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A Little Ocean Ambiance
from Luke 16
Pastor Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
Sound Biblical apologetics is a necessary part of the Christian faith. Apologetics involves the defense of the Scriptures and a justification for their acceptance. The Bible is filled with passages which teach the importance of this, ranging from Jude's admonition to "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3),to Peter's exhortation to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15). While the importance of a sound apologetic is unquestioned, the means for arriving at this apologetic are varied and often contradictory. Geisler lists seven different approaches to dealing with the questions of the existence of God (11). While some of these methodologies, such as agnosticism, are instantly rejected by Christians, others have gained some measure of credibility within "Christendom." Unfortunately, even among the Fundamentalist movement there are those who have accepted some of these erroneous views of apologetics.
The most prevalent of these views is that of Rationalism. In short, this methodology teaches that the unbelieving mind will be brought to an acceptance of Biblical truth through the ability of the Christian to use his intelligence to convince the skeptic of the reality of Scripture. Clark Pinnock advocates this apologetic in this manner:
A sad feature in contemporary evangelical Christianity
is the intellectual intimidation of Christians, who finding themselves incapable of defending the gospel against skeptical attack, retreat to some untestable religious experience they have had, or to some existential version of faith in faith... One of the most urgent tasks of Biblical Christianity today is to construct an apologetic for the gospel which will adequately describe the rational and historical basis upon which it securely rests (Bibliotheca Sacra, 127: 59).
Pinnock advocates the establishment of "cultural apologetics", which he states
"starts with the dilemmas of modern man as he expressed them in the cultural
media of our times" (59).
media of our times" (59). This will then become the "point of entry into the mind of secularized man" (61). In other words, Pinnock is saying that the Scriptures must be seen by the unbeliever as culturally relevant and intellectually acceptable before a gospel witness can be given.
Experientialism, through somewhat different than pure rationalism, falls under this general heading as well. The Experientalist believes that he can use his own experiences and testimony to persuade the intellect of the skeptic to the truth of the Scriptures. Sumner Osborne presents this philosophy inhis article Christian Experience: An Evidence of Christianity:
Because the Christian Faith is one in which reality has such a central place, there must be satisfactory evidence given to prove it is all its documents claim it to be. While the world's religions may slumber on in the darkness of forms, rituals, and endless creeds without any need for evidence, Christianity must be demonstrated to men's minds by strong and clear proofs if it is to claim their trust and satisfy their
hearts... There are numerous classes of evidence which establish the truth of the Christian Faith ... we want to observe how the experience through which Christians pass in their spiritual careers proves the reality of Christianity (479).
On the surface, these philosophies would seem to be appropriate. After all, how can an appeal be made to the Scriptures when the skeptic denies their authority? Surely it would make more sense to attack the skeptic at his rational level by logic, experience, and educated argumentation. This type of reasoning, however, cannot be the foundation upon which the believer bases his philosophy and apologetic. Rather, he must determine to follow that which is expounded in the Word of God. Alfred Martin states:
The Christian scholar must saturate himself with the wisdom of God as it is found in God's Holy Word, not neglecting legitimate areas of human knowledge, but studying them also in the light of Scripture ... He will not then be like so many faint-hearted Christians... who tremble in the belief that the Word of God is in jeopardy because someone has propounded a new theory. The Christian scholar will continually subordinate everything to this question, "What saith the Scriptures?" Therein is found the wisdom of God (146-147).
God gives His view of Biblical apologetics in Luke 16:19-31. This passage is familiar to fundamentalists because of its clear teaching on the reality of Hell. Louis Berkhof uses this passage to draw support for at least six
Biblical doctrines (688). Buswell calls it "the most important New Testament passage bearing on the meaning of Hades" (305). Yet in spite of its renown concerning its teaching on eternal punishment, it is often overlooked in its teaching on apologetics. In fact, the conversation between the rich man and Abraham in Luke 16 is perhaps the greatest indictment of the rationalistic/experientialist view of apologetics contained within the Bible. Thus, a careful examination of this passage is warranted.
The first eight verses of this passage set the stage for this great confrontation of apologetic methodologies. An unbelieving rich man and a
believing beggar, who had passing acquaintance in this life, both passed into eternity. Lazarus, the beggar, was taken to paradise in Abraham's bosom, while the rich man looked up to find himself in the awful torments of Hell. His first thoughts were for himself. He called upon Abraham to send Lazarus to provide him with some comfort in his agony. Abraham not only refused his request but informed him that there was no longer any hope for him, because no one could ever bring comfort to him, nor could he ever hope to leave himself because of the "great gulf" which isolated him from paradise. Having heard that his punishment was sure and his condition unalterable, the rich man's thoughts turned toward the spiritual condition of his family members yet living on earth. Ironside comments, "Hopeless of any alleviation of his own misery, the rich man suddenly became missionary-minded" (515). Matthew Henry adds:
Now he desired to prevent their ruin, partly in tenderness for them, for whom he could not but retain natural affection; he knew their temper, their temptations, their ignorance, their infidelity, their inconsideration, and wished to prevent the destruction they were running into: but it was partly in tenderness to himself, for their coming to him, to that place of torment, would but aggravate the misery to him who had helped to show them the way thither (763).
In his concern for his brothers, the rich man comes up with an idea that he considers to be fool-proof. "I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him (Lazarus) to my father's house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them" (Luke 16:27-28).
The rich man realizes that his brothers are unbelievers, in spite of the fact that they have had access to the Word of God throughout their lives. He believes that something incredible and miraculous is needed to appeal to them. In his agonized state of mind he determines that the greatest shock to their systems will come if they are met at their home by someone who has risen from the dead and can tell them first-hand of the horrors of hell and the glories of paradise. He begs that Lazarus, who was undoubtedly known to these men both in life and in death, would be allowed to return to them and "testify." The Greek word used here is diamartutomai. Thayer defines this as "to give solemn testimony to one, to confirm a thing by testimony, to cause it to be believed," (140). Kittle defines it as "to declare emphatically in the sense of a warning" (512). The idea seems to be that Lazarus was to give his own eyewitness account of the realities of Biblical truth concerning eternity and the means of salvation. He was to passionately appeal to the brothers by giving them tangible proof through his own resurrection of their need of a saviour. This scene has been described in this manner:
He (Lazarus) stands and knocks at the door of their mansion, and at length enters in his grave shroud.
His glazed eyeballs and hollow cheeks declare him a tenant of the narrow house. In deep, sepulchral tones he says, "I have come from the night of the grave, and I know of death and of Hell and of Heaven, and it's all true" (Willcock, 461).
This is truly an extraordinary plan! Surely Father Abraham will respond in the affirmative! But he does not. He simply responds, "They have Moses
and the prophets, let them hear them" (vs 29). The word "have" is exousi,
which Thayer defines in this context as "to have one at hand, to be able to
make use of, " (266). Exousi, is a present indicative verb. Dana and Mantey define the present tense as "the idea of progress. It is the linear tense"(181). They then define the indicative mood as, "the declarative mood,
denoting a simple assertion or interrogation. It is the mood of certainty" (165). Thus Abraham is saying, "your brothers surely have continual access to Moses and the prophets." The expression "Moses and the prophets" refers to the complete writings of the Old Testament. Then Abraham says, "Let them hear them." The phrase "let- them hear" is a translation of the word akousatosan, which comes from the root word akouo. Barnes defines this as "Hear them in the Scriptures. Read them, or hear them read in the synagogues, and attend to what they have delivered," (18:118). Abraham is saying, "Your brothers have access to the inspired Word of God as given through the Old Testament writings. If they will listen to them and heed them, then they have no need of Lazarus."
Abraham has given the rich man a brief, but incisive study of apologetics. The rich man desired to appeal to his brothers' rational minds. He felt that they could not possibly argue with the physical testimony and message of a resurrected corpse. Yet Abraham does not respond that way. His
statement indicates that the Scriptures alone are suff icient, and no other outside corroboration is necessary.
However, the rich man doesn't back down. In verse thirty, he denies the truth of Abraham's speech: "Nay Lord, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." Concerning this statement, Whitcomb writes:
The rich man's response reveals why the gates of Heaven were forever closed to him. It was not because he had no concern for his brothers; it was because he had no respect for the Word of God (29).
The rich man's initial comment is stunning. The Greek construction reads ouxi...all , which is translated "Nay ... but". Thayer explains this as ou "being used in disjunctive statements where one thing is denied so that another may be established" (461). A similar construction to this is found in Luke 8:49-52. There, Christ has been informed that a certain individual was dead. Upon His arrival, He tells the anguished parents that "she is not dead, but sleepeth." He is negating their statement of her death, so that He can establish that she is only sleeping. In Luke 16, the rich man is denying the truth of Abraham's statement concerning the sufficiency of Scripture. Jamieson calls the rich man's statement, "giving the lie to Abraham" (117). The rich man is so consumed with his rational/empirical apologetic that he is willing to rebuke the father of his people as Abraham speaks from paradise. He follows his negation with a final plea, "but if one went unto them from the dead they will repent." Barnes gives his interpretation of the rich man's claims as follows:
No. They will not hear Moses and the prophets. They have heard them so long in vain that there is no prospect now that they will attend to the message; but if one should go to them directly from the eternal world, they would hear him. The novelty of the message would attract their attention, and they would listen to what he would say (18:118).
Matthew Henry paraphrases it this way:
Nay, father Abraham, give me leave to press this. It is true, they have Moses and the prophets, and if they would give but due regard to them, it would be sufficient; but they do not and will not; yet it may be hoped if one went to them from the dead they would repent, that would be a more sensible conviction to them. They are used to Moses and the prophets and therefore regard them the less; but this would be a new thing, and more startling; surely this would bring them to repent, and to change their wicked habit and course of life (763).
Undeniably, this is the cry of modern Christianity, not only in the field of apologetics, but in the arena of polity and practice as well. The rational apologist cries that simple Scripture is insufficient to convince a man of the existence of God and his own need of salvation. Something more is needed. Perhaps a miracle is necessary, or someone's testimony of an experience. If only a scientific discovery could be made to validate the miraculous, or perhaps some educator of superior intellect and degrees could place his stamp of approval upon the Word of God. Then, and only then, the skeptical world might give the Bible a fair hearing, Simple faith in the absolute authority of scripture is not enough. The following teachings are mocked and rejected by these "´ntellectual" rationalists:
God's Word is arbitrarily assumed. It is clear to anyone who will reflect seriously on this question... that the statements of Scripture about Scripture are primary and must determine our attitude toward all the rest. Hence, the unproven Scripture must be the
determiner of all truth. This "primary" truth is accepted fideistically (Sproul, 309).
It is important here to note that the intellectualism which teaches that the Bible is not sufficient for apologetics has carried into the area of church practice as well. In this day and age pastors are being bombarded by seminars and books which teach that you can no longer build a church by simply preaching and teaching the Word of God. Christ-honoring, Scripturally-based hymns are to be replaced by experience-oriented, fleshly-appealing choruses. Dynamic, expository preaching of the convicting Scriptures is to be replaced by "fireside chats" and "need-meeting seminars." Church services are to be "user-friendly" rather than Holy Ghost empowered. Why is this? Because the "intellectual" rationalists teach that the Bible alone is insufficient. A church can only be built if it appeals to the outside world. Thus, everything must be geared to making the unregenerate man feel at home within the house of God. Obviously this can never happen if the Bible is preached, for the Scriptures teach that "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (I Cor. 1-18), and the Christ that is preached is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (I Peter 2:8). Thus, those who follow the rationalist view of church polity must dilute the message of the Word of God in order to meet the approval of those whose foolish hearts are darkened (Romans 1:21).
The modern Christian psychology movement is another illustration of the
rationalistic ethic at work. Why must ungodly reprobates like Freud, Skinner, Fromm and Jung become the basis for Christian counseling? Because the rationalists have determined within the halls of academia that the Bible alone is insufficient. They cry from their rostrums "Nay Lord! Not Moses and the prophets; that will never work. But if one went to the needy with the theories of psychiatry, then they will be helped!" John MacArthur relates this telling story concerning a court case in which his church was sued for counseling malpractice:
During the trial, a number of "experts" were called to give testimony. Most surprising to me were the socalled Christian psychologists and psychiatrists who testified that the Bible alone does not contain
sufficient help to meet people's deepest personal and emotional needs. These men were actually arguing before a secular court that God's Word is not an adequate resource for counseling people about their spiritual problems. What is truly appalling is the number of evangelicals who, are willing to take such "professionals"' word for it (57).
How else can it be explained that Christians would hold to a philosophy of counseling that even its proponents admit is based upon the presuppositions of determinism, experimentalism, reductionism, naturalism, and relativism (Bulkley 213)? The sole reason is that the methodology and philosophy of rationalism has replaced the Scriptures as the sole authority for faith and practice.
Returning to Luke 16:31, the Bible-believing pre-suppositionalist rejoices in the response of Abraham to the rich man's rationalism. He does
not flinch, but boldly proclaims that "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." Abraham again appeals to the totality of extant Scripture. If the brothers cannot be persuaded by the Word of God, then nothing will save them. The word "persuade" is peisthesontai. The root word meaning is "to be persuaded, to suffer oneself to be persuaded, to be induced to believe" (Thayer 497). Part of the idea here seems to be the volitional aspect of this persuasion. Kittle writes, "In Luke 16:31 following is almost obeying; here the oude...peisthesontai...
is best translated 'They will not let themselves be told, "' (6:4). These brothers have chosen not to believe the Scriptures, and there is nothing else which can be done. Colin Brown writes:
In Luke 16:31, the verb means to be convinced... In Acts, Paul seeks to convince the Jews by arguments which any Jew must accept. Luke 16:31 expresses the corollary. Where agreement to such argument is
refused, a man will not be convinced even though
someone should rise from the dead (591).
It is profitable to look at the above mentioned passage in Acts 28:23-24. Luke writes:
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified (diamarturomenos) the kingdom of God, persuading (peithon) them concerning Jesus, both of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
What a contrast to the methodology of the rich man! He called for testimony
to come from a resurrection, whereas the apostle Paul gave testimony about Jesus based upon the Old Testament Scriptures. The Word of God was all that was necessary to convince men of their need. It should be noted that some did not believe, but this is not because of the inability of the medium. Men make their volitional choices whether or not to accept the truth of the Bible. Christ told Nicodemus, "He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the only begotten Son of God"(John 3:18). The root word from which "believeth" is translated is pisteuo which comes from the same stem as peitho. Colin Brown writes, "Trust can refer to a statement, so that it has the meaning to put faith in, to let oneself be convinced, or to a demand, so that it gets the meaning of obey, be persuaded," (588). Thus, each man makes a personal decision as to whether or not he will accept the Word of God, and will be held eternally accountable to God based upon that decision.
What the rationalist fails to understand is that the problem is not found in the medium by which the message of salvation is delivered. The problem is that the natural man is not seeking after God, and rejects the Biblical message that he is in fact a hopeless, Hell-bound sinner in need of a Saviour. Thus, if he is going to reject the Biblical message, he will not accept it even though it is delivered by a resurrected beggar. Willcock draws this possible scenario of responses to any message from Lazarus.
But the eldest brother is a Pharisee. He is a self righteous man. He fasts and prays. He pays tithes of all he possesses. He is not as other men are - the message cannot be for him. The second brother is a Sadducee. He believes neither in angel nor spirit. He is the type of the skeptic of the present - day when death comes, it is utter annihilation. He explains away this appearance of Lazarus as an optical illusion. The third is a merchant - buying, and selling, and getting gain. He is an avaricious man; but his brother left him no legacy in his will, and he cannot now believe that he cares for his soul in eternity when he cared so little for his body on earth. The fourth is a fashionable man, a man of aesthetic taste and culture; he loses himself in the beauties of nature, or art, of literature. The sight of lazarus in his mansion was an offense to him. What had this beggar got to do here. The message could not be for him. The fifth was a delicate, pale-faced youth; the least thing put his poor heart in a flutter. He could bear no excitement, and as he beheld the form of Lazarus in his grave clothes he swooned away; and when he recovered the apparition was gone (461).
This fictitious scene is obviously delivered in a fanciful and somewhat tong-ue-in-cheek manner. But yet it strikes to the fundamental problem with men -- the wickedness of their hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches that "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Keil and Delitzsch indicate that "deceitful" comes from the root idea of "to deal treacherously", while "desperately wicked" carries the meaning of "dangerously sick, incurable; here, sore wounded by sin, corrupt or depraved" (282). Von Orelli paraphrases that the heart "labors under a morbid love of dissimulation and unnatural self-deception; only the Lord sees through it" (138). Man's
heart and mind are so polluted by sin that they are incapable of receiving and understanding spiritual truth apart from the working of the Holy Spirit. Romans 3:10-11 is probably the classic passage that deals with this issue. Paul writes, "As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." The word translated "righteous" is Dikaios. Thayer writes, "preeminently, of him whose way of thinking, feeling and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God and who therefore needs no rectification in heart or life" (148). Concerning verse eleven, Barnes writes:
To "understand" is used in the sense of being wise; or as having such a state or moral feeling as to dispose them to serve and obey God. The word is often used in the Bible not to denote a mere intellectual operation of the mind, but the state of the heart inclining the mind to obey and worship God. "That seeketh after God.,' That endeavors to know and do His will and to be acquainted with His character. A disposition not to seek after God - that is, to neglect and forget Him - is one of the most decided proofs of depravity (20:86).
The effects of sin destroy the apologetic philosophy of the rationalists. Men are born spiritually dead and blind. Their minds exist in total rebellion against God. It is impossible to bring a depraved mind into acceptance of spiritual truth by simple reasoning, for its thinking is anti-God by nature. Romans 8:6 states that to be "carnally minded is death", and verse seven adds, "because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." The rich man in Luke 16 understood that
his brothers had a sin problem. He told Abraham that if Lazarus went to them they would "repent." The word "repent" is the Greek word metanoesousin, whose root idea is "to change one's mind" (Arndt, 513). Thayer defines it as:
The change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both the recognition of sin, and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds (406).
Augustus Strong adds these thoughts:
The idea of metanoia is abandonment of sin rather than sorrow for sin == an act of the will rather than a state of the sensibility. Repentance is participation in Christ's revulsion from sin and suffering on account of it. It is repentance from sin, not of sin, or for sin (833).
Thus, the rich man knew that his brothers needed to change their minds about their sinful condition. Yet he hoped to reach them by appealing to their spiritually dead and sinful minds. He failed to understand that the fundamental idea of repentance is volitional, not intellectual. Many a man has given mental assent to the historical realities of Scripture, but has never willfully repented of his condition and turned in faith to Christ. A good illustration of this principle is found in Christ's conversation with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22. The young man came to Christ for his answers, so he apparently gave some degree of assent to His authority. He attempted to keep the Ten Commandments which indicates that he accepted their validity on at least an intellectual level. Yet when confronted by Christ
with his covetousness, and therefore his guiltiness as a law-breaker, he does not repent and believe, but rather goes away sorrowful. He accepted the teachings of Christ on an intellectual plane, but he was not repentant because his wicked heart refused to recognize its need.
This fact helps to explain why it served no purpose to send Lazarus back from the dead. His rational appeal would have created a stir, but would not have produced repentance. This is proven to us by the response of the people of Bethany to the resurrection of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. In John 11, Christ is summoned to the home of Lazarus because of his impending death. Jesus waits for two days before leaving, for He knows that this delay will allow Him to work a great Deity-attesting miracle before many people. Upon his arrival in Bethany, he is informed that Lazarus has been dead for four days, and has long since been buried. As He approached the tomb, He heard people saying that: perhaps He could have prevented this death if only He had arrived on the scene a few days earlier. Christ, knowing that He was about to work a miracle greater than any healing, commanded the stone to be rolled away from the tomb. He then prays this prayer:
Father, I thank Thee that Thou has heard me. And I knew that Thou hearest me always, but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent me.
What was the purpose of this type of prayer? Christ wanted all those around to know that He was the Son of God. If God answered this prayer, it would validate all that Christ had said, and prove to any reasonable individual that He was indeed the promised Messiah. Having thus prayed, He calls out: "Lazarus, come forth." And then the resurrection occured.
Here, the empirical evidence that the rich man said would save his
brothers took place. The dead was raised back to life in direct response to the prayer of Jesus Christ. Then entire community saw it with their own eyes; it could not be denied. So what is the response of the people? Do they in mass fall down at the feet of Jesus and accept Him as Saviour? Verse 45 says that many who had seen this thing believed. But what of the rest? Verse 46 teaches that some went and related this story back to the religious leadership. Did the Pharisees come to their senses and acknowledge their sinfulness and rebellion against God. Certainly not! Verse 53 states that they took counsel together that Jesus needed to be put to death. In fact, John 12:10 says that they desired to put Lazarus to death as well. 7he message of the resurrected one was rejected by those who chose to reject Christ. This miracle of God that was directly designed to prove beyond any doubt the Deity of Christ and the authority of His message was ignored by those whose stubborn, sinful wills would not allow them to believe.
Were the Pharisees rejecting the miracle? No, they were rejecting the message. The miracle was undeniable - that was why they desired to execute Lazarus. But the message of the miracle-working Christ did not fit in with their self-righteous belief system. Therefore, they rejected Him. A similar incident takes place in John 9 when Christ heals the man born blind. At first, the Jews refuse to believe that a miracle has taken place. But when faced with undeniable proof of its occurrence, the leaders still choose not to believe. That Christ's message of repentance offended their pride is evident in their response to the blind man's testimony; "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and doest thou teach us?" (vs 34). They refused to acknowledge their need, because of the hardness of their hearts. Their eyes had seen the truth, and their minds understood its ramifications. But their wills refused to bend, and their souls were eternally lost.
It should be obvious that empirical evidence alone is insuff icient to bring a soul to salvation. If that were enough, all of Israel would have believed during the time of Christ. There are several reasons for this. One of these is that miracles are not the domain of God alone. In fact, to demand experience in order to be convinced is to invite the Devil to provide false signs. II Thessalonians 2:9 describes Anti-Christ as coming "after the working of Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders." Revelation 13:13-15 describes the third member of the Satanic trinity, the False Prophet, in this manner:
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from Heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast which had the wound by a sword and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
Here we find the end result of the empiricist. Those whose hearts refused to respond to the Word of God now have something to respond to: the miracles of Satan. Understand, they could have responded to the Scriptures at any time, but they chose not to do so because, according to II Thessalonians 2:12 they "believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Christianity did not fit into their belief system. The idea of repentance had no appeal. However, this antinomian Anti-Christ who promises wealth and thrives on
pleasure is just the kind of messiah they have been looking for. They see his miracles, decide that they like his message, and follow him. Incidentally, it is appropriate to note that the world rejects the empirical evidence of the two witnesses in Revelation 11. They too are miracle workers, but the world's response to them is to execute them and throw a gigantic party in celebration. Even their public resurrection after three and one-half days does not produce salvation. Fear and wonder, yes, but not salvation. Why? Because the tribulation-time world does not want to believe.
This is why Sumner Osbourn, who is quoted on page two of this paper, is wrong. The message of the Bible does not require the evidence of changed lives to prove its validity. It is capable of standing on its own. A changed life proves absolutely nothing. Untold millions of people are wandering this earth with stories of transformed lives that have no basis in Scripture. Go to the Mormon tabernacle in Salt Lake City, and a well-groomed heretic will inform those visiting that he knows that the writings of Joseph Smith are true, for he has experienced them in his life. Go to Columbia, and speak with an Indian man who had his legs restored after a decade of being conf ined to a wheelchair by the power of the Virgin Mary and the Roman Catholic Church. Talk with the charismatic who does not want to discuss what the Bible says about spiritual gifts because they know what they have seen and experienced, and it must be from God. The Devil is seeking whom he may devour, and if he can lead souls into confusion, or even into eternal damnation by providing them a miracle, then he will do it. This is why John admonishes believers to "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Stuart Custer comments, "we are to test the spirits; that is, keep on testing them to see if they agree with Scripture" (49). Matthew 24:24 teaches "For there
shall arise false christs and false prophets, and they shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Empirical evidence can be very strong. However, it is insufficient to save, and can easily be used as a tool of Satan himself.
Perhaps a word should be mentioned here concerning the fact that Jesus did give tangible evidences that He was who He claimed to be. The apostles, and others in the first century church did works that were given as evidence of the truth of their message. Christ Himself stated, "Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very work's sake" (John 14:11). Is this an appeal of Christ to Empiricism? Certainly not. It must be remembered that the canon of Scripture was not completed during Christ's earthly ministry, nor was it completed for the use of the first century church. I Corinthians 1:22 teaches that "the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom." Paul's response was to preach Christ crucified (vs 23), but there were often signs that accompanied the message. Hebrews 2:3-4 gives the reason.
How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?
Salvation, according to the author of Hebrews, was first spoken by the Lord. He bore witness to a new thing. Those who heard Him directly bore witness to His teaching. And God Himself placed His stamp of approval on the message through the gifts and wonders that accompanied the ministries both of Christ and the first century church.
This, however, cannot be appealed to today. I Corinthians 13:8-10 reads:
Charity never faileth: but whether there be
prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Paul states that he "knew in part. " That which he knew was the Word of God which he had available to him. Because the written revelation of God had not yet been completed, it was necessary for prophecy, and other signs, to exist. However when that which was perfect, or complete, arrived, then those things which were in part served no further purpose. When John completed the Book of the Revelation, God had given to man everything that he needed to know. The message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ no longer needed signs and wonders to validate it: the very Word of God said that it was so. Thus, the Empiricist cannot appeal to Christ to lend support to his apologetic. Those days are over, and the Word of God is the only measure.
It should also be obvious that the apologetic of the rationalist cannot be substantiated by Scripture. Not only did Abraham reject it twice in Luke 16, but Paul addresses the issue as well. Verses have already been given which show the depravity of the human mind, and its inability to process Biblical truth on its own, but consideration should be given to one last passage. Paul writes in I Corinthians 2:7-11.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known if they would not
have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is
written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save Spirit of man which in in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
This passage is devastating to the rationalist. It proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that man's wisdom and intellect are absolutely useless in understanding doctrine unless they are directed by the Holy Spirit of God. Paul speaks first of the mysterious nature of the wisdom of God. Barnes comments concerning "mystery":
The word properly denotes that which is concealed or hidden; that which has not yet been made known; and is applied to those truths which until the revelation of Jesus Christ were concealed from man, which were either hidden under obscure types and shadows or prophecies, or which had been altogether unrevealed and unknown to the world (21:312).
Matthew Henry adds:
Not worldly wisdom, but divine; not such as the men of this world could have discovered, nor such as worldly men, under the direction of pride, and passion, and appetite, and worldly interest, and destitute of the Spirit of God, can receive (6:513).
Paul then explains that unsaved men do not understand this Heavenly wisdom,
and they proved it when they crucified the Son of God! The reason for this is that the eyes, ears, and heart of an unregenerate individual are incapable of receiving this wisdom. 'This means that an unsaved man cannot possibly be "argued" into the kingdom. Even if he is willing to admit that his logic and reasoning are flawed, he is not going to accept the Biblical solution, for his sin-hardened mind won't believe it. Alfred Martin writes:
No matter how intellectual a man may be, no matter how
well educated, no matter how great a scholar, if he
does not know Jesus Christ, his mind is blinded, and
therefore his thinking is biased and warped (145).
How then can anyone ever be saved? Paul answers this question by showing us
that God will reveal Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Only the Holy Spirit of God reveals spiritual truth. Man by himself is unable to receive spiritual truth, and is equally unable to impart it. That is why reasoned, logical arguments about science, history and archeology do not result in the salvation of souls. This is man's way of winning the lost, but the Holy Spirit is not in it. That is why Paul writes in I Corinthians 2:4-5,
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
The believer's faith cannot rest upon intelligent arguments offered by the rationalist. The unregenerate mind is not impressed by the holes in the theory of evolution, or aging photographs of a boat locked in the ice of Mt. Ararat. The wisdom of man simply finds alternative,, non-Biblical, solutions to these issues. Romans 1:18-32 defines these people in detail. In verse 21,
Paul indicates that the unbelievers choose to reject the knowledge of God that they receive through natural revelation, though this is probably the greatest rationalistic apologetic for the existence of God. This results in a further darkening of their hearts, which leads them down the road to intellectual foolishness (vs 22). After discussing the wickedness of the unbelieving lifestyle, Paul writes in verse 28 that they "did not like to retain God in their knowledge." Their minds did not want to be bothered with the truth, because their hearts were willfully rejecting the truth (vs 32). Thus, the problem is not an intellectual one, but rather one of sin. Sinful men will not be persuaded by the words of men. They will only be persuaded by the Word of God. This is why Paul came "to preach the Gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect... For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (I Cor. 1:17,21).
Abraham told the rich man that his brothers had "Moses and the prophets." If they would heed the pure teachings of the Scriptures, then they would not have to fear eternal damnation. In other words, Abraham was saying that the Scriptures alone are sufficient. Bible-believing Christianity desperately needs to return to the position of "sola scriptura" - the Scriptures alone. The additions of rationalism and empiricism to the Scriptures have not resulted in revival, but rather in a movement away from Biblical teaching. Alfred Martin makes this telling observation:
Some Christians have become so enamored of the "scholarship" of this world that they take a supercilious attitude towards those who accept the Bible in simple, child-like faith, and who seek to maintain a high standard of spirituality, as if this
were something that belonged only to the hoi polloi, not to the elite. In some respects this is almost a modern form of Gnosticism (142).
Dr. Larry Crabb shows the result of adding rationalistic psychology to the Scriptures:
The job of careful screening is no easy matter. In spite of the best intentions to remain Biblical, it is frighteningly easy to admit concepts into our thinking which compromise Biblical content. Because psychologists have spent up to nine years studying psychology in school and are pressed to spend much of their reading time in their field in order to stay current, it is inevitable that we develop a certain
"mind-set." The all-too-common but disastrous result is that we tend to look at Scripture through the eyeglasses of psychology when the critical need is to look at psychology through the glasses of Scripture (48).
Pre-suppositional apologetics believes that the Bible alone is sufficient for all that needs to be done in this world. It alone has the power of God, and it alone is the tool of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 4:12 gives insight to this fact:
"For the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing assunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
The Bible here is said to be "quick. " The Greek word here is zao which means "to live. " Thayer makes this comment concerning zao when it is used to describe inanimate objects: "having vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul" (270). Wuest defines "quick" as being "actively alive, and as the tense indicates, constantly active" (88). The Bible is not dead, nor is it obsolete or irrelevant. It is just as vital and applicable as it has ever been. Also, the Bible is said to be "powerful". This is the word evepyms, from which the English word "energy" derives. This carries the idea
of being "active" and "operative" (Thayer, 215). It is used in I
Thessalonians 2:13, where Paul writes:
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which
effectively worketh also in you that believe.
Man's reasoning and arguments are doomed to failure, but the living Word of God works. It brings conviction and the realization of truth. Finally, the Bible is described as being "sharp". Acts 2:37 teaches that when the Jews heard the Gospel preached on the Day of Pentecost they were "pricked in the heart(s)". It is the Scripture which makes people realize their conditions, and brings them to the repentance that the rich man wished for his five brothers.
Why is the Bible able to do this? The name given to the Scriptures in Hebrews 4:12 tells it all - The Word of God. It is the very revelation of God given in written form to man. Hebrews 11:3 teaches that "the worlds were framed by the Word of God." Genesis one teaches that God spoke light into existence. If the very Word of God is sufficient to create all of the
universe, plus all angelic beings, then His Word must be sufficient to save a soul or salvage a heart. In addition, Revelation 19:11-13 sheds light on the source of the Bible's power and authority. In this passage, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb has taken place, and the Second Coming is at hand. John writes:
And I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True,, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
Here it is seen that Jesus Christ Himself is called the Word of God. If Christ is the Word, and the Scriptures are the Word, what power must be contained in them! In Christ "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," (Col. 2:9), and thus it must also be evident in the Scriptures. What audacity to assume that the mind of man can accomplish things greater than the mind of God!
Proverbs 30:5 states that "every word of God is pure." There are no mistakes within the infallible Scriptures. Man will make errors. The logic and reasoning of the rationalist will eventually have faults, for no man can claim inerrancy in his own mind. But the Scriptures are always correct, and always appropriate. It is interesting to note the thoughts of rationalist Clark Pinnock on this subject.
The chaos of American Theology today can be traced
back to its roots in the rejection of Biblical
infallibility. For Christian Theology rests upon the truth claim implicit in the doctrine of inspiration.
Scripture is the principium of Theology. Only because the Bible embodies objectively true communication about the nature of God, the condition of man, and the provision of his salvation, is it possible to begin the theological task. The question of inspiration is then not the plaything of the theological
specialist; it is the eminently practical foundation on which the Gospel rests. The preacher dare not appeal to the intellect for the saving information on which a man's destiny depends. His natural mind is the source of endless confusion concerning the
ultimate questions which matter most. It is set forth objectively in the Word of God (Bibliotheca Sacra 124:151).
In this paragraph, Pinnock effectively refutes his own apologetic. He realizes that a man's mind cannot function Biblically, and will ultimately lead him to confusion and despair. The only thing which will suffice is the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God.
One last phrase in Hebrews 4:12 shows why the Bible is sufficient to deal with the needs and questions of man. The verse closes with "and is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart." Concerning the word "discerner", Wuest writes:
It is kritikos, which comes from krino "to divide or separate," thus "to judge," the usual New Testament meaning being "to sift out and analyze evidence." In the word kritikos, the ideas of discrimination and
judgement are blended. Thus the Word of God is able to penetrate into the furthermost recesses of a
person's spiritual being, sifting out and analyzing the thoughts and intents of the heart (89).
One of the chief differences between rationalist apologetics and presuppositionalist apologetics is that rationalism appeals to the head, while the Bible discerns the heart. Remember, man's spiritual need does not start in his head. The problem is inborn in his heart because of his sin nature. The closing of his mind is only a symptom of his deeper illness. Strachan writes:
We come to the conclusion that man because of his finite faculties is unable to really grasp the truths of the Infinite... it must not be forgotten that the knowledge referred to is not merely intellectual, a body of facts to be assimilated and systematically arranged, but rather moral. It has to do not only with the mind of man, but with the life of man. It affects not only man's thinking, but his conduct. Facts here are significant chiefly because they are morally and spiritually related. The mind alone is insufficient to deal with moral truth. In fact, truth ceases to be moral when conceived solely by the mind. It then becomes coldly intellectual, and however much it may appeal to and delight the reason, it has lost its relation to life, it no longer appeals to the whole of man (100-101).
The Bible repeatedly claims that it is suff icient to bring about saving
faith. Paul reminds Timothy that from the time he was a child he has "known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith" (II Tim. 3:15). Peter writes that believers are born again "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Peter 1:23). James told the Jews to "receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). In Acts 18:28, Apollos is commended as a preacher because "he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." Paul often repeats that salvation is a result of faith, and in Romans 10:9-10 he claims "that if thou wilt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe (pisteuo is the word used here which derives from the same source as peitho which is used in Luke 16:31) in thine heart (not the head) that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth (pisteuo) unto righteousness." He then moves on to verse 17, where he claims, "so then faith (pistis - that which man believes) cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." In Luke 16:31, Abraham said that the rich man's brothers would not be persuaded (peitho) by
someone rising from the dead. That is because belief (pistis) is always and
only a result of the working of the powerful Word of God.
Dr. William Anderson preached this in response to a woman's letter asking him to help restore her faith.
I have a book here, no little book that touches your mind, but rather a book that bores its way down into your soul; no book that somehow attracts your interest, but rather one that digs down in the secret places of your heart and tears away the things you have covered up and opens that heart of yours until God can look into it, and your face reddens with shame for the
things He can see, and your spirit quails before Him because of your sin; no little book that will tickle the palate of your intellect, but rather will tear down the things you put in the way and lay open your mind before an infinite God, if you dare to open the pages and see - if you dare to open the pages and see (339-340).
Only the Bible can do this. Only the Bible can cut down into a man's soul and tear it apart. Only the Bible can deliver a message powerful enough to drive the atheist to his knees. Logic will never do that. Argument will never do that. Experience will never do that. A beggar raised from the dead will never do that. These are all insufficient. Only God's Word will do. The first century church used it (Acts 4:31). Paul used it (I Thes. 2:13). Christ Himself used it (Luke 5:1). How dare twentieth century fundamentalism do anything less.
One last item should be mentioned. The work of the Holy Spirit must not be underestimated. Because He is God, He possesses the attributes, power, and authority of Deity. Christ said that the Holy Spirit would be sent to convict the world and guide the believer (John 16:7-13). How does this take place? The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God. Notice what Christ said that the Spirit would do. The Spirit will guide into all truth. What is truth? In John 17:17, Christ said that God's Word was truth. The Holy Spirit is to speak not of Himself, but rather the things that He hears. Obviously, the Holy Spirit would be hearing the Word of God. He is to convict. According to the Psalmist, a young man cleanses his way by taking heed to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit specifically convicts in the areas of sin, righteousness, and judgment. All of these concepts are taught in the Scriptures. Thus, the Holy Spirit's ministry is directly related to the use of Scripture, and cannot be
expected if other methodologies are used.
Fundamentalism needs to return to the authority of Scripture. Though few are questioning its inerrancy, some are moving away from its relevancy in preaching, counseling, and witnessing. This is a dangerous and foolish step. Intellectualism has begun to replace sound Biblical faith in the classroom and in the pulpit. Much of the blame lies with the rationalists who have determined that the Scriptures alone are not enough, but that reasoning, argument, and experience is needed to make the Biblical message appealing to the masses. They have failed to realize that the Biblical message can never be appealing because it forces man to admit his sinful worthlessness. Rationalism is doomed to failure because the unregenerate mind is unable on its own to comprehend Biblical truth. Empiricism is flawed because signs are easily duplicated by Satan. Only the Holy Spirit and the Word of God are perfect, and only they can serve to convince men of their need. Abraham knew this. The rich man did not, and it was that rejection of Scriptural authority that cost him, and most likely his brothers, their souls. Abraham, Paul tells us, believed God. He took God at His word. He accepted God at face value. This was counted unto Him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Undoubtedly, this is why he could say, "They have Moses and the prophets." He knew that the power of the Word of God was sufficient.
May these words of Arthur Brown help fundamentalism to remember the apologetic of the Scriptures:
The Bible does not argue. It is not concerned to prove by argument the foundations of religion, the existence and holiness of God, the eternal authority of righteousness, the moral nature of man, the fact of sin, and of redemption from the guild and power of sin, and that final judgment awaits all human deeds. It
assumes these truths and proclaims them as certainties that find their attestation in the soul, itself. The Bible offers us, not an argument, but a message. It is not man's thoughts about God, but God's thoughts about man. So the note is always one of authority - an authority which cannot be assailed or challenged because it is final and absolute. God has spoken (Bennecht, 106).
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