Additional information on apologetics by Charlie Clough is available here:
Giving an Answer – Part 4
Old Testament Biblical Examples
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #086
April 13, 2017
“Father, we are thankful we have Your grace to lean on, Your grace to exploit, because You have given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. You have given us a salvation that is beyond anything that we can imagine, that has provided for everything for us, that has paid the penalty for every sin—sins without number that we cannot imagine. And all has been paid for freely through Your love by the death of Christ on the Cross.
This weekend we remember that death and His crucifixion and, above all things, His resurrection, as He conquered death, demonstrating through His resurrection Your approval of His sin penalty which was paid and that resurrection, that new life, is the pattern for our new life. That resurrection is a symbol of the fact that we have been identified with Christ, and we have been risen to new life that we might live, not under the tyranny of the sin nature but through God the Holy Spirit.
Father, as we continue our study this evening and we think about how we are to answer those who ask us about our Christian beliefs, help us to understand these things and to think about them. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are continuing tonight in a topical study coming out of 1 Peter 3:15, which tells every believer that they are responsible to be able to give an answer for the hope that is in them. So we are working our way through these issues. Some of these are simple; some of these are little more complex. But when we think about the kind of encounter that we have with people, they range from simple to complex. If you think about a spectrum that they are totally, absolutely ignorant of anything related to Christianity, the Bible, Jesus, the Cross—that would be at zero, and 10 is when the light goes off, finally, for them and they trust in Christ. Many people are somewhere on that spectrum. Some of them never get to 10, but they are somewhere along that spectrum.
Some people that we encounter, because they have been fed such a line of misinformation, fake information, fake theology, are totally confused. When they ask us, “How can we believe in this myth of Christianity?” our knee-jerk reaction is usually defensive. And we have to really work at not being defensive and to say, “Well, let’s think about this,” and to get engaged in a conversation.
Because our knee-jerk reaction is, “You fool. Why do you believe the idiot myths that you believe?” And that’s not how we’re going to win friends and influence people. That is not the best way to express the gospel, because we can’t jump to a conclusion that because they are hostile now that they’re going to be hostile always. Think of the Apostle Paul. He was really hostile for quite a long time before suddenly he wasn’t. So we never know what the endgame is going to be. But God gives us those opportunities.
Sometimes they are at nine, and all we have to do is quote Acts 16:31 and—boom—they’re like, “Wow! Isn’t that great? I’m just going to believe in Jesus right now!” If they’re in the 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade—you’re working with Good News Club—you’re going to get a lot of kids. They’re not going to know the complex, sophisticated questions that some PhD in philosophy is going to ask. We can’t all know the answer to every question, but we can know where to go to find some answers.
I was just back in the library looking at some of the study Bibles we have back there, and one of them is called The Evidence Bible: All You Need to Understand and Defend Your Faith. That is a study Bible by Ray Comfort; he is an evangelist. He has endorsements on the back by Josh McDowell, Ken Ham with Answers in Genesis, Kirk Cameron—he’s made quite a name for himself since he shifted from being an actor to being an active Christian, so to speak, an actor. Tim LaHaye wrote an endorsement, Norm Geisler. So that’s one.
Then there’s another study Bible called the New Defender’s Study Bible. This is also endorsed by Tim LaHaye as well as a John MacArthur and John Whitcomb. Of course, Whitcomb and Morris wrote The Genesis Flood. Henry Morris put this together; it’s called the New Defender’s Study Bible: Understanding the Critical Issues of the Faith from a Literal Creationist Viewpoint. So, this is one that you can take a look at. There are a couple of copies of that in the library.
There are a lot of videos in the library, videos related to specific issues—creationist issues, legal issues, moral issues, resurrection, things like that—that you ought to avail yourselves of. There’s also the Archaeological Study Bible.
There’s also an Apologetics Study Bible. I have a digital copy of that; I also have a hard copy at home, but we didn’t have a copy here.
This is the Archaeological Study Bible, which has a wealth of information about biblical archaeology and how it’s understood and how it supports what is said in the Scripture. So those are just some of the kinds of resources that you can get and avail yourselves of and use to help other people come to an understanding of what the Scripture teaches.
I want to review this because we always have some new people coming online. We also have people who are still trying to put some of this together.
We’ve looked at several questions already. These are the ones I’ve identified to cover in the introduction to apologetics:
1. Defining apologetics.
2. Asking the question, “Why should we learn about apologetics?”
Because there are some Christians who don’t think that we should study apologetics, that for some reason it’s a waste of time.
3. Why do some people object to apologetics?
4. “The Bible doesn’t use apologetics,” some people say, “so why should we?”
We’ll address that; we’ll get into the text much more tonight. Then the fifth question which I’ve addressed a little bit,
5. What is the difference between apologetics and Christian evidences?
We’ll learn the answer to that as we go through these biblical examples in the coming weeks.
And then probably the most important question—relates to strategy, relates to methodology,
6. On what basis do we defend, support, argue, that Christianity is the one and only truth?
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth.” He says, “I am the truth.” He doesn’t say, “I can lead you to the truth.” Truth is not external to the Godhead; truth resides in the Godhead. And the way a lot of people try to argue is what I call the classical apologetics method; we talked about that briefly last time. Or the rationalist method. Both of those seem to imply that truth—or the ultimate common ground or criterion for truth—is outside the Godhead; it is in the area of neutrality that the believer and the unbeliever can both agree on. We will look a little more at that as we go forward tonight.
We defined apologetics from the Greek word APOLOGIA meaning a speech of defense. It is a reasoned or rational answer to a question.
We went through what the lexicon says about these things and saw that in the Scripture the noun or the verb related to APOLOGIA is used 17 times in the New Testament. The idea is mentioned or used several other times.
I referenced Charlie’s paper which is posted with these lessons that, “APOLOGIA describes a carefully reasoned defense in response to a line of questioning or wrongful accusation by recognized authorities.” That’s its technical sense, but for us it just means to give people a well-thought-out [answer]—which means that you need to think about this.
I pointed out in the past that if you were a member of a cult—if you were a Mormon, if you were a Jehovah’s Witness, if you were in Christian Science—you would be drilled in Sunday School classes. You would have a lot of role-play in terms of presenting the gospel so that you would know exactly what to say: “If they say ‘A’ you say ‘A’; if they say ‘B’ you say ‘Y.’ ” We don’t do that; you’re just expected to learn it on your own.
Second question, “Why should we learn about apologetics?” I gave several reasons; I’m not going to go through all of them. But, first of all, it’s because it’s commanded in the Scripture.
The Titus 1:9 passage I have here is related to a Christian leader—specifically a pastor—but it also applies to many others who are growing to maturity—men in a congregation, but it would also apply to women as well.
This is a verse that I specifically am applying tonight in what I am doing from the pulpit in part of the message tonight. Part of the role of the pastor is to guard the sheep, protect the sheep, and that’s to teach the sheep the difference between weeds and grass, the difference between poison ivy and grass, and the difference between water that’s got a couple of drops of cyanide in it and water that doesn’t. You have to be able to tell the difference, because there’s so much garbage out there now. There’s so much stuff on the Internet—it’s good and bad. There’s a lot of wonderful, good information out there, but there are also people who may not be the best people to be paying attention to.
We got a lesson in this. One aspect of apologetics is the kind of thing that Dave Farnell did at the Chafer Conference, pointing out that there are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing in seminary classrooms who with their mouth affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, but the way they handle and interpret Scripture is often contrary to a belief in inerrancy.
Andy Woods gave an excellent presentation that was in a course he took in seminary in his doctoral work on Apocalyptic Genre. I’ll talk a little bit about that as it relates to part of what we’re looking at today, that in hermeneutics today—that is in interpretation—one of the ways that error is creeping into the church is to say, “Well, this piece of literature is apocalyptic.” And then you have this arbitrary—well, it is not really arbitrary; it’s derived from nonbiblical literature—set of characteristics, and then those characteristics are read back into the Bible and that changes the interpretation, meaning, understanding of the Scripture.
This happens, in what we’re going to see tonight, in Genesis 1. The argument is that Genesis 1 is not written to be a historical account of what God did in creating the heavens and the earth in six literal 24-hour, consecutive days; it’s really poetry, it’s extremely metaphorical and symbolic and should not be interpreted as a literal account but it should be understood as polemic. Now I think it’s polemic, but I think that’s only a secondary aspect of the way God wrote it.
We have to talk about this. The role of the pastor, and faithful Christians, is to hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort [that is to challenge people to go in the right direction] and convict [that is to rebuke, to straighten out] those who contradict [sound doctrine]. We will get an example of that that I ran into today as I was researching some of this material I was looking at for tonight.
The second reason from Scripture is that it strengthens our own understanding of what we believe and builds our confidence in God, the gospel, Scripture, and Jesus. I think that tonight, as we go through this, you’ll see that your confidence in Genesis 1 will be strengthened, your understanding of Genesis 1 will be strengthened, and this helps you have greater confidence in the Scripture.
It also advances us spiritually, 2 Corinthians 10:4. Any time we’re tearing down the strongholds of pagan unbelief in our thinking, then we are doing something that benefits us spiritually.
a) Why do some people object to apologetics? Some people say, “Well, we don’t find it in the Bible.”
Most of tonight, next week, the next week, the next three or four weeks, we are going to see how the Bible is inherently apologetic. Now it’s not saying, “I’m sorry”; it is giving a reasoned defense and evidence for who God is and what He is doing in human history, again and again.
The Bible does not expect anyone to just park their intellect in neutral and just accept something on the virtue of pure authority. We are to accept the truth of God’s Word on the basis of the authority of God, but God doesn’t operate in a vacuum; He also provides evidence throughout the Scripture, throughout history, of Who He is and what He is doing so that there is clear evidence in history.
There are four basic issues in apologetics.
1. First of all is knowledge.
If you ever have talked to somebody who’s a real cynic and they start asking, “Well, how do you know it’s true?” You get two questions there—knowledge and true. How do you know anything? How do you know it’s true? What’s your ultimate validation for, “How do you know something is true?”
2. Along with this, we have the classic five arguments to the existence of God.
You have the cosmological argument; you have the argument from cause to effect; you have the moral argument, the anthropological argument, and the teleological argument. Those are just various arguments that have been developed, but do they get you the knowledge of Yahweh Elohim, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who is the Creator God of the universe? Do they get you that?
Do they just get you to a generic idea of deity? I would argue that that’s all they do is get you to probability, possibility; they get you to a generic idea of deity, but they don’t get you to the personal God who is revealed in the Bible.
3. What is the role of evidences in apologetics?
That question comes up a lot. Everybody believes in evidences. Evidences are like weapons. The way you use it relates to tactics and strategy, but evidences are just the tools whether you want to use a .45, whether you when use a silencer, whether you want to use a knife, whether you want to use a grenade launcher, whether you want to use a rocket-propelled grenade. Those are different weapons. How you use them is dictated by an overall strategy. It’s very important to define your strategy. That’s one of the most important things in in military action: to clearly define your mission and your objective.
4. Is there common ground between Christian thought and non-Christian thought?
If so, what is it? We’ll develop that a little more; you’ll see what I mean by that.
Last time I went through these, and I pointed this out. This is very important: in terms of how you know what you know, what is called epistemology, there are three basic answers in human history derived from philosophy and thinking people. The first is rationalism. Second is empiricism. The third is mysticism.
Rationalism means that just on the basis of what you know innately—that was Descartes’s idea, also Plato’s—you come to this world with certain preloaded, preformatted ideas in your brain. You get rid of all the clutter and you come down to first principles, and then you build on those first principles with logic. Can you come to an explanation of all reality?
Well, rationalism always fails because man’s knowledge is always finite and we don’t live in a closed universe. It works if you’re in a closed universe and there’s nothing from outside the universe controlling it or putting any input into the universe.
So, rationalism fails to answer the big questions of life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What happens when I die? Those are questions that can only be answered through revelation.
Empiricism has the same flaw. Historically, we go from rationalism to empiricism. Empiricism is the idea that through my sense data—through what I see, what I hear, what I taste, what I touch—my physical senses—I can come to know truth. Aristotle had the idea that we’re born with an empty slate—no innate ideas; it’s a tabula rasa—and that our sense data starts to add content to the computer of our mind. But it’s still finite; the questions that we ask demand someone from outside the system to inform us.
The head of the philosophy department at St. Thomas made this comment in an undergraduate course. I had to take some undergraduate philosophy; even though I already had a Th.M., I had to take their four courses—historical survey courses—on philosophy. He made the observation that historically we’ve always moved from rationalism—and it’s bankrupt—empiricism—and it’s bankrupt—at which point you end up with skepticism. You can’t live as if there’s no hope; you can’t live as if there is no meaning in life; it’s depressing; it’s nihilistic. That’s what Kierkegaard …
Nietzsche ended up with this kind of “there’s no meaning there.” So, you just have to live as if there is meaning. That’s an existential leap of faith. That’s mysticism: “I can’t rationally come up with meaning in life. I can’t do it empirically.” They’ve excluded revelation as a possibility. So, “I can’t live as if life is hopeless and meaningless, so I have to live as if it is.” That is existentialism and that leads to mysticism.
Then there’s revelation. And that’s where we are as Christians. Now there are Christian systems of apologetics that fit with each of those epistemological schools of thought. Classic apologetics seeks common ground in logic or reason, that somehow there’s an area of neutrality between the believer and the unbeliever that is untouched by sin, such as logic. We can all agree what the principles of logic are, but does logic exist apart from God, or is logic what it is because that’s how God thinks?
See, as a Christian, I have to reject this, because logic isn’t autonomous. Logic is going to be affected in the unbeliever by his fallen thought patterns. We will get a look at that a little more.
Empiricism runs into some of the same problems, and that thinks that facts, history, science are purely neutral. They haven’t been affected by sin, and how they’re interpreted by the unbeliever hasn’t been affected by sin. So they believe there are “brute facts,” as Cornelius Van Til refers to them.
“Brute facts,” that these are uninterpreted facts, but I believe he’s right that no fact goes uninterpreted even though you may not be consciously aware of the fact that when you look at a fossil you immediately see it as either something that is billions and billions and billions of years old, or you see it as something that was destroyed in the Flood. It’s not a neutral fact.
And mysticism is, “Well, you just believe it. You don’t need to be involved; it doesn’t have to be rational; it doesn’t have to be based on evidence; we just believe it.”
This is where we are today. We live in a mystical world. People have given up on modernism. Modernism was the idea that you could find answers via either rationalism or empiricism. By the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20 th century, modernism was really dead. It died a horrible death on the fields of Flanders in World War I. It was so horrible. I don’t know if you’ve seen it on PBS this last week—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night. They had an excellent special on American Experience, two hours each night, on World War I. Just tremendous.
So rationalism and empiricism died there, along with the hope of a utopia that was based on man’s goodness and man’s ability. They saw the horrors of modern war, and they became hopeless. That was also the death knell, although it took a long time for it to truly die, for Protestant liberalism. And out of that matrix of events, you had a reaction to true Protestant liberalism by a Swiss theologian pastor named Karl Barth.
Barth said that there has to be hope. Liberalism did away with the Bible as God’s Word, and so he brought them back—part way. He wanted to believe in the Bible to a certain degree, but he didn’t use the vocabulary the same way that historic Orthodox Christianity used it. Barthians, also known as neo-orthodox Christians, will talk a lot about redemption, forgiveness, the cross, resurrection, but they don’t mean what you and I mean by those terms. They mean something else; they use orthodox terms with a new meaning. Hence, “neo” for “new” orthodoxy—a new orthodoxy.
Then this affects people like Brunner, Dietrich Bonhoeoffer, who gets a lot of play among evangelicals today for all the wrong reasons. Nothing really good about him other than he was moral and he stood up against Hitler for some of his policies, especially against the Jews. But his theology was really bad—just human viewpoint religiosity.
Over against that, we have revelation. We believe the Bible is the Word of God. A lot of these books that you read on apologetics will identify this as reformed apologetics, referring to a high Calvinist view of apologetics. The only thing inherent about it that’s high Calvinistic is that it believes in the total depravity of man and the reality and the effects of sin on man’s thinking, but it really emphasizes revelation. But I can tell you there’s a neo-reformed apologetic; this is also known as presuppositionalism. There’s also a lot of reformed theologians like R. C. Sproul who are classic apologists.
So I find that calling this “reformed apologetics” is really misleading—especially to a lot of people like us who aren’t high Calvinists. We hear it’s reformed and we want to say, “No, no—that’s like covenant theology. That’s not dispensational.” You know that’s all wrong. But the real issue is that in presuppositionalism you believe in the priority of the Word of God and you never give that up.
So we look at these systems, and this is where I stopped last time. In revelational apologetics the common ground is the infallible revelation of God in general revelation [Psalm 19, the heavens declare the glory of God]. It’s a nonverbal revelation, but it still reveals the glory of God. Romans 1:18–23, which we will look at in just a little bit, talks about the same thing—-that everyone knows inherently that God exists and they understand that God exists. So we would say that’s the common ground, and also the convicting work of God the Holy Spirit.
In other words, if you’re a classic apologist, your appeal to common ground, the area of neutrality, is logic. I would say, “No. My appeal to common ground is the unbeliever I’m talking to, whether he admits it or not, is created in the image of God; he already knows God exists—even though he’s suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, and the Holy Spirit’s convicting him.”
I don’t have to be responsible to answer every one of his questions. I can guide him and direct him, but God the Holy Spirit is going to be convicting him. I don’t have to convince him that God exists; he already knows God exists. I’ve got a little CIA agent working inside that person I’m trying to witness to; I’ve got a secret agent in there that is working to convict him—that’s the Holy Spirit—as well as this inherent knowledge. So that’s our common ground.
The assumption with rationalism and empiricism as apologetic methodologies is that they assume the self-sufficiency of human beings to employ reason or properly interpret experience independent of divine revelation. What we believe is that things are what they are because God made them that way and He’s revealed that to us. The only way, ultimately, we can know things the way they are is because we have the revelation of God.
Empiricism and rationalism are insufficient and inadequate to structure a solid defense of the faith, because ultimately they are built on this idea that man has a certain level of self-sufficiency and can arrive at true truth on the basis of reason and empiricism. It’s not a factor of using reason or logic; it’s how you use reason or logic. Well, that seems really abstract right now, and I think it is, but we will try to put some flesh on that a little bit later as we go along.
Second thing is what I’ve just said, these rational and empirical approaches give too much credit to—unaided—that’s the key word—unaided human ability—that is, human reason, human experience, that’s not influenced or informed by the Holy Spirit or revelation.
The focus in revelational or presuppositional apologetics should be on exposing inadequate presuppositions. How do we do that? Well, one way to do it—and I think the most effective—is to ask questions. Not to tell him, not to take our spotlight out and shine it at him, which usually results in some kind of an argument, but ask questions so he wants to get his flashlight out and start looking at his own presuppositions a little bit.
So the focus should be on exposing inadequate presuppositions and eventually showing that only the Bible provides a valid basis for reason, history, fact, and truth. He can’t say, “How can you say, as an unbeliever, that I have hope?” Hope in what? What’s that going to look like? What are you hoping for? On what basis do you have that hope? Is that just an optimistic wish? What evidence is there? Is this rational?
Some key people: Calvin’s theology kind of lays the framework at the beginning, especially his emphasis on total depravity and the sinfulness of man. Abraham Kuyper was quite an interesting individual. He was a foremost reformed theologian in Holland, and he also became Prime Minister of Holland in what’s referred to as the Golden Age in Dutch history where they had almost a Christian society. And then look what happened—it fell apart. Look how horrible, immoral, unethical, relativistic, and refugee-loving the Dutch are today. It’s because they rejected divine truth.
Cornelius Van Til was Dutch by his history. He was at Westminster Theological Seminary, but before that he was at Princeton. He was one of the five men who left Princeton and started Westminster when Princeton went liberal. One of the interesting things about him is he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Immanuel Kant. Now the reason that’s important is that in Kant’s philosophy he said that people no longer know things as they are—we only know our perception of them. That led us from objective knowledge—or the belief that objective knowledge was even possible—to total subjective knowledge. And that shaped everything. Every problem that we have today is a result of the shift that occurred from Kant. So he really knows and understands the unbelieving pagan mind.
Francis Schaeffer was highly influenced by him. He’s not a pure presuppositionalist, but he is pretty close; there were some differences.
In this chart we have you as a Christian missionary to the world around you. And whether it’s your pagan aborigines or your next-door neighbor, what’s the common ground? For the believer who is consistent, I believe it has to be assuming the truth of revelation. That doesn’t mean you start off shooting them with your gospel gun. Because they are not necessarily—depending on where they are on that scale—going to respond positively to just having you quote Bible verses at them.
I’m talking about your strategic methodology is not going to sacrifice your belief in the authority of Scripture. That means that you recognize, as you are talking to this unbeliever, that as hostile as they may be, they are created in the image and likeness of God, they know God exists, they are suppressing that truth, and they know they’re a sinner. You have to tweak it, maybe help them shine a light on it to expose that, as we talk to them through the questions we ask, but they already know that Scripture says.
If you think you have to convince them that they’re a sinner, that’s what I mean by “you’ve compromised what the Scripture says by your methodology.” We can’t convince them that they are a sinner; they already know they’re a sinner.
At the bottom, God the Holy Spirit is convincing them of the truth. To me, one of the benefits of understanding this is that I can relax. I don’t have to convince them. I’m not in an argument. I don’t have to debate them. I don’t have to win the debate. I don’t have to put myself under all this pressure. My job is to ask the right questions, develop a relationship with them in the process, talk to them, and let God the Holy Spirit use it; and whatever they do with it is up to their volition.
Here’s a chart I’ve used many times, and I just want to bring it back. This is what I’m talking about. A person’s whole thought system is that iceberg. Usually when we’re talking to somebody about the issues in life, we’re way up here [Political/National or Individual Decisions] and we’re talking about this decision, that decision, why you vote this way, why you vote that way, why you believe this, or why you believe that.
But as soon as somebody says, “I think that’s wrong,” that goes to ethics; now we go below the surface. What’s right? What’s wrong? What’s good and bad? That’s all the domain of ethics. How do you know what you know? How do you know it’s true? Somebody says, “Well, I think that creation is just wrong!” Really? What is your standard? How can you make that value judgment? Put them on the defensive.
People try to put you, as a Christian, on the defensive. Flip it back. They’re the ones who don’t have a solid foundation. Quit letting them put you on the spot; put them back on the spot. Have them explain, “How do you get that information? This is not a one conversation type of approach. This may take some time—several conversations, several years.
Then it goes down to: How do you know truth? How do you know you know something? Then that always leads us to an ultimate reality which is the foundation of all thought. The reason we believe that something is right or wrong always gets traced back to our view of God. As you talk to somebody, it’s going to expose their view of God. Ultimately what happens is that as you expose this view of God, can that God give them happiness, can that God solve their problem? Can they live as if that ultimate reality is true?
If they are a pure skeptic and they believe everything is just matter, then how do you get any ideas of right or wrong from a rock? Can you live as if there is no ultimate right or wrong? And in most conversations they’ve already made numerous judgment calls as to whether or not something is right or wrong, so they can’t live as if that is true. So what you’re doing, carefully, is exposing that they can’t live consistently with what they believe to be true with their own presuppositions.
Now going to the next question.
b) The Bible doesn’t use apologetics, why should we?
That’s what some people think. So I want to start talking through how does the Bible talk about apologetics? How is the Bible basically and fundamentally apologetic? By that I mean that the Bible consistently presents a rational case for its truthfulness and the reality of the God who it reveals to us.
So now we’re going to start getting into some Scripture. First of all, I’ve changed the chart a little bit. The first three examples we’re going to look at in Scripture. I don’t know if we’ll get to two; we definitely will not get to three today. You have on the one side, God. And God is communicating to ancient humans and to Adam and Eve. Divine viewpoint is confronting human viewpoint, with its rebellious nature and its inadequacy to solve man’s problems.
What we see in these first three examples is a divine pattern for how to challenge, how to confront, unbelief, how to expose unbelief. That’s what we’re going to look at here. You have God on the one hand, communicating to fallen ancient humans, antediluvian humans, ancient humans in terms of the ancient Egyptians and Israelites and Adam and Eve. The question is, “When God is confronting them, does He appeal to some area of common ground other than Himself?”
Does He come and say, “Look, I’m God. Here’s logical reasons why you should believe in Me.” Just a simple example: When God spoke to Jesus and Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, did they say, “How do we know that’s God?” Did they ask that question?
When God spoke to the Israelites from Mount Sinai—and they could’ve recorded it with an MP3 player—did they ask, “Well, how do we know that’s God?” Does Moses just have some sort of echo chamber up there and maybe he’s manipulating this? No. When they heard the voice of God, there is something in them that resonated. Because when God created man in His image and likeness, He built into man the right receiver for understanding what God was going to communicate.
That receiver may have gotten garbled because of sin; it may have some static, but it still gets the message. That’s what we’re going to see in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 3.
The reason I bring that up is something that’s come up in conversation three times in the last week, and it came up with relation to something I will talk about in just a minute. This idea that when we’re studying God’s Word, we can’t be sure what He is saying. I’ll give you an example. When you read in the Psalms a Psalm of David. In the Hebrew that’s indicated by a lamed which is the L, which is attached to the name David. Now lamed by itself is a preposition, and it can mean “to”; it can mean “for”; it can be “about”; it could even mean “from.”
Traditionally, we have taken that to mean that David is the author of those psalms, and I believe that is absolutely correct. But today, in the scholarship mentality of the evangelical church, you have scholars who come along and say, “Well, there are five different ways that lamed is used in Scripture, so we can’t be sure whether David really wrote those psalms. So the way that works itself out in preaching is they’ll give you the five views, but they won’t tell you what it actually means because they don’t know. Now that’s blasphemy.
Because the implication there is that God can’t communicate clearly to us, and so human language is insufficient to communicate eternal truth. That’s blasphemy, because God created language. God had language before He created anything. There was communication and language: In the beginning was the Logos, the Word. There’s language there. This is a totally insufficient view of God. And yet, I will tell you 90% of evangelical professors at your favorite seminary—other than Chafer—believe this.
I was amazed. We got a lot of exposure to this at the Chafer Conference. One of the things that irritated me—a little bit—is that a lot of people came up to me after listening to Farnell and they said, “I can’t believe that these seminaries have fallen so far!” I wanted to say, “Where have you been the last 30 years!?” Pastor Thieme, Clough, me, Inghram—everybody on the board—Meisinger—have been hammering this and saying this for over 30 years! It takes somebody who goes into a lot of histrionics before you finally wake up and hear it!? That’s why we’ve been saying for 20 years, 25 years, “We need Chafer Seminary!” Because these other seminaries have gone off the deep end! Wake up! I don’t know what it takes for people to realize that they’ve bought into the propaganda machine too long.
Let’s look at our first example here. This is in Genesis 1, the creation account. The creation account is both, I believe, a historic narrative as to what God did in creating the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them; it is also a polemic. Notice: it’s both. It can be a polemic because the way God tells the story is to show that other ideas of creation are completely fraudulent. As this one writer I’m going to quote in the minute says, “It’s eye poking.”
God is poking them in the eye! If you were living in the ancient world—if you were an Egyptian, if you were a Babylonian, if you were a Canaanite—you could read Genesis 1 and you would know that God was making fun—or making points—against your religious belief. God is not a respecter of religious beliefs—other than biblical Judeo Christianity—biblical Judaism. That’s not the same as modern Judaism.
When we look at Genesis chapter 1, who wrote Genesis 1? If you’re a liberal, see, “Moses couldn’t have written it for a number of reasons, blah, blah, blah.” Moses wrote it! We are going to assume that Moses wrote it; this is true; we are not going to debate that.
Moses wrote it. When did he write it? He wrote it around the late 15th century BC. To whom did he write it? He wrote it to about 3 million Jews who were on the plains of Moab just on the east side of the Jordan River. That’s when they received this, but he’s writing it over a period of time.
He’s writing to these Jews. Now what do we know about those Jews? Four hundred and fifty years ago would have been in the 1500s in this country. Think about that—that’s a long time. A lot has happened since the late 1500s in this country. For 450 years—for that length of time—they have been living in Egypt. Although they had a tendency to assimilate, they didn’t because the Egyptians despised the Semites and isolated them in a ghetto in Goshen.
They all had to live in Goshen. There was no intermarriage; there was no interrelationship at all, and they kept a clean break. Nevertheless, they would’ve been influenced and they would’ve been aware of the Egyptian creation myths and the Egyptian polytheistic gods—the pantheon of gods that they had.
Moses is not only addressing this group that has been living in the context of these pagan beliefs; he is also addressing this group that is about to do what? They’re about to enter into Canaan. And when they enter into Canaan, they’re going to have a whole different religious system to deal with there, and a whole different pantheon of gods, and a whole different set of creation myths. So he’s writing, also, with an eye toward that.
Even further, under the omniscience of God and the Divine Agent of revelation, Who is the Holy Spirit, he’s writing to give the information necessary to handle what’s coming down the pike, which is the Babylonian creation myths. Under the sovereignty of God, Genesis 1 is crafted in such a way that it is:
a) Telling the story—the historically accurate narrative—of creation.
b) But it is doing it in such a way that it is also showing the inadequacy of the Egyptian beliefs about their cosmogony, that is, their stories about their origins and creation. It’s showing the flaws in the Canaanite way of thinking as well as the Babylonian way of thinking.
That’s all my first point. Moses is writing to that context; he is not being influenced by the creation myths. That was an error that liberalism went into: that Moses comes later and Moses is influenced by Babylonian mythology. If you look at the history of this in the mid-19th century, their idea was—after they discovered the creation myth of the Babylonians, the Gilgamesh Epic, and Enuma Elish, and these documents—that Moses was influenced and he cleaned up that mythology. What’s happened in the last 40 or 50 years is that they’ve shifted to the Egyptian religion as the framework for that and that this is really written as a polemic against Egyptian cosmogony.
But what we see as Christians, as Bible believers, as revelationists, is against the backdrop of the paganism; God is speaking; God is revealing a divine viewpoint narrative of how He created all things, and, as such, His revelation in Genesis 1 is historically accurate. Whatever secondary objectives He had in mind, it is historically accurate. If you divorce it from its historical accuracy, then whatever is built on historical accuracy falls down.
It’s historically accurate, and we expect it to be a narrative that is telling the story of what happened, a narrative and not poetic mythology. And that it would also, as a secondary thing, poke the other mythologies in the eyes. It’s tweaking them; it’s showing their fallacies. That’s the role of narrative as polemic.
We are going to see this not only in Genesis 1, but we’re going to see it especially in the Exodus event, the 10 plagues. Each one of those plagues is an attack on another member of the Egyptian pantheon. God is showing He’s better than each one of the Egyptian gods in each one of those plagues. He’s devastating their whole religious system, their whole religious belief.
He’s doesn’t respect anybody’s belief. If you believe in something other than the Bible, the Bible says you’re a fool! You may be respected because you’re created in the image and likeness of God, but you should not be respected because you hold to foolish beliefs. That is something that Christians need to understand, because we live in a world today where if you don’t respect an idiot, then you’re a sinner. That means that God must be a sinner, because He doesn’t respect Muslims. This is the trap that we have to avoid. This is the difficulty of dealing with views that are out there today.
The narrative is a polemic, and a polemic is a strong verbal or written attack against another viewpoint—against another position and against another belief system. Many portions of Scripture are both narrative—they are telling a story, they are revealing something, they are instructing and informing the reader—but they are also providing a basis for and/or assaulting unbelief. There’s a confrontation going on.
So it’s my contention that Genesis 1 is an apologetic; it is a rational argument supporting the contention that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob created the universe out of nothing, created the heavens and the earth in six literal 24-hour consecutive days. This assertion is a direct assault on all human viewpoint attempts to create fake origin stories to shore up the truth-suppression mechanisms of rebellious creatures. Now that’s a mouthful.
What I’m saying is that unbelievers are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Well, if you suppress the truth, you have to replace it with something; in the ancient world they replaced it with these creation myths. Now we have scientific myths; all of Darwinism is just a scientific myth, because their root problem is that they reject the God of the Bible. I’ve got some interesting quotes that I’ll use—if we get there.
This means that the Bible is directly confronting all human viewpoint attempts. So when God structured and revealed Genesis 1:1–2:4, He not only structured it and revealed it through Moses in a way that it’s going to tweak and confront ancient pagan creation beliefs—but any pagan belief that is contrary to the creation narrative of the Word of God, including modern Darwinism. Now that somehow is missed by a lot of the scholars today. They want to confine this to the ancient world.
It’s not simply a polemic against a specific Ancient Near-Eastern cosmogony; it is a polemic against any fake cosmogony, whether ancient or modern. It’s the timeless Word of God; it presents historically accurate truth; it’s not limited to the ancient world.
In the ancient world, all of these systems held to something that is called the Chain of Being. I’ve referred to this before; some of you have heard Charlie talk about this. A Chain of Being says that everything in the universe is part of this one interconnected chain of being or existence. You have God at the top; He is the fullest of all beings. And you have non-being at the bottom.
But everything participates in this same being: you have angels, demons, man, animals, plants, minerals, all the way down to non-being. Everything’s connected; everything is part of something that just goes on and on and on in existence. In other words, God didn’t create the box—God’s in the box with everything else.
Here’s another diagram I used years ago. At the top, being; at the bottom, non-being; god is at the top; but they’re all part of the same chain of being; They all participate in the same level, in the same kind of existence. It’s all derivative. It’s all part of the box of nature, as it were. This gets pretty heavy. I’ll move on.
Maybe this will help. Biblically, we believe God is a personal, infinite God [that’s the black line here]. He’s totally distinct from the finite universe. He is completely other. He created the finite universe; He created man, animals, vegetation, matter, energy; everything is created by Him. God is totally other. He is the Creator. This is the Creator/creature distinction.
All pagan ideas, whether it’s Ancient Egyptian cosmogony, whether it’s Babylonian, Canaanite, Greek, Roman cosmogony—any of those, they’re all over here on the right, but so is Darwinian evolution. You have matter is eternally existent and somehow at one point it was dense and it blew up—the Big Bang, but everything comes out of that matter. That’s all within this finite circle. So gods are created from that, angels come out of that, demons; everything is within that circle.
But what Scripture shows is that the God of the Bible is completely different. So when the pagan talks about god, he’s not talking about the same God you’re talking about. He’s talking about a god he’s created to help him suppress truth. What we have to do is come to understand who is this god he’s talking about? Because he’s got an old man with a beard—or something else. So what we see is that even modern so called “science,” why I call it “fake science,” is just no different from Aristotle or Plato’s Chain of Being in the ancient world.
Today I was doing some research on Genesis 1 as a polemic, and I ran across a website; it’s a blog by a scholar who works for Logos Bible Software named Dr. Michael Heiser. It’s interesting. I’ve had about six people asked me questions about him over the last five or six weeks. I’m not inclined to have a high view of him. I think he’s very bright; he’s probably a nice person; he probably has a wonderful personality; he certainly has an high education. But I’m not concerned about any of those personal features; I’m concerned about some of the ideas that he promotes and some of the ideas that he sets forth. Now that doesn’t mean that all of his ideas are wrong. I think he’s saved. I think he is Trinitarian, a lot of other things. He goes to a church with a dispensational pastor; I don’t know how committed he is to dispensationalism. But I know that there are some flaws.
I was also given this article that came out in the Logos Bible Study magazine, and it is an article written by him, and he starts off talking about literal interpretation. He says, “Christians are sometimes taught to interpret the Bible literally. [He doesn’t define that.] “Instead, [He says] most who advocate literalism do so to prevent self-serving or idiosyncratic interpretation. That’s not true! That’s fake theology. What he’s doing is that he’s creating a straw man view of what literal interpretation is, and then he’s going to knock it down. Because what he is going to argue is that literal interpretation doesn’t really believe in figures of speech and idioms—or at least he acts that way. He has logical fallacies, I think, in several things, and so I’m not happy with him.
Going back to Titus 1:9, I’m trying to convict those who are leading people into error. Here’s his blog. He starts off talking about a website that has an article that states that the creation stories of Genesis 1 to 2 target ancient Egyptian creation myths. Now that might be true as far as it goes, but it says more. He says, “The authors are both Dallas Seminary grads. Their thesis is well known to scholars (and readers of this blog), though little known to the people in the pew.” [That’s y’all.]
This is what their thesis is: “The biblical creation story isn’t at all about science, but about dissing other gods and the myths written about them.” Okay. What I see here is that he’s created a false dichotomy. The dichotomy he creates is that it’s either science on the one hand. What he is saying is that creationists are saying, “this is a scientific document.” That’s not what they’re saying; they’re saying it is a historically accurate document that provides data that science can work with. Now there’s a big difference.
So, he’s misrepresenting this from the get-go by saying the biblical creation story isn’t at all about science. Science means knowledge. It is about knowledge. It’s about giving historical facts. What he’s doing is saying, “You’re either going to be someone who thinks it’s all about science or you’re somebody who thinks that it is about showing disrespect or dissing these other gods.” The problem is this is creating a logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t it be an historical narrative giving information that science can use, but also at the same time poking fun at these other false religions? But he wants to create a false dichotomy here.
He goes on to say in the next paragraph—and this is only three paragraphs long, “As readers here know, this ‘not about science’ approach has long been my position on Genesis and the Bible in general.” Okay. Right now he has shown me—he has flashed his drawers—that he operates on a completely human viewpoint system of understanding the Bible: “You can’t say anything about the way God’s creation actually is; that would be science.”
He says, “What’s happening in Genesis 1–2 is very obvious to anyone who works in the original text (beyond simplistic word studies) and (important) is familiar with ancient Near Eastern creation stories. The beliefs of ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Canaanites [he is one of the few who will lump them all together—which is good] all have shots taken at them.” I think that’s true, but he’s saying—his view—it’s just a polemic. He will argue that it is poetic and not narrative.
What is interesting—if I can find the information here—is that several years ago—and some of you know this—that ICR had something called Project RATE which is an acronym, I think it was the Real Age of The Earth. It was a lot of different studies, a lot of different scientific studies about radiometric dating. These big numbers that the scientists come up with, are they really consistently validated by scientific study?
In the second volume that came out, I believe it’s a ninth chapter, a writer named Stephen Boyd had an entire chapter where he did a statistical modeling of Hebrew poetry versus narrative. Are you lost yet? What he did was he went outside of Genesis to other stories—Exodus, for example. In Exodus you have the story about the Exodus itself, the 10 plagues, and then after they’re delivered, there’s poetry, there’s the song of Moses.
You have poetry, and you have narrative. So what he did was he broke the grammar down into what kind of verbs and what kind of parts of speech are used in narrative versus poetry. He then came to certain conclusions from other parts of the Old Testament that narrative uses certain kinds of verb and verb forms and poetry didn’t use those as much. So it really is different. As you and I both know, poetry reads differently than narrative or legal literature.
After he mapped these verb forms onto Genesis 1:2 to find out if Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 fit poetry language and poetry grammar and poetry syntax, or narrative. Guess what he discovered? It was statistically impossible that it was poetry; based on the syntax, based on the grammar, based on the verb forms, it didn’t fit poetry at all. There was an infinitesimally small probability that it was poetry.
So all these Old Testament scholars that have been saying that it’s poetry and therefore it’s all metaphor and symbolism—it’s not to be taken as historical narrative—all have egg on their face. What are they doing about it? What they always do: They ignore the data that doesn’t fit their truth-suppression mechanism. Anyhow, I’m not just picking on him; he is just representative of probably 80 or 90% of Old Testament scholars in the standard evangelical seminaries. They’ve all sold out to this, and they’ve all bought into this: “It’s not about science.”
When I was at Dallas, when I was in seminary, I didn’t know of a single professor in the Old Testament, or Bible Exposition, or Theology Departments, or New Testament for that matter, who didn’t believe in a young earth. There might’ve been one or two, but they kept their mouth shut. Now, there’s hardly anybody except a few in the Bible Exposition Department. This is a fundamental error that is going on across the board.
Let me look at this slide real quick, and then we will look at two other comments and then we’ll be done. The problem is that the New Testament accepts the historicity of Genesis and treats it as historical narrative—that’s our ultimate authority. In Matthew 19:4–5, Jesus says, “God created them male and female”; that’s from Genesis 1. And then He says that a man and woman are to leave and cleave to one another; that’s from Genesis 2. He treated both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 as historically accurate and not contradictory accounts.
In Matthew 24:37–38, Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5 we have at least four different authors all accepting the historicity of Noah. In Romans 5:14, Paul says that death reigned from Adam to Moses; if they didn’t exist as Genesis says they did, then Paul’s whole theology is fake.
1 Corinthians 11:9, the woman was created for the man. In 1 Corinthians 15:22, in Adam all die. 1 Timothy 2:13–14, Adam was formed first, then Eve. Jude 14 says that Enoch is the seventh from Adam. All of this is affirmed by the New Testament.
I’m going to stop there. We will come back and review some of this next time. Basically, the idea here is that Old Testament scholars, the new generation, have rejected the historic narrative of Genesis 1, and we have to look at what it teaches us about how God speaks. And God reveals Himself to pagan man. That’s the main idea. That’s where we are headed. We will come back to that next time.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things tonight, to come to understand Your Word and to understand facts and truth that can be used to expose unbelief.
Father, we pray that You would help us to always be gentle, kind, gracious, not impatient or combative, when we are dealing with unbelievers. We are to show grace orientation and patience with them, being thoughtful and relying upon Your Word and that God the Holy Spirit is working in their souls to expose their unbelief.
We pray that You would help us develop these skills to fulfill the mandate that we are to give an answer for the hope that is within us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”