Hebrews Lesson 49 April 13, 2006
NKJ Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things.
We are continuing our study in Hebrews 5, but we are not really doing any exegesis on Hebrews 5 tonight. I am still working off of this concept of the dynamics of the backsliding believer, thinking through these things because even as I have been teaching this the last 3 or 4 weeks, I have had opportunities to listen to how Christians talk. If you listen to how Christians talk, it is no wonder that they make bad decisions. Decision making in thought is based on vocabulary. If you have bad vocabulary and poor word choices in how you are expressing your concept of God and your relationship with God, you are going to end up making bad decisions because your vocabulary is not biblically correct. As I pointed out in recent weeks in our study we have a problem in Christianity in that from the time Jesus began to teach (probably with the Sermon on the Mount on) people have interpreted what the Bible says from the frame of reference of whatever their worldview is. That is the process of sanctification as outlined in Romans 12:2.
NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
It is not talking about overt behavior. It's not talking about don't drink, don't smoke, don't chew, and don't go with girls who do. It's not talking about going to movies. It's not talking about listening to rock music. It's talking about a thought system that relates to culture which is where I went in our last class in Hebrews. The analogy that comes closest to my thinking of what Romans 12:2 it talking about when it says, "Do not be conformed by the renewing of your mind but be transformed with the renewing of your mind."
It's as if you were to be transported instantly to somewhere deep in the mountains of western China and for the rest of your life you had to operate within that culture. You would have to learn the history. You would have to learn the customs. You would have to learn the language. You would have to learn all of the social mores, the manners, how to talk to people, how not to offend people by doing certain things or saying certain things that are much different from what you grew up with as an American. You would have to learn to think in a completely different way. If you have ever studied Asian world views, Asian culture as opposed to Western culture, you know that they are about as radically opposed to each other as human cultures can be.
But when you get saved as a new member of the royal family of God, God gives you a whole new culture a whole new worldview that is all expressed within the Bible - a whole new way of thinking about reality. What we are in the process of doing now as in Philippians, Paul talks about the fact that we are not longer citizens of the earth; we are citizens of heaven. As part of that transformation that takes place we now have to learn what our ultimate view of reality is as a believer. We have to explore and plumb the depths of the person of God, His essence, what all of those attributes mean, His eternal existence as a triune God, how the fact that the Creator is distinct from the creation affects how we view the creation in terms of that relationship in that the Creator is both a plurality and a singularity. As creatures we think of plurality and singularity as somewhat contradictory. How can He be both three and one at the same time? That is because we are taking our limited finite logic based on autonomous independent reason and we are trying to take what the Bible describes as His existence as three in one and we are trying to take that and interpret that within our mathematical grid that comes out of our creaturely frame of reference. What we have to do is take what the Bible says as our starting point and not our concept of number theory as our starting point.
So we have to learn to think differently. It is not just a matter of learning to think about different things. Obviously Scripture talks about whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honorable think on these things.
NKJ Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things.
That verse in Philippians 4:7-8 is talking about the content of our thinking. But it is also the structure of our thinking. An Asian is going to think structurally in a different way from the way a Westerner is going to think. When you become a believer, the structure of your thinking has to change. That's an arena of application that very few churches or pastors are ever going to go to especially in the superficial, emotional, feel good Christianity that we have that is so popular today. You are never going to hear somebody like Joel Olsteen or Robert Schuller ever use a word like epistemology. It would scare everybody off. He just wants everyone to feel good. That comes out of a certain cultural world view.
This is what I want to talk about because as we see in our passage in Hebrews, the problem with these believers is that they have advanced to a certain stage and due to carnality they are regressing spiritually. We see this in Hebrews 5:11.
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
"You have become lazy in your hearing."
The question that I am asking is, what is it that puts pressure on our thinking so that rather than advancing in that process of conforming our thinking to the Word of God, we regress and our thinking becomes conformed to the culture that is around us?
The ultimate dynamic comes out of our sin nature. The Bible teaches that every Christian faces three enemies, our internal enemy of the sin nature and two external enemies. The two external enemies are the worldliness which is the Greek word kosmos. So I refer to this as kosmic degeneracy. There is an affinity between our sin nature and various forms of kosmic thought. In one sense there are only two ways of thinking - either human viewpoint or divine viewpoint. That is all that there is. But within human viewpoint you have a kaleidoscope of variations of human viewpoint thought all of which provides rationalizations for the sin nature to freely operate in independence from the will of God. So we have to understand how these things work. They follow the trends of our sin nature. Everybody's sin nature has a trend towards either licentiousness, which is the complete rejection of any kind of authority which is random chaos (do whatever you want to do), or towards legalism which is a highly structured rigid control system. We frequently think of degeneracy as immoral degeneracy. But it not only plays out in terms of morality (doing whatever you want to do – sexual immorality or other types of immorality as well) but in the role of knowledge which is what we are talking about how do you know when God tells you to do something? How do you know what is true? What is your way of knowing anything?
Somebody says for example, "I read a Christian book on the subject of marriage and I just knew that what he said was right because it resonated with me and my experience."
What is the ultimate determiner there? Is it what the Bible says or experience? You see they have evaluated it because it fit their experience. It doesn't mean that it is biblical. They might not have been taught a biblical view of marriage in their upbringing. It might have been distorted in some way. Because it fit their experience of love and romance, it must be right? No. How do you know what's right? What is the ultimate determiner? So often, Christians fade into mysticism.
"Well, it just seemed right. It felt right. It resonated within me."
Some terminology like that is usually what comes across. This is epistemological antinomianism. (How do you like that for a phrase?) That's what it is. In the realm of knowledge it is antinomian. Anything goes.
"How do I know something is true? Well, it just seems right."
I find that when I listen to Christians discuss things very rarely do I hear someone say, "Okay. What is the biblical passage? How do you know that is from the Bible? Give me the Scripture that supports whatever it is that you are saying."
Most people are so biblically illiterate that they can't do that. So all of these ideas get shuffled around and "it sounds good." That is how people get deceived - because things sound good. They seem to work, pragmatism. They seem to be logical, rationalism. But are they from the Scripture?
So we always have to always go back and say, "It this biblical? Does it come out of the Scripture?"
Biblical doesn't mean "it is consistent with the Bible" but it means "does it comes from the Bible". A lot of things seem to be consistent with the Bible. So in terms of kosmic degeneracy we have rationalism and mysticism.
On the other side of the spectrum we have moral degeneracy. A great example of moral degeneracy might be Sharia law in Islam. You have this overt morality which is what attracts many westerners to Islam because they are reacting to the licentiousness, the immorality in Western culture, the breakdown of the family, and the breakdown of marriage. So at a superficial level it appears as if there is order and structure in marriage and family and morality in some of these religious systems like Mormonism and Islam. So there is moral degeneracy. In moral degeneracy there is an emphasis on autonomous reason and empiricism as the ultimate determiner of truth. We have gone through this many times in the past. It has been a couple of weeks. I just want to bring our heads back into this.
It (moral degeneracy) also promotes asceticism and self-righteousness. You know the truth because of your use of reason and empiricism. Two examples in the Bible – immoral degeneracy is pictured in the Old Testament through the fertility religions of the idolatrous religions of the Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians – nothing different from the prosperity gospel folks today. It is just another sanitized moralized version of ancient prosperity theology. Moral degeneracy in the Bible is pictured by the Pharisees. They are white-washed sepulchers. They look good on the outside, but on the inside it's dead men's bones. They are rigorous in their logic, rigorous in their morality, and rigorous in following an external code.
Just a reminder - whenever you are dealing with an issue of knowledge, how do I know something is true? Always think in terms of this chart. There are four ways in which mankind historically claims to know anything to be true. The first three are human viewpoint systems. By human viewpoint I mean that God only enters into the system secondarily. He is not the primary starting point. Man starts with himself, with ultimate faith in human ability. So you have rationalism that starts with human reason in the mind. Somewhere in the mind you have a first principle that is known inherently by man. That becomes a starting point. Building on that in a system of rigorous logic you can come to an understanding of all reality. You can develop a system of metaphysics which has to do with the existence of God usually in philosophy or you can come to your ethics, aesthetics. All of this flows out of rationalism.
In contrast to rationalism you have empiricism, which doesn't start with what's in the mind. It starts with what you derive externally through sense perception – what you see, hear, taste, or touch. This is empiricism. It follows external experience, the foundation for scientific method. Both rationalism and empiricism put their faith in human ability – that man in and of himself is able to accurately interpret the external or in the case of rationalism (internal data) because he knows enough. It is an ultimate faith in human ability. So again it is an independent use of logic and reason.
Then there is mysticism. Mysticism is really rationalism gone to seed because the starting point of mysticism is still what is inside your head – what is going on inside of your mind. Instead of a first principle that is related logically, now it is just some intuitive insight – some feeling, some impression, some thought that comes into your head. That is as real to you as any sense perception. Because it is so real to the mystic, it can't be externally evaluated. It can't be talked about logically because logic and reason are rejected in mysticism.
In contrast to all the human systems of knowledge you have revelation. That is that God speaks truth to man. It is only under the umbrella of God's revelation that man is able to know truth about anything else. He can learn many things through reason. He can learn many things empirically, but he can only ultimately know Truth under the umbrella of divine revelation. So the starting point is the objective revelation of God that is self-authenticating. This is where it gets confusing with mysticism. The mystic thinks he is self-authenticating, but it is totally interior. It is totally within. There is no external validation point that you can go to. Whereas when God speaks to man He does so and there are validating evidences. We will talk a little bit about this as we go through this. So there is a use of logic and reason. It doesn't reject logic and reason. It uses logic and reason but within the structure of what God has revealed objectively through His Word. All of that by way of review.
What I have looked at is that we have a real problem today with mysticism, subjectivity, and emotionalism. People think that they can know what God has for them through some sort of inner light guidance mechanism. You find it leaks in in the strangest places. It is part of our heritage as evangelicals. There has always been a certain amount of this. You can go to certain theologians that we respect in many, many ways and you will see leakage in this area.
So you just have to spot it and say, "Well that it was an area that they didn't think through that clearly. Others have thought about it more clearly since then."
So you just step around it and move forward.
After taking a couple of weeks to deal with the mystics among us I wanted to deal with the rationalists among us. That is just as much a problem. For many people, they have this subtle insertion of rationalism and reason as an ultimate criterion where it leaks in as independent use of reason to judge certain things that are revealed in the Scripture. So what I want to talk about first of all is the more overt forms of rationalism and empiricism that have affected Christianity. Then we will come back and talk about some of the more subtle forms. Then when I finish that if we have time I want to go back to mysticism because it connects with what we are studying on Tuesday night in divine guidance. I am going back and forth. We will learn a lot.
In the early 19th century coming out of the 18th century enlightenment there was a denial of what came to be known as fundamental doctrines of the Scripture. There was a denial of revelation that God did not objectively reveal Himself in the Bible. There were questions raised about the infallibility and the inspiration of Scripture so that the Bible was no longer viewed as God speaking to man, but it is man's record of his experiences with "God". So therefore it is no longer guaranteed to be free from error. People came up with certain allegations about contradictions in Scripture and problems where they thought history showed something else. Frankly, no one has ever demonstrated any contradiction in Scripture that cannot be handled within the structure of how the Scripture presents itself. No one has ever presented anything from archeology or history any kind of contradiction from the Bible. People come at it that way all of the time. They often misrepresent Scripture. They set up straw men arguments.
You are going to see a certain amount of this right now. I am going to deal with this Sunday morning with The Judas Gospel. We have another book coming out called The Jesus Papers by Michael Bagent who is one of the co-authors of the non-fiction book Holy Blood, Holy Grail which was foundation for The Da Vinci Code. Of course we have The Da Vinci Code movie coming out in May. All of these are great opportunities for believers to be able to dialogue and talk with people around them. You will get great opportunities, but it calls upon the average pew sitter to know a whole lot more data about some of this information than you have had to know in the past. These attacks are based upon a mass of false information that is thrown out there. It is the old big lie technique. If you give a big enough lie with 2,000 pieces of false data then you have overwhelmed the believer with all of this false information. They don't know where to begin. They don't feel like an expert in all of these areas. They don't know how to respond. So part of what I want to do Sunday morning as a Resurrection Day message is deal with something I mentioned in the pastor's conference – some basic things that we need to have, some basic facts that we need to have so that when we are talking to anybody about these things, we can pull these things up real quick. They are sort of nice foundational focused comments that can at least get us past some of these current events.
The questions that came up because of rationalism and empiricism combined is that we don't have any empirical data today of God speaking. There is no burning bush. No one is getting raised from the dead. There is no healing. They rejected the infallibility of the inspiration of Scriptures, miracles, and resurrection. They rejected the virgin birth.
"How can you believe in a virgin birth? How silly? How can that happen?"
They rejected substitutionary atonement. What is part of that is that they reject what the Bible says man is – a fallen sinner who has violated God's standard. If man isn't what the Bible says he is, then man doesn't need the solution that the Bible says he needs. So they reject substitutionary atonement. Jesus died to be an example of love. He died to be an example of care and dedication and all this other garbage that is imported into the Scripture. But the Bible doesn't teach that. There is denial of resurrection and denial of Jesus' future Second Coming.
How did all of this happen? Let's get a little historical background. I have some talking points here so that we can understand what was going on in the 19th century. If you don't understand what was going on in the 19th century and what was coming out of the enlightenment of the 18th century, you get lost in what happened in the 20th century.
You look around and say, "How did we get where we are today where Christianity seems to be the enemy?"
It has been marginalized and pushed out even further than the margins. We live in a society today, a culture today that is 180 degrees opposite of where it was 150 years ago. What happened? I am planning to have a much lengthier series on this some time in the fall or next winter.
- What we call 19th century religious liberalism or 19th century protestant liberalism had its roots in the Enlightenment of the 18th century. In the Enlightenment autonomous human reason is elevated above any kind of religion. It is a reaction to the mystical superstition that dominated in the Middle Ages. Even the terminology that we use here reflects this pagan opposition to Christianity. How did most people refer to the Middle Ages? Those were the Dark Ages. They were dark. But then what happened? We had a shift to the emphasis on human reason and experience and it became the Enlightenment. So you see there is a hidden agenda there that when Christianity dominated things was dark. But they weren't dark. But you were taught that in school. That is what most people are taught. But there was a tremendous amount of learning going on. It was the Christians that kept learning alive. It was the monasteries that copied the Scriptures and copies the ancient documents. There was a tremendous amount of scholarship and thought that went on. You had brilliant minds. I am not saying that they were right theologically. You had brilliant minds, people like Thomas Aquinas who if you have ever read his writings, they are very difficult for the average product of an American secular education to follow. He would dictate 4 or 5 of these books at the same time to four or five different scribes. He would dictate a paragraph here and then a paragraph in the next book to the next scribe and then another paragraph to the next guy and then another one to a fourth scribe and then he would go back to the first one. He never lost track. I mean these people were brilliant. And they were incredibly educated. One of the problems theologically was that they were operating on Aristotelian or platonic presuppositions that created problems. Just as a side note that is what the problem was. You typically hear a misconstruction of the whole Galileo episode. That it is science versus religion. No! It was new science verses old science. The Roman Catholic Church at that time wasn't operating on a biblical viewpoint. They were operating on an Aristotelian viewpoint of science and the universe. The Aristotelian view was geocentric. The earth was the center of the solar system and the center of the universe as opposed to what was coming up from new science which was saying that the solar system is heliocentric and the solar system isn't the center of the universe. It had nothing to do with the Bible. It had to do with the fact that the Roman Catholic Church had compromised with Aristotelian empiricism. Now a new form of empiricism was coming up in the Enlightenment. That is what the conflict was. The Bible doesn't make a statement regarding geocentrism. It doesn't. They got that out of Aristotelianism. Anyhow you have the Enlightenment that develops in the 17th and 18th century so that human reason and empiricism become the final authority or the determiner of truth. There is an implicit rejection that God speaks to man.
- This reaches its culmination in the philosophical shift that took place in the writings of a German philosopher by the name of Immanuel Kant. What Immanuel Kant said was that man can't know things as they are objectively. He can only know his impressions of things. Therefore knowledge is no longer objectively outside of man. Up until this point everyone believed that there was truth – that it existed objectively and externally. They didn't agree on how you knew it or how you got there. Everybody believed that there is external, objective, verifiable knowable truth. But Kant said, "No. We don't know truth. It's not out there. All we know is what we see of truth. All we know is our impression." So you have your impression and someone else has their impression. It is the old analogy of the six blind men, each one feeling a different part of the elephant. That was really a Hindu illustration. One guy feels a tail and says that it feels like a snake. One guy feels a leg and says it feels like a tree. Another one feels a side and it feels like a wall. They don't know what it is. All they know is their impression of truth. This destroys any basis for objective knowledge. It just ripples through the intellectual community from Germany all through Europe and across the pond to the US. Man can't know objective knowledge anymore. That affects everything. They are in awe of this. This is so intellectual. This is so wonderful. Of course it destroys any absolute truth from Scripture because you can't know anything but your impressions. So you can't know God. You can't know anything that exists in what he called "the realm of the numinal", you can only know the realm of phenomenal which is what you experience.
- Knowledge was no longer objective; it was now subjective. So ultimately where this goes is that truth becomes relative. You have your truth and somebody else has their truth. How do you know if there is any absolute overriding universal truth? Well, you don't. You just have your impressions. It leads to the complete breakdown of having any kind of absolute meaning or unifying truth or any unifying knowledge where people can know and make absolute decisions. Once you destroy the basis for absolutes, then all culture starts to break down which is where we end up with today in post modernism. We are getting ahead of ourselves.
- So truth in the Kantian understanding of knowledge comes from within the human mind. That is rationalism. But when rationalism goes to seed it also becomes mysticism. You get into the later development of the 19th century. You start getting the intrusion of mystical ideas from people like Hegel and Kierkegaard and other philosophers at that time.
- In this whole maelstrom of intellectual ferment that is going on in Europe in the 19th century you have the rise of four great intellectual novelties that takes place. It is interesting that they all pop up on the landscape within about 20 years of each other. Do you think that is coincidence? No, that isn't coincidence. It happens because the center of truth has shifted from outside man to inside man. That is why they called Kant's thinking the Copernican revolution in philosophy. The center of reality centered from external objectivity to internal subjectivity. Within 20 years you have the rise of Darwinism and evolution; Herbert Spencer and modern sociology; Sigmund Freud and modern psychology and Karl Marx and economics and Marxism. These guys all knew each other and read each other and cross-pollinated ideas. It all comes from a foundation that rejects God and rejects the idea that the universe, the world, the systems of the universe and the institutions of society are determined by a Creator God. Once autonomous reason takes over in academia, then it starts to impact every discipline of thought from the obvious ones here. It affects economics. It affects law. It affects politics. It affects your social sciences. Everything shifts radically in the late 19th century. This of course affects their view of Christianity. The affect of this on Christianity is to cause a rejection of revelation as objective and infallible. You can't know anything objectively anymore according to this Kantian shift. Therefore Christianity is just another religious system. It is just like Buddhism or Hinduism or any other religious system. It may be a little more civilized, but it is just another option. Darwinism comes along and Herbert Spencer and sociology and these religions evolved. So none is more important than others. Then you have a rejection of miracles, the virgin birth and resurrection. These are all superstitious myths. They are too unbelievable for modern minds. Now that modern man understands knowledge as developed by Kant, we know that you can't know truth. There aren't any absolutes so we can't live in that superstitious dark mentality that God has spoken truly to man any more. We can't live like that. We have become too sophisticated. We have become too modern. So this became known as the modernist movement. One affect of this was to remove God and the Bible from having anything to say about man's intellectual life and thus how he thinks about his environment – social, political, economic, legal, aesthetic, music, theatre, drama, literature, science. God no longer speaks to this. Up to this point Christians might have differed in their conclusions or how they got there, but they all believed that the Bible spoke to every area of life. Now all of a sudden the Bible doesn't speak to these areas of life. We need reason and empiricism to do that, not the Bible. If you go back to the Bible to define law, freedom, and authority then you belong in the Dark Ages. You are some sort of antediluvian dinosaur. You are not in the modern world anymore. All of a sudden what the Bible addressed shrunk. It talks about you and your relationship to God. That's all it talks about. It talks about your spiritual life and that's it. So this becomes very subjective. It impacts everything. By the end of the 20th century it impacts all kinds of concepts about worship and teaching. You couldn't go to a church today on a Sunday morning and hear a sermon on a Biblical theology of economics. You could 400 years ago, but you won't today. If you found any place like that there would be one person sitting out there in the pew. You couldn't go somewhere and find a pastor teaching Biblical theology of art and music. It just isn't done. People won't stand for it. They aren't trained intellectually to handle this any more. We are all the products of a wonderful public education state funded system. Another consequence of all of this is that man's problems are no longer viewed as ultimately spiritual. The problems we have with society, with prejudice, with poverty, with war that we no longer view these as having an ultimate source in a spiritual problem of man's separation from God. Rather than making the primary solution the cross, the primary solution becomes "lets get involved socially". This is what happened in the 19th century with the social gospel that we need to bring in social justice. We need to solve the problems of the slums and the inner city, problems of child labor and all of these other things. Not that these aren't problems, but that's not the thrust of Scripture. That was the rise of political liberalism and how political liberalism is integrally related to religious liberalism. Since the problem of man is not the Adamic fall and separation from God, the problem is now defined psychologically or socially so that what happens is that the solution is now defined psychologically or socially. Being born again becomes a psychological shift, not a spiritual rebirth. So psychology takes over in how it is interpreting things in Scripture. This is why you have the rise of the Joel Gregory's and the Robert Schuller's and this phenomenon where they never talk about sin and they never talk about atonement. They just talk about how wonderful everybody is and how good they are because at their very core they have rejected biblical epistemology. That isn't saying that they might be saved. God is gracious. He saves all kinds of people. All kinds of people hear the gospel at some point or another. But that doesn't mean that they are functioning on biblical truth. So psychological or social solutions become the framework, the terminology used to define these things
- Another consequence. Since man is no different from any other animal (Remember learning that when you were in elementary school?), you are an animal. You aren't any different from any other animal. The Bible says that you were created distinctly in the image and likeness of God for a purpose to represent God and to rule over the universe. That means that there is no relationship between us and any other creature. We are unique. We didn't evolve from monkeys. Monkeys didn't evolve from horses. Horses didn't evolve from crocodiles and amphibians. Amphibians didn't evolve from fish. None of that happened. That's contrary to the Bible. According to rationalism, since man is no different from any other animal; man learns to solve his problems not by looking to revelation from a creator. In other words don't look at the owner's manual written by the creator of the product - look at the other products. Have you ever had that experience you go to the store? You buy something that is difficult to put together and it's difficult to learn how to use it. Do you read the owner's manual or do you look at other things in your house and figure out how they work and come back and see if you can figure out how this thing works? That's basically what we are doing now in sociology. We don't look to revelation from a creator to inform us. We study nature and look at human societies to try to find out how man should solve his problems. The affect of all this that God and the Bible are no longer relevant to modern man. Tommy Ice my good friend who we all know used to drive us nuts when we would sit in some Christian Ed. class or some homiletics class in seminary. They would say, "We need to make the Bible relevant." I just wanted to scream, "No! Man needs to become relevant to God. God doesn't need to become relevant to man." What happened at the fall is that man became irrelevant. It's not that God became irrelevant. In a very simplistic sense, who moved? God or man? Man did and man has got to move back. That is what the call of Scripture is. The Scripture is relevant. Man because of his desire for independence and autonomy is not relevant to God. He says, "Well, that doesn't speak to me." It doesn't speak because in unbelief he doesn't buy into what the Bible is saying. He says, "That isn't relevant to me." He doesn't want it to be relevant to him.
- This led to the movement in the late 19th century to modernize Christianity, which meant to divest Christianity for supernatural beliefs. That became known as the modernist movement. You have to understand modernism if you are going to understand post modernism. Where we are today is post modernism. That is beyond anything I am going to talk about in this little sub-series.
- During the early 20th century a battle erupted between fundamentalists on the one hand and the modernists on the other. That became known as the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. In the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy conservatives, Bible believing Christians, got involved trying to say, "Okay. What is the core? What is the uncompromising core of what the Bible teaches that we all have to agree on that if we don't agree on these things…" And different people came up with different suggestions. What is the core? Curtis Lee Laws in a well-known editorial written in the Baptist Watchmen Examiner in 1920 coined the terms fundamentalist and fundamentalism. That is where the terms came from. Nobody used the term before Curtis Lee Laws used those terms in 1920. He used that terms fundamentalist and fundamentalism to define conservative Christians who held to five things.
The five essential doctrines were:
Inerrancy of the Bible
Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ
His bodily resurrection and miracles
The future literal return of Jesus Christ to the earth.
Those were the 5 fundamentals of the faith. That is where those terms come from. But it has been completely distorted and bastardized today. Today it applies to all kinds of other things, but it is not where the term originated. In a very real way we are fundamentalists. If you say that today people get all kinds of crazy ideas because as usual Satan knows that the way to destroy and attack Christianity is at the level of vocabulary.
We lose good words. We can't talk about being holiness Christians anymore because charismatics grabbed that. Another good biblical word is charismatic. We are all charismatics. We believe in the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. That's the word that is used in the Scripture. They change that to mean something else. It goes on and on and on.
One of the popularizers of liberalism at the forefront of the battle was a very popular preacher in the early 19th century by the name of Harry Emerson Fosdick. You can almost trace it. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Joel Gregory and a number of others. They all flow in the same stream of consciousness. In 1922 he was invited to preach in a church in New York. The pastor was out of town or not present. He preached a sermon called "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" As a result of that conservative Presbyterians and Baptists dubbed him the Moses of Modernism or The Jesse James of the Theological World. His friend John D. Rockefeller Jr. offered him the pulpit of his family's congregation The Park Avenue Baptist Church in New York which changed its name to Riverside Church. He became the pastor there until his retirement in 1946.
In his sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalist Win?", he said… (Now I want you to notice the technique that he used to belittle conservatives.)
Here for example is one point of view, the virgin birth
Note he says this is one point of view.
is to be accepted as historical fact. There was no other way for a personality like the Master
Notice the terminology there. It's not the Lord; it's the Master. The very vocabulary diminishes the deity of Christ.
to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. Well, that's one point of view. But there are many gracious beautiful souls that hold that
See how patronizing he is!
side by side with them in the evangelical churches there is an equally good and competing view is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the Virgin Birth is not to be accepted as historic fact. Here in the Christian church are these two groups and the question that the fundamentalist raises
(those nasty fundamentalists!)
this, "Shall one of them throw the other out?"
Those fundies just want to kick us out. How mean spirited they are.
Is not the Christian church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ in points like this?
"See how reasonable I am. See how sweet we are and they want to throw us out. We believe in Jesus."
This is the technique that is used to undercut the fundamentalist and make him look bad.
This was the benchmark because he was the preacher of that era. Back then sermons were often reported and printed in the newspapers because they didn't have radio or television like we have today.
Another statement that reveals what is going on here is one by Charles Elliott who was a Unitarian President of Harvard. Harvard went Unitarian in 1807 and has been ever since then. He gave an address at the summer school of theology of 1909. In that he made this statement. Notice how contemporary this sounds.
"The new thought of God"
You see we are in a new wonderful era of Christianity.
"will be its most characteristic element in the religion of the future. This ideal will comprehend"
It is all inclusive.
"the Jewish Jehovah, the Christian universal Father,"
Who is that? Right there he has front loaded the argument. He has distorted Christianity right off the bat.
the modern physicist's omnipresent and exhaustless energy and the biological conception of a Vital Force.
You can almost hear Star Wars and "may the force be with you" floating around in there. These ideas aren't new.
"The new religion rejects absolutely the conception that God is alienated from the world. It rejects also the entire conception of man as a fallen being. In all of its theory and in all its practice it (the religion of the future) will be completely natural. It will place no reliance on any sort of magic, or miracle or other violation of, or exception to, the laws of nature."
So what becomes your dominate framework of evaluating truth? It is reason. But what they are using is what is called natural law. Natural law is used a couple of different ways in philosophy and history. You have got to watch out. It leaks in there that there is this equally valid on the same plane of authority of the Scripture these laws of nature or natural law and they are not in contradiction with each other. You will hear Christians use this terminology. And you will really hear this in Christian psychology. All truth is God's truth. No, it's not. The Bible is God's truth and you use it to evaluate everything else.
Another statement that I have here is a quote from Shailer Mathews who was very famous at that time. This is in the 1930's. He was the dean of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. He is speaking for Christianity.
The modernist starts with the assumption that scientists know more about nature and man than the theologians who drew up the creeds and confessions.
What is your ultimate basis for truth? It is reason. It's man's own ability to interpret everything completely independent of what the Scripture says. They come along then and all of these systems reject what the Scripture says.
That's the most extreme form of rationalism that basically denies everything that the Bible teaches. Just as I pointed out when I was teaching mysticism and how there are extreme forms of mysticism like Gnosticism and Platonic idealism and occult mysticism and New Age mysticism, you also see within Christianity there is this trend toward mysticism that is dangerous.
It ultimately shifts your authority to some kind of internal feeling or impression. I have seen people try to avoid using those terms and then they are saying, "When they taught that it seemed right to me."
The charismatics will say, "It spoke to my spirit." Whatever that is…..
That is the mystical thing. But within our circles we also have a problem with rationalism leaking in especially at the point of apologetics. You see it with mysticism too.
Now apologetics is the field of theology where we construct our arguments to defend Christianity. Apologetics doesn't mean to apologize. The Greek word apologia was used in a courtroom for the argument that a lawyer would construct in order to defend his client. Let me give you a kind of analogy here so what I am getting ready to say which may seem a little academic for some of you. Let's say you are trying to convince a judge and a jury of certain truths. So you pull in your dream team of lawyers. You've got Percy Forman, F. Lee Bailey, and Johnny Cochran. Now they are all dealing with the same evidence. These guys get into a conference room before the trial and they get into a big argument as to the strategy for presenting the evidence. That is what I am talking about here when we talk about how to use Christian evidences. It is not a question of evidences or not. It is with one group. But mostly it is how to use them.
So I constructed a chart. On the left you have the believer. On the right you have the unbeliever. The believer is trying to talk to the unbeliever about the gospel.
The unbeliever says, "How can you believe in the gospel? How can you put your brain in neutral?"
A lot of times when you are witnessing to people you don't need to go into much detail with Christian evidences. Sometimes you do.
The unbeliever is asking the question, "How can you believe this? How do you know this is true?"
The question that comes up is what is the point of contact? What is the ultimate appeal of authority and knowledge that the believer can appeal to when he is talking to the unbeliever? It is interesting. Bruce pointed out last time that Paul Shockley who is a professor at the College of Biblical Studies covered this about two weeks ago in an early morning show that the College of Biblical Studies puts out on television. It is very important to understand this. Most Christians give away the farm because they compromise epistemology at the very beginning. Remember I said that you've got four ways of knowing. You've got rationalism, empiricism, mysticism and revelation. Those are your four basic strategies that people end up with in doing apologetics. On the one hand you have the rationalists. His point of contact with the unbeliever is logic. Usually they refer to the law of non-contradiction.
"Okay. Let's use logic to show the truth of Christianity."
As if logic is not affected by the fall of man – that man's reason is unaffected by the fall of man. You see there is an inherent flaw there. You have people like Gordon Clark who was a very reformed Calvinistic apologist as well as Norm Geysler who has written many good things. These guys have great things to say. It is just that their ultimate strategy of how they are using the evidence is where the flaw is. It's not the evidence. I have over 200 to 250 books on apologetics in my library. I have read all of these guys – volumes of what they say. I have learned from every one of them. But again it boils down to some ultimate structural things.
Empiricism is another thing that leaks in. That's Josh McDowell, C S Lewis, Frank Morrison and any number of others. They appeal to historical evidence as the common ground.
"We can prove that the tomb was empty, therefore you should believe in Jesus."
We have a guy up at Harvard Divinity School who rejects the Bible. Nobody up there has believed the Bible for years – decades – 200 years.
They say, "Okay. So I believe the tomb was empty. There are all kinds of anomalies in history. Big deal."
The unbelieving mind doesn't have to accept the interpretation of the empty tomb that we assign to it. Our interpretation of it comes from the Bible. Because they reject the Bible, they reject our interpretation of it. So empiricism and rationalism leak into our apologetic methodology. I put mysticism up in the corner. Mysticism produces a kind of apologetic approach called fideism from the Latin word meaning faith. It is the idea that you can't appeal to evidence. You just take a leap of faith to believe the gospel. It is non-rational. It is non logical. You just believe it because it has meaning for you. That is wrong because that is the mystical approach.
I believe that the revelational approach sometimes called presuppositionalsim is what's defined in Romans 1:19. This makes witnessing and apologetics so easy. We will wrap up with this.
NKJ Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
That's epistemology. How do you know anything about God? How do you know who He is? How do you know His characteristics? How do you know His essence?
Is that manifest in believers? No. It is manifest in unbelievers. The Bible says that the most pagan atheist knows in the core of his soul that God exists.
NKJ Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
There is enough internal knowledge in every human being to make them stand before the bar of God's justice and they don't have an excuse to stand on. It is the Greek apologia. They don't have a defense. So the point of common ground is when you are talking to an unbeliever is that in his soul he knows that God exists. You don't' have to prove it. You can answer questions that confirm the truthfulness and validate the truthfulness of Scripture, but you are not looking to some authority over Scripture to prove Scripture. You are talking to someone who knows in his heart of hearts that God exists. He may have covered it up. He may have suppressed that truth in unrighteousness. He has 10 inches of calluses around it, but that is where your appeal is. The appeal isn't to reason as if it's untainted by man's fallen nature. Your appeal isn't to history as if it is pure, objective and untainted by human sin. Your appeal isn't just to feel good in mysticism. Your appeal is that he already knows. What you have to do is expose the flaws and failures in his system. He can't live consistent with that system because everyday the unbeliever who holds to the meaninglessness of life can't live that way. If he does, what does he do? He kills himself. He can't live as if life is meaningless. What we can do sometimes in apologetics strategy is simply force them to feel the tension that is there. Then God the Holy Spirit uses that. Then we can bring the gospel to bear.
So we have had problems throughout the centuries. Christians always fall prey to the pressures of the cosmic system around them - mysticism or rationalism or whatever – which dilutes and renders our spiritual life impotent and makes us dull of hearing. We have to learn how to think biblically. If you are thinking like a pagan even though you have a lot of doctrine and morality in you, it will stifle and squelch your Christian growth. So we have to learn to think biblically.
Next time we will talk about the leading of the Spirit. How do you know what it is and when it is?
Let's close in prayer.