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.