We are living in a day where the attempt to defend the faith seems to be a futile endeavor. The interaction between people has degenerated into shouting matches and stubborn refusal to even consider reasonable discussion. The world of western civilization seems to be sailing off the cliff to its destruction with no hope of recovery, and the church, for the most part, seems paralyzed in how to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We look around us and it appears that the whole world has gone mad.
If ever there was a time where the Christian should be convinced that the unbeliever is dead in trespasses and sins and thus rendered incapable of recovery, the case could be made this is that time. People just don’t seem willing to listen but everyone does and believes that which is right in their own eyes. However, the Christian ought not to flounder in such despair. It is often when the world is in its greatest darkness that the light of the gospel of God’s Son shines the brightest. If ever there is a need for the Savior of the world now seems to be that time. But then that is true for every generation.
In our last blog we focused on Paul’s statement in 1Corinthians 2:13-16 that contrasted the mind of the believer from that of the natural man who does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. If that is the case then, what hope is there in giving a defense for the hope that is in us that the unbeliever will ever understand? After all, Paul did say in Romans 3 that there is none who understands.
But before we dismiss the undertaking of apologetics in seeking to overturn the false and damning notions of the unbeliever there is a truth about man’s very nature that builds a bridge for the Christian to make their appeal to the unbeliever. The sinner seeks to deny God, to reject the notion that there is an all powerful God who sits above the heavens and rules over all things. The sinner believes themself to be the final arbiter of all truth and reality. But this is folly and the sinner deep down knows that they are not what they would proclaim to be and that there is a God who has made the heavens and the earth.
Paul taught that all men who declare that God is dead are consciously fooling themselves in their denial of God and their exaltation of themselves. In Romans 1 Paul declared that God has created the sinner so that they know the truth and the God from whom all truth originates. Romans 1:18 states for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
Within the very makeup of man is embedded the knowledge of God for God has made man in his own image (Genesis 2:26). That image is one of true righteousness and holiness so that all men have a moral conscience. The problem is that in the fall of man into sin our ability to think correctly became corrupted. This is called the noetic effect of sin that leads one to seek their own wisdom and be the judge and determiner of what is true.
This radical degradation of the human soul described in Romans 1 is the resulting consequence of Adam’s sin in all his posterity flowing from this original sin. And yet, In verse 19 Paul said that what may be known of God is manifest in (fallen man), for God has shown it to them. John Calvin spoke of this as the sense of God (the sensus deitatus) that is in everyone created in the image of God.
In verse 20 Paul spoke of how the creation is a clear revelation of the invisible attributes of God, even his eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse. Psalm 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God and ends proclaiming that the Word of God is to be desired above much fine gold. Paul said that is still true today.
Even though the sinner seeks to deny the existence of God, to flee from him into the bushes of his own delusion, it is still the case that they cannot escape the sense of God that remains in their fallen nature. This is the point of contact between the Christian and the unbeliever. In verse 18 Paul said the sinner seeks to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The problem is not that the unbeliever does not have the truth but rather that they grasp it in unrighteousness and seek to change it into something else. Paul described the consequence of this in 2Thessalonians 2:11-12 where he said and for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. In Romans 1:29-32, Paul described the consequence of this in terms of a spiral down into a plethora of sins that imprisons the natural man in bondage to sin. The unbelieving world is a rebellious lot who not only are active in their rebellion but encourage that rebellion in others.
But this barrier for the sinner is bound up in the disposition of their mind. Paul stated in verse 28 that their evil condition flows from the fact that even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind. It was Francis Schaffer who once said that man is not as bad as he can possibly be but he is as bad off as he can possibly be. The sinner seeks to push God from his thoughts and reject God’s very presence that is ever before their eyes. But deep down the sinner in his rebellion knows God is there and in apologetics we seek to bring the sinner face to face with the holy God they are seeking to run from. The Christian is aided in their apologetic endeavor by the knowledge that we do not seek to introduce the sinner to a God they do not know, but we seek to confront them with the holy God they know and are trying to pretend is not there.