think the gospel is? On page 253, the author says that the good news of the gospel is that “Christ died to save sinners, to free us from guilt and shame so that we can thrive in the way God intended.” A decent definition, but very general. The author never really sets out to define the “good news” and why we should care about it. There is no mention of depravity, final judgment, or even the issues of the substitution atonement, resurrection, or justification by faith. Without clearly defining this gospel, we not lose sight or even the definition of “grace” to an unbelieving world, but we have a misguided goal of what the Christian mission is. This good news that Yancey talks about fits very close to a social gospel/liberation theology, and we signs of it everywhere in the book. He quotes Rick Warren on page 125, which says, “The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what the church believes, but about what the church is doing.”

This seems to be the meat of the whole book, a “gospel” that represents deeds, social transformation, and healing of others, although there is never much mention of preaching the gospel (evangelism) that saves sinners positionally before saving them in the practical sense. That is why to the author, it is not such a big deal whether others don’t believe the same thing that Christians belief. Because it doesn’t seem to be about death and the afterlife, but about the here and now. It is helping people remove their guilt feelings and giving them a purpose as healers and restorers of the current world.

On page 190, we see a troubling statement. After famous pastor Bill Hybel invited a Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, and Hindu to the church he pastors at for an interfaith dialogue, he concluded, “We live in a very diverse world, and we have to learn to get along with and respect and show deference and kindness to people who represent different religions. I hope as we leave, you will leave with the words of Jesus on your mind: the highest kingdom law or value is the law of love. While we may disagree about where we drive our stake of conviction and belief, we are called to be compassionate, understanding, and respectful to those who believe differently.”

Seriously, did Bill Hybel (a Christian pastor) actually say this?! I don’t have to sit here and analyze everything that was unbiblical about this approach or statement, but Hybel’s words (and Yancey’s use of this quote) seems to suggest that people of other religions will find favor with God and salvation when it is all said and down. What it seems to suggest is that the highest priority for the church is not about the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15), but showing tolerant love towards others, no matter their religion and lifestyle. Christianity seems to be more about lifestyle and deeds, and not about seeking and saving the lost, which was Jesus’ passion on earth, and why He died on the cross (Lk 19:10).

In conclusion, I must say that I have mixed feelings about this book. Like I said earlier, it is a well-written piece that is gives great insight, at times, into the theme of unbeliever’s feelings towards Christianity and the proper Christian attitude in response. However, the book’s main flaw is that it does not do justice to the book’s main intent, which is to make the Christian “grace” appeal to the unbelieving world? There is really no way that this can be done unless the central message of the gospel is changed, which is for Christianity to be ecumenical. I am not saying that there is no place for good deeds in the Christian faith (since that is what we are called to show as an act of worship to God and as a testimony to the world in evangelism). However, this is different from saying that this is the good news, or the Christian’s main mission in life. Yancey’s intentions with the themes of deeds and behavior are noble and well intentioned, but he does not seem to realize that the Protestant Reformation didn’t happen because of Christians’ showing tolerance or city deeds. Rather, it happened because of the faithful exposition of the inerrant word of God and the direct evangelization of people, which the Holy Spirit uses to save and transform (sanctify) sinners. That is the good news of the gospel, to which not only Jesus and the apostles held to, but also Augustine, Irenaeus, John Calvin, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, Martin Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary review copy from Booklookbloggers.com. I was not obligated to give a good or bad review, but only my honest evaluation.

 

Book reviewed by Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible:

Escaping the Coming Day: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Sermon

November 15, 2014 11:14 pm

Here is a sermon I preached recently, going through the last half of the book of 1 Thessalonians. This sermon is called Escaping the Coming Day, based on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, which speaks about the Day of the Lord judgment and how to best prepare and respond in light of that coming day.

 

Ask Steve: Presuppositional Apologetics

November 6, 2014 10:42 pm

Vanishing

 

Currently Reading:

Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?

by Philip Yancey

Category: Christian Inspiration

2014, Zondervan

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I heard this guy in our church talk on and on about presuppositional apologetics. I never heard of this before. Can you explain presuppositional apologetics to me? Is this approach different than other approaches?

Answer: Presuppositional apologetics is an apologetical approach that presupposes the truth of what it in Scripture and reasons from that point. Like all the other apologetics methods, presuppositional apologetics is designed to defend Christianity against objections and attacks against the faith. Its advocates include Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and John Frame. Like all other methods, presuppositional provides a defense, offense, and proof for the existence of the Christian God. However, the way in which presuppositional apologetics aims to achieve that goal differs from the classical, evidential, cumulative case, and Reformed Epistemology method.

Presuppositional apologetics does not attempt to use rationality, experience, and/or empirical evidence as the starting point to reason for the existence of God and His word. Rather, it begins with the Bible as the starting point and foundation for which all truth is measured. God’s word is that standard from which all truths in life (logic, reason, morality, physical laws), derive from, whether people want to acknowledge it or not. From there, all other evidences are employed to demonstrate the reality of what has already been presented in Scripture. It shows that the whole world, including much of the actions, decisions, and thoughts of unbelievers, are governed by the truths in Scripture. Therefore, unbelievers cannot think, argue, or live without presupposing God. To take it a step further, the unbeliever’s worldview (ex. relativism, evolution, Islam, New Age) is inconsistent. They cannot explain their experiences of the world without the Bible. They unknowingly borrow from the Christian worldview in their appeal to deductive reasoning. Christianity alone makes sense of their experiences.  

Some would remark that presuppositional apologetics has major downfalls. One of them is the idea that because the Bible’s authority is assumed and binding on all people, every argument made out of it must be circular reasoning. Another objection to presuppositional apologetics is that it relies mainly on the Bible and does not bother to incorporate tangible evidences that could really bolster the Bible’s integrity and win over skeptics. However, this is a claim that is not true. Historical, scientific, and archaeological evidences can be, and are often, used in defending the Bible. The debate is whether the proofs are the starting point or whether the Bible is. Do proofs need to prove the Bible, or does the truth of the Bible presuppose what we see as true and evident in creation, morals, archaeology, philosophy, and history?

The first issue we want to tackle as it regards presuppositional apologetics is acknowledgement of the proper starting ground. Many skeptics who hold to other worldviews, such as atheism or agnosticism, claim that they are being “neutral” and demand that Christians do so in their attempt to prove God’s existence. In reality, there is no such thing as a “neutral” or “common ground” stance. Everyone in the world has an epistemological bias and presupposition that guide their thinking and living. Belief that there is no God or that the Bible’s veracity cannot be proven is a presupposition which is most clearly demonstrated when skeptics are hostile and unreceptive even after being presented with observable evidences of the Bible’s truth.

Because unbelievers have their presupposition in naturalism and rationalism (calling it “neutral”), the Christian likewise are to base their presupposition on theism. God, not human reason, is the ultimate authority on all matters of life. He is the standard. The ruler. The canon on all matters that exist in life. Without God as the starting point, a person cannot adequately explain life. He cannot explain where life came from, the meaning of life, where moral absolutes come from, why he can even reason autonomously (even if attempting to debunk Christianity). Because the Bible is the source of truth and objectivity, the unbeliever’s worldview is simply subjective, inconsistent, and morally destructive.

For example, Jesus says in Scripture that He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). He even says in John 17:17, “sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” We observe from Scripture that Jesus is declaring Himself to be the standard of truth. He is not a truth, but the truth. All of God’s word is true, unchanging, and absolute, which means that anything which contradicts it is erroneous. God is the author of truth, and not human beings.

If we understand this principle to be true, we should immediately see how that is binding in reality on both believers and unbelievers. Skeptics make moral judgments on Christians and even their book, but they cannot explain, through their own worldview, what entitles them to make such judgments. If there is no such thing as absolute right and absolute wrong, then what makes their judgment of Christians or “questionable” morals in the Bible to be wrong? They claim to believe that humans are the author of morality, yet why do they find child molestation, adultery, murder, or cheating to be wrong? Why do they find it to be absolutely wrong, even if an entire society (such as Nazi Germany) decides that killing Jews and handicapped people is beneficial and right? The only phenomenon that can adequately explain such a mysterious universal conviction on certain morals is the fact that this standard of morality is transcendent, and not by individual or ancestral descent. God is the ultimate standard of right and wrong (Ps 119:160; Jn 8:31-32), as revealed in Scripture. Without this as the starting point and standard, the origins or morality and moral judgments cannot adequately be explained. Therefore, the rationality of God leads to human faith which leads to human reasoning, and not the other way around.

Another thing to remember is that one cannot meet somebody on the grounds of common reasoning, no more than a Christian can meet someone on the grounds of an Islamic, Buddhist, or Mormon ground. Scripture tells us that human reasoning is fallen and corrupt because of sin in people (Rom 1:18-32), therefore they will not truly be able to “reason” properly and objectively, no matter how much they claim to be neutral. That is why God must guide humans by granting them a revelation of who He is and what He desires for humanity, and this serves as the basis for our reasoning and understanding of God, humans, and life. Even in the beginning, man knew some things about life, but not everything, which is why God needed to give His words of guidance to teach them how to live and obey (Gen 2). Only after men fell into sin did they start to stray away from God and depend on their own understanding, will, and emotions to guide them in life, which describes the tragedies of sin and destruction that came years later.

Presuppositional apologetics is important for Christians to follow because this is the system that most honors the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture to speak to both Christians and non-Christians. If Christians feel that the Bible needs to be proved to others, it just shows that He does not fully trust in the power of God’s word alone to convict the unbeliever of his folly. Because if the Bible true, then it explains all matters of science, logic, and morality in the world, and Christians can have confidence in that. Anything that speaks contrary to the Bible is not only false, but intellectual suicide.

Recommended Resource: Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen