Christian Apologetics in a Pre-Christian World
God holds the Intellectual High Ground
and wants to teach us how....
Dear Emmaus News Reader,
You have below the final edition of Emmaus News. It has become apparent to me (probably about a year and a half overdue) that I am no longer able to keep up with producing this newsletter and also do the other things that God has called me to do.
Being the director of Transformation Christian Ministries, helping people exit the very destructive homosexual lifestyle, means producing a news letter for TCM. I finally made this decision to end Emmaus News (not Emmaus Ministries) when it became clear to me that publishing the newsletter was competing against getting the website back up on the internet. But it was made after the August issue had been printed. So some of the "Friendly Word" column will seem out of date.
Emmaus News has been running for about fifteen years, with just a small interruption when I moved from Norwalk, Connecticut, down to Ambridge, Pennsylvania, in January of 1991. It has been a real adventure for me, publishing articles unencumbered by a "need" for an audience, advertisers, etc. I have been able to publish openly and freely on any cutting-edge topic that it seemed the Lord was giving me.
It seems fitting that the final issue brings to a close a three-month series on what I consider the most important issue of the last two centuries -- the failure of the Christian community to maintain its intellectual integrity by opting for various theories of "infallibility" and/or "inerrancy". We have artificially cushioned ourselves from honest vulnerability to open discussion as to whether our claims have the truth. If we are to win the world for God, we will have to do is learn to follow the way of the cross for the intellect -- honest scientific procedure -- giving up our right to "be right", and letting fact and logic, and the Lord of fact and logic, speak for themselves. These ideas will be much more deeply developed on the website.
See below, Our Reasonable God.
A Friendly Word
Our Reasonable God
Our Reasonable God....
Greetings in the Lord,Well, here it is the end of November, and I am just getting out the August issue. Good grief, Charlie Brown! [You see how badly things have gotten behind...!]
If you will accept a reason and an apology for this delay, it has been due to a period of chaos at Transformation Christian Ministries (TCM) which I direct in Washington, DC. TCM helps people exit the homosexual lifestyle. The fellow who hired me was working on another ministry, but got himself fired, and has been creating endless chaos and disruption. He had had the lease to the property of his new ministry rewritten in his own name rather than that of the ministry, so fired or not, he is able to hold their property, records, and assets captive -- on the first floor of the building where we were on the third floor. He is also sending out newsletters to our donor base telling them not to support TCM, but to support the new ministry he is trying to form. So TCM has moved to a new location in Alexandria, VA, just across the Potomac River, although we plan to keep our ministry focus in DC. Needless to say, this has been a trying period, in which our donors have backed off to sort out just what those crazy folks in Washington are up to.
On a more pleasant note, I led a group of about a dozen members of TCM to the Exodus yearly conference at Wheaton College outside of Chicago the last week of July. Exodus is the umbrella network of about 150 ex-homosexual ministries around the world. Our people were in various stages of exiting the homosexual condition, and were a joy to work with. I was struck the enormous potential of talent and goodwill these people have for the Kingdom. As they begin to emerge from their addiction to sex, they blossom and shine.
As with most addictions, in this case sex, the real issues are not the specific addictions, but the devils brew of unhealed hurt (which is often enormous), unrepented sin, and ignorance of Godly sexuality. So recovery requires deep inner healing, repentance, and teaching on the way in which God has created us in His own image, male and female.
Most of the people we work with are highly motivated, and so do not need a lot of pushing. They take what they are given and run with it. People who say that homosexual persons cannot change simply do not know what they are talking about -- or do not want to know. The testimonies we heard at the conference, and which we see in TCM, are often extraordinary tales of courage and Godly wisdom.
At some point down the road, I will be describing the process by which homosexual persons can come to healing. You will discover that they have pretty much the same issues as yourself or anyone else, just a different flavor.
In the meantime, here is another installment on the "infallibility" issue. If you do not have the previous June and July issues on this topic of infallibility and would like them, send a stamped return addressed envelope with $1, and we will send them. This is one of the most important issues for Christians to get under their belts if we are to turn back the tide paganism. In western culture, secularism is dead already, slain (to our shame) by paganism, not by Christianity. Paganism is a much sturdier foe and will require our careful faithfulness to the strategy of God.
Faithfully in Christ,
Science is simply common sense paying attention to the details. There is nothing exotic about science unless you consider hard work and careful observation exotic. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the nature of honest science or academics which is contrary to the nature or revelation of God. Just the opposite -- both reason and science in their legitimate forms are primary tools which God has put into our hands for the evangelization of the world, not the destruction of the Church. But the Church misunderstood what God was doing, Christians refused to put their faith at risk to honest inspection, and so we honestly earned a reputation for being more interested in Christianity than in truth -- a fatal betrayal of the plan of God, the Lord of Truth. God is the Lord of truth before He is the Lord of Christians.
Here is a definition of 'science':
We have a "science" when we can market a set of rules of evidence-gathering generally agreed to produce the truth in a given area.
All sciences, all academics, all due process in law and politics are based on this principle. How can any Christian refuse that kind of science?
By that meaning of science, every Christian (indeed, every human) has a science of his own religion, some set of rules which he trusts to produce the truth of his religion. They may be adequate or inadequate rules, but everyone alive is, in that sense, a scientist. The issue before us is how to find which rules really do lead to truth.
If we have a science when we are able to produce rules of evidence and truth-seeking by which we can discover the truth in a given area (physics, theology, history, etc.), then there is no possible way in which science can be contrary to a God of truth.
In what sense is God, then, a God "of truth"?
When God names Himself "I AM" at the burning bush, He is distinguishing Himself in sharp contrast to the pagan deities whose identities were always at risk and always a question mark -- because ultimate reality for paganism is Chaos. In both secularism and paganism, we all begin in an undifferentiated stuff, the chaos out of which we emerge (i.e., evolve). This undifferentiated stuff was personalized by pagans into the Great Mother, the Source of all things, the womb of the cosmos. And it is back to undifferentiated "stuff" that we all return -- death, which is not very personal. A cosmos beginning and ending in chaos is an irrational cosmos.
But our God is a Somebody, with a determinate character and purpose, not an undifferentiated mush. Calling Himself "I AM" sent a shockwave across the pagan world -- and still does. A world which believes that truth is plural cannot tolerate a God who claims to be I AM -- the real and only God.
The Biblical God is also an actor, a doer. Action and doing, much more compellingly than thinking, restrict us to consistency. We can think contradictory thoughts all day long, but when we begin to act on these thoughts, we can act in only one direction, so we always choose for one end or the other of a contradiction. Either we resolve the contradiction or we cannot act on it because action is either/or, not both/and. God is committed to logical consistency. The pagan cosmos is incapable of that.
Our intellect is our "long range" vision, like our car headlights. Feelings, on the other hand, are very short range perceptions of immediate engagement, like our parking lights. When we stop thinking clearly (factually and logically), we are driving in the dark with only our parking lights. We cannot see far ahead, so we do not know enough to avoid trouble until we smack into it.
There are signs that people are waking up to our disaster. "Hey! We just ran into a log in the road!!! Hey!! Why are we driving in the ditch???" But we are waking up because the disaster is now upon us. We are engaged with it. With our long-range vision, we should have seen it coming down the road 200 years ago and taken corrective action. But we sacrificed our intellectual integrity to our comfort, and so have produced the most violent, and now the most publicly and deliberately debauched, century in history. By the 1960's, we had already killed a greater proportion of the human race than any other century. And we are preparing for a potentially much worse 21st century. Unless the people of God begin to trust and obey.
Ironically, as we swung into the 20th century, many Christians were euphoric. A magazine was renamed "The Christian Century" because the owners thought "This is it! Christianity is going to win!" But it was that very atheist who 50 years earlier had announced that we had murdered God, who then at the turn of the century predicted that, on the contrary, because of our deicide, this would be the most brutal century of all time. Friedrick Nietsche was right, not the out-of-touch, euphoric Christians.
Upon hearing the notion that "God is reasonable", Christians today often reject it with contempt because they imagine God sitting down at a round table and "discussing" the issues. "Thou shalt not commit adultery... How do you feel about that?" They imagine that "God being reasonable" means that God has to persuade us of His view in order for His view to be valid. And so they spurn the idea that God is reasonable and substitute for that the notion that God is "sovereign", that God just tells us what to do, and we just have to do it. Period. No "discussion".
That does not show that God is not "reasonable", but that Christians have lost reasonable contact with both reason and the sovereignty of God. The reasonableness of God does nothing to undermine His sovereignty. Reasonableness is the very foundation of the sovereignty of God.
A math teacher does not sit at a round table with his students and say, "Two plus two equals four.... How do you feel about that?" -- as though he had to persuade his students of that truth for it to be valid. That truth is valid whether or not the students feel good about it. And so is God's truth.
Neither the sovereignty of God, nor the truth of what He tells us depends on our being persuaded, still less liking it. The reasonableness of God is not what establishes the truth. The reasonableness of God is the way He reaches out to work with persons who have lost touch with the truth -- and with reason and moral authority. The reasonableness of God is for our benefit, not to establish the truth of what He is saying. It has to do with communicating truth, not establishing it.
Truth is truth whether or not anyone believes it. But truth
will do me no good if I do not believe it. So the reasonableness of God is
Gods attempt to draw us into His own reasonableness, i.e., into believing the real
truth. Hence, "Come, let us reason together...." (Is. 1:18) "Let's have a
A little theology is in order.
God is omnipotent. Omni-potent. All powerful. But that does not mean that God can "do" contradictory things. God cannot create round squares, or make 2+2=5. God cannot make the traffic light both red and green at the same time and place.
Omnipotence means the ability to do all things that are logically possible. Things that are not logically possible are not "things" at all -- and thus are not candidates for being done in the first place. They are nonsense. Thus the inability of God to "do" them is no diminution of His omnipotence.
To try to make omnipotence include nonsense is to reduce theology to nonsense -- which is no credit to God or His sovereignty.
The law of non-contradiction, which is the rock bottom basis of all reasonableness, is thus also a part of the very nature of God, a part of the definition of His omnipotence -- the ability to do anything that is logically possible. God is totally consistent internally, and acts only in totally consistent ways. And, He is omnipotent.
The consistency of the words and actions of God is made both logically and practically necessary by the very nature of His goal for His creation. God is doing something. He is aiming at a particular end which requires the cooperation of persons to whom He has granted the extraordinary capacity of rational freewill.
I will avoid a long discussion about whether we have freewill, or whether (as per many Calvinists) we make no contribution to the plan of God through our cooperation -- by saying that without freewill, the whole of Scripture unravels into utter, contradictory nonsense. We do not protect either the sovereignty or the grace of God by denying ourselves the capacity to respond to and cooperate with God. But that is another issue.
If God is giving us commands, as He obviously is, then reason requires Him to do so consistently and clearly enough so that we can understand His intention. Paul, in a very practical, Hebraic sort of way, understands this, noting that if the trumpeter makes an indistinct sound, the troops will not rally. We send missionaries to give a clear message, God sends His Son, the Word of God, to give His clear revelation in the flesh. Revelation which is not clear and consistent is no revelation at all.
These characteristics of God are unique. No deity outside of
Scripture has ever considered the possibility of granting His creatures freewill, giving
them the chance to snub their noses at Him, and then set about winning their loyalty and
devotion at any cost to Himself. The picture of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah and in the
Gospels has no parallel in paganism or secularism, neither ancient nor modern.
Freedom has no meaning if we cannot rationally discern choices and their consequences, and then choose one over the other.
And equally, reason has no meaning apart from our freedom to choose between truth and falsehood.
Materialists, for example, who want to explain our freedom away "scientifically", i.e., as just the consequence of prior predetermined causes, put themselves in an impossible situation. They are on one hand consigning themselves to that same fate (they are also predetermined), and on the other hand, expecting us to believe their words -- which they themselves have reduced to no more meaning than the rumble of an earthquake or the clatter of a tin can. If their words, telling us that we are not free, are merely accidental noises produced by prior causes, then we have no reason to believe that their words are any more meaningful than any other accidental noise.
The secular and pagan worlds, for all their pretensions to
freedom and reason, cannot sustain either freedom or reason. Without the law and grace of
God, both begin to deteriorate.
Scripture is not a book on philosophy, it is above all a history of the acts of God in human life. So there are no chapters and verses on "reason" and "freedom". The Hebrews were drawn pell-mell into an ongoing relation with God who was very passionately and very reasonably drawing them back into that life which the human race had forfeited in the Fall.
That statement, and others like it in Scripture, imply that there is a general sense built by God into the human race of what truth is and what it is not, generally understood as our "reasonableness" -- a part of our divine image. There are no other grounds upon which we might appeal to "every man's conscience" other than our common understanding of fact and logic -- the very foundations of all understanding of truth, without which the quest for truth unravels and disintegrates into chaos, emotion, and power struggle.
We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways: we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 2 Cor. 4:2
The Biblical case is a winner on all points. There is no issue where the secular or pagan world holds the intellectual high ground over the Lord God. And He will show us that -- if we are willing to get into the arena with Him: "Come, let us reason together...."
That is not an invitation from God to prove that we are right and He is wrong (well, you can give it a shot if you want, and good luck!). It is an invitation to learn how to reason correctly and accurately. You want a teacher of good and accurate thinking? God is offering (so who needs Plato?). We do not have a choice not to think. Think we will. But we have a choice (as usual) to do it God's way or the world's way. We have a choice to do it well or poorly.
[NOTE: See the June and July 1999 issues for more on the infallibility issues, also "The Authority of Scripture in a Scientific World".]
The good news is
that post-abortion ministries have developed
ways to help free people from the chains of abortion.
More to the point, if these same techniques are applied
on a national scale, they will radically transform the entire
abortion debate. We can create a truly pro-life society."
- David Reardon in Noel News -
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Copyright, Earle Fox 1998