Leveling the Playing Field: God's Sovereignty, Saving Work and "Post-Christendom"

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Daniel M., Dec 9, 2016.

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  1. Daniel M.

    Daniel M. Puritan Board Freshman

    I remember taking an interest in apologetics early on in my faith, having been an atheist for most of my life beside my father.

    After years of conversations with old non-believing friends, I realize now that my philosophy and interest in it has changed a lot, and it's made me more effective.

    For one, anyone here who has ever watched or listened to Kirk Cameron's "The Way of the Master", it is this believer's advice that, unless the year you live in is 1970 and before, that you throw it out and forget it.

    Why? Because the Ten Commandments cannot be the basis for the argument of God to people that think the Bible is a made up fable bent on subjugating the unruly masses.

    Now, before I get lambasted, I'm not saying that the Ten Commandments are not a good reference for teaching total depravity. What I mean is that the degrees of unbelief are far and away more diverse and prevalent than in 20th century, Fundamentalist America.

    My generation is the first in hundreds of years in western civilization wherein a majority of our parents are more likely to dismiss the Bible as fable than to accept it as fact.

    I always find that first generation believers (not to sound biased) are normally the most effective at this because they're willing to relay their own conversion experiences and relate to the psychology of someone who never believed.

    So, how do you level the playing field? How do you, in your talks with the nonbelievers you care about, make the case for

    a.) absolute truth
    b.) a single God
    c.) the God of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament
    d.) the need for salvation and the means it comes about?

    EDIT: Submitted before ready, sorry to those who read the unfinished post.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2016
  2. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    R.C. Sproul made a comment in the 2004 Ligonier Conference, A Portrait of God, I believe, regarding the "need" to alter the message. He said something like "We're told that the constituent nature of man has been the same since Genesis 3.......up until 20 years ago......". What he was saying is the message of sin and redemption is the same, regardless of the generation and the antidote is, likewise, the same. The gospel is still the power of God unto salvation.

    Spurgeon had a similar quote, though, regarding the God's Word (excerpt)".....Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. "

    It may be beneficial to "get to know" someone, thus entering their arena, so to speak, but the gospel, unadulterated, saves....
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2016
  3. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll," that's what I encountered growing up in the 60s and 70s. My parents were part of mainline churches that believed if you weren't a mass-murderer, you were fine with God. Sorry, friend, there's nothing new under the sun.

    Apologetics are a great study in any age. First, though, know the scriptures. Second read/listen to folks like Carl Trueman who are engaging our US culture. Third, spend time, a lot of time, with writers and teachers like Cornelius Van Til.
  4. Daniel M.

    Daniel M. Puritan Board Freshman

    Everyone here knows that I'm still learning, for the most part, and that is something I am totally okay with because of the sheer wisdom I see God has given many that participate here.

    But you guys really think nothing has changed in the evangelistic landscape in the last 20-30 years?

    I don't pretend that we are the most wicked generation ever, and of course I see the power of the gospel to propel anyone unto repentance. But is no additional foundation beneficial to lay to help people get to that point?

    Do we really approach everyone with our message phrased the same way - forever?

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  5. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I am sure we would all recognise changes in human society over the years, especially since "change" is fundamental to man's rebellion against God; but the fundamental rebellious nature of man has not changed, and the Christian response to it should never change. By the law is the knowledge of sin. By His law God has defined sin and put His finger on the human situation; and when He comes to us with a revelation of His grace and salvation, it is salvation from sin as He has defined it. It is not salvation from the ever-changing problems as men diagnose them, but from His own never-changing judgment on human rebellion.
  6. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I suppose the most recent cultural change is how quickly the "postmodern" view has taken hold. A real benefit of that is it undermines that strange confidence men had in empirical sciences to solve all our problems.

    Growing up in the 60s, we were fed a diet of "science marches on" and given promises that by the year 2000, famine would be gone, work for pay would be unnecessary, a technical substitute for the Garden of Eden was just around the corner, etc. Technology, robots, computers, flying cars, etc., would bring us a quantum leap in freedom and quality of life.

    So much for that plan....

    As Matthew notes above, the common theme in history is rebellion. Now that rebellion is expressed as accelerated change for change's sake. Next step will likely be "things fall apart, the center cannot hold." So as people are worried about the unsettled world around them, the Christian stands ("stand, therefore.... Eph 6:14). Simply standing on everlasting truth is the sure foundation, and often the most enticing and effective "argument."
  7. Daniel M.

    Daniel M. Puritan Board Freshman

    See, all of this I can respect for sure, but what assures us that God, in His sovereignty, has not somehow ordained us not to change our approach?

    Brothers, my main confusion arises from here:

    "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." - 1 Corinthians 9:22 (ESV)

    Does this not mean that we adjust our lead-up (again, not our message, but our approach thereto) in order that the elect may be gathered by our sensitivity?

    As always, I ask not to perturb nor to frustrate, but instead to understand so that God may use me to His fullest intent.

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  8. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Daniel, you raise some great questions and it's admirable you want to engage those around you. I can attest that some of my reserve comes from seeing leaders in the young-restless-reformed movement flame out in spectacular ways. You can have tats, skinny jeans, three-day stubble, but too much of an effort to look and behave like the current generation seems to lead to a willingness to compromise with the mores of that same generation.

    Taking a longer view, each of the last 11 decades have seen major social and philosophical changes. If you want, you can look at the effort to engage the "modernests" of the 1930s or someone like Francis Scheaffer's way of addressing the 60s and 70s to get a sense for the upheavals the changes have brought. What seems to have been "successful" has been to address the questions of the day, while not being so caught up in trying to be identified with passing fads.

    From my perspective, one of the hugest shifts happened between the idealism of the 60s and the "lets just give up and get stoned" view I encountered in high school. If you're speaking to someone of a philosophical mind, you can ask questions and help someone work his thinking out to its logical conclusion. Someone who's given up on caring, who has given up on any interst in truth is much more difficult to address. About 15 years ago, people published "personal accounts" that proved to be ficticious -- they were defended as having an "authentic story" that was true for someone somewhere. This year, the Oxford dictionary gave "post-truth" the word-of-the-year distinction. That's a challenge.
  9. Daniel M.

    Daniel M. Puritan Board Freshman

    Boys, thank you for your replies. All of you have brought forth valuable counsel not to be dismissed, but rather meditated upon in prayer and in the searching of the Scriptures.

    As a young man in this world, I am quickly realizing that mine may be the next western generation to die for Jesus Christ.

    I can very soon see a man getting offended at being told "God bless you" after sneezing, first amendment rights being infringed upon as similar provisions are being drawn back in France for those speaking out against abortion, and an escalation of the detestation of the concept absolute truth. Soon will be gone the days of challenging a man's belief without repercussion and legal consequence, and soon will come the days our Lord Jesus warned us of in telling us, "...and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

    May the Lord in that day give me the strength to stand up for His Word, even if it leads me into great suffering. (How weak and detestable I am without His strength and mercy!)

    I understand the timeless truths of the gospel, and many of you here have assured me of the validity of the confessions we adhere to. I just want to know our flexibility in talking about our God and the avenues we can take to "soften" those that need to hear.

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  10. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think it is a change in "approach" in and of itself that is needed. The presuppositional apologetic still works well methodologically. It's more that one has a lot more work to do in order to build up the assumptions that unbelievers no longer (at least professedly) hold in common with us. From talking with those who do evangelism at universities, they actually recommend "Way of the Master" sorts of approaches (with corrections made for Reformed theology) and have found them to be "successful." At the end of the day, the unbeliever does need to know that they are a sinner before God and the various ways in which they have sinned, so whatever one does, one will eventually arrive at this juncture. Hence, why I think it is more of having to do more work, rather than a change in approach concerning the law of God. They are still human and still have a conscience, however seared, that will respond to God's law.

    Having said all that, due to the diversities of belief, interests, and education levels, I do not think there is a one-size-fits all answer to

    Generally, I find presuppositional apologetics based on our a priori mental equipment to be useful for defending Christian truth. However, it is usually only those who have a philosophical mindset/education who will even understand the arguments. I think one needs to listen carefully to the particular species of unbelief and try to show them--at an appropriate level--how they are (a) inconsistent, (b) borrowing from the Christian view (that is, they have no good reason for believing what they believe unless they were Christians), and (c) how their views are ultimately unfulfilling. While Christianity is (a) consistent, (b) self-sufficient, and (c) brings life and fulfillment.

    Even this can be tricky these days when unbelief is so hostile and consciences are so seared that people believe themselves satisfied and self-sufficient without Christ or external revelation; see my previous thread.

    One thing I can recommend though is to try to not be too philosophical in one's conversation. If you are dealing with someone with whom you need to be philosophical at first, okay. However, the heart of the matter is moral rebellion, so it is generally best to speak in the realm of morality and fulfillment in life so that they do not hide behind a philosophical (whether sophisticated and thought out or inherited from the spirit of the age) smokescreen. This also helps ground the matter of Christian truth in a conrete way that seems to help dissipate all the theoretical postmodern nonsense concerning truth that people have absorbed (i.e., people have difficulty understanding religion as "historical truth;" at best, they view it as a perspective on life--not something as factual as the "facts" of science that they absorb; by grounding the matters conretely, it seems to help them see that you are speaking about real and ultimate things).
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
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