Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt. 2b


by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Law and Gospel in Apologetics

A. The Law

As we saw in our last article, we are required to use Scripture alone in our warfare against unbelief. The use of the Word of God is twofold. In the first place, we destroy the false beliefs and belief-systems standing in opposition to the Christian faith. In the second place, we assert what is the case from the Scriptures, i.e. we raise the truth up by means of argumentation, building the edifice of the Christian faith by sound reasoning. This two-fold movement corresponds to the two-fold distinction of God’s Word as comprised of Law and Gospel. The Law of God, in its broadest sense, is whatever God commands. As John Colquohoun explains, in

...its restricted or limited sense, it [i.e. the phrase “the Law of God”] is employed to express the rule which God has prescribed to His rational creatures in order to direct and oblige them to the right performance of all their duties to Him. In other words, it is used to signify the declared will of God, directing and obliging mankind to do that which pleases Him, and to abstain from that which displeases Him.1

The Law of God is comprised of imperatives that reveal God’s holy will to man, and simultaneously reveal man’s complete inability to meet God’s perfect standard of absolute moral perfection.

Thus, when the Law is preached properly, it removes man’s confidence in his own capacity to, as it were, fix himself and make himself presentable to God. As C. F. W. Walther aptly puts the matter –

The Law says: “You must do this; if you fail to do it, you have no recourse to the patience, lovingkindness, and longsuffering of God; you will have to go to perdition for your wrong-doing.” To make this point quite plain to us, the Lord says: “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” That does not mean, he shall have the lowest place assigned him in heaven, but he does not belong in the kingdom of heaven at all.

[…]

A sermon on the Law which you deliver from your pulpit, to be a proper preaching of the Law, must measure up to these requirements: There is to be no ranting about abominable vices that may be rampant in the congregation. Continual ranting will prove useless. People may quit the practises that have been reproved, but in two weeks they will have relapsed into their old ways. You must, indeed, testify with great earnestness against transgressions of God’s commandments, but you must also tell the people: “Even if you were to quit your habitual cursing, swearing, and the like, that would not make you Christians. You might go to perdition for all that. God is concerned about the attitude of your heart.” You may explain this matter with the utmost composure, but you must state it quite plainly.2

Concerning apologetics, then, the Law destroys the self-righteousness of man afforded to him, albeit falsely, by his individual false beliefs and/or belief-system. When we destroy the false beliefs/belief-systems of opponents of the faith, we are reminding men once again that all people are to be subject to the Law of God which requires them to “Love the Lord” with all of one’s “heart” and “soul” and  “mind.”3 We are also reminding them that by their failure to love the Lord God with all their minds, i.e. by submitting to the truth and not attempting to establish the truth by rebellion against the truth, they are failing to love their neighbor. Since it is upon these two commandments, as Christ declares, that the whole of the Law and the Prophets depend,4 a refutation of the false beliefs and false belief-systems proposed by the unbeliever is an indictment of the wickedness of fallen man’s heart. We are not playing an intellectual game, or trying to show our superiority of intellect. Rather, we are removing any confidence men have in the idols of their imaginations. We are holding up the perfect Law of God to men’s minds by showing them that the irrationality and falsity of their beliefs and belief-systems are the fruit of their sin against God and neighbor. The falsity and contradictory nature of false beliefs and belief-systems is evidence of the guiltiness of the person who espouses and promulgates them.

B. The Gospel

The Gospel is, however, the good news of what God in Christ has accomplished for law breakers. In this way, it is the antithesis of the Law of God – the Law demands perfect righteousness from men, the Gospel provides perfect righteousness from God for men. As Robert Hawker elqouently and properly declares, the Gospel

...consists of nothing but invitations, promises, assurances, and the strongest declarations of mercy, followed up by innumerable instances of those who have been made the happy partakers of it, from one end of the Bible to the other. It seems to court the observation, to solicit the attention, and to invite the acceptance of the miserable and the wretched to its warmest embraces. And, that no broken-hearted sinner might despair in fancying himself placed beyond the reach of this rich tide of mercy, which flows continually without ebbing; it is not enough to say, that it washes on the shore of the undeserving, but it reaches to the ground of the ill-deserving; not barely to those who have done nothing to merit mercy, but even to those who have done everything to merit punishment.5

In apologetics, our declaration that man is lost and irrational because this is the nature of his fallen heart is only part of our task. We remind men that they are without excuse, but do so in order to point them, ultimately, to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom alone there is hope for sinners.

Sin, as we have noted in our last article, renders the minds of men irrational, confused, and corrupt. But in Christ, the sinner can be found clothed in the righteousness of Christ and in his right mind. Those who are in Christ are not only saved from a life of internal activities that are clearly prohibited by God, we are also saved from an intellect whose corruption would otherwise know no bounds. This corruption is moral, but it is also epistemologicalOntologically and ethically, fallen man’s mind loses its integrity. In Christ, the sinner’s mind is renewed by the Spirit of God. In Christ, the sinner has the mind of Christ, as the apostle Paul explains in 1st Cor 2:7-16 –

...we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Therefore, whereas the Law’s demand for man to worship God with all his mind convicts the unbeliever through a demolition of the unbeliever’s false beliefs and/or belief-systems, the Gospel declares a renewed mind is the possession of all those who trust in Christ, a mind that is ever being renewed, in fact, the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit in all believers’ minds. The Law points to the irrationalism of fallen man and condemns him; the Gospel points to the very embodiment of Divine Wisdom, the Logos of God, Jesus Christ dying to save not only our bodies, but also our minds. Moreover, the Gospel declares that the beginnings of our final deliverance from the noetic effects of sin are already here. The one who trusts in Christ already has the mind of Christ.

§ II.  Intermediate Summary of the Methodology

The methodology we employ, therefore, is this –

1. We begin with the Scriptures: The Bible is our starting point for our reasoning. We do not, because we cannot, subject the Word of God to the scrutiny of skeptics. This is not only impossible, given the nature of God’s Word, but also an exercise in begging the question. The unbeliever who demands that we demonstrate that God’s Word is indeed the Word of God is by that very demand assuming that it is not the Word of God, for if it is the Word of God then it cannot be established as such by some higher authority, seeing as no higher authority exists.

2. We utilize the Law: This is done by means of demonstrating the guilt of man as evidenced in his self-contradictory, irrational, and confused thinking. Such thinking is not only sin against God, seeing as it is the very opposite of loving God with one’s whole mind, it is also a sin against one’s neighbor, seeing as the propagation of falsehood as truth destroys one’s neighbor.

3. We utilize the Gospel: This is done by emphasizing that the work of Christ redeems man in body and soul. The Christian faith alone is rational; and it alone promises and delivers on the promise, that man in Christ will have a new/renewed mind, one that will perpetually grow toward that end for which all men have been created – to know God and to glorify him forever.

In our next article, we will elaborate on how the Law and the Gospel can be employed in apologetics (e.g. logically, historically, etc).

[Continued in Part 2c.]

1A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel (Edinburgh: 1819), 5.
2“Law and Gospel,” The High Way,
http://www.the-highway.com/lawgospel_Walther.html, Accessed 
July 23, 2018.
3 cf. Mark 12:30.
4 cf. Matt 22:40.
5“The True Gospel,” Chapel Library,
http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/9713/7643/3394/tgos.pdf, Accessed July 24, 2018.

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