Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Gospel Confronts the Skeptic

“The riddles of God are more comforting than the answers of man.” G.K. Chesterton

I have been reading, writing, and teaching in the field known as Apologetics (defending the faith) for close to 20 years now. My research has led me to investigate the charges and arguments made throughout history against the existence of God.

There are some good natured skeptics with honorable concerns and doubts- they don't get the following or the press of the hard core, sarcastic, bomb throwing elites who pack auditoriums and sell millions of books. The popular atheists have become bolder and colder in their attack of all religion and the Christian faith in particular.

I feel like when someone discounts God on the basis of reason, they are doing the most foolish thing of all. When the Bible speaks of the ‘unforgivable sin’ and ‘blasphemy of the spirit’- it has to be this. When someone says, “There is no God, no angels or devils, no heaven or hell” they are lifting their life experience and powers of reasoning to a god-like status. ‘I must become God to kill God’- Nietzsche understood this.

I’m thankful that I am under-educated enough to keep a healthy self-suspicion of my intellect. Is reason trustworthy enough to gamble on eternity?

What does the Bible say about our ability to reason?

Romans 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

I Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 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”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 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. 12 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. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 

14 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. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

So a legitimate question is: Does the gospel confront the skeptic? And my answer is that it keeps coming on every breath, in every heartbeat, indeed in every argument those who fight the knowledge of God with every fiber in their being.

My guess is that- the truly hardened skeptic will best be able to respond to the issues of faith as their own body begins to wither and as the doorway of death begins to appear. There are so many urban legends surrounding the deathbeds of famous skeptics and it is impossible to sift through the spin- but my hunch is that after years of intellectual protection and high minded arguments- the closer that mysterious realm grows, the more intense the gamble is waged.

There will be harsh punishment for men who have used intellectual arguments to lead others to jettison any belief in God.

Matthew 18: 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.7“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 
And maybe this realization works against them- they feel like they have to keep their loyalty to the many years of fighting faith. Maybe they think that they have already sealed their destiny and willing to leap into the great unknown with a determination of mind. They have a defense in their hand- "You didn't give me enough evidence!"- but I'm afraid they will fall to their knees in regret before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Satan whispers to them: 'God has let you down' and at the same time 'It is too late to pray'.
But the gospel is still good enough to forgive the waywardness and damage done by the skeptic. As has been mentioned and will continue to be emphasized: anyone who comes to their senses and sees their sin before the Holy God, and turns to Him in repentance, and trusts in the sacrificial death of Christ to atone for that sin WILL BE SAVED- but that process is a miracle...impossible by the persuasion of man.
No one comes to Christ because they lost a debate. The skeptic will only turn after a healthy self suspicion of his intellectual limitations and his heart disposition to resist. And that act will only happen as God moves- but wemust keep praying and serving and loving even the boldest skeptic. As long as the skeptic is breathing- the door of mercy is open.
Yes- the gospel is that good!

The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.” Blaise Pascal

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