Taylor Swift's new single calls out conservatives (and, apparently, Bible-believing Christians) for supposedly opposing the freedom and dignity of her friends. We look for the presuppositions being brought to the table and what kind of worldview best supports the values she promotes in her song, then we commend the biblical worldview and the Gospel. The hope with this episode is that believers will be encouraged to talk about these issues with their non-Christian friends, and that nonbelievers who listen would hear the truth, that sin is a serious matter, but there is true freedom and abundant life with God, through Jesus.
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),
To be good.
To follow your heart.
To love and be loved.
Seeking pleasure now.
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.”
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/.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joel Settecase analyzes the apparent presence of the literary technique known as foreshadowing and discusses how this creates a powerful apologetic argument for Scripture’s divine authorship.