Defending the Faith in an Age of Sameness (Part 4)
DRAWING OUT AUTONOMYSome who read this blog series might think, “Yea. Yea. I see what you’re getting at. But how will this help me get the gospel to my hearer?” The approach laid out above is not aimed simply at winning important arguments. I have in mind something far more spiritual and meaningful. Reasoning on the level of ultimate commitments will help us get to the heart of the matter; and the heart of the matter is autonomy. Prideful independence lay at the heart of all detractions from the Christian truth. Simply put human autonomy is willful independence from God; it says I know better than God and my way will prove victorious in the end. I think my own thoughts. I go my own way. In other words autonomy asserts, I am God. Human autonomy was the central factor at the Fall of our first parents Adam and Eve. The serpent tempted Eve, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1) Rather than thinking God’s thoughts after Him, our first parents chose to think their own autonomous thoughts and then to go their own way. And even now all the pains of the Fall, in this modern age, demonstrate the dastardly consequences of human autonomy. Defending the faith in the way we explored above will help us draw out this independent and autonomous mindset, and then to show God’s better way.
If we defend the faith while keeping the three points above in mind, perhaps God will grant us the ability to draw out the autonomy at work in our friend’s worldview. According to the example above, as we show the inconsistency and the impossibility and the despairing end of all efforts to subvert God’s sovereign, wise and good order for men and women, we may anticipate the common objection. It goes something like this: “I hear what you’re saying. But let me assure you – the sameness we envision, we will one day achieve. Science and technology will make a way. Everyone will finally enjoy the freedom to be and do whatever we please. If a man wants to look like a woman, or function like a woman, or be a woman, he may. And if a woman wants to look like a man, or function like a man, or be a man, she may. Just wait – you’ll see.”
And this is the devilish sound of human autonomy – We envision. We will achieve. We will make a way. We will be and do whatever we want. Just you wait and see.
You cringe. I cringe too. But on the other hand, this response is exactly what we want to hear. Before our dear friends can come to Christ, the autonomy of their unbelief must be brought into the light; and euthanized by the all-sufficient power of revealed truth. So we do all we can to bring to the surface every word of self-sufficiency and independence present in the unbeliever’s thinking. Autonomy is the real problem - it stiffens the neck, hardens the heart, directs the conscience, defends the sinner, and rejects the Savior. A gracious blessing is offered when a Christian strives on the basis of Scripture to deal a death blow to his neighbor’s autonomous way of thinking and believing. Like an island prisoner, the autonomous thinker is stranded with his independent thoughts as the only comfort. The waves of God’s relentless truth crash upon the shore of his little island of self. The fierce winds blow against him, the blazing sun oppresses with the scorching heat of the fallen world. He desperately strings together a few vines and twigs and hunkers down under his rickety shelter. He feels the pressing need to make sense of his world, but alas he cannot. Preferring to follow the dictates of his own fallen conscience, he has abandoned the Truth; all the while the knowledge of God surrounds him on every side (Romans 1:18-22).
With gentleness and patience the Christian employs the same method we have detailed above, to show the futility of man’s wisdom - which is no wisdom at all - when it is dragged into the light of God’s incomparable truth. No matter where the unbeliever runs for cover – to hide from the burning gaze of God’s irrefutable wisdom – we seek to explode his shelter and send him running off again. We do this by disproving him from the Scriptures at every point; until he runs out of places to hide and his autonomy breathes a final gruesome sigh of death. And then, as His soul is writhing in despair, with nowhere to turn and the crushing heel of the Law upon His neck, we rejoice to offer the crowning jewel of all our apologetic efforts: the good news of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
Therefore, as with a laser sight, our defense of the faith takes aim to destroy the unbelieving presuppositions of autonomous minds. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We intend to show that futility, despair, and defeat awaits all who go their own way and then comfort the defeated with the good news of God who “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all;” He who will also then freely give us all things (Romans 8:32). By dealing with the unbiblical assumptions behind the unbelieving agendas of this age, and reasoning with love from Scripture, we can are privileged to commend to the world the surpassing riches of God’s grace toward us in Christ – grace which enables His people to exchange lies for truths, denial for adoption, folly for wisdom, despair for hope, death for life, and the glory of a King whose Kingdom has had no beginning and will have no end.
As we conclude, let me suggest four ways you and I can grow as defenders the faith:
- 1. We should become more astute to recognize the fundamental changes within our culture over time. To strike at the root we must do some digging. If we will “tune in” to the foundational ideas and beliefs of our time, we will become more effective ambassadors of Christ (Acts 17).
- 2. We should sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. Sanctifying Christ as Lord does not only mean we grow in assurance of our salvation. It also means we have committed ourselves to think, reason, and engage according to His way. We must learn to think God’s thoughts after Him in order to powerfully challenge unbelief (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- 3. We should know the Bible well. To think God’s thoughts, we must read and God’s thoughts. Let’s study God’s word daily. Growing in wisdom and knowledge will help us have wise lips that make knowledge acceptable (Proverbs 15:2).
- 4. We should cultivate a deeper gratitude for the grace of God. The intolerance and impatience of our day demands of us gentleness and longsuffering. May our speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). Grace has brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.
To learn more about defending the faith in our challenging era of history: Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion by William Edgar Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith by Greg Bahnsen and Robert Booth Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth By Richard Pratt "Presuppositional Reasoning with False Faiths" by Greg Bahnsen (article)