Hebrews Lesson 52
May 4, 2006
NKJ Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
We are in a section of Hebrews. We are going to run through this briefly to get all of our thinking back where we ended last time. As I pointed out when we began last time, I really needed 3 solid uninterrupted hours to communicate what I wanted to communicate. We get things broken up and everybody goes about their business for another week then you come back and we have to get everybody thinking these deep heavy thoughts.
The writer of Hebrews is castigating his audience here because they have regressed spiritually. As part of spiritual regression there is the loss of the ability to think biblically. There is the loss of the ability to think precisely and accurately about anything in your life. This has to do with relationships. It has to do with work. It has to do with thought. It has to do with the deeper elements of thought. We get clouded because what happens is that our thinking becomes affected by sin.
Peter talks about the fact that it is the fleshly lusts that war against the soul. So it is easy for us to think at one level about the fact that when you get involved in extended carnality that obviously, living a sinful life has an impact on our ability to think biblically and it retards any spiritual growth. We begin to regress back into childhood. That's what happens here. It not only relates to the content of our thinking in terms of thinking wrong kinds of thought where our thinking is dominated by mental attitude sins of envy, anger, bitterness, resentment or whether our thinking is affected by various lust patterns in terms of materialism lust, sexual lust, chemical lust, or any of the other lust patterns. What we recognize is that all of this occurs within a larger framework. That larger framework is how we think. I have used the illustration of building a house. When the Holy Spirit comes in and is renovating (Romans 12:2 where we have the principle of not being conformed to the world but transforming our thinking) the Holy Spirit is not only changing what we think about in terms of content; but He is also going to change how we think. We no longer think as the world thinks within a limited frame of reference rationalism or empiricism.
All of this kind of comes together because we have had questions in the last month or so asking if there is a place to think about or utilize vocabulary related to mysticism in the Christian life and how does thinking or the forms of thinking affect us, because they do. I have used the illustration of being transformed from the cultural norms and patterns and habits that we have here in the United States and suddenly you are transformed and you end up in some rural province of China and you are never going to see another American for the rest of your life and you are never going to talk English for the rest of your life that is to anybody that understands you. So you have to overhaul everything in your thinking in order to live in the new culture. That is not nearly as radical as the change that takes place when you are moved from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive from being child of devil to a child of God in the royal family of God. Yet it is this kind of thing that is so rarely taught or talked about in most churches because it is rare to find people who want to have a view of the Christian life or be challenged to move beyond a first grade level of understanding or education in what the spiritual life is all about. So the writer of Hebrews is challenging his readers because they have fallen back.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
That means if you are just taking in kindergarten level or first grade level doctrine, then you will not have the skills necessary to advance to spiritual maturity. He uses the word apeiros for the word skilled, which means someone who is ignorant of true doctrine, not consistently putting it into practice.
Then he goes on to say…
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
That is practice. This is the Greek word hexis meaning someone who is skilled or has proficiency, someone who repeatedly and successfully practices the spiritual skills. As part of the first basic spiritual skills we come to doctrinal orientation. Doctrinal orientation means that we are orienting our thinking to the Word of God and no loner orienting our thinking to the human viewpoint modus operandi of the culture around us. It takes practice. It takes time to think about how we think.
Solid doctrine belongs to the mature, to those who by consistent practice and use have their senses exercised to discern.
I am going to skip to the word diakrisis meaning the ability to distinguish or evaluate. What we are talking about here is spiritual critical thinking skills. How do you learn to think critically about anything in life? You think about whatever the field is that you are in. If you went to college and studied history, English, education you know that in your field there are different viewpoints. Only by reading and studying do you learn to identify the different viewpoints that are there and understand that this viewpoint has weaknesses over against this other viewpoint. Something that is common to all of us is the arena of politics and the arena of political theory - what you think about how the country should be run. You know that there are two basic views of looking at government and politics. You have the conservative view and liberal view. Those grow out of an entire worldview of how a person looks at everything in life starting from God and working all the way down to man. Most people don't press it that far. They think because they are Americans, they think more pragmatically. What works? Pragmatics as an American is one of the human viewpoint norms and standards that you have in your soul. This is typical of most Americans.
"Don't give me all that theory. Just tell me what to do."
What you do always flows out of a theory whether you know it or not. If you are not aware of what the "theory" is that underlies it; then all you are doing is practicing a theory called pragmatics - whatever works is okay. That flows out and is consistent with moral relativism view of absolutes. We have to think about our fundamental concepts of thought. We have to learn to do this and it only comes by practice, by illustration and by example.
A basic principle in any education theory is that sometimes we learn by contrast. This is one thing. It's not this. It's not that. You can understand various shades of the color red by comparing them and contrasting them to green or to blue or something else. You learn to hone in on what one thing is in contrast to things that are close to it. So we compare and contrast in order to get a more focused view of what the Scripture is teaching.
As I went through this last time I have been teaching about the fact that as we get into the spiritual life we have this problem with how we think. Nobody wants to talk about it. On the one hand there is pressure from the antinomian trend of the sin nature to give up any absolutes or rigorous logic and thinking. That is called mysticism. We just have this intuitive label insight into what is right and what is wrong and what God wants us to do. We label it the Holy Spirit. That is what happens in Christianity. It is really mysticism because this intuitive thing operates in a way that is completely independent from Scripture. We talked about that. Then we came back and talked about the other side. It is the trend of the sin nature to give up any kind of logic. That is called mysticism. And we label it the Holy Spirit. That's what happens in Christianity. It is really mysticism. In a way that is completely independent from Scripture.
Then we came back and talked about the other side. We have pressure from as the sin nature trends toward legalism. It has a related view of knowledge that ends up either in autonomous rationalism or empiricism. All of this affects how we think about witnessing to people in the arena of apologetics. Where a lot of this is hard to think through, it has a very practical application in three areas.
First of all it helps us think more precisely about how we are going to communicate the truth of Christianity to unbelievers. There are a lot of unbelievers that you are going to witness to that may not raise objections. They may have never thought very deeply or profoundly about some things or maybe there has been some pre-evangelism that has taken place where some of these questions have already answered for them. You step in and give them the gospel and they are ready to accept the gospel right then and there. But other times you may be talking to somebody and all they have heard is a lot of the objections to Christianity and you get involved in trying to help them understand that Christianity is not putting your brain in neutral and irrationally accepting a view of God or what the Scripture says. From within the framework of Scripture it is rational and it is consistent and it is not without validation.
Notice I didn't say proof. That is where we get into the real issues. Most people make a strategic error because they try to go to something to prove the truth of God. But in the very attempt to prove that God is true that implies going to a higher standard than God, something over and above God, which you are going to use to prove God. What is a higher authority than God? Nothing. So you can't act as if there is some autonomous universal principle that hangs out there that you can appeal to that is equally the same for believer and unbeliever.
Now that is a quick summary and what I want to do is go back to the nine points that I finished with last time because they lay the foundation for our thinking in this area. Then we will get to a little more practical application. The other thing we want to come away with is an understanding of how to be a little more effective in evangelism and our strategy of answering the questions that an unbeliever may ask. We don't want to commit the error that Proverbs warns about – not answering a fool according to his folly. Just because they ask a question doesn't mean that it is a question that should be answered. So we have to learn to think a little more consistently here.
The second thing we are going to get out of this is we are going to develop discernment. It all builds our ability to think critically about what we are doing and about how we think.
And for those of you who are parents and who have children the third thing is that it will help be able to impart this to your children and kids in prep school so that they can learn to think critically. We live in a world today where kids and all of us bombarded all of the time with all kinds of human viewpoint garbage. A lot of it sounds good. We absorb it and it becomes part of our thinking and we don't even know it. I sit around and talk to Christians day in and day out and they make various statements thinking that it is okay or it is divine viewpoint. But it is human viewpoint garbage. But they don't realize it because they have never been taught to think about things in terms of systems. That is a deeper way to talk about it.
Let's go to a Scripture that we are very familiar with to review. When we talk to an unbeliever our point of contact isn't reason because the problem with the unbeliever isn't rationalism. It isn't that the problem is logic. The problem is sin. That is ultimately what has to be exposed in any kind of gospel presentation situation.
NKJ Romans 1:19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
In other words the unbeliever knows that God exists. He may say it's a problem of logic, but that is just a smokescreen. He may say it's a problem of evidence, but that is just a smoke screen. The problem is that in the arrogance of his fallen nature he wants to suppress the truth that God exists. That's verse 20.
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,
NKJ Romans 1:21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
The unbeliever has enough data available to him so that he can be held accountable.
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,
So you know three things when you are starting to communicate to an unbeliever.
- They already know that God exists.
- They are committed to a strategy of suppressing that truth.
- God the Holy Spirit is breaking through that with the gospel that you are presenting to them.
So it's not like you have to know every answer or be able to deal with every issue; but you have to understand what the dynamics are. If you want to use the analogy of football game, you have to understand what the rules of the football games are so that you are playing within the right area of endeavor.
What we are talking about is apologetics.
- Apologetics is the explanation and vindication of the Christian worldview over against the various forms of the non-Christian worldviews. This is important for a couple of reasons. First of all biblically we are commanded to give an answer for the hope that is in us. I Peter 3:15. It is the Greek word apologeia which means to make a rational defense like a lawyer in the courtroom defending his client, marshalling the evidence to defend his client. Secondly, it strengthens our faith and our understanding of the truth. The more you get into understanding the contrast between human viewpoint thinking and divine viewpoint thinking the more it brings into sharp focus some of the flaws in our own thinking that we haven't been aware of up to this point.
- How you conduct your defense is as important as the content of your defense. In other words, a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. I have used the illustration of a defense team. You've got Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey and Percy Foreman. They are your defense team. They are all dealing with the same evidence, but they argue amongst themselves what the right way is to present the evidence. Even though you have all of the facts on your side, we all know from watching various court cases in recent years that you can make strategic errors in the way you present the data and you get the wrong verdict. Sometimes you make strategic errors and you basically cut the legs out from under yourself because in the process of presenting the evidence, you make compromise yourself. We have seen that in a number of cases. What we are talking about here is a strategy for utilizing the evidence. All of this is simply to show that we need to be aware of how we think and not just what we think.
- A key issue in the defense strategy is not to compromise the reality of God and His revelation. Since God is the central reality of the Christian faith and the highest authority in the universe then we cannot appeal to some assumed higher authority for proof. What can be higher than God? What can be higher than God's spoken word? To what are you going to refer that has higher integrity in order to prove God? There is nothing out there. This is often one of the flaws in apologetics.
- Since the issue in the interchange with the unbeliever is how you know what is right and true in a field of competing religious claims and philosophical positions, one must be very careful. You have got a hundred different competing philosophies and religions out there and the unbeliever is going to say, "How do you know you are right?" Can you answer that question? That is what I Peter 3:15 is all about – being able to answer that question. And can you answer it without compromising the integrity of God in the process? That is what we are talking about.
- God is all powerful. He spoke His created reality into existence and has defined all the elements of that reality. A tree is what it is because God has made it and defined it, not because it is the product of chance in a universe ruled by chaos. The point I am making in that illustration is that you as a believer believe in a special creation that God created everything in 6 days in Genesis 1 – 6 literal 24 days. Therefore an oak tree is an oak tree because God made it that way not as a product of a long period of time and chance and it just happened to come up that way. At some level when you and an evolutionary based dendrologist look at the oak tree, you are not looking at the same oak tree. For you the oak tree is something that tells you all about the marvels of God, His intricate plan and thought. All of that is part of what makes that oak tree what it is. When it comes to morality, morals are what they are, right and wrong is what it is because of God's character and revelation, not because of consensus.
- He who is omnipotent and is the absolute Creator possesses all authority including a self-attesting authority. I want you to think a minute of being at the foot of Mt. Sinai in the spring of 1446 BC. You are there with approximately 2-million other Jews. All of a sudden you hear a voice. "You will have no other gods before Me." Are you gong to say, "Is that the voice of God?" How do we know this is the voice of God? Is somebody going to go up the mountain and check this out to get a little validation here? What are you going to go to? That is the point here. The voice of God resonates within the fallen creature's soul whether he likes it or not. At some level in his soul he knows God is speaking. He is suppressing it and is wrapping it up in all kinds of human viewpoint rationalizations, but when we are talking to that unbeliever, we have this edge. You don't have to prove God. He already knows that God exists.
- Therefore the character of God's revelation affirms the starting point of the recognition of God as the self-attesting authority. To suggest another way of testing or validating that authority shuts up man into a non-biblical position of being a truth determiner.
That is what happens in Genesis 3. Satan comes along to the woman and says, "Did God really say…" In other words, is it true that if you eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you will die? The woman fell for it. She started to answer a fool according to his folly. As soon as she did, she bit the bait in the trap. She put herself in the position to verify, validate whether or not God was true. She put herself in a position of judging the veracity of God. At that instant everything dominoed, ending up with her sin.
- We therefore as Christians begin with the assumption that God's Word is the final authority and therefore stands in judgment over all other forms of philosophical and religious knowledge. It is not an equal playing field. That's what everybody wants you to think - that all of these are equally competing views, but they are not.
- Ultimately the problem of man is not rational. It is not a flaw in logic. It's not that you have to point out that if you understood the logic here then you would believe in God. He does have a logical problem. But that's not the core issue. Neither is it an empirical problem - if he just had enough facts, he would believe – if he just understood what went on is history he would believe. Because it's deeper than that. Neither is it because his inner light is dimmed. It's not that he is in touch with his inner self of his inner god. It's that he has a constitutional spiritual flaw. He is fallen and he is suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness. He is reinterpreting the data to fit is own arrogant autonomous agenda.
- The Holy Spirit cuts through the spiritual darkness to shed light on the gospel. John 16:7-8
That is the framework for looking at how we present the gospel.
There are three systems of human viewpoint thinking - rationalism, empiricism, mysticism. What they have in common is a starting point of faith in human ability. Remember that I pointed out that this isn't that there are three systems of perception – empiricism, rationalism, and faith. That juxtaposes faith to reason and may make faith non-rational. At the core of all of these is a faith in human ability to properly interpret and understand the data – whatever it is, whether it is starting with reason, starting with experience or starting with his own intuition. The key word under methodology is they all operate on something that is independent of what God said.
The divine viewpoint position is that we start with revelation. We can't start with revelation here and then cross over the gap between us and the unbeliever and operate on his assumptions and to try to bring him back over here. His assumptions are all flawed assumptions of a rebellious creature. So we have to hold our ground. Often believers think (these are different schools of apologetics) that the point of common ground between the believer and unbeliever is rationalism. It is usually expressed as logic or the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction means something can't be both A and non-A at the same time in the same way. In other words something can't be blue and not blue at the same time. Something can't be tall and not tall at the same time. If you are saying that contradicts itself logically then one statement or the other is false. It assumes that you can prove truth on the basis of reason. What this assumes is that reason for the unbeliever is the same as it is for the believer.
I am going to give you an example of that. I want to use as an example tonight CS Lewis because two weeks ago we showed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe here on family night in order to give people an opportunity to watch a film based on the book that he wrote which he intended to be used as pre-evangelism to utilize a lot of symbols and images that you find in Christianity in order to communicate some broad Christian principles.
The hero in the story is Aslan the lion. That comes from the fact that Jesus Christ is said to be the Lion of Judah. The word Aslan comes from the Persian meaning "lion". So the lion is the hero who comes and he is the one that is going to conquer winter that the evil witch has brought. The evil witch is analogous to Satan. Under Satan's rule, human history is dead. It is white and everything is cold. There is no life. It is only after Aslan dies and comes back to life that you have full spring coming in. Only when he returns does he bring life. You have the imagery of him going and breathing on these different people and animals that have been turned into stone objects. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit, breath. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings life. There are all of these images in there. They have to go to battle and they win the battle. Even after they win the first battle, there is an ongoing battle. That is a picture of the Christian life – once you are saved there is an ongoing battle afterwards. There are all of these images that he uses that are quite good
One that I found quite intriguing is one based on an argument that he is famous for developing called the Lord, liar, lunatic argument. I have used that many times. I am not saying that it is a wrong argument; it is how you use the argument, not should you use the argument.
Before I get into this I want to give you a little caveat here. I don't want any to think as I talk about Lewis and later on as I point out some of the flaws that I am suggesting that you shouldn't read Lewis. I think you should. I think you would be making a mistake. I think his book Mere Christianity is a good book. A lot of people have found it very helpful. It is interesting that in the last month I have been aware of two or three cases where unbelievers have read Mere Christianity (they were new believers or struggling believers who have been given that book) and the Lord has used that to get their attention and turn them around. In one case I know of that plus the use of the foundation series that I did last year a man and his wife and kids all came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior. These are good tools to use - Josh McDowell's book Evidence that Demands a Verdict. But what I am trying to do as I go through this is give you (especially if you are a parent or a grandparent and you are reading these things to your kids) a way you can think a little more perceptively about what is going on.
At one point in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (at the very beginning), little Lucy goes off through the wardrobe into the land of Narnia. She comes back and she tells her two brothers and sister about it and they don't believer her. She sees a reality. It is not an alternative reality. It is analogous to the unbeliever who suddenly realizes he has gone from materialism to supernaturalism realizing there is a broader reality than just the material universe.
That was important for Lewis because after WWI he became a materialist. He went through this whole progression from an atheist to Platonism to idealism to materialism. So he realized as he learned about the Bible and came to a belief in God and then a belief in Jesus Christ that there was a greater reality that existed beyond the senses. When you just have the autonomous use of reason and empiricism, you have a limited reality. But when you believe what God says about reality, it is a broader reality and it is truth. That was a very important theme for Lewis in the book.
Lucy comes back and she ends up going back to Narnia. She is followed by her brother Edmund.
When they come back, the other two siblings ask Edmund, "Well, did you go to Narnia?"
He said, "No, no. It is just make-believe."
He just lies about it.
The three kids if you remember are living in this house with this elderly aged professor who is roughly modeled on CS Lewis himself who opened his home to children from London during the period of the bombing during World War II. So this aged professor comes out and he talks to the kids.
He says as they are wondering what to do about Lucy and the tales she is telling about Narnia, "Well, who is the more honest of the two? Edmund or Lucy?"
Peter says, "It is Lucy. Edmund frequently lies, but Lucy doesn't lie."
"Okay. If Lucy is not a liar, has she lost her mind? Is she insane? Has she gone crazy?"
"No, there is no evidence whatsoever that Lucy has lost her mind."
"Then what she is telling you must be truth."
That is an illustration of his classic argument that when Jesus Christ came to the earth He claimed to be identical with God. Either he was telling the truth or He was lying. Does He give evidence of being a liar? Is there evidence in anything that He taught or said that He was a deceptive person? No, not at all. Well, we have dismissed that option. Was He crazy? Was He a lunatic? Was He someone who believed He was chopped liver? No not at all. There is no evidence in anything that He says that He is insane or psychopathic or psychotic or schizophrenic or anything else. Well, if he is not a liar and he is not crazy then what He says must be true. Therefore He must be who He claims to be. That is true God of true God, the Savior of the universe.
It is a wonderful argument for who Jesus Christ is. I have used it many times and others have used it. CS Lewis is the one to first to set that up. What has he done in that argument? That argument is built upon a certain view of logic. Now it is a view of logic that I believe everyone in this room shares. But if some post modernist came in here that is intelligent and consistent with their supposition of pure relativism in the universe, they aren't going to buy that argument. They don't have to. At foundational level they reject that view of logic.
"That is your logic and your reality; but that is not my logic and my reality. In my reality I don't have to accept those as the only options."
Do you see what I am saying?
What you see here with Lewis is that he fits into the top category that he has a view that ultimately the common ground between the believer and unbeliever has to do with something in the area of reason.
There is another group of apologists. This is where I put Josh McDowell. I have used McDowell's book "Evidence that Demands a Verdict". I have given it to a lot of shaky believers and a few unbelievers who were wresting with the issue of evidence in the truth of Christianity. It is important to say evidence. If there is a truth claim, then there are two things you can do. You can either prove it by a higher authority or you can show that if this is true then there is correlating, validating evidence. That is the difference in how you are approaching it.
These are folks that would say, "We can prove that the tomb was empty".
You can look at all of the historical data that we have in the gospels and in extra biblical literature as the tomb was empty. Therefore if the tomb was empty Jesus must be who He claimed to be because He rose from the dead. What's the problem?
The problem is you have many unbelievers operating on post modern assumptions or existential assumptions that say, "That's true. But you know that there are a lot of weird things that happen in life. Just the fact that the tomb was empty is just another unexplained anomaly in history and I don't have to believe that."
Once again what they are doing is they are enveloping what you are saying in their suppression agenda. They are just suppressing that truth in unrighteousness
Flying away and unanchored to anything is mysticism which produces a view of apologetics called fideism for the Latin for faith. It's not the kind of faith that we talk about as a faith grounded in Scripture where there is evidence of God's work in space, time and creation. It is the ideas that there may not be any validating data. We just believe it because we have to have something to believe in. So we take a leap of faith. That was evidenced by a Danish philosopher by the name of Kierkegaard. So what we would say is that the most consistent approach is revelation. The point of common ground between the believer and the unbeliever is his inherent internal knowledge that God exists. It is within them. What we have to avoid is having this situation where you have God on the left. Man is down below; but he thinks of morality and reason and natural law and history as having their own autonomous self-existent eternal existence that God is answerable to the concepts of justice, reason, law, or these autonomous or abstract principles. So, we appeal to them in neutrality with the unbeliever. I want to show you by going to Lewis what I mean by that.
Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland. His name was Clive Staples Lewis. When he was four years old he decided he wanted to be called Jack. So throughout the rest of his life his friends always referred to him as Jack. When he was a little boy he started reading and he read voraciously. He read all kinds of things. He was influenced by different writers. He loved Beatrix Potter and all of her books. He wrote his first novel at the age of 12. When he was ten years old his mother died. His father shipped him off to various private schools in England. It was during that time that he came under the influence of various teachers that led him to atheism. For that reason he always had a bone to pick with the public education system in England (the boarding school system) because of the agnosticism and atheism of many of the teachers.
He served in the army in France in WWI. Just as he was to matriculate at Oxford (He went there long enough to get into their officer training corps.), he was immediately called up to active duty and sent to France in January, 1917. He was wounded at the Battle of Eras in April 15, 1917 and immediately shipped back home. He was wounded by what we call today friendly fire from an artillery shell that should not have been near him. His best friend was killed during the war. He had made a promise to him that if he died that Lewis would take the responsibility to take care of his sister and his mother. He took care of his friend's younger sister until she got married and he took care of his friend's mother until she died in 1951. That gives you a sense of his integrity and honor.
He was a member of an Oxford club called the Coal Biters that would sit around and read out loud Norse and Icelandic sagas and myths in the original language. When he was 16 years old his Greek teacher said that he had read more of the classics than anyone he knew and had a greater natural ability to translate from Greek into English. The Coal Biters Club was founded by another famous writer by the name of JR Tolken who is the one who wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were best friends. One of the other reasons that I am talking about Lewis is that some people in the church are reading Lewis and there are some people in the congregation who have read Lewis and don't like Lewis. For those who have read Lewis and frankly he never appealed to me that much, Tolken disliked the Narnia chronicles. He thought they were hastily written and unrealistic. He knew his friend Jack could do better.
Lewis was a confirmed bachelor. He did marry at the age 60 to a divorced former communist of Jewish heritage who was a believer. That marriage lasted three years and she died of cancer. That is what the play and movie Shadow Lands is based on. If you haven't seen that I would recommend that. He wrote all kinds of different works. The apologetic work that he is most widely known for is Mere Christianity. But he also wrote a book called Miracles which dealt with how to understand the fact that God can perform miracles in history. That is a well-done book. He does a good job in his argument there. He also wrote a book called The Problem of Pain where he dealt with the whole question of how can a good loving God allow undeserved suffering to exist in history. He wrote a number of children's books. Not only did he write the Narnia series, but he also wrote some science fiction for children. All of this was somehow related to presenting a Christian worldview within his writing.
When he was a young man after WWI he came out of World War I as still an atheist. He goes through various different schools of thought. He was a materialist. A relative of a close friend was beginning to die. As he observed his death, it caused Lewis to start rethinking his materialist philosophy. He goes through a period of about 8 years when we would say that he gradually shifts his views toward God finally coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was through the influence of several people. For example he read GK Chesterton who had become a believer. He loved reading him. He also had as his best friend JRR Tolken who influenced him. Tolken always was a Roman Catholic. He never left the Roman Catholic Church so that was his view of Christianity.
It came to the point towards the end of his 20s that Lewis realized that most of his friends including many of favorite authors such as Chesterton and Johnson and Spencer and Milton were all Christians who held to a Christian worldview. He realized that he needed to rethink his view of Christianity. By his late 20's two paths were beginning to intersect in his thinking. One was from a vantage point of reason. He was beginning to realize that Christianity was rational.
Let's think about that critically. What's going on here? He is coming out of a very rational background. As an unbeliever he was a Platonist. Platonism always equates to rationalism. He was Darwinian. He never gave that up. He always had this problem with reason being the ultimate arbiter of truth. He never really subordinated reason into that triangle we have for God. The problem is that morality, reason and natural law have to be in God and not outside of God in a biblical worldview. He never quite got there.
He became a believer when he was 33 years of age. That began his life as an apology. He did a lot of positive things. Some of the books I mentioned earlier are very good. He also wrote an article called Faulting the Bible Critics. I have a reprint of it. Remember that Lewis in his career was one of the greatest scholars of medieval English literature. He was a professor of medieval and Renaissance English. That was his field. That was his area of expertise. The reason I mention this particular article because he is interacting what a number of so-called experts of the New Testament claim about the New Testament. We are faced with the same kind of thing today where people come along and say that Paul and James and John really didn't write the New Testament. It was really cobbled together by different people. The New Testament was really written in the late or early 1st century by people who weren't even eyewitnesses of Jesus. All of this talk about Jesus being God is just legend and myth that grew up around Jesus and was then inserted into the gospels.
I love the way he begins. He opens the article by saying…
"The undermining of the old orthodoxy has been mainly the work of the divines engaged in New Testament criticism."
He recognizes that these are professional New Testament scholars. They are not really believers though. They are operating on liberal assumptions. What they claim is that the Bible is filled with legend and romance. Lewis says in reaction or response to this….
"A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of the New Testament text and of other people's study of them whose literary experiences of those texts lack any standard of comparison"
That's all they have done is study the New Testament so they don't have any broader understanding of literature.
"such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general is I should think very likely to miss the obvious things about them. If he tells that something in a gospel is legend and romance I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by their flavor, not how many years he has spent on that gospel. But I had better turn to some examples."
That was his basic thesis. These guys are claiming that this is legend here and that is myth there. What is their experience with legend and myth?
"I have spent my whole career in medieval English literature studying legend and myth. I know legend and myth when I see it and it's not in the Bible."
So he has some great things to say. He wrote tremendous article in defense of Christianity.
Let's look at some of the flaws. That is where we develop a little discernment.
In his view of God, Lewis wrote…
"In all developed religions we find three strands or elements and in Christianity one more."
What has he just done? Christianity adds something to everything else. It is not categorically different from every other kind of religion. He viewed it as more reasonable or more rational. Therefore it was true. This is typical of British evangelicals. I know you will find this hard to believe. I have always found this hard to factor in. In American evangelicalism one of the foundational beliefs is the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. We believe it is very Word of God without error. This is foreign to British evangelicalism. It was foreign to Lewis. So you see that his starting point is a weak view of Scripture and a high view of human reason. Now if you really pressed him, if we got him in here and sat him down and really pushed, he would probably stick with Scripture. But he gave away too much in what he said at points. He had a view of God that was a little weak as well.
According to Lewis there was a common goal and norm between Christians and non-Christians. It was morality. That was his common ground. But when he comes to talk about God he says that there are certain ideas about God that are common to believers and unbelievers and that is our point of commonality. This is seen in his book in the Wind and the Willows.
I have used this quote many times to get people to think a little more deeply about what worship is. It is a great illustration of what worship is. But it also reveals something a little weak in Lewis' view of God.
In the Wind of the Willows the mole asks the rat, "Are you afraid?"
And the rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love answers, "Afraid? Of him? Oh never! Never! And yet o mole, I am afraid."
There is that sense that when we come into the presence of God that you can't control God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That is what Lewis is trying to communicate in that phraseology. If you read all of Lewis, it is this idea of the dread that is what everybody (believer and unbeliever) has of God and that is a point of commonality. So he is already interpreting this view of nature and putting that in as his view of common ground.
It shows up in other ways as well. At the beginning of his book Mere Christianity he says in talking about how a believer can relate to an unbeliever he talks about the fact that everybody has this idea of what is right and what is good versus what is wrong. He uses various examples. He says…
"He is appealing to some kind of standard or behavior which he expects the other man to know about."
In other words when we say this is right or this is wrong or it shouldn't be done that way or it ought to be done another way we expect the other person to share our values. And so he goes on to explain that this is a basic law of human nature that we all share the same sense of right or wrong. He calls this the law of nature.
"I know that some people say the idea of law of nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound because different civilizations in different ages have quite different moralities. But this is not true."
That is where I would challenge him.
"There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference."
As an illustration I talked about a film based on the book The Peace Child by Don Richardson. Don Richardson was a missionary with New Tribes Missions back in the 60s. He and his wife were dropped off somewhere on a beachhead somewhere in Papua, New Guinea.
They go into the interior and they make contact with a Stone Age tribe that has never ever seen a white person. They set up a base camp and begin to give food and trade goods and start to interact with the people and to learn their language. Eventually over a period of two or three years they are able to learn the language they begin to tell the story about salvation. They started with Jesus. They come to the point where Jesus is betrayed by Judas then He is killed and crucified and He dies for our sins. When they get to the story about Judas, everybody applauds him. Wait a minute! What's going on? They were confused. Jesus turns out to be the dupe. Judas is the good guy. What is going on with their system of right and wrong? What they discovered within the culture the highest standard, the greatest thing one person could do is to deceive another person to the degree that it cost them their life. Think about that. They completely perverted the whole sense of right and wrong. So Judas is the good guy and Jesus is the dupe. If you think about that there is no basis for any kind of integrity or honesty. This was a real problem that the Richardson's faced in trying to communicate the gospel to these people. I use that as an illustration of a culture that doesn't have a sense of right or wrong and doesn't have that as a point of common ground which is what Lewis goes on to say.
So I don't leave you hanging on the story of the Richardson's, what they had to figure out how did these people ever demonstrate that they are telling the truth? If the highest value is lying, how do you ever convince someone you are telling the truth? When things deteriorate so much that everything was about to fall apart one chief from one little clan would give a newborn baby as a peace child to the chief of the other clan. That was a sign that what I am saying is true. So then they were able to take that analogy and use that to communicate that Jesus Christ is God's peace child to man. All of this is a part of apologetics.
What Lewis does with the law of morality is that he talks about how this is used. He says that it is the same thing as mathematics. Now what he is doing strategically is he is saying mathematics, natural law, and morality all exist abstractly. There are eternal principles. You appeal to them. As a Christian nothing exists independently from God. Everything comes from God. God is the source of reason. God is the source of mathematics. If you really want to study that in interesting detail listen to Charlie Clough's Framework Series from about lesson 114 to 120. He develops a whole history of how the Greeks didn't believe in irrational numbers. We all loved irrational numbers when we were in junior high and high school. So we have a math system that includes irrational numbers but computers can't do any computing with irrational numbers. So we have a math system that somehow doesn't fit reality. Ultimately we have a lot of flaws in math. In fact he gives a lot of illustrations of how they solve for various equations working square roots. You end up with a negative number for speed. It's not because you made a mistake in your calculation, it's that our concept of logic in math is based on empiricism. Only when we derive it from the Godhead can we come to ultimate truth.
A quote I used a couple of weeks ago was from a guy named Charles Elliot who was a Unitarian President of Harvard who spoke to Summer School of Theology in 1909 and he gave this address speaking about the new religion that will dominate the future,
"The new thought of God will be its most characteristic element in the religion of the future. This idea will comprehend the idea of a Jewish Jehovah, the Christian universal Father, the modern physicist omnipresence exhaustless energy and the biological conception of a vital force."
In other words, it is going to be like a Star Wars religion.
"The new religion God rejects absolutely the concept that God is alienated from the world. It rejects also the entire conception of man being a fallen being."
The idea that God is alienated from the world is what we would call the creator-creature distinction. This is where Lewis broke down. He still views God as being in the chain of being because he still has these Darwinian presuppositions from his human viewpoint still lurking around in his post salvation experience. .
Charles Elliot goes on to say…
"In all its theory and in all its practice, 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."
What he is saying is we are going to have this thing called natural law. Now what Lewis was doing is saying that morality is natural law. This is the common ground between the unbeliever and the believer.
If you pushed Lewis to the extreme he would say, "Natural law is what I mean by the character of God."
But that is not how he treated it. This is what happened strategically with what sometimes these apologists will do.
They say, "We will deal with that later. We will talk about natural law and reason as autonomous concepts right now."
But the strategic error is that it allows the unbeliever to read into those terms everything in his human viewpoint system.
I know that this hasn't been easy and you have hung in there through most of it. At the very least I want you to think about how you think and come to an understanding that we have to think on the presupposition and assumption of a Trinitarian God who has spoken clearly to man and that His revelation is going to address more than just salvation, more than your spiritual life and how to live your life. What a narrow immature focus. His revelation is going to tell us how to think about everything in life from the way we interact with other people in terms of family and social structures, marriage, family, employers and employees. It is also going to go on to talk about how we interact with finances. Even deeper than that, the Word of God is going to help us think about the very function of economics as an intellectual discipline. And literature is a discipline and the very fact of thinking as a discipline.
This book that we talk about is so deep and so profound. When we dig into this thing it will rip across everything that we can possibly think about. We can study it for the next million years and we won't plumb its depths. That's what so amazing about this. That is why you can't get any where by showing up in church on Sunday morning. If this really is training ground to train and prepare us and to build capacity for wisdom so that we can rule and reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, then we have to get with it. We have to get beyond kindergarten and first grade. That is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is saying. He is saying because of their regression, because they have backed up, he has to go back and re-teach the elemental doctrines rather than pushing on beyond the basics about Jesus to the serious doctrines that he wants to cover in the rest of the book. Now if that was true in the first century, how much more true is that today? Doctrine isn't some little thing that we learn about so that can solve problems and deal with people in the details of our day-to-day life. It challenges us to think in a completely new way – a biblical way so that we can be prepared for that future destiny.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.