Articles

What Does the Bible Teach About Education?

By Joel Settecase / 13-minute read

While Christians approach the subject of education from different perspectives and come to diverse conclusions, the Bible does present clear answers to questions like whose responsibility it is, what the curricula should center around, and the desired effects and goal of education.

With home education growing worldwide and about ten percent of American students enrolled in private, non-governmental schools, this seems like a good time to talk about education from a biblical perspective.

The endeavor of entering a discussion of how Christian parents ought to educate their children is one fraught with peril. Inevitably any discussion or teaching on the subject is going to step on toes and aggravate raw nerves of Christians with strong convictions on the matter. Even those of us who ostensibly consider themselves “Bible Centered” (which, according to the Barna Group only amounts to a paltry 5% of Americans) have undoubtedly had our views on education shaped by both Scripture as well as external influences, including memories (good and bad) of our own childhood education. If we were to listen to the voice of God through the cacophony of voices speaking about this issue, what would we hear him saying?

In a (now postponed) episode of The Think Podcast, my guest and I enjoyed a robust conversation about Christian approaches to education, although we did not answer the question many want to jump to: “Should Christian parents put their children in the public (government) schools?” This is the question many want to jump immediately to answering. However before we can answer that we need to see what God tells us in his word about three vital elements: the responsibility of education, the focus of the curricula and the goal or desired results of education.

I want to close this introduction with two quick thoughts.

First, note that just now I did not say we are going to look at the goal or desired results of education “for Christians,as though there were separate norms for believers that unbelievers would be free to accept or reject. Of course anyone may accept or reject whatever the Bible says (and we reject it to our peril), but if Christ really does possess all authority in Heaven and on Earth (and he does according to Matthew 28:18), and if the Bible is his word (and it is according to Luke 24:27 and John 5:39, etc.), then the Bible’s prescriptions for education apply to the whole of humanity, not just those who accept them. So there’s that.

Secondly, in terms of defining what education is, I roughly have in mind the definition expounded upon by Douglas Wilson when he speaks about the paideia of God (quoting the Apostle in Ephesians 6:4), which I loosely summarize as:

A system of teaching and enculturation that transcends (though not excluding) the formal schooling happening typically between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and that is built upon the foundation of, and in support of, a robust biblical worldview.*

I want the rest of the article to serve as a resource for parents and other Christians who are thinking (or want to begin to think) biblically about their children’s education. Under each of the three headers, I will list the answers and supporting biblical passages. Feel free to leave any comments in the appropriately-marked “comments” section below.

Who “Owns” Your Children’s Education?

Whose responsibility is it to education our children?

Fathers and Mothers

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

—Deut. 6:6-7

You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

—Deut. 11:19

Note: as a good New Covenant Theologian (as I am, which was pointed out by Joe and Jimmy on a recent episode of the podcast Doctrine and Devotion), I recognize that these commands were given to Old Covenant Israelite parents, that they would teach their children the commands of the Mosaic Law. Believers are not under that covenant or law, but the O. T. Law is instructive for us (Romans 15:4) and the pattern of parents teaching their children persists throughout Scripture into the New Testament, as we shall see.

Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching

—Prov. 1:8

O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth

—Prov. 4:1-5

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

—Eph. 6:4

Interestingly, the same verb (ektrepho) Paul uses for how fathers are to “bring up” their children is also used in Ephesians 5:29, when Paul commands husbands to “nourish” their wives as their own bodies. Husbands and fathers therefore have a special responsibility to oversee the educative environment of their homes (see also 1 Cor. 14:35, Eph. 5:25-26).

God Directly

God may directly impart wisdom or knowledge to people. Because Christians enjoy a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, we enjoy the benefits of God teaching us (often through his word, and always in direct agreement with his word, when the instruction comes by way of other means).

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

—Psalm 25:4-5

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

—Daniel 1:17

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

—James 1:5

The Church

Just as parents are to foster the household of the immediate family as an educational environment, so also is the “household of God” a place where teaching and learning take place. In fact the leaders of each local church, the elders, are required to be men who are “apt to teach” (2 Tim. 2:24). Education is a mission of the church given by Christ himself in the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

—Matthew 28:19-20

And elsewhere, the Apostle Paul instructs the church to teach:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching

—Romans 12:6-7

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

—Titus 2:3-5

In that Titus passage, Paul essentially tells Pastor Titus to commission the older women to facilitate a kind of practical-theology-meets-home-economics-meets-marriage-counseling program.

The State (in the right circumstances) may provide some facilitation

Again, this deals with Old Covenant Israel, however it is instructive:

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals...And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.

King David, as head of state, set up a worship music arts teaching program for temple worship. Note that David was not doing the teaching, nor were any of his governmental officials leading the department. Rather David set it up and entrusted it to faithful and gifted instructors, under God’s leadership.** Translated to modern times this may look like a government giving a public award or even a tax break to an arts program that seeks to instill the love of truth and beauty in its students, which would be in line with the responsibility of government (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-14) to sanction good behavior.

What Should the Content or Curricula of Education Be?

Education should found its foundation in the worship and reverence of the Lord:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

—Proverbs 1:7

As for the subjects to be covered, anything good, true and beautiful is fair game. Classically, students were taught according to the Trivium of subjects, namely Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. This format is followed by classical schools today. In my own perusal of Scripture I found support for inclusion of the following subjects. The list is not certainly not exhaustive but may be instructional.

  • Natural sciences. Adam’s first job was to classify the animals. Proverbs 6:6-8 encourages entomology as a source wisdom.

  • Biblical Hermeneutics. Jesus says one who has mastered the Old Testament and is also trained in the New Testament is like a man who “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52).

  • Philosophy and poetry. The Apostle Paul quotes from pagan poets and philosophers when he needs to demonstrate a point, indicating the value in this study (cf. Ti. 1:12, Acts 17:28).

  • Literature. Jude (1:14) quotes from the Book of Enoch, even citing the passage he quotes as an authority. Paul asked Timothy to bring him his books (2 Tim. 4:13).

  • Cosmology and Astrophysics. Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God. The study of the heavens ought to aim to find out what the heavens are saying.

  • History. Scripture is itself a historical text and is filled with commands for God’s people to “remember.”

  • Christology and Theology. Jesus tells his followers to teach disciples “All that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), just as Paul tells Timothy to pass on “What you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 2:2) and to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:13) .

What Is the Biblical Goal of Education?

Ultimately, the goal is that the student would own his own learning and be able to test doctrines and studies himself, to discern truth from error. For example, the author of Hebrews admonishes the Hebrew Christians for their inability to have achieved maturity, calling them children in need of “milk” (Heb. 5:12).

The Berean Jews, on the other hand, took ownership of their own education and searched the Scriptures as soon as they heard the new teaching of the Gospel; Luke (the author of Acts) calls them “noble” (Acts 17:11).

Good instruction is life-giving (Prov. 4:13); as parents we ought to seek to educate our children in such a way that, when they are older, we will be happy if they stick with it (as they most likely will according to Proverbs 22:6). We want our children to become the kind of learners who intertwine their righteousness with their learning and become wiser still (Prov. 9:9).

Ultimately our goal is to ensure that our children are provided with the tools to become mature and complete through their studies, studies which are rooted in Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17) but which branch out into every area of God’s world, and studies which are supplemented by rigorous testing, which produces maturity (cf. James 1:4).

There are many more passages we could have cited and dissected, but this should at least provide parents with a framework for thinking robustly, from a biblical worldview, about these three pertinent questions as they seek to pursue their children’s education in a way that honors the Lord.

Notes:

*Wilson sees full-orbed Christian education as not being fully possible to achieve apart from a Christian civilization, but as a Postmillennialist he believes we are on our way there. As an Amillennialist I disagree with him. However, I do consider myself something of an “optimistic Amillennialist, to which, when I told that to Doug Wilson in a recent phone conversation, he replied, “Well, that works.”

**King David, the man of God and prophet, was himself “apt to teach,” and apparently enjoyed teaching children the fear (worship and reverence) of the Lord (Psalm 34:11).

This article by the Institute for Faith, Works & Economics helped me find the 1 Peter passage about government praising good behavior: Dr. Art Lindsley, “What Does the Bible Say about the Role of Government?”, tifwe.org, accessed on July 30, 2019, at https://tifwe.org/bible-role-of-government/.

30 Questions to Ask Your Atheist, Agnostic & Skeptical Friends & Family

By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read

This post is designed to go along with episode 17 of the Think Podcast. You can listen to the Think Podcast here on this site or find it on your favorite podcast app by going to this link.

The other day I received a comment on one of my posts from a friend of mine who identifies as an atheist. He was offended by my post (it was about how science is not accounted for by atheism), and his comment really made me think.

My goal isn't to offend anyone, but in the course of putting so much content out on apologetics, it's bound to happen. I want to equip believers to be ready for any questions that they encounter about their faith. I talk about how to answer questions a lot, but in this episode I want to change things up a little bit, and talk about how to go on the "offensive" without being unnecessarily "offensive," and ask a few questions of our own. Of course, it’s common for Christians to be confronted with questions and objections from non-Christians about the Christian message.

We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own. After all, we aren’t the only ones presenting a worldview.

The atheist, agnostic or skeptic also has a worldview. And like most everyone, there are likely to be aspects of that worldview he or she hasn’t fully thought through. Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The goal is not to win the argument but to engage in meaningful dialogue, to seek "truth in conversation" (the Think Institute motto) and, if the Lord gives the opportunity, to point the person to the Good News about Jesus that alone can give them forgiveness and eternal life. I hope you enjoy this and, of course, "I hope it makes you think." 

What follows is content, slightly modified, that originally appeared on my personal blog.

Christians are constantly confronted with questions about the Christian message.  We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own.

Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The Questions

Now, here are 30 questions for atheists, agnostics and skeptics (I go into these in greater detail in the podcast episode).

  1. Are you certain that God does not exist, or that you can’t know whether He exists?

  2. How do you know that?

  3. Did you use your five senses to come to that decision?

  4. Given that God is by definition a Spirit, how much sense does it make to decide whether He exists using your five physical senses?

  5. Did you use your reasoning to determine God does not exist?

  6. How do you know your reasoning is working correctly?

  7. Did you use your reasoning to determine your reasoning was working?

  8. Do you see the problem with that?

  9. The Bible says that skepticism about God is the result of a mind suppressing what it knows to be true. Have you ever tried doubting your doubts about God?

  10. The Bible contains hundreds prophecies fulfilled hundreds of years after they were written. How would that be possible without God?

  11. The Bible says that objective moral values are based in God’s morally perfect nature. Without God, what do you think they are based in?

  12. Jesus’ disciples went from being terrified of death, to being willing to die for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus didn’t rise, what do you think changed their mind?

  13. There are hundreds of varieties of unbelief. How do you know yours is the right one?

  14. Archaeology is constantly confirming the details of the accounts in the Bible. Why do you think that is, if the Bible isn’t true?

  15. There is more evidence that Jesus Christ lived, died and came back to life than for just about any other event in ancient history. If God did not exist, or Jesus’ claims to be God were not true, then how would you explain his resurrection?

  16. What do you think makes so many Christians able to live radically different lives from the way they used to live prior to becoming Christians–even to the point of forgiving their abusers for terrible crimes?

  17. One of the most basic principles of philosophy, confirmed by science* is ex nihilo nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”). Without God, how do you think everything came into being?

  18. The Bible says that we were created to live forever, and that death is an unnatural enemy, brought about by sin. If you are a naturalist who believes death is simply part of life, how do you explain why we feel like we ought to live forever, and why pain and death feel so unnatural and wrong to just about everyone?

  19. If your brain is merely the unplanned result of evolution by natural selection, aimed at survival and nothing else, what makes you think you can trust your reasoning to discover the truth, rather than just whichever belief is best for survival?

  20. If no God, why would anything objectively matter?

  21. If no God, why is there so much good in the world?

  22. If no God, how did our DNA get programmed with such incredibly complex language and instructions?

  23. Is everything in the universe really just matter and energy?

  24. If you just thought, “Yes,” was that thought made of matter and energy?

  25. The Bible says every good and perfect gift is from the Father above (i.e. God). To whom are you grateful for the good things in your life?

  26. Where do you think the laws of logic come from?

  27. Are the laws of logic made of matter and energy?

  28. What evidence would actually convince you that Jesus Christ is God, the Lord, and the only Savior?

  29. How much do you know about the heart of the Christian message, AKA the “Gospel” or good news?

  30. Are you ready to learn more about Jesus? Start here with the Gospel of John.

Note:

In the comments on the original article, someone objected that this is a philosophical, rather than a scientific principle. Yet science corroborates it and even relies upon it. Scientists such as Lawrence Krauss and others have proposed that the universe could have popped into existence from “nothing,” but they define “nothing” as an energy-neutral quantum field. If you have to redefine nothing, you’re no longer talking about nothing. The principle of ex nihilo nihil fit, therefore, turns out to be as true in science (excluding God, of course) as in philosophy. Can you imagine how useless scientific hypothesis and inquiry would be if we expected things to suddenly, causelessly, just come into being from nothing?

How to Use the Bible to Witness to Muslims

By N. G. / 5-minute read

Sharing your faith with Muslims can seem very intimidating, however, by using the commonly shared prophets between the Bible and the Quran, we can easily show the authority of Christ and start having Gospel-centered conversations with our Muslim friends.

Listen to N. G. talk about how he brings the Good News to Muslim people on Episode 10 of our podcast.

An Important (but Complex) Question

“We all worship the same God. Can’t we just get along?” 

This is a question I have been asked several times, by many people. Muslims, Christians, and even observers who would say they do not really belong in either group. The answer to this question is not nearly as straightforward as some may think, mostly because there are actually two parts to it we need to address. 

The first half of the question, although it is not phrased as a question, carries many implications which need to be addressed. It is true; there are many similarities between the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the Quran, however, there are many differences as well, which need to be explored. The approach I take to this revolves around a path of prophets whom the Bible and the Quran share. It goes a little like this:

Adam and Abraham

We see Adam in the garden, and I emphasize the promise God gave the serpent after the fall, where the seed of women will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will bruise His heel (Gen 3). Following that, we talk about Abraham who was promised descendants who would become a great nation, through whom the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12). Abraham then established this covenant with God, but only God passed through, meaning that, if the covenant were ever broken, only God could be held accountable (Genesis 15). 

The Psalms help us elaborate, teaching that there would specifically be a high priest from Abraham’s line, who would be the one to bring the blessing (Psalm 110). 

Moses

Next comes Moses, a prophet who was described as carrying more authority than all the other prophets (Deut 34:10). In studying his life, I really go through the plagues and talk about how powerful the one true God showed Himself to be over all the false gods of the world, especially over such a powerful kingdom as Egypt. Then I like to bring to their attention to Deuteronomy 18:15, which states that there would be one other prophet like Moses, and to Him all the people must listen. 

King David

Next we follow Israel’s greatest king, David. He became king at a time when the nation was accepting all the idols from the surrounding nations. He ridded the nation of the idols and brought worship to the one true God. Because of this, God promised there would be an eternal King to come through David’s line (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

With all these prophets, I think it is so important to emphasize their role in proclaiming that there is only one God. Muslims believe Christians are polytheistic. When sharing our beliefs, tell them we are not. A person cannot say you believe something when you are blatantly saying you don’t believe that; it just does not work.

John the Baptist

This next prophet holds a role in paving the way for the Messiah which, I believe, is the most important. This is John the Baptist. You see, so many people had been waiting for such a long time for this Messiah to come, liberate them from their oppressors, and rule the world. They were waiting for a strong military leader. They were waiting for Muhammad (so to speak). However, Muhammad did not come, somebody else did. John the Baptist carried the most honorable role; he told the world here He is, don’t miss Him!

Jesus

Spend as much time as you possibly can with your Muslim friends studying the life of Jesus. Every story if you can. The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John does not consist merely in the final chapters they each wrote. The Gospel is the entire life of Christ. So don’t just share Jesus’ wounds. Share Jesus’ ways, His words, His worth, and His wounds.

This is what the Gospel is composed of. It is the power of Christ to set us free from sin and restore our relationship with Him. The death and resurrection is so important, but it is not solely important. Share Jesus’ whole life. He is the one the world waited for, and we cannot miss Him.

Muhammad

I do also tend to speak of Muhammad. I will say he came about 600 years after Jesus in a time and place where many people worshipped many gods. He told them there is only one God (notice a trend?) and in his teachings (recorded in the Quran) he says to “follow the signs” several hundred times. Well, what are the signs? They are the seed of women, the priest in the order of Melchizedek, the prophet like Moses, and the eternal king in the line of David. “Well, all signs point to Jesus! Would you like to know this Jesus?”

So, Can We Just Get Along?

As for the second half of the question, “Can’t we just get along?” I think the answer is yes. We should strive to be friends with those of other faiths--in fact Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

However, the best way we can love them as we love ourselves is to always remember our duty to them, which is to share the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ, which is the Gospel. 

The Biblical Worldview, Part 7: Who Is Jesus?

By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read

Is Jesus merely a man, a created, divine being, or God? What did Jesus claim about himself and are those claims true?

The Most Important Question In the World

There is perhaps no historical personage whose identity and significance is debated more than Jesus Christ. Of course, this is appropriate given of what is at stake in answering the question. 

Christians teach that Jesus is the Messiah (or “Christ,” the “Anointed One”) who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). If  this is true, then correct belief about him (and in him) is a matter of eternal life and death. In that case, every human being on earth owes him complete allegiance and submission.

Because we humans are none too willing to surrender our autonomy to just anyone, and because (due to our broken and sinful human nature) we naturally rebel against God, it is to be expected that the identity of Jesus would be highly controversial. The unbeliever has literally everything to lose (and, the believer would add, everything to gain!) by believing in the biblical identity of Jesus. Below, we will briefly look at a few of the ways that adherents of different worldviews answer this question, before we examine the biblical data. 

The Most Interesting Man In the World

At this point, you might be thinking, Wait, I thought we were talking about seven questions that every worldview must answer! Belief in Jesus is a Christian thing. Why should other worldviews need to answer this? This is a valid question. So then, is the identity of Jesus really a vital one for all worldviews? 

The answer is yes, for two reasons. First, Jesus really is who the Bible teaches he is, and therefore his identity is of the utmost, cosmic importance. Secondly, as it turns out, all the major worldviews really do have an answer to the question of Jesus’s identity. This First-Century carpenter-turned-rabbi from Judea has been so influential that, when it comes to thinking about life’s biggest issues, he turns out to be unavoidable. 

In a 2015 article for Relevant Magazine, apologist J. Warner Wallace said, “Every religion makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching… This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.” It is amazing to see how nearly so many adherents of different worldviews try to explain Jesus and even roll him into their own system.

Different Answers

So how have other worldviews explained who Jesus is? Let us now consider five alternative versions of Jesus, from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Rabbinical Judaism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Bible’s Answer

We could continue and list the versions of Jesus from other worldviews, such as Atheism, Postmodernism/Intersectionality, Mormonism, and more. Such a list would be fascinating. However, it suffices to say that every worldview other than biblical Christianity views Jesus as less (far less!) than what he truly is, according to Scripture. Now, what does the Bible really teach about Jesus? 

Whole libraries could be, and have been, written about the biblical Jesus. In fact the Bible itself is a library of 66 volumes, all testifying to his future coming (Old Testament) and his life, work, and ongoing presence with his people through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (New Testament).

His Identity

Remember that the Bible’s presentation of the Godhead (the divine nature) is that he is triune (three-in-one), and that the three divine Persons are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. He is also called the “word” in John 1:1, who is said to have existed at the beginning of creation, and through whom all things were created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). In all, there are at least 102 different names or titles for Jesus in Scripture, including Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8), Bread of Life (John 6:32), and Captain of Salvation (Hebrews 2:10).

His Work

For Christians, Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God in the world (Colossians 1:15), and the only way to God (John 14:6). He is God in the flesh (John 1:14), and during his earthly ministry he presented himself as a sinless sacrifice to God on behalf of all his people (2 Corinthians 5:21). All who repent of their sins, confessing Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead (validating his claims about himself, about which more below) will be saved from God’s wrath (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). 

His Roles

To believers, Jesus is king, defender and best friend. And he will be the judge of the world. These are just a few of his roles, and we could discuss many more. Yet there are three roles (or “offices”) in particular, which Jesus carries out in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, in which all the other roles are bound up. These are the roles of Prophet, King, and Priest. Jesus fulfills all three roles simultaneously (it is not like he is a Prophet on Monday, a King on Tuesday, and a Priest every third Sunday). Each of the three roles is perfectly summed up and unified in him. 

Each one also gives meaning to, and provides a basis for, certain elements of the biblical worldview we have been discussing. In other words, the whole system we have been studying together all orbits around Jesus. He is the rock upon which our whole worldview is built. In fact, Scripture tells us as much:

  • “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).

  • “...God’s household… with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19b, 20b).

  • “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Luke 20:17, citing Psalm 118:22). 

  • “For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Each of the three roles also corresponds to the three “Lordship Attributes” we discussed earlier. Let’s look at these three roles of Prophet, King and Priest. 

Who is Jesus graphic (1).png

Do you see how Jesus gives meaning to the whole biblical worldview? In this course we have truly been saving the best for last. Jesus is the best; he has the final word on the previous six questions we have been examining. 

To know Jesus is to know the unifying principle of the biblical worldview. Think about that. If a worldview is the “network of presuppositions… through which one interprets all human experience,” and the biblical worldview is the true worldview, then the person, work and story of Jesus is the fundamental proposition by which we must filter all reality--and truly, all reality is all about him! 

This means that our investigation of the Christian perspective ought to lead us closer to Jesus, the “source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).\

Notes:

For comparative views on Jesus in world religions see, J. Warner Wallace, “What Other World Religions Think About Jesus,” RelevantMagazine.com, March 12, 2015, accessed June 26, 2019, https://relevantmagazine.com/god/what-other-world-religions-think-about-jesus/.

Rabbinic Judaism is based on a combination of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Talmud, the tradition of the Rabbis written in the early decades after the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. and is distinguished from biblical Judaism, which was based on the Tanakh alone. Cf. “Question: What is the difference between Messianic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism?” Bethadonai.com, accessed June 26, 2019, http://bethadonai.com/?page_id=511. See also, “Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the LIFE, DEATH, and RESURRECTION of JESUS,” WestarkchurchofChrist.org, accessed June 26, 2019.

Official Jehovah’s Witness teaching on Jesus drawn from, “Lesson 4: Who Is Jesus Christ?” JW.org, accessed June 26, 2019.

For the names of Jesus see,  Betty Miller, “All the Names of Jesus,” BibleResources.org, October 10, 2005, accessed June 27, 2019.



The Biblical Worldview, Part 6: What Is Our Destiny?

By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read.

The biblical worldview teaches that the story of the world is linear, that it is headed somewhere, and that it is ultimately God’s story. History is neither purposeless nor is it ultimately determined by human choices. While our decisions and actions are morally significant, the ultimate flow and shape of history has been predetermined by God.

Before we begin this section, I need to include an important caveat. When it comes to the details of eschatology (the study of “last things” or the End Times), there are many conflicting views across Christianity. The eschatological details over which orthodox Christians disagree are secondary ones. That is to say, two individuals can both be Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-having believers and still disagree on when Jesus is coming back and what specific events will occur immediately before and afterward.

This cannot be said when it comes to primary doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation of Jesus, or the Gospel.

However, while the boundaries of orthodoxy (which simply means “straight teaching”) allow for broad divergence in the secondary details of eschatology, that is not to say that all of eschatology is secondary. There are some must-believes, some essential teachings, about the future taught clearly in Scripture.

We could turn to any number of passages to derive a biblical view of history and destiny. However, there is one verse in particular that is especially instructive:

Isaiah 46:10: “I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.”

From this single verse we learn three things about the destiny of our world. We learn that the story of the world is linear, that it is headed somewhere, and that it is ultimately God’s story.

History Is Linear

To clarify, we are using the word “history” to mean the whole story of the world, not just the events of the past.

Eastern worldviews conceive of history as circular. Just as the seasons rotate through spring, summer, autumn and winter, so all the life of humanity and the cosmos is a series of repetitions. Even human souls are reincarnated over and over in a cycle of life, death, and reincarnation (until, perhaps, they achieve release from the cycle through Moksha and become unified with the cosmic reality (Brahman in Hinduism).

Not so in the West, shaped as it has been by a long history of biblical teaching. In Western worldviews, even including Western forms of atheism, history had a beginning and will have an end.

The Bible teaches that history had a beginning when God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing by his word (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3). From that moment, in which natural time itself was created, the story of the cosmos has been progressing toward an inevitable conclusion.

History Is Heading Somewhere

Isaiah 46:10 (with Scripture as a whole) teaches that history will have an end. Things will not continue on infinitely into the future.

At the end of this age, Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead by their words and their deeds (Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 12:36-37). Those who have been rescued by Jesus during their earthly lives (there is no recourse after death) will be judged not by the record of their misdeeds but rather by the inclusion of their names in the book of life (Revelation 20:11-15).

Our current world will not last forever but are being reserved for fire (2 Peter 3:7), after which a new heavens and earth will be created (Isaiah 65:17), the dwelling of God and his redeemed people forever (Revelation 21:4).

History Is “His Story”

Our passage in Isaiah says that history is ultimately the unfolding of God’s holy will. What he wants to happen will happen. So it is appropriate to say that history is actually “his story.” Isaiah 14:24 similarly records God as saying, “As I have purposed, so it will be; as I have planned it, so it will happen.”

The theological center point of history--the most important event ever--was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the heart of the Christian message and worldview. The Apostle Paul called this the matter of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). The Gospel, then is the key to understanding history. In one sense, all the events prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus are pointing forward to it, and in some sense every event since then is pointing backward to it. In another sense, the cross points both forward and backward to all the events before and after it, giving them all meaning.

So history is neither purposeless nor is it ultimately determined by human choices. While our decisions and actions are morally significant, the ultimate flow and shape of history has been predetermined by God (Genesis 50:20). This is a great comfort to believers, because this means that we are never outside of God’s plan for us, and that he is always working our situations together for good and to make us more like his Son (Romans 8:28).

At this point we could get into a discussion of the divergent views Christians hold on the Millennium (the thousand years of Christ’s reign with his saints mentioned in Revelation 20:4) and whether Jesus will physically return before or after that reign (or whether it is currently happening now). We could discuss the Rapture, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Beast, and the Harlot mentioned in Revelation, as well as the 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy (9:24-27) and the destruction of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70. However, we will not get into these questions now, not because they are not important (all biblical teaching is important!) but because they are not essential to the biblical worldview.

Godly Christians disagree on these matters, but we all agree on the important issues. Jesus is Lord, Jesus is coming back, and the story of the cosmos is ultimately about him.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 5: What Is the Meaning of Life?

By Joel Settecase / 4-minute read.

Is there a point to all this? Does God have a purpose and how do we discover it?

“What is the meaning of life?” has almost become a rhetorical question nowadays. It is often asked flippantly, as though the person asking doesn’t really expect to get an answer, or that there even is an answer.

Another way of asking this question--maybe one that seems easier for us to answer, is “What is the good life?” Certainly, the prevailing view at the popular level of our society today seems to be that there is no meaning to life--at least no objective one--and therefore that each of us ought to do our best to define the “good life” for ourselves, to make our own meaning.

Many answers are given from the various worldviews, including (but certainly not limited to),

MEANING OF LIFE GRAPHIC.png
  • To be good.

  • To follow your heart.

  • To love and be loved.

  • Seeking pleasure now.

  • Self-improvement.

  • The pursuit of self-interest.

  • Making authentic decisions.

  • To be oneself (or to be true to oneself).

  • Establishing or carrying on a family legacy.

  • To do the most good for the most people.

While all of the answers reflected in this graphic may very well be good, there is a question we must answer before we can answer the question of life’s meaning, and that is this: “Who are we to say?”

In Romans 9:19-24, human beings are compared to pots, and God to a potter. The upshot of the passage is summarized in verse 20: “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” God is the Author of creation, and as such he has authority (author-ity) to define the meaning of our lives.

If God has defined the meaning of life, then, it is his definition alone that matters. As it turns out, he has defined it, and the definition is found in Scripture.

First, mankind shares its meaning with all creation, which exists to glorify our Creator (Psalm 19:1; 100:3). Beyond that, human beings are specially created to bear God’s image in the world, exercising dominion and creativity in like fashion to his own (Genesis 1:28). As God’s image bearers, all human beings are responsible to worship God and obey his commands with reverence (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In fact, when mankind fails to do this a sorry state of affairs results, in which our thinking becomes futile and we spin out into moral relativism and wickedness (Romans 1:18-24).

Yet there is another level of meaning to human life, beyond showing God’s glory as creatures and even beyond bare obedience. This level of meaning is only available to followers of Jesus Christ. This is true, not because Christians are inherently “better” than anyone else. Rather it is only possible for Christians because of what it means to be a Christian.

The highest level of meaning for a human life is found in deep communion with God, when we experience God as Father, the Son of God as Lord and Friend, and the Spirit of God as Counselor and Helper, living within us. This situation, which is definitional of the Christian life, is enjoyed only by God’s chosen people, those he has redeemed by grace through their faith (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:8-9). Salvation and reconciliation to God is only a reality in the lives of Christ’s people, those whom he saves (Matthew 1:21), and there is no other means by which we may attain those blessings (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

What is truly awesome, is that restored status with God is not the finale of the “good life” for Christians but rather the beginning. Every follower of Jesus is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), (re)created in the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:24), intended by God for the accomplishment of good works--works of significance and value that God himself has prepared for us in advance (Ephesians 2:10)!

So while the culture at large may not be able to objectively answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?” (and how could they, unless they recognize the authority of God himself to answer that question!), God has answered it for us in his word.

We might distill the answer to something like this:

“The meaning of life is to know, glorify and enjoy God, through Jesus Christ, and to live for him by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Note:

For the various answers to the question of life’s meaning, I drew from this info graphic, by Anna Vital, available at the article by DrNicoRose, “The Meaning of Life according to different philosophers [Infographic) [sic], January 23, 2016, mappalicious.com, accessed June 20, 2019, https://mappalicious.com/2016/01/23/the-meaning-of-life-according-to-different-philosophers-infographic/.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 4: What Is Man?

By Joel Settecase / 8-minute read.

Man’s nature is best described as fundamentally broken. While having been initially created good, mankind has gone astray and is in desperate need of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.

Why This Question Matters

We start this section by asking why we need to ask this question at all. That is, why do we need a definition of man at all? After all, we are human beings. Shouldn’t it be obvious to us what we are?

The fact is, the answer to “What is Man?” is not obvious. Or at the very least, there is no shared definition of humanity across all worldviews. Therefore, if we want our thinking to be shaped by the Bible, we must ask this question and see how the Bible answers it. (It is also important to note here that we are using the term “man” in an inclusive way to refer not just to adult males but to male and female human persons of all ages. This usage is biblical and theologically significant in ways which we won’t expound on here, but which will perhaps become clear as we go on).

Some Alternative Views

worldview views o f man.png

We mentioned above that there is no unified way that all worldviews answer the question of mankind or human nature. Here are a few samples of the various answers out there:

  • Materialism: Man is a complex machine or evolved animal, the product of an unguided process of evolution by natural selection over millions of years.

  • Mormonism: Man is a spirit child of Elohim, the Heavenly Father, who himself is an exalted or deified man. As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may become.

  • Hinduism & New Age: In Hinduism, “Atman” (man) is “Brahman” (ultimate reality or the cosmic soul). Man is one with the universe, though he may not be aware of this. New Age thought is similar, in that the self is god.

  • Postmodernism & Intersectionality: Man’s nature is debated, but generally seen as being without any objective definition or essential nature (a Postmodernist would likely object to my use of “man” to describe humanity!). Neil Shenvi says, “As a non-theistic worldview, critical theory believes that our identity is not primarily found in our vertical relationship to God but in our horizontal relationships to other people and other groups.” On this view, individuals define themselves and relate to one another and society according to an intersecting network of sub-groups, each with various levels of “privilege” and “oppression.”

Then there is the question of the moral status of human nature: is man basically good, basically bad, more good than bad, more bad than good, or fundamentally broken? There are diverse answers to this question as well.

The Biblical Teaching

So what does the Bible teach? What does man’s Creator have to say about his creation? According to the Bible, man is:

  • Persons bearing God’s own image (Genesis 1:27).

  • Designed as an expression of unity-in-diversity, male and female each with their own roles and both equal in value and personhood (Genesis 2:18; 5:2).

  • Created to procreate and exercise dominion over the animals and the natural world (Genesis 1:26).

  • Valuable and possessing of dignity from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5; 139:13; cf. Exodus 21:22-25; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41).

The first humans were a married couple, specially created by God (the husband from the soil and the wife from the side of her husband) (Genesis 2:7, 21-22). All humans since that time are descended from the same married couple (Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26) and so are rightly considered a single race.

Man is the only “animal” given personality, and as such people are more like God than anything else in nature and enjoy a status infinitely higher than animals, plants and machines. However, unlike God, who is infinite, man is finite. As such, he is infinitely lower than God and is dependent on him (Matthew 4:4).

Adam, our first father, sinned, an event we refer to as the Fall, recorded in Genesis 3:1-7. As the father of all mankind, Adam was also our representative. As a result of his Fall, sin and its consequences (death and hardship) spread to all mankind, who all became sinners (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12).

So man’s nature is best described as fundamentally broken. That brokenness is both given to us (by virtue of our shared ancestry, according to Psalm 51:5) and chosen by us (by virtue of our own individual sins). We should not think of ourselves as victims but rather as villains. In man’s natural state he is utterly sinful (“totally depraved,” as the Reformers put it) and enters this world under God’s judgment. Ephesians 2:3 describes our state apart from God’s grace as living “in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts,” and being “by nature children under wrath.”

Sin broke all human relationships--to God, to society and the world, and even to oneself. Although man was originally created to exist in perfect relational harmony (similar to how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to one another), since the Fall man’s default is interpersonal strife and jealousy (action that the Apostle Paul calls “merely human” in 1 Corinthians 3:3). Left to our own devices, we would become more and more sinful, and earn more and more of God’s wrath and judgment. The final state of an unrepentant, sinful person is everlasting punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 21:8).

Yet while man’s nature is broken, his dignity as being God’s image bearer has not been completely destroyed. Human life is still valuable and dignified (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9-10). Furthermore, mankind is not a lost cause. It is possible for sinners to be reconciled to God and reborn, given new life and adopted into God’s family as his children (John 1:12; 3:7).

So we see that man, while having been initially created good, has gone astray and is in desperate need of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.

There has only ever been one human being who did not sin, namely Jesus Christ, who is both fully human and fully God (Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, Jesus both flawlessly exemplifies what it means to be human, and perfectly provides the means by which broken and sinful humanity may be “fixed” and forgiven.

Notes:

For a comparison of different worldviews’ answers to the question of humanity, cf. the “Theory Comparison Chart (Santrock Chapter 2)” Christinao.wordpress.com, accessed on June 18, 2019, https://cristinao.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/sire-cristinao.pdf.

See also: James Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 156-209, especially page 200.

On the issue of ethnicities and race: although the Bible recognizes many ethnicities, it presents only one “race.” That is, human beings of every ethnicity share the same primeval parents, Adam and Eve. However, biblically speaking there are really two “races,” the race of Adam (unregenerate sinners still under Adam’s headship) and the race of Christ--those who have been reborn and brought into God’s family (John 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9), who have Christ as their representative or head.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 3: What Is True?

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read.

Reason, science and intuition are invaluable truth-seeking faculties, but each one is insufficient on its own. We need a unifying principle tying them all together and giving us epistemological warrant for using all three. Moreover, we need a basis for trusting them in the first place. Scripture provides that unity and basis.

The question, “What is true?” is one of the seven questions we have identified as being essential to every worldview. This question is best addressed in two parts. I’ve already discussed the nature of truth here, so this article will focus exclusively on knowledge.

The Study of Knowledge

The study of knowing, or the theory of knowledge, is called epistemology. Epistemology deals with the questions above. While we take the fact that we know things for granted, we really should not. After all, why should we think that we can know anything? Why should we think that we can have knowledge? Come to think of it, what is knowledge?

Knowledge is classically defined as “justified, true belief.” The word “justified” has led to much debate, and in recent years philosopher Alvin Plantinga has offered the definition “warranted, true belief.” We may say that Bob has knowledge when he believes a true proposition to be true, and his truth-seeking faculties (his mind, his reason, his five senses, etc.) are functioning properly and in a favorable environment. In this case there is alignment between the truth of the proposition, the belief that Bob has, and the warrant that Bob has for believing it.

Three Views of How We Come to Know Things

So how do we arrive at knowledge? How do we come to know? And how do we know that we know?  

Philosophers (and others who spend their days pondering such questions) have developed many epistemologies, but these can be roughly divided into three categories.

  1. Empiricism: knowledge is based on the five senses. True knowledge begins with the scientific process of collecting data from the world, analyzing it, and drawing conclusions based on those observations. Man’s reason can be deceived, but cold, hard facts don’t lie. Example: William Clifford said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

  2. Rationalism: knowledge is based on certain principles, which we know apart from what we experience through our senses. These rules govern our thinking. Laws of logic are examples of these rules. When we know these rules, we can reason our way to all true knowledge. This view places high value in human reasoning and distrusts sense data, because after all, our eyes may deceive us! Example: René Descartes started with the maxim, “I think, therefore I am,” and developed a system of knowledge from there.

  3. Subjectivism: knowledge of any absolute truth is impossible. All we can know is what is true “for ourselves.” We come to know these truths through processes that are completely internal and not necessarily verifiable by reason or science. Reason can be muddled, and our senses can deceive us, but there are some things, perhaps the most important things, that we “just know.” Example: Walt Whitman said, “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” Intuition relies heavily on experience. One example of intuition is when we assume that the future will be like the past. This is not a conclusion based on reason (there’s no logical requirement that the future be like the past) nor sense experience (we have no sense data of the future!), but it “makes sense to us” to believe it.

False Epistemologies.png

Philosopher and theologian John Frame has pointed out that no one has really been able to consistently hold completely to any of these three perspectives. Instead, the very best philosophers and thinkers have rather tried to combine these three approaches. This is because, at the end of the day, it is obvious that each one has merit.

As Christians we can affirm aspects of all three. We agree with the Empiricists that science is a valid way of gaining knowledge (in fact the first scientists were all Christians!). We further affirm with the Rationalists the importance of logic and sound reasoning. And we join with the Subjectivists in saying that, by golly, there are some facts that we just know to be true, even if we can’t verify them scientifically or account for them logically (though they do not contradict science or reason.

Each of these three epistemologies focuses on its preferred truth-seeking faculty to the (unsuccessful) exclusion of the other two. While each one fails on its own, if there were a way of unifying them, we could approach a holistic view of how we really arrive at knowledge. As it turns out, God’s revelation is the key to that unification. In fact, as believers we can look at all three of these epistemologies as perspectives on the truth.

The Role of Revelation in Epistemology

The world does not interpret itself. God, the Creator of the world and everything in it, is the Creator who speaks. He has spoken to us in an authoritative way, and by that speech he has revealed to us the truth about himself, the cosmos, and ourselves. He has not given us exhaustive knowledge, but the knowledge he has given us is true. True knowledge begins with a proper attitude toward God and a willingness to hear what he has to say. As Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

God reveals himself in two ways: by his works and by his word. We call the former “General Revelation” and the latter “Special Revelation.”

General Revelation is accessible to all men, through observing the “outer world” of the cosmos and analyzing the “inner world” of the self (Romans 1:18-20). For example, both the law of gravity governing the movement of physical objects, as well as the laws of logic governing our thoughts, point to the existence of God.

Special Revelation is God’s supernaturally revealing truth to us, which today is recorded in Scripture, the Bible. The Bible is “breathed out by God,” and was written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

The Bible provides the basis for certain knowledge, and validates the three ways of knowing we referenced earlier. When we think biblically, we see that Rationalism is a false view, but the use of reason is good (Isaiah 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15). Empiricism is false, but empirical science (based on sense data analysis) is good (Psalm 111:2; Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 94:9). Subjectivism is also false, but God has given us intuition, and truth is very personal (Job 38:36; Romans 2:14-15).

Epistemology united by Scripture.png

When unified by God’s revelation, the core truth-seeking faculties of each of the three epistemologies are not in conflict but work together. We have a basis for using all three—reason, senses and intuition. This article examined three perspectives on knowledge, but it would equally apply to any others that could hypothetically be brought up. So we have seen that knowledge is possible and uniquely accessible to those who hold to the biblical worldview, because of our faith in the Bible, which unifies our truth-seeking faculties and provides the basis for trusting them as reliable, when used appropriately.

Of course, the same Bible that validates these three methods of gaining knowledge also warns us about the effects of sin on our ability to know. We will discuss this in a future article, when we talk about the nature of man.

Notes:

Francis Schaeffer poses the question, “How do we know that we know?” and discusses its implications in Chapter 3 of his book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1972), 37-60.

For the three approaches to epistemology I’m drawing heavily on the work on John Frame and specifically from his article, “Epistemological Perspectives and Evangelical Apologetics,” Frame-Poythress.org, May 17, 2012, Accessed June 12, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/epistemological-perspectives-and-evangelical-apologetics/. In this article he also points out that no one has been able to hold consistently to any one of the three epistemological positions discussed here, i.e. Rationalism, Empiricism and Subjectivism.

John Frame has written extensively about “Triperspectivalism,” the concept that three ideas seemingly in conflict are actually perspectives on the same reality. For more see, Frame, John, “John Frame on the Trinity,” Frame-Poythress.org, November 21, 2016, Accessed June 14, 2019, https://frame-poythress.org/john-frame-on-the-trinity/.

To the point that God has given us true—yet not exhaustive—knowledge, James Sire describes Francis Schaeffer as having made this point. Cf. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Wheaton: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 130.
I credit Dr. Jason Lisle with the insight that intuition relies on experience. He makes this point in The Physics of Einstein: Black holes, time travel, distant starlight, E=mc² (Aledo, TX: Biblical Science Institute, 2018), 61-62.

10 Ways Apologetics Benefits the Local Church

By Chaseton Hahn (with Joel Settecase) / 22-minute read

Our culture and its guiding ideas are constantly changing. Apologetics helps the church build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated in order for Christians to be fully prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer. The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Challenge Ahead

The ever-increasing secularization of Western culture has been accompanied by a rapid decline of esteem for Christian morality and ethics. Followers of Jesus in the United States must come to grips with a rather unfortunate reality: we are living in a post-Christian nation. 

Because of this, the need for the prophetic voice of the Church in the world has never been needed with greater urgency. In days gone by, church attendance and Christian nominalism and virtue reigned supreme; this is hardly the case anymore. In fact, in a 2016 research study Barna Group identified Generation Z as the “first truly post-Christian generation,” in which the percentage of atheists doubles that of the Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, or Elders generations.

 How are believers to respond? Should we hang our heads in defeat? Absolutely not! Jesus said in John 4:35, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” and his words are just as true today. The increasing expression of godlessness is clear. The work ahead is difficult. The opposition is fierce. Churches must be more willing than ever to equip their membership with the tools to make Christ shine brightly before a spiritually dark world. Enter apologetics.

The focus of this article is to show 10 benefits of incorporating apologetics training into your church’s discipleship programs. 

1: It Is Faithful to Scripture

The call to join in the field of apologetics is found first upon the pages of the Bible itself. Apologetics simply means to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview, and the Bible contains many examples to follow. Peter the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs believers to “…always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15b).

Among the numerous examples in the New Testament of people confidently defending the faith is none other than the Great Apologist, Jesus Christ. Jesus being the Divine Logos is a master of logic and rhetoric, often turning the accusations of his opponents on their ear with silky smooth repose.  

Not only is Jesus a skilled apologist, but in Luke 12:11-12 he promised his disciples that they too would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to defend themselves before, “the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities….”

You also have instances recorded such as Peter and John boldly standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, and Stephen making a courageous charge against the Jewish council before his martyrdom in Acts 7. Then there is Paul who famously addresses the Epicureans on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and later makes his case to Roman Procurator Felix in Acts 24. These are a few of the many occasions of apologetics documented in Scripture for us to emulate. Because the church itself is a Scriptural organization, anything that makes the church more in line with Scripture may rightly be called a benefit!

2: It Guards the Trustworthiness, Sufficiency, and Authority of Scripture.

Along with its scientific and technological advances, the Modern era brought a new wave of skepticism, specifically toward the claims of the Bible.

At every turn, there seems to be a new attempt to smother the truth of Scripture, relegating it to the ash heap of history as baseless, ancient mythological nonsense. Where the Bible was once respected, it is now counted irrelevant and unreliable. The church must therefore be furnished with Christians who are ready to face such indictments upon the Word of God. The rise of secularism with its control of the media and its grip upon the academy poses a serious threat to the faith of those who are not trained to stand in defense of the truth of Scripture.

Scripture testifies unabashedly to its enduring truth. Take heed of the Psalmist who proudly proclaims, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Or take for instance the Prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8). Jesus himself upheld its authority when he said, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Lk. 16:17). The Apostle Paul describes all Scripture as being “breathed out by God” and sufficient for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Sure, the Bible says these things, but then there exist textual critics and liberal scholars asserting that these words should not be trusted at all.

Therefore, one of the primary aims of apologetics is to defend against such arguments and uphold the biblical testimony. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity rests upon the truthfulness of Scripture in which believers must be confident.  

3: It Strengthens the Faith of Individual Christians

When I was a freshman in college, I encountered a challenge against my belief in the Bible for the first-time . The class was Western Civilizations, taught by a man named Dr. Baldwin. He had reputation around campus of being especially militant in his atheism – even causing people to renounce their belief in God! Being the stubborn 18-year-old that I was, I enrolled without a second thought, thinking to myself, “He can’t be that bad.” The first day of class, I sat down for the lecture and Dr. Baldwin immediately opened with a booming voice, “Alright class! Since we will be learning about the emergence of Western civilization, it is important we talk about Christianity.” He continued, “But first, let’s talk about all the contradictions in the Bible.” The murmurs and whispers of the other students almost instantly came to a halt as we all sat in wide-eyed shock from what we just heard.

At the end of the presentation, my head was spinning. The information I had just ingested was tremendously confusing and troublesome. I thought to myself, “Is everything I believe really just a child’s fairy tale?” This is what many of our young people face today in secular academia. What the professor unknowingly did was spur me to study the Word of God with greater intensity, digging deeper than I ever had before. I decided, if I am going to be a Christian, I must be completely sure that it is true.

During that time, I came across various apologetics ministries that provided the resources to satisfy the very questions that Dr. Baldwin raised; my faith was inevitably strengthened. I was shown that the Word of God is true even when put under intense scrutiny.

Many people seem to characterize faith as believing in something without evidence. This is not how Scripture describes faith at all. In the biblical sense, faith should not be blind or irrational. Instead it is a confident trust in the promises of God. Faith is a trust that is graduated from knowledge about the word of God! Apologetics aids in the discovery of answers to the hardest questions pointed against our belief in Christ.

When these problems are shown to have solutions, a greater trust in the promises of God is the result, so we may say along with the psalmist: “The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever” (Ps. 119:160).

4: It Helps the Church Love God with all her Mind

Many Christians seem to hold to the opinion that since the matters of religion are mostly concerned with the spiritual, then the worship of God should be confined to the emotional and experiential. The emergence of revivalism through the Second Great Awakening and its overemphasis of spiritual encounters (seen notably in the ministry of Charles Finney) gave rise to the rampant anti-intellectualism that is alive in many sectors of the church today, leaving the people of God unable to shield themselves from the criticisms by the secular elements of the culture.

Unfortunately, skeptical members of our society have therefore concluded that Christians do not care about knowledge and thus that belief in God requires low intelligence. This is not how Scripture teaches believers to approach their faith.

Jesus, as he details the Greatest Commandment, says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…and mind” (Mt. 22:37 emphasis added). To be educated apologetically is to sharpen the mind – the cognitive faculty of reason and understanding.

Believers should know not only what they believe, but why they believe—and how to articulate this with confidence. Indeed, to pursue godly wisdom is to be more like our Creator, whose image we bear (Gen. 1:26-28). God, the supreme intellect, himself possesses a rational mind. God is the one who crafted science and mathematicsFrom the inconceivably complex composition of DNA to the immense structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, all of creation displays his intelligence. Therefore, we should desire to learn with and exercise our minds for the good pleasure of our Creator - especially in the mastery of his Word.

5: It Corrects Doctrinal Error

Apologetics is not only effective in defending against arguments from unbelievers outside of the church; it is useful for correcting error within the church. False teachers are running rampant, leading many millions of people into apostasy. Indeed, apologetics training aids Christians to cultivate their knowledge of the truth so that they may reach maturity of faith; able to “distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Consider the numerous cultural and social philosophies that war against the teachings of Scripture, even seeping into the lives of the membership. Apologetics is vital in preserving fidelity to the biblical message, protecting the sheep from falling prey to the destructive doctrines of the world.

Numerous passages warn of false prophets and false teachers who will appear among the saints seeking to lead them into destructive doctrines and heresy (2 Pet. 2:1; Mt. 24:24; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Acts 20:28-30).

Look for example at many of the popular “evangelists” that are featured on major television networks. Many meet the qualifications of what is being warned about in the Bible, yet unsuspecting Christians fall right into their trap. Apologetics helps prevent such tragedies, keeping the believers sober-minded, and able to clearly spot heterodoxy and warn others about it.

If or when someone begins to teach doctrinal error in your church, you will be able to defend biblical truth and drive out any error before it takes root in the congregation.

6: It Strengthens Unity around Truth

 Having a singular focus upon a clear objective is fundamental for success of any movement, whether it be a sports team or a board of directors of a major corporation. This is no less true for the body of Christ. While the goal of the church is not collecting championship rings or sustaining financial growth, it shares in common in the pursuit of an important principle: unity. The truth of the Gospel is the unifying principle of the church. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi was especially concerned with the cohesion of the believers around the message of Jesus Christ:

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:27-28).

 Apologetics assists the church to be so oriented, that the believers have an impenetrable resilience based in the core doctrines of the faith.

Undeniably, with a constantly shifting culture it is critical that the church be prepared for any objection or affront to the Gospel. When believers become more mature in their knowledge of Christ, they will no longer be susceptible to “every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). It is when members of the church are confident in their knowledge of biblical truth that spiritual flourishing will happen.

Wherever Christians are unified in truth, there the Gospel message can be propelled with all fervency and conviction. The church unified becomes an unstoppable machine, individuals acting as cogs and wheels mutually rotating for the glory and honor of Christ.

This solidarity among the saints cultivates such fellowship, whereby every act is one of worship and celebration of the truths of God in his word, the very foundation for Christian faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A community of believers who encamp around the truth of Christ ultimately fosters a bond of love in fulfillment of the prayer of our Lord: “That they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:21).

7: It Injects Enthusiasm into the Church

When I was first exposed to apologetics and how it helped find satisfying answers to the objections against my faith, I was simply ecstatic. This is the testimony that many others report when they too discover that the Bible and what it teaches can stand against the daunting opposition of our unbelieving culture.

Apologetics should be exciting. What we believe is true, and that is worthy of rejoicing over! The wonderful mysteries of God have been revealed to us, and learning that these can stand against the staunchest opposition, that not even the Devil or the flames of Hell can overcome them, should cause your heart to race with excitement.

Not only this, but the principles of apologetics is for all believers to enjoy, not just the academics or intellectuals. Young and old, men and women of any social standing, can all enjoy the confidence that is cultivated through the learning and wielding of God’s Word through apologetic training.

8: It Reaches the Lost

The purpose of apologetics is never to win an argument or to make yourself appear more intelligent. Instead, apologetics should be viewed as an evangelistic tool for the spreading of the Gospel.

Whenever you share the message of Christ with an unbelieving individual, it is almost guaranteed that there will be objections or questions about what and why you believe, even if these interactions are completely amicable. Apologetics arms the believer with the proper instruments to give an adequate rebuttal to most concerns that are raised. For instance, take Paul when he addressed the Athenians and the philosophers at the Areopagus as recorded in Acts 17. Paul was provoked by the Holy Spirit because he, “saw the city was full of idols.” So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (vv. 16-17).

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers approached him because he was preaching the resurrection; something very foreign to their minds. Paul was not bent on humiliating these men for their beliefs (remember, principles of gentleness and respect are vital for apologetics according to 1 Pet. 3:15b), but he was interested in persuading them to believe the Gospel.

If you examine this discourse given at the Areopagus, you see that Paul deconstructs the worldview of the philosophers, exposing their flawed perspective of God. The result of the speech was that “some mocked,” however, some were inspired and, “…joined him and believed” (vv. 32-34). The response will not always be favorable, but the interaction may prove to remove roadblocks that have been preventing the person from believing the Gospel!

You see, the point in evangelistic apologetics is to give a rational defense for the Christian worldview, showing that faith in Christ is satisfying, not only spiritually but also intellectually.

Through apologetics, the church can demonstrate to the unbelieving world that Christianity is the only thing that can make reasonable sense of the universe in which we live. Indeed, there are several notable people who, through their encounters with the claims about Christ, have turned from stark skepticism to Christian faith when they finally realized the claims of the Bible were in accord with real history! C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel come to mind, and there have been many others.

Reason #9: It Answers the Demands of a Changing Culture

The culture of our time is organic. It is living, breathing, growing, and constantly changing. What was publicly despised 30 years ago seems be venerated today. The rapid exchange of information with the advent of the internet allows minority viewpoints and philosophies to be exposed to a much larger audience. Now, this can be a great thing! The sharing of ideas through instant methods of communication has revolutionized science and technology, resulting in mass innovations in nearly every area of life. For the Christian, sharing the Gospel with people across the globe has never been easier. However, there is a great downside as well, because false and even harmful ideologies travel and spread just as effortlessly.

Apologetics is essential in our age where culture is moving in greater and greater rebellion against the unchanging Word of God. We see issues of shifting sexual ethics, where that which God forbids is now the societal norm. Postmodernism has permeated into every area, resulting in the questioning of everything that was generally considered settled, objective, knowledge. In addition to this, religious pluralism is running rampant, all claiming equal share of the truth. How in the world do Christians answer such cultural mandates? Thankfully, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Apologetics helps believers grapple with and topple the beliefs that stand against the Word of God. Your church needs to be primed and ready to take on the battle that is being waged in our culture today. Apologetics helps shield the flock, while arming them with the sword of the Spirit (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), to slay the dragon of the prevailing customs which are under the rule of Satan (Eph. 2:2, 6:12), capturing and crushing them into submission before the King of Glory (2 Cor. 10:5).

Reason #10: It Glorifies Jesus Christ

As we have demonstrated, incorporating apologetics into your church’s ministry functions is internally beneficial for facilitating spiritual maturity, and it is externally beneficial by aiding in the proclamation of the Gospel. Yet we should recognize that the ultimate reason to participate in apologetics is simply that it glorifies Jesus Christ.

In the foundational verse for apologetics, the Apostle Peter writes, “… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Pet. 3:15). The most important aspect of this verse is right at the beginning: “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” This is the true heart of apologetics.

You see, many people seem to believe that the objective is to give arguments that humiliate the opponent by eviscerating their worldview. This is not the case at all. What Peter encapsulates here is the attitude all should bring to any discussion involving our hope in Christ and the Gospel.

It is when we contemplate upon Christ’s loveliness, his goodness, perfections, and holiness, that we cannot help but honor him in everything we say and do. We are to move the eyes of those whom we come across from us and our works or eloquent speech upward,helping them instead to fix their gaze upon the glorious face of Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).

Final Thoughts

Apologetics is much more than a participation in a formal or scholarly debate. Instead, believers should see it as a necessary discipline for standard church ministry. Every Christian should be trained as an apologist because of the examples given in Scripture, including that of Jesus Christ, the Great Apologist, who regularly incorporated apologetic principles in his earthly ministry.

It is through apologetics that believers can sharpen their knowledge of Scripture, as well as learn how to answer the numerous objections raised against its truthfulness, which ultimately builds faith in the promises of God!

Learning apologetics will help your congregation correct and defend against doctrinal errors that ever attempt to trickle in.

Apologetics is valuable in evangelism by providing answers to doubts or skepticism, removing barriers that may be preventing people from believing the Gospel.

Our culture is constantly changing and finding new opportunities to rebel against the objective truth of God’s word. Apologetics helps build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated, that the Christian can be thoroughly prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer.

The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that we do in faith and zeal should be done, not that others see us, but to see Jesus more clearly.

Another Encouraging Evangelism Story: Dan the Waterproofer

This story has been slightly edited and modified for posting here. We changed the name of “Dan” to protect the potential for future fruitful conversations.

Hey Joel,
I know you’re a big prayer warrior and evangelist. You and Aliza have encouraged me to be more bold with my faith. Today a guy named Dan came to our house about some water proofing for our foundation. He ended up staying an hour and half taking with me. He shared how his parents and brothers have died and he’s alone.

We started talking politics and it actually led to sharing the entire gospel with him!! He continued to ask questions and we talked. I gave him a Bible and told him I’d be praying for him. I suggested a a church where he lives.

He left and told me it was the most interesting client conversation he’s ever had in 25 years of working for the company and wished he could stay longer. He then said he would put the Bible someplace he would see it often and “you never know when I’ll pick it up to see what it has to say.”

He mentioned twice he feels like things always happen for a purpose, and meeting me came at a time [when] he [believed he was] on a jumping off point, but didn’t know what that meant. 

Please pray with me God reveals truth to him!! I told him I would pray that for him, and when God does (because we know he will) that he would remember our conversation.

Thank you to you and Aliza for being such great examples of good news bearers. You’ve inspired me and the Holy Spirit prompted and enabled me. We are praying for your family and I hope this email has brought you both  joy during a difficult time.

Hugs to you both,

Marissa from Chicago

_____

Marissa,

Thanks so much for sharing this story. We will be praying for him to him to open that Bible and meet Jesus!

Joel & Aliza

CATAKIDS! Now Available on Amazon

The New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones, AKA CATAKIDS!, which has been (and still is) available on this website, is now available in e-book and print form via Amazon.

Parents, here’s what you need to know about this resource.

The Story

I had been catechizing my children since the spring of 2014, starting with my son Jakob, when he was two. I searched high and low for an age appropriate, theologically sound catechism, and found some that were very good. However, the ones I found were problematic in at least one of three ways: First, they were mostly from a Covenant Theological (CT) background, and I ran into problems when they got to some of the CT distinctives (such as the Christian’s relationship to the Ten Commandments, the supposed extra-biblical covenants, etc.). Second, they were theologically in agreement with my beliefs, but they were aimed at adults and not age appropriate for young children. And finally, they were antiquated in their language.

Goals

My goal in creating this catechism was to create a religious primer to help parents teach their young children the essential and primary doctrines of biblical Christianity, in the hope that the Lord will use it as a means to bring our children to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, and equip them to walk in the Spirit and love the Lord their God with their whole selves.

I wanted to lay out a comprehensive overview of the Christian worldview that is in accord with what Scripture teaches. As much as possible, it was my desire to correct some of the errors that exist in children’s catechisms. And to make this seem doable for parents, I wanted to do it all in 100 questions.

With Catakids/The New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones, I want to draw on what’s excellent in the old catechisms while making adjustments to fit what I believe to be the more biblical interpretive strategy of New Covenant Theology.

Sources & Inspiration Behind CATAKIDS!

I drew on the following sources, which you can find links to within the catechism itself.

  • “Catechism for Babes”

  • “First Catechism”

  • “A Puritan Catechism”

  • “A New Covenant Theology Catechism”

  • “New City Catechism”

  • “The New Covenant Confession of Faith”

  • “The 1644/1646 First London Baptist Confession of Faith”

Theological Distinctives

I believe the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible word of God, containing all we need for godly faith and practice. I do not consider myself confessional, but I intended this document to be in agreement with the 1644/1646 First London Baptist Confession of Faith, insofar as it agrees with Scripture.

As the title indicates, CATAKIDS!/The New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones is in line with New Covenant Theology, which some have called a midpoint between Covenantalism on one side and Dispensationalism on the other. Additionally, the hermeneutic reflected here is Redemptive-Historical, interpreting the whole Bible as pointing to Jesus and His redemptive work. Further, I am working from a viewpoint that is Baptistic (believing only professing believers should be baptized), Presuppositionalist (with respect to apologetics), Calvinistic (regarding soteriology), Young-Earth (as a view of creation), Amillennialist (eschatologically), and somewhere between Continuationist and Cessationist (in terms of Spiritual gifts).

If none of the above paragraph makes much sense to you, don’t worry about it. It is all just to say that my own theology will undoubtedly be reflected in this catechism. However, it is not necessary to hold to these positions to use and find agreement with this catechism.

The reader will find my theology best expressed in the “Five Solas” of the Reformation:

  • Sola Gratia - We are saved by grace alone...

  • Sola Fide - Through faith alone...

  • Solus Christus - In Christ alone...

  • Sola Scriptura - According to the Scripture alone...

  • Soli Deo Gloria - To the glory of God alone!

How To Use This Resource

Try to ask the questions, and give the answers, in a sing-songy, rhythmic way, in order to aid in memorization. The goal is rote memorization, not total comprehension. However, the head of the family should talk through the answers with the children after the answer is memorized. Feel free to work through one question each week or tackle up to five questions per week— one each week day, and then review and discuss on Saturday. You can track your child(ren)’s progress using the Progress Tracker in the back.

I pray this resource will bless you, as you join with other Christian parents the world over in raising the next generation of disciples of Jesus Christ.


A Couple of Encouraging Evangelism Stories

By Joel Settecase / 2-minute read

It can be very encouraging to learn that other believers are sharing their faith in Jesus, to remember that we are not alone in trying to get the Good News about him out to the people in our lives. That’s why one of our goals with the Think Institute is share those stories. Today we are featuring two from Kathy H. of Chicago.

A Well-Timed Gift

A while back the Lifeway bookstore at Moody was closing and had a huge sale so I bought a pocket New Testament with the thought of giving it to Dr. John (my Chiropractor).

I have been witnessing to him by sharing scripture and Christian music - also have invited him to church, but he lives in the NW suburbs and probably doesn't want to drive into the city.

So I went to see him yesterday and we were talking while he did ultrasound on my elbow.  I was waiting for a good opportunity to give him the NT, but God had it under control.  I'm not sure exactly what he said to me, but he mentioned the New Testament and then he said he used to have a pocket size NT, and with that I pulled the NT out of my pocket and gave it to him. I wasn't sure how he would react, but he seemed genuinely happy to receive it.  He noticed the red lettering and said that those were Jesus' words.  This is the first positive reaction I've had from him.

I don't know if he has a copy of the whole Bible, but I will find out.  I have been praying for him daily since we were encouraged [by our church] to have a "one" to pray for.  Our paths have crossed for a reason and I will continue praying for his salvation.

A Pink Slip Becomes A Golden Opportunity

I can't remember if I shared the story with you about one of my coworkers.  One day she mentioned to me that she feels this void in her heart. At that moment I had to go to the switchboard and couldn't respond immediately, but I was praising God for the opportunity to share my faith with her.  (As a side note she had a goal to get me to swear).  It turned out that the next day we both received our pink slips.  I wrote her a letter about God being the only one who can fill that void and that if she gave her life to Jesus, she would have a peace that no one could ever take from her.  I only planted a seed and may never know the outcome, but praying that the Holy Spirit will cause her life to change.  She did not share her address or phone with me.

It is amazing how God gives us opportunities to share our faith - even when we are hesitant - the circumstances are so clear you can't help but share the Good News!

These opportunities help me feel more bold to share my faith.  Joel, thanks for your encouragement and I look forward to the next Apologetics lesson.

Thanks for sharing these stories, Kathy. I will pray for your chiro and your coworker to come to faith in Jesus (and I encourage our readers to do the same). —Joel

Evangelistic Apologetics In A Nutshell: Three Principles You Should Know

By Chaseton Hahn / 8-minute read.

Christians that I have engaged with have often either never heard of, or have a misunderstanding of the discipline of apologetics. For many, the term even carries a derogatory connotation. What must be shown is that apologetics is a necessary practice that all Christians should have within their evangelistic arsenal. In this article we will look at evangelistic apologetics in a nutshell, based on three biblical principles.

What Is Apologetics And What Is It For?

The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia, which appears only 8 times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1, 25:26; 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 3:15). Apologia literally means “a reasoned defense or argument.” Apologetics should be understood as a sort of legal verbiage – picture a lawyer giving a defense before a judge in a courtroom. Therefore, to participate in apologetics is to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview.

A mistake that is frequently made is the assumption that apologetics is reserved for debate settings – not so! The purpose of apologetics is not simply winning arguments. Instead, apologetics should be seen as a helpful tool for answering the objections that skeptics may have against Christianity, but with the ultimate intent of leading them to believe the Gospel.

Principles of Evangelistic Apologetics

The Scriptures contains the essential instructions for the Christian to properly exercise his faith in an expression that is consistent with the manner of Christlike behavior (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This is true as well for how one should engage in an apologetic conversation that is compelling and God-honoring.

Answering the skeptic requires the patience and love of Christ along with the confident delivery of the relevant information – the former qualities being sorely forgotten by many of those who participate in apologetics.

Again, the purpose of all this is not to win an argument or crush the opponent – the aim is to point the lost to Christ.

Apologetics with Peter

Peter the Apostle wrote the first epistle that bears his name, for the purpose of encouraging believers who were facing intense persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6). Peter calls Christians  to rejoice in their suffering because of the great inheritance of eternal life that awaits them, even in the midst of great trials that are being used to test and refine their faith in Christ (1:4-9). In the third chapter Peter explains the importance of maintaining a holy composure even when reviled for one’s faith (3:9). It is here in chapter three that is contained what many consider the heart-cry of Christian apologetics:

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Let us examine the three important principles of apologetics that Peter reveals.

1. Honor Christ the Lord as holy.

Peter, who is (specifically in the context of suffering) borrowing language from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 29:23), makes clear that at the point of contact with unbelievers, we must maintain the supremacy and holiness of Christ. The foundation of our faith is Christ (Is. 28:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:6; Eph. 2:20), his greatness being worthy of  our constant reverence and being the driving force behind our interactions with the world. Our apologetic framework is to be rooted deeply in our theology and knowledge of the person of Christ.

How is this attitude toward Christ attained? By the constant study and meditating upon the Word of God – which cultivates  our affections and renews our minds to the ways of Christ (Rom. 12:2). The esteeming of Christ is the motor by which the vehicle of apologetics must intimately conjoined, as will be addressed below.

2. Always be prepared to make a defense.

In our response to the holiness and wonders of Christ, it is from here that the apologist may properly “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….”

Being prepared to testify about the doctrines of Christ requires that the believer dwell upon the Scriptures, the source of our intimacy with God. The purpose of verse 15 is not so much about preparing intellectually for the interaction, but to be prepared spiritually.

When dealing with those who do not believe (especially those who persecute us), we must allow the beauty of Christ and our attitude toward him to remain central in order to determine our attitude toward one whose demands may be especially scornful of our faith. The hope we have is Christ, the Holy One of God, who humbled himself to become a servant so that our sins may be forgiven through his death and resurrection (Phil. 2:4-11). Capture this image of Christ and allow this to maintain the proper focus of your apologetic. Indeed, this leads to the third point…

3. Be gentle.

Anytime we are presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with others, it is imperative to preserve a level of respect and gentleness for the one we are communicating with. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

To be gentle with others does not mean to be fragile or weak ourselves. Instead, the act in gentleness is to restrain from harshness in exchange for humility, love, and kindness – even if the person is exhibiting hostility toward us.

Christ, being God, had every opportunity and right to deal severely with us in our disobedient and unregenerate state. Thankfully, God who is rich in mercy, was patient with us in our rebellion and loved us despite our sinfulness and depravity, restoring us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:4-10).

This does not mean we are not to share truth with confidence (and the message of the Gospel much of the time results in aggressive opposition), but we are to share the truth with the disposition of Christ, with a desire to heal with the good news of the Gospel. If we act in accordance with the gentleness of Christ, we can have a good conscience (v. 16), no matter the result of the conversation.

Conclusion

Apologetics (apologia) is the reasoned defense of the Christian worldview. Many of us are presented with many occasions on which we can share the Gospel with others. Unfortunately, apologetics is greatly misunderstood because of its frequent abuse. If you are active on social media, it is not uncommon that you will  come across a well-meaning Christian who is discussing his faith with a skeptic. More times than not, I notice, even though the Christian is presenting good argumentation for the truthfulness of Christianity, they do not appear to be offering the arguments with the correct intentions. They are more interested in winning an argument than winning the soul of someone who is lost.

Apologetics is far more than defeating our opponents – it is to be an instrument of evangelism for the sake of the Gospel. We should hold close the words of Peter, remembering we are dealing with real, flesh and blood bearers of the Imago Dei. We should approach apologetics as a means to reach the lost, holding Christ in the highest regard. This will allow us to deliver the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and kindness that God showed us, when we too were lost.

Chaseton Hahn is a public servant and a seminarian at Liberty University, studying to complete an M.Div in Christian Apologetics.

The Biblical Worldview, Part 2: What Is Good?

By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read.

The Bible, and the God who has revealed himself in its pages, provides the only adequate basis for morality.

In Part 1, I explained that there are only three possible answers to the most basic question any worldview must answer, “What is real?” We saw that God is both ultimate (or infinite, a world which I might like even better) as well as personal, and that in relation to his creation he exercises the “Lordship Attributes” of Authority, Control and Presence.

Now we are close to having a basis for answering the second question every worldview must answer, “What is good?” I say we are close, but not quite there yet, because there is one further attribute of God’s nature that we must consider, the attribute of being relational, about which more in a minute.

There are various fields of study bound up with this question, from morality (right and wrong thought and action), to axiology (values), to aesthetics (judgments of beauty). These are all concerned with the question of absolute goodness (if such a thing as absolute goodness does in fact exist).

When we have answered the ultimate question of goodness, we will know if it is possible to also ask, “What are our moral duties and how do we know?” as well as, “What does it mean to violate the absolute standard of goodness?” Is beauty objective or merely in the eye of the beholder?” If there is an absolute standard by which we may make sense of morality, then we may also make sense of related fields of study.

Absolute, Relationsl Moral Standards Need an Absolute, Relational Basis

Morality cannot be subjective. If it were, we would only be talking about preferences, not morality. There would only be what is, meaning there would be my preference, and your preference, and their preferences, but no bridge between them and no scale on which to weigh them, no way to judge between them.

So morality must be objective, which is to say it must be absolute. Absolute morality requires a basis in an absolute prime reality. This prime reality must be absolute as well as personal. This is because moral duties are laws, and laws require a lawgiver. A lawgiver cannot be an impersonal force (e.g. gravity) or abstract object (e.g. the number four) but must be personal, someone who can make the pronouncement, “This is how things ought to be.” Absolute, unchanging laws require an absolute and unchanging Lawgiver. Certain non-biblical worldviews, which present a concept of God that is unitarian (absolute oneness) could perhaps account for absolute, unchanging laws, if they merely applied to an individual person interacting with himself.

Yet moral principles do not just deal with individuals but also govern relationships between individuals. Much of morality covers how people ought to treat one another. In the study of morality we are concerned not merely with unity but also with diversity. We are concerned with how individuals ought to treat one another in their relationships and interactions with each other. This is a question not merely of absolute unity but of diversity too.

In order to account for the existence of absolute moral standards that govern interpersonal relationships, the prime reality in which they are grounded must also be absolute, personal and interpersonal. There must be a relational attribute to God, or else any of moral standards for interpersonal relationships would merely be arbitrary.

For example, if God were a monad, as the unitarian religions (Judaism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, etc.) believe, then prior to him creating, there would have been no interpersonal relationships at all. Any moral requirements such a God would have decreed would be the creations of his mind, but would not have been rooted in God’s own relational nature, since prior to creating God would have had no relationships.

It follows that, for absolute interpersonal moral standards to be absolute, they must be rooted in a prime reality (God) who is infinite without division (unbroken oneness), personal, and yet also interpersonal or diverse in itself. God’s nature, as revealed in Scripture, is such a prime reality.

There are many worldviews, religions and philosophies in the world, yet only one worldview that has such a concept of God, and that is biblical Christianity. As Francis Schaeffer has said, the Christian answer is not merely a good answer, it is the only answer. This Venn diagram shows a sampling of the world’s religions and worldviews, and how they account for (or fail to account for) unity, diversity and personality:

Worldview Comparison Venn Diagram - Metaphysics FINAL FINAL!!! properly categorized WITH THINK INSTITUTE LOGO.png

Only biblical Christianity accounts for all three.

God’s nature is the basis for absolute morality

The God who has revealed himself in the Bible is absolute unity, absolute personality, and absolute diversity. He is one (united) in his essence and yet is three (diverse) Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

These three share a name (meaning they share authority and Lordship), and yet each one is distinct from the others. These three have known and loved one another perfectly forever in perfect, infinite oneness, so it makes sense when Scripture says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His very nature is love. His loving nature is the basis for how the three Persons of the Trinity relate to one another, and it forms the basis for his moral commands to his creatures.

Therefore God’s moral commands are not arbitrary, nor does he appeal to some standard beyond himself. The Greek Philosopher Plato wrestled with this, because he only knew the gods of mythology. Yet God is not like those “gods.” God’s very nature is the definition of goodness. He is magnificent, glorious and eminently praiseworthy, and he commands that his creatures live by his glorious standard (Mark 10:18). God’s goodness was reflected in his creation as he originally created it (Genesis 1:31).

Only the biblical worldview can account for absolute morality

Recall that God’s nature is personal, infinite, and diverse within himself (we might say “tri-personal”). This provides the basis for absolute morality. Because he is personal, he has a will. Because he is infinite, his will applies to all people, everywhere and at all time. And because he is tri-personal, it is in his nature to communicate; he has communicated his will to his creatures, in the Bible.

We may say confidently that the biblical worldview is totally unique in this regard, because it is the only one that can sufficiently account for unity, diversity and personality in its concept of prime reality. God, the infinite, tri-personal, relational God who is love, is perfectly moral, infinitely valuable, and gloriously beautiful. All the fields of study related to goodness find their basis and ultimate reference point in him; things are good, valuable and beautiful insofar as they are like God, who is all good, valuable and beautiful to the nth degree.

God has revealed mankind’s moral duties in two ways

God’s creation communicates his glory (Psalm 19), to the extent that men have enough knowledge about God to glorify him and give him thanks, and therefore we are without excuse for failing to do so (Romans 1:18-24). Failing to fulfill even this basic requirement, man goes on to sin in various ways throughout life, falling short of God’s glorious standard in every area of life (Romans 3:23). Although man was originally created good, the first man sinned, and all his children have been sinning ever since, suppressing what can be known about God from the world without and the moral sense within. However the moral sense, the conscience, does remain. The Bible says the “works of the law” are written on the heart of all people, and their, “competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15).

The second way God communicates his absolute moral standards to us is by the Bible. The Bible teaches that creation’s greatest purpose is to praise God (Ps. 148:1-14), and man’s highest moral duty is to love God (Mt. 22:38; Jn. 14:15), followed by the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mt. 22:38-39). The Ten Commandments were a baseline summary for the nation of Israel, and Jesus Christ deepened and expanded God’s moral teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and elsewhere.

The teachings of Christ are impossible to fulfill in man’s current sinful condition, which is bleak indeed. Because God is good, he must give sin what it deserves.

Immoral man’s predicament

The “wages” of sin, the Bible teaches, is death (Romans 6:23). Man’s predicament, then, is that by living life in disobedience to God, he is choosing death. There there is such a deep disconnect between God’s perfectly good nature and law, and man’s current immoral state, that it would be completely impossible for man to be restored to a right relationship with God apart from divine intervention. He is in the predicament of having an inner moral sense which drives him to desire moral goodness, while at the same time being morally incapable in his nature of choosing the good and pleasing God (Romans 8:8).

We will get into the solution to man’s predicament later in the series. However, before we do that, we must address the question of truth. After all, we are drawing our answers to life’s biggest questions from the biblical worldview—the perspective taught by the Bible. How can we know that the Bible is the best place to get those answers?

The Biblical Worldview, Part 1: What Is Real?

By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read.

In my previous article, I presented seven questions that every worldview must deal with. However, I did not go into how the Christian worldview answers the questions. In this article I want to deal very briefly with the first of the seven worldview questions, namely, “What is real?”

My goal is not only to explain what the Bible teaches, but also where in the Bible you can find it, so that you can not only test what you read here for yourself like a good Berean (Acts 17:11), but also to encourage you in the knowledge that the Bible really does give the important answers, and to help you become more comfortable locating those answers.

Only Three Possible Answers to the Question

Now, on the question, “What is real?” To ask it is to deal with metaphysics, the study of “definite” or “prime” reality. We want to look at what’s “really there” behind the universe as we experience it. The world’s religions and systems have answered this question in many ways—God, the gods, the universe, Brahmin, all-is-nothing, all-is-one, etc. But in point of fact all possible answers fall into three categories.

The first is that prime reality is ultimate, but impersonal. Instances of this kind would include Brahman (the world-soul of Hinduism), the cosmos (atheistic worldviews), and the Force from Star Wars. Each of these examples portray prime reality as being unlimited in scope, yet also ultimately unknowable and without personality or self-awareness of any kind.

The second is that prime reality is personal, but not ultimate. Examples would include the ancient Greek and Norse gods and the Mormon god “Elohim,” an exalted man who dwells within our universe near a physical location called Kolob. These deities are personal, relational and knowable, but they are finite. They don’t account for the whole of the physical and spiritual universe.

The third option, which in a sense combines the first two, is that God is prime reality, and he is both ultimate and personal.

God is Ultimate and Personal

Genesis 1:1 declares God to be the uncaused author of all that exists, and Scripture is clear he is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), meaning there are no other authors rivals to his author-ity.

Yet in God’s very nature he is personal; in fact the one God, who is one in essence, is also a community of three divine Persons. It has been said that God is “tri-Personal,” and this divine community of three Persons has been existing since before creation in harmonious relationship to one another. Scripture names these three as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Unlike “the universe,” who is impersonal and does not have a plan for your life, God is personal and knowable. Unlike the so-called gods of ancient Greece and modern-day polytheistic religions, God is unlimited and infinite in his nature.

God’s Relationship to His Creation

Of course if the Lord alone is God, then it stands to reason that no one and nothing else is God. The cosmos is God’s creation, and while it reflects his nature it is not equal to God. Creation is not a part of God (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 66:1). God’s creation includes the physical and the spiritual realms (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), and all his creation is dependent on him (Hebrews 1:3).

Corresponding to God’s ultimacy discussed above, God is transcendent over his creation, meaning he is outside of it sovereign over it; he retains the right to declare creation’s purpose, outcome and guidelines (Isaiah 40:22).

Similarly corresponding to his personality is his immanence—meaning he is present everywhere in the universe (Psalm 139:7-12). It is because of his immanence that he can have a relationship with us. He can hear our prayers. And he is all-knowing, witnessing everything that happens in the cosmos firsthand.

What It Means to Be Lord

Christians call our God “Lord” so often that we might be a little too comfortable with this term, and perhaps not aware enough of the implications of the word. To be Lord is to be Master. Theologian John Frame has defined God’s “Lordship Attributes” as Authority, Control and Presence.

God has authority.

He is the creator and retains his rights as creator of the universe. He can rightfully declare what actions are right and which ones are wrong for his creatures, and he may—and does—decree what events shall happen in the future (Isaiah 46:9-10).

God is in control.

Man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), so he exercises control in a certain sense. Man may freely act in accordance with their natures. Yet Scripture says that even the freely-chosen actions of mankind are subject to the control of God, who plans people’s good and evil actions to occur and ultimately work together for a good and righteous outcome (Genesis 50:20). And this is also true about seemingly random occurrences (Proverbs 16:33). The fact that man is so abundantly sinful, earning God’s wrath, and yet God, having complete control, restrains our punishment and patiently endures and redeems sinners like us, is a testament to his astonishing grace.

God is present everywhere.

While it is true that God is present and active at every location in the cosmos, his special, personal empowering and encouraging presence is to be found with his people (Exodus 33:14) by his Holy Spirit. This God has promised to draw near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8), and to save all who draw near to him through Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). For the Christian, therefore, it is equally true to say, “God is everywhere,” and “God is with me and will never leave me” (Hebrews 13:5).

The most foundational understanding of the biblical worldview is that God is real. Both words, “God” and “real” need to be defined and explained by Scripture, so that our mindset will be thoroughly biblical rather than a hodgepodge of our own reasoning and emotions.

When we derive our concept of prime reality from the Bible, we see that the definite reality behind the world we experience is, as Francis Schaeffer put it, “the God who is there.” He is an ultimate, tri-Personal Lord who transcends his creation and yet is intimately present everywhere and especially, graciously so, with his people he has redeemed.

Seven Worldview Questions

By Joel Settecase / 9-minute read

A Quick Test of Your Confidence

Quick, on a scale of one to 10, how confident do you feel, right now, in your ability to teach a non-Christian what the Bible teaches about life’s most important issues? Do you have your number? Is it less than 10? Less than 7? Less than 5? If that is the case, and you desire to improve that number, don’t feel bad. Everyone has to start somewhere.

If, however, your number was less than 10 and you simply leave it there and don’t seek to improve it, well then maybe you should feel at least a little bad. After all, doing so would indicate that you either (A) think the Bible has nothing to say about life’s big questions, or (B) don’t think it worthwhile to learn what those answers are. However, if you are a follower of Jesus, then the Bible is your book. That is, it’s God’s book for you, given to make you “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

There is, of course a third option: (C) you feel as though the Bible is so complex that you could never master what it says about life’s biggest issues to the extent that you would feel fully confident to teach those answers to others. After all, the Bible is a big book, and isn’t that what pastors and church elders are for, anyway?

True, pastors and elders do need to know their stuff. And yet the fact is this: whether you can articulate them or not, you already have answers to life’s biggest questions. For example, if I asked you, “Who is Jesus?” I’ll bet you could give me an answer right now.

If you’re a Christian, your answer would probably include facts like his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, death, burial, and resurrection. You might mention that he is the Jewish Messiah and the Savior of the world, or that he returned to the right hand of the Father to reign. If you wanted to get more in-depth, you might bring up the truth that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity.

Now if I asked you any number of different worldview questions, your answers might be in agreement with Scripture, or they might be way off. To the extent that your answers were in-line with what the Bible teaches, you would be communicating the biblical worldview accurately.

So what is a worldview?

In his quintessential worldview primer, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire calls a worldview, “a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world.”

Jefferey Ventrella defines a worldview as, “a network of presuppositions… through which one interprets all human experience.”

Your worldview is like a pair of sunglasses. Just as sunglasses color everything you see, so your worldview affects your interpretation of everything you learn and experience. Your worldview provides you with the filter through which you would answer any question about the world. Sire says worldviews are, “generally unquestioned by each of us; rarely, if ever, mentioned by our friends; and only brought to mind when we are challenged by a foreigner from another ideological universe.”

Why Worry About Worldview?

Now the biblical worldview, just like every worldview, must answer certain questions. And if we are going to be faithful disciples of Jesus, who commanded us to, “make disciples… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you,” then we need to know how the biblical worldview answers those questions.

Doing this, and doing it faithfully to Scripture, is a way of honoring God with our minds (Luke 10:27), and, because the heart of the biblical worldview is the Gospel that saves (Luke 24:27; Romans 1:16), it is a way of loving our neighbors as ourself.

If we desire to effectively communicate the Gospel and the biblical worldview, we need to prepare. One way to do that is to prep biblical answers, in advance, to the questions every worldview answers.

Questions for Worldviews

This Spring, I have been writing a curriculum to equip Christians in what we might call Biblical Worldview Competency. A major part of building that curriculum has been to determine just what are the questions that every worldview must answer. You might think this list would be fairly easy to determine. However, if you researched the subject, what you would quickly find (as I have) is that the major authors and thinkers who teach on worldview competency all have their own lists:

Ravi Zacharias

  • Origin

  • Meaning

  • Morality

  • Destiny

    Ravi is the president of RZIM.

Albert Mohler

  • Where do we come from?

  • What’s wrong with us?

  • Is there any hope?

  • Where are we going?

    (I heard him list these on his daily podcast, “The Briefing,” during the week of May 13, 2019. I remembered them because I have used the exact same list in my own teachings. However, I did not remember hearing them from Dr. Mohler; I thought I made them up myself. That being said, it’s a lot more likely that I stole them from him than the other way around.)

James Sire:

  • What is prime reality?

  • What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

  • What is a human being?

  • What happens to a person at death?

  • Why is it possible to know anything at all?

  • How do we know what is right and wrong?

  • What is the meaning of human history?

Barry A. Warren

  • The nature of God?

  • The meaning and purpose of life?

  • Human nature?

  • Jesus is?

  • Source of spiritual truth?

    Warren is the creator of the Perspective Cards.

As you can see, there are various questions we could use, and no two authors completely agree. So then, I feel as though I am at liberty to draw from what I perceive to be the best of each of the aforementioned, combining and rewording as needed, in order to create a comprehensive list of seven questions that every worldview must answer (each one followed by a couple or three clarifying questions). They are:

  1. What is real?
    What is the nature of prime reality?
    What is ultimately real?
    What is God like?

  2. What is good?
    What is good and how do we know?
    What does it mean to sin or contravene the standard of goodness?
    What is beauty?

  3. What is true?
    What is truth and how do we come to know it?
    Is truth universal or subjective?

  4. What is man?
    What does it mean to be human?
    What’s wrong with humanity?
    How do we fix what’s wrong with us?

  5. What is the meaning?
    Is there a point to all this?
    Does God have a purpose and how do we discover it?

  6. What is our destiny?
    Where are all things headed?
    Will justice finally prevail?
    Is history more like a Greek comedy or a tragedy?

  7. Who is Jesus?
    Is Jesus merely a man, a created, divine being, or God?
    What did Jesus claim about himself and are those claims true?

How to Answer the Seven Questions

I contend that every Christian ought to be able to articulate at least a modest response to each one of those seven questions, and to do so in accordance with what the whole Bible teaches. I am not going to answer them right now. However, I want to leave you with two things to think about.

First of all, as Christians our final authority is holy Scripture. This means that our worldview thinking must progress in a biblical loop. It has to begin with a biblical foundation, progressing outward into the world (all the while maintaining biblical categories and filtering our observations and reasoning through Scripture), and culminate back upon the Bible, as we test our conclusions by what the Bible says.

In order to think in this robustly biblical way, it is necessary to know Scripture thoroughly. We have to be committed to studying what the Bible says about life’s most important subjects and to submitting our reasoning to God’s own reasoning, revealed in the Bible.

A fantastic website to help you learn what the Bible says about any given subject is the Bible verse aggregator, OpenBible. Go there, type in the subject you want to research, and it will pull up a list of all the verses that people say are relevant to that subject.

The second thing to think about is this: maybe it is time to pursue training in this area for you or your congregation. If you are leaning in that direction, there are many solid ministries who can help you and your church think biblically and develop Biblical Worldview Competency.

Humbly, the Think Institute is one such ministry. We are here to equip believers with knowledge, encourage believers to share and defend their faith, and engage believers together in meaningful conversation. Contact me if you would like to know more about partnering with the Think Institute or would like access to any of Cru Church Movement’s vast library of resources. To come to one of our trainings in your area, keep an eye on the Get Engaged section of this website.

You might not be fully confident to articulate the biblical worldview today, and you might not get all the way there tomorrow. However, by learning a little more about what the Bible says about the seven most important questions of life, you can strengthen your Biblical Worldview Competency and become that much more prepared to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Seven Questions About the Alabama Abortion Ban Christians Must Be Ready to Answer

By Joel Settecase / 16-minute read

Last updated: June 1, 2019.*

With the spate of new legislation severely limiting access to abortion, the debate between those in favor of the practice and those in opposition to it has never been more intense. Christians need to be able to speak clearly about abortion and answer certain key questions about these new laws. In this article we examine the Alabama law which outlawed abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

In an article datelined from this morning, May 15, 2019, the “Sun,” a British news website (along with many other news sources) is reporting that the state of Alabama is very close to outlawing abortion after six weeks of gestation. The bill, currently trending on Twitter as the #AlabamaAbortionBan, passed the legislature and, at the time of this writing, is on Governor Kay Ivey’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law [update: by the time I finished writing this piece, she had signed it].

The law, which threatens life imprisonment for doctors who perform abortions, will mark a watershed moment for the pro-life movement and a major advancement for the rights of pre-born Alabama children. Many Christians and conservatives are understandably celebrating this new law—understandably so because it marks a milestone of an achievement for a pro-life movement that has steadily intensified since SCOTUS’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. However, there are many on the political, religious and ideological left who are not celebrating.

Debate between the right and left about the Alabama bill has ranged from cordial and respectful to all-out mudslinging. Much of the debate has centered on the passage of the law itself, but the law has served as an occasion for both sides to revisit more fundamental questions about human nature, religion and the relationship of both to political policy.

This afternoon I had a conversation about the Alabama bill with a law student from the UK, and our discussion wound through questions of constitutionality, morality, and the proper relationship of religious conviction to legislation.

Our debate was sparked by a tweet from Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, who said,


I tweeted out a reply, and that reply (which has since become my most liked-and-retweeted ever) initiated my debate with my new unbelieving friend. I will share how I answered Charlie Kirk’s tweet at the end of this article. First, however, let us look at several questions arising from my discussion, that I believe Christians need to be prepared to answer.

1. Is the law unconstitutional? Does it violate the Bill of Rights?

My interlocutor asserted that this law, if based on Christian principles, contradicts the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. Is that true? Well, for starters, the Bill of Rights was for the federal Constitution, not for states, so it would not apply here [edit: someone on Twitter pointed out that Article 6 contains the Supremacy Clause making the Constitution the “supreme law of the land.” While this is true, the Framers’ intention for the Bill of Rights was not to put any restrictions on the states whatsoever, and jurisprudence prior to the Civil War reflected that, as this article and this article explain. Importantly, most states already had their own bills of rights.]

Anyway, this law is not the establishment of a state religion in any sense. Even if legislators are acting on the basis of their religious convictions, that is a far cry from the establishment of a state religion and could not possibly be prohibited by the Constitution or any other law. In fact, due to the fact that every person on earth, and legislators are no exception, operates out of a worldview, it is a given that their worldviews, religious or otherwise, would impact their drafting of this bill.

Wait a minute—what about the Fourth Amendment? It is true that the Roe v. Wade supposedly discovered the right to an abortion in the “right to privacy” in the Fourth Amendment. Yet even the slightest investigation reveals that this right was invented out of whole cloth; the right of a mother to kill her unborn child cannot even be imagined to have been in the minds of the Framers when they ratified the Fourth Amendment. Abortion, as the killing of a innocent child (which, again, I elaborate on below), already contradicts laws against murder by taking away the child’s right to life.

Furthermore, as someone else on Twitter pointed out,

So the Alabama law is far from being unconstitutional.

2. Is this law un-American, given that America is a secular state?

Who says America is a secular state?

No, America was not founded as a theocracy. However, neither was it founded on secularism. Secular values could not provide a basis for the unalienable rights liberties protected in our founding documents. Such language conveys a belief in absolute moral values, which are impossible from a purely secular starting point.

Rather, the United States of America was founded on values based on Christian presuppositions. Today, to the extent that we have drifted from those foundational values, we can perhaps be best described as late-Christian or post-Christian. This does not change the fact of where we began.

Our American legal system was established based on a long tradition of English Common Law, which had been shaped by Christianity for centuries. Similarly, it was codified in a milieu in which the biblical worldview, or something very close to it, was accepted by a majority of Americans.

Today we are running on the fumes of our Christian heritage. You can see this if you pause and observe all the Americans bandying about absolute moral judgments about concepts such as (for example) human rights (As I write this, #WomensRightsAreHumanRights is trending on Twitter.) Universal human rights and absolute morality come straight from the pages of Scripture and emphatically cannot rise from any kind of pure, godless Secularism.

The United States is not yet fully secular, though it seems to be heading that way and there are many ideological zealots pushing hard in that direction. I might also add, however, that there are many Christians who want to see the opposite happen: the winning of America for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

3. Is this law unscientific?

At one point my interlocutor asserted that the Alabama law was wrongly influenced by religion rather than science. Of course this claim presumes to pit science and religion against one another. More on that in a minute.

First of all, the idea that science can provide a basis for moral reasoning or legislation is false and is bound up with Scientism, the flawed worldview that enthrones science as the arbiter of all knowledge.

Science can tell you what is, but not what “ought” to be. There is nothing in science that says that a woman should be able to kill her child. On the contrary, science can and does show that the unborn child is human. However, science on its own cannot ascribe moral dignity to that unborn child. The right to life cannot be discovered in a test tube. The converse is also true: science on its own cannot strip a child of any rights or dignity. When it comes to morality, empirical science is necessarily silent.

As for the idea that science is in opposition to Scripture, quite the opposite turns out to be true. As I have written about elsewhere, science actually depends on God.

4. Does it open the door for other religions to impose their religious legal frameworks, such as Muslims and Sharia Law?

Whereas the Alabama pro-life law is in accordance with existing law (against murder) and within the broad Christian worldview consensus undergirding our legal and constitutional system, Sharia controverts these. As a 2005 article from American Thinker details, Sharia calls for such atrocities as the amputation of thieves’ hands, crucifixion for robbers, capital punishment for criticizing Sharia or Islam, and enslavement. All these directly oppose our American legal system, originally based, as it is, on Biblical teaching.

As a side note, while biblical Christianity provides the strongest defense against Sharia, Secularism as an ideology provides no basis for morally condemning of any of Sharia’s outrageous laws, because Secularism has no higher authority to appeal to than the will of the people, expressed in the actions of whoever happens to wield power at any given time. It is hard to see how that gives a defense against the takeover of Sharia. Rather it welcomes such a takeover!

5. Does it unjustly (mis)represent non-Christian Alabamians?

This law extends the protections of Alabamians already on the books, by prohibiting unborn Alabamians from being unjustly killed after six weeks of gestation.

Any law that protects a right necessarily limits a liberty. This is true whether the law is rooted in Christian values or not.

For example, the right of one man not to have his wallet stolen impinges the liberty of a thief to steal it. In the same way, protecting the right to life of the unborn child impinges the liberty of his mother (or anyone else) to kill him. Yet this protection is no more invasive or misrepresentative of non-Christian views than any law prohibiting murder. Again, we must reiterate: abortion is murder. Prohibiting abortion is only a religious issue insofar as prohibiting murder of any kind is a religious issue.

6. Does the Bible really teach that life begins at conception, anyway?

We certainly get that impression from Exodus 21:22-25, in which the Lord requires punishment for injuring a pre-born baby and death for killing one.

Then there is Psalm 139:13, in which King David sings of how God knit him together in his mother’s womb. Notice it was him that was being knit. The “fetus” in the womb did not become David at some point after he was formed. Rather it was David himself who was being formed. This means that there is an ontological continuation—a unity of being—between David the Psalmist and David the fetus. And how far back in prenatal development does that unity stretch?

According to Psalm 51:5, it stretches all the way back to the point of conception. In that verse, David says, “I was sinful when my mother conceived me.” At the exact moment of conception, that newly conceived life was the same David who would grow up to become king of Israel. So then, the biblical teaching is clear: a person’s life begins at conception.

7. “So what?”

As Jeff Durbin has masterfully shown, any attempt to establish moral duties without a direct appeal to the absolute authority of God can be refuted simply by asking “so what?” This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but Kirk’s tweet, which conveys so well the personhood of the unborn child, does not tell us, “so what?” In other words, anyone could ask, “Alright, so it’s a person in there—a little girl. So what? Why can’t I kill her?” As repulsive as that question is, Kirk’s tweet, and other mere appeals to the fact of the personhood of the unborn, do not go far enough.

The “So what” question needs a response from a higher authority than emotion or empirical observation. Absolute moral claims must come from an absolute moral authority. The Bible, as the very word of God Almighty, is that authority. The Bible says that murder is absolutely wrong. Murder is the unjust killing of an innocent person. Abortion, therefore is murder, and according to the absolute moral authority of Scripture, abortion is sinful.

This is the clear teaching of Scripture, but it is also clearly seen by any 4D ultrasound, in which anyone can see the (adorable) little one performing all the actions Kirk lists in his tweet.

Now back to Charlie Kirk’s original question

So why, as Kirk asked, are “brutal late term abortions” allowed? Why are any abortions allowed? The answer is in Genesis 1:27 and Romans 1:21. In the former verse, we read that God created man, both male and female, in his image. As descendants of the first man and women, human infants therefore carry that divine image. In the latter verse, we read, "Though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened."

There is the answer. People sinfully, wrongfully, immorally reject and suppress the glory and the grace of God. Part of that rejection manifests itself in the denial of God’s image in humanity—even the hatred of that image. The Romans passage continues to talk about how those who suppress the worship of God turn and worship animals instead; one has to wonder if this explains why some of those with the most cavalier attitudes toward unborn, image-bearing human children are simultaneously the most ardently in favor of animal rights, even the supposed rights of the Gypsy Moth.

Sin is a serious issue

Before abortion is a sin against the unborn child, it is first a sin against God. This realization comes with bad news, but also good news. The bad news is that all sin brings upon the sinner God’s righteous condemnation and judgment. The same Bible that so clearly condemns abortion also clearly depicts eternal hell as the destiny of those who die in their sin, who leave this world without being reconciled to God.

Now for the good news, which is the ultimate good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The same Bible that condemns sin also promises the hope of forgiveness and salvation. This hope is promised to every person who will turn from sin and receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Jesus, who is both God and the one truly innocent man to ever live, was brutally killed, taking the punishment of his people.

Jesus came to us in all our sin and brutality, our selfishness, our suppression and rejection of God’s truth; he took that sin upon himself. He did this in order that any sinner coming to him in repentance and faith will be completely forgiven and receive eternal life. No sinner and no sin is beyond the power of Jesus Christ to forgive, and that includes abortion and anything else. In fact every individual who has come to Christ Jesus in repentance and faith has done so acknowledging the weight and shame of their sin before God. This means that there is absolutely no room for pride or arrogance on the part of Christians. We may not ever view ourselves as more deserving of God’s love and forgiveness than anyone else; nor may we view any of our fellow sinners as beyond the possible reach of God’s love and forgiveness (recalling that we ourselves were lost in our own sin before Jesus saved us).

Even this article is written in the prayerful hope that someone will read it and, along with being convicted over his own sin (whether abortion or something else), would come to true faith in Jesus.

Abortion is a theological issue

Abortion is therefore not merely a constitutional issue or a scientific one, or a political one. It is not less than these, but it is more than these.

Abortion is first and foremost a theological issue. It is one that must be addressed by Christians standing firmly on God’s word as the foundation of all truth, confidently rooted in the biblical worldview. The Alabama law was not the first opportunity for Christians to defend biblical truth, and it undoubtedly will not be the last. Let us pray that the next one, whatever it may be, finds us prepared.

*Corrected to say it was the Fourth Amendment, not the 14th, where the Supreme Court claimed to find the right to abortion in the supposed right to privacy.

Catch "This Is Apologetics" on Facebook Live Every Monday Night

Copy of This is apologetics cover (1).png

Got any plans for Monday night? Why not take an hour and bone up on your defense of the Christian message? Not a believer? This is a great chance to entertain new ideas and see how well your objections stack up to the Bible’s teachings.

Every Monday night for the last seven weeks or so, Joel Settecase has been going live to answer objections to biblical faith. Past topics have included,

  • Is Christianity illogical?

  • How do we know the Bible was written by God?

  • If God is good, why did he let this happen to me?

  • Prophet? Liar? Son of God? Who is Jesus really?

  • What about the Bible’s :”crazy” stories?

  • How to start spiritual conversations

Most of the time Joel flies solo, although from time to time he brings on a guest, whether a pastor or thinker, for a lively conversation. And you are encouraged to join in the conversation too.

These videos become the “This Is Apologetics” podcast, so this is your chance to hear it first and interact with Joel, his guest, and the topic of the week.

So check out “This Is Apologetics,” the live show on Facebook Live, tonight and every Monday, at the Think Institute Facebook page. See you at 9 p.m.!

The Very Concept of Truth Is Impossible Without God

By Joel Settecase / 12-minute read

Much ink has been spilled by apologists over the centuries, demonstrating that the Christian worldview is true. But what if the very concept of truth were impossible without first believing in the Christian worldview, in the truth of Scripture and the God revealed therein?

This article was originally published as a four-part series on Joel Settecase’s blog.

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I have been seeking out conversations with atheists on Twitter lately (though they usually find me), and a recent one got me thinking. In speaking with this chap, I made the point that truth presupposes God, and that faith in God is the necessary precondition to any truth-seeking endeavor.

He asked me why, and in the course of elaborating, I asked him if he believed in absolute truth. To that, he replied No, he did not.

This raised two questions that I realized I needed to do some more thinking about:

First, why does truth presuppose God? (I’ve written before on why scienceand logic presuppose God, but why truth?) I believed this was the case, but could I articulate it?

Second, is it an appropriate dodge on the part of the atheist to simply declare he doesn’t believe in truth, or absolute truth, and therefore avoid belief in God? Again, I knew this couldn’t be the case, but could I express why that was?

Jesus says that truth is essential for freedom (John 8:32), and here this guy was denying the truth–and therefore the possibility of his own freedom. As a follower of Jesus, I wanted him to be free. To help me communicate that (to him and others), I wanted to be able to explain what truth is, and how truth connects to God.

So I undertook the task of defining what exactly truth is, and why belief in God is the necessary precondition for truth–and why simply saying that truth doesn’t exist isn’t an effective move.

The Difficulty of Definition

We must begin with a definition of the word truth, without just defining it by itself. This is harder than it would seem. Truth is one of those words that we use all the time, but we don’t really think about what it meansbecause it seems so self-evident: “Truth is… what’s true.”

Webster’s says truth is “the state of being the case.” But then, this feels incomplete. What is in the state of being the case? What case? What sort of thing can be true? Can a rock be “true?” No, truth is a quality of propositions, it cannot be possessed by things. A rock cannot be true, but the statement, “the rock is on the table” can.

For the purposes of this article, then, we will build a more complete and useful definition of the word truth–a true definition–and then demonstrate that truth is an impossible without God.

Truth and Language

So we have seen that truth is an attribute of propositions, and propositions are by definition linguistic; they are statements made in a particular language, whether English, French, Koine Greek or something else. Propositions, being a function of language, only make sense if they accord with the laws of language (grammar and syntax, etc., but also they must contain real words that are meaningful within that language).

It makes sense to say in English, “The rock is on the table,” but not “The rock fleurglob table the.” That’s nonsense, not English. Language isn’t freeform, it has rules. That collection of “words” doesn’t follow the rules of the language and therefore it’s incomprehensible, meaningless. Such a “proposition” really isn’t a proposition, and it makes no sense to ask whether it is “true.”

So the first criterion of truth is that a proposition accords with the rules of language. It is comprehensible.

Truth and Logic

Next, for any proposition to be sensible or possible, it must accord with the laws of logic. I have written about logic before, but in short, a logical proposition must not contradict itself (the Law of Noncontradiction). It must refer to what it refers to (the Law of Identity). It must affirm a state of affairs or its opposite, but not both (the Law of Excluded Middle).

These logical laws govern all thought and language. They are transcendentals, in that they transcend any one particular language or culture. Whereas vocabulary, grammar and syntax change from language to language, the laws of logic are unchanging. They are also immaterial, universal, and knowable.

A proposition (in any language) that contradicted itself or otherwise violated logic could not be meaningful, let alone true.

The second criterion for truth, then, is that a proposition accords with the laws of logic. It is coherent.

Truth and Reality

Finally we come to the third criterion, and this is the one most people think of when they think of truth. A true proposition is one that describes the actual state of affairs. It affirms the real world the way the real world actually is.

In this, it is necessary to believe that there actually is such a thing as “the real world.” More on this in a minute.

Therefore the third criterion for truth is that it accords with reality. It is correspondent.

All Three Criteria Presuppose God

We may now define truth as the quality of a proposition that is comprehensible in terms of language, coherent with regard to logic and correspondent to actual reality.

Now we can move on to why truth presupposes God. This is the case because all three criteria individually require God in order to be meaningful or real.

Comprehensibility Presupposes God

How does language presuppose God? Language presupposes God because it assumes that minds are designed to communicate and understand ideas. Further, the use of language assumes the uniformity of nature, that the future will be like the past.

That is, the speaker (and the hearer) must believe that words will mean the same thing in five seconds that they meant five seconds ago. “Is” will always mean “is” and never “is not.” This requires a stability to the universe that can only be explained by the faithful, unchanging, good God of Scripture.

Coherence Presupposes God

What about logic? Logic presupposes God because it assumes that there are true, immaterial, unchanging, good, universal and knowable laws that govern thought and speech. God is all of these things. If you believe in God and the truth of the Bible, it makes sense that the universe would be governed by such laws. It also makes sense that human beings, created in the image of God, would think and speak logically.

Could an atheist still affirm belief in logic? Of course! Atheists do this all the time. The question is, can they do so consistently? No.

Unbelief in God makes belief in logic simply a matter of random, subjective opinion (not possible).

Worse yet, an atheist evolutionist, who believes that his mind (which is just his brain) is the product of time + chance + millions of years and merely “aimed” at survival and reproduction (unrelated to actual truth-seeking), must believe that his own belief in logic is determined solely by his genes. Belief in logic isn’t rational; by believing in logic he’s merely dancing to his DNA. A mind evolved by chance could never “step outside itself” to analyze its own conclusions, including its conclusions about logic. On such a worldview there is no reason to believe in logic.

Correspondence Presupposes God

Belief in reality presupposes God because it assumes there is a state of affairs external to one’s own mind. There is a world which is objectively “out there.” That world is intelligible; it is capable of being known.

Similarly, this also presupposes that one’s mind is able to know something about the external world. In order to be able to make correspondent propositions about the world, the human mind  must also correspond to the world in such a way that knowledge about the world is possible, and conclusions about the world may be correct. 

The Bible teaches that God created man in his image, with the ability to study the world and gain true knowledge from it (see these verses related to the intelligibility of nature). Without God there’s no reason to believe this.

So far we’ve defined truth according to three criteria, defined those criteria and seen how each of them presuppose God. Now let’s examine why truth is a problem for those who deny God’s existence.

The Atheist’s Problem With Truth

However you look at it, truth presupposes God.

Atheists then have a huge problem. This brings us back to my Twitter discussion partner–the one who denied the existence of absolute truth.

To affirm the existence of truth is to presuppose the existence of God and the truth of what the Bible teaches about God, the world and humanity. 

On the other hand, to deny truth is to deny the possibility of saying anything is “true.” This also precludes anyone from saying that it is true that God does not exist. If there is no truth, than the fundamental proposition of atheism, “God does not exist,” cannot be true.

And what about the dodge that my discussion partner made, by denying absolute truth? He didn’t take it this far, but I will make the argument for him. What if truth exists, just not absolute truth? Is that possible?

Absolute truth is just truth that is true universally and unchangingly. Without getting too deep into the weeds, every true proposition is universally true, given enough details.

As an example: “Joel Settecase is a 13-year-old boy” was true, but it is no longer true. However, it is absolutely true that on October 21st, 1996, I was a 13-year-old boy. That statement is absolutely true. It is also absolutely true that I just typed that. And it is absolutely true that you are reading these words at the current moment in time.

So then, truth exists, and absolute truth exists absolutely. There is no way around this.

Back to that Twitter Conversation

I had affirmed to my discussion partner that faith in God is necessary in order to pursue absolute truth. He asked me why, yet he asked this while denying the very existence of absolute truth.

He perhaps couldn’t see how his own worldview made his question incoherent.

On his worldview, it was true that truth didn’t exist. Truth both existed and didn’t exist–a logical contradiction. And he wanted to know how belief in God was necessary to pursue truth according to that definition. But this is a logical impossibility. I was not interested in defending the pursuit of a logical impossibility. I therefore wanted to establish that truth only made sense from the biblical worldview in the first place.

When I pushed him on whether it was absolutely true that truth does not exist, he told me that I apparently wasn’t interested in having a conversation, and he ended it.

Truth Presupposes God

None of the above proves that atheists and unbelievers can’t know anything true. They know all sorts of true things. Truth is inescapable. Rather, all this shows that atheism cannot account for the existence of truth.

The Bible, on the other hand, is full of truth, and it centers on the One who is the embodiment of truth himself: the Lord Jesus (John 14:6). To know him is to  is to know truth. That knowledge is bound up with obeying him as Lord. And then, Jesus says, “the truth will set you free.”

This is apologetics; I hope it made you think.