We Are Not Neutral

Chapter 1 of Jeff Johnson’s upcoming book.  Having read several of Jeff’s books (The Fatal Flaw & The Kingdom of God), I’m looking forward to this one when it comes out.

“Let’s buy it, dad!” These were the words that darted out of my mouth as soon as I saw the cool yellow truck with its custom rims and ground effects. Immediately I could proudly see myself driving it to school. Not only was it cool, I couldn’t believe it was in my price range. This could be mine, so I thought.

My father responded with the dreaded but predictable words, “We need to test drive it first.” Though this sounds only reasonable, you must realize that I was young and poor. My parents promised to help me buy my first vehicle by doubling all the money I earned over the summer. I worked hard, but only saved $900.00. And even back in the early nineties, you could not expect much for $1,800.00. The last thing I wanted was some grandma wagon.

So when I saw this customized truck, I was ready to pull the trigger without any investigation. In fact, I didn’t want to test drive it, for deep down I knew it was too good to be true. If we happen to discover its mechanical problems, I knew my father would stand in the way of me being cool. You see, I thought if we bought it before we learned that it needed repairs, though more money would be needed to get the thing running, the most important thing would be accomplished – I would have a respectable looking ride to show off to all my friends. The truth is, I didn’t want to know the truth, for I assumed that the truth would stand in the way of my happiness.

As you can imagine, when we opened the hood, it was missing half of its engine. Yep, too good to be true. I ended up with my dad’s old, brown, farm truck – dependable but no ground effects.

I realize now that I was willing to overlook all the blaring red flags and knowingly do something foolish because of my foolish pride. My emotions, my pride, and my inverted values hindered my judgment. I was not objective or rational because I did not want to be objective or rational.

Foolishness is living in opposition to what we know to be true. I am afraid this irrational condition and manner of thinking is universally prevalent in all of us. We are not merely irrational every now and then. Without God, we live in a state of irrationality.

Only irrational fools would consistently and practically deny that 2 + 2 = 4. Not only is the answer to this equation a part of common sense, it is easily demonstrable and highly useful. If a postmodern thinker practically rejects the absolute and universal principles of mathematics, he may applaud himself for being consistent with his relativistic worldview, but in the process his checkbook will be a total mess. Regardless of what we claim we believe about the laws of math, we cannot live consistently without practically submitting ourselves to them. For this and many other reasons it is intellectually difficult to deny the absolute and universal nature of mathematics.

The same is true concerning the truth of Scripture. Scripture does not merely provide a few isolated, unrelated, and discounted truths; it gives us the only complete and cohesive worldview that provides meaning and rationale to the universe. In other words, without the Bible, nothing makes sense in the grand scheme of things. As the Psalmist says, “In your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9).

Yet, if the Bible provides us with the only cohesive system of thought, why is it so hated and rejected by so many? If it is impossible to disprove the truth claims of the Bible, why is it so despised and ridiculed by some of the brightest and smartest minds? Do you want to know the truth? The truth is that if people loved the truth, they wouldn’t reject the truth. The problem is not that the truth is irrational, but that fallen man is not without his personal biases and foolish pride. As we shall see in this chapter, people are selfish by nature, and their selfishness is the controlling influence in how they feel, think, and behave.

Man is Not Neutral

The Bible describes this as depravity. Depravity is an inner heart condition that prevents us from loving any truth that is in opposition to our internal desire to be independent, free, and self-governing. Because we are born depraved, with a fallen nature, we hate the God of the Bible. We may love a god of our own imagination – a god that we can control. This is because we naturally want to be in control of our own destiny. If we want to go to heaven, then we can work our way there. If we want to go to Hell and hang out with our drinking buddies, then that is what we will do. But to lovingly submit every detail of our lives, thoughts, and beliefs to the absolute, sovereign God is not enticing in the least.

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Regeneration and Faith

Gordon H. Clark, “God’s Hammer: The Bible and its Critics” pg.20-23:

When Adam fell, the human race became, not stupid so that the truth was hard to understand, but inimical, to the acceptance of the truth. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge and changed the truth of God into a lie, for the carnal mind is enmity against God. Hence the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, for the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. In order to accept the Gospel, therefore, it is necessary to be born again. The abnormal, depraved intellect must be remade by the Holy Spirit; the enemy must be made a friend. This is the work of regeneration, and the heart of stone can be taken away and a heart of flesh can be given only by God himself. Resurrecting the man who is dead in sin and giving him a new life, far from being a human achievement, requires nothing less then almighty power.

It is therefore impossible by argument or preaching alone to cause anyone to believe the Bible. Only God can cause such belief. At the same time, this does not mean that argument is useless. Peter tells us, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” This was the constant practice of the apostles. Stephen disputed with the Libertines; the Jerusalem council disputed; in Ephesus Paul disputed three months in the synagogue and then continued disputing in the school of Tyrannus. (Acts 6:9; 15:7; 19:8,9: compare Acts 17:2; 18:4, 19; 24:25). Anyone who is unwilling to argue, dispute, and reason is disloyal to his Christian duty.

At this point the natural question is, What is the use of all this expounding and explaining if it does not produce belief? The answer should be clearly understood. The witness or testimony of the Holy Spirit is a witness to something. The Spirit cannot produce belief in Christ unless a sinner has heard of Christ. “How then shall they call on him of whom they have not heard?…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:14,17).

No doubt God in his omnipotence could reveal the necessary information to each man individually without a written Bible or ministerial preaching. But this is not what God has done. God gave the apostles and preachers the duty of expounding the message; but the production of belief is the work of the Spirit, for faith is the gift of God.

This is part of the reason why it was said above that the best procedure for us, if we want someone to accept the doctrine of plenary and verbal inspiration, is to expound the Scripture in detail. We may well use archaeology and historical criticism too, but the main task is to communicate the message of the Bible in as understandable language as we can manage.

It is to be noted too that the sinner, without any special work of the Spirit, can understand the message. Belief in its truth and understanding its meaning are two different things. The Bible can be understood by the same methods of study used on Euclid or Aristotle. Despite some pious disclaimers, it is true that antagonistic unbelievers often enough understand the Bible better than devout Christians. The Pharisees saw the significance of Christ’s claims to deity more quickly and more clearly than the disciples did.

As Paul persecuted the Christians in Jerusalem and set out for Damascus, he understood the words, “Jesus is Lord” as well as any of the twelve. It was precisely because he understood so well that he persecuted so zealously. Had he been unsure of the meaning, he would not have been so exercised. But the trouble was, he did not believe it. On the contrary, he believed that it was false. Then on the Damascus road Christ appeared to him and caused him to believe that the statement was true. Paul did not understand the phrase any better a moment after his conversion than a moment before. Doubtless in later years God revealed further information to him for use in his epistles. But at the moment, Christ did not enlarge his understanding one whit; he caused him to receive, accept, or believe what he had already understood quite well. Thus it is that the Spirit witnessed to the message previously communicated.

Strong emphasis needs to be placed on the work of the Holy Spirit. Man is dead in sin, an enemy of God, opposed to all righteousness and truth. He needs to be changed. Neither the preacher nor, much less, the sinner himself can cause the change. But “blessed is the man whom you choose, and cause to approach you” (Psalm 65:4). “And I will¦take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26, 27). “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). “God when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18).

These verses, which primarily refer to regeneration, are applicable to our acceptance of the Bible as the very word of God. Indeed, the new life which the second birth initiates” the life to which we are “raised from the death of sin” is precisely the life of faith; and a full faith includes a plenary and verbal inspiration of the salvation message. It is the gift of God.

This is why the greatest of all the creeds issuing from the Reformation, the Westminster Confession says:

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is Truth itself), the author thereof; and, therefore, it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness, by and with the Word, in our heart (I,iv and v.)

In the last analysis, therefore “although historical and archaeological confirmation of the Bible” accuracy is of great interest to us and of great embarrassment to unbelievers-a conviction that the Bible is really the Word of God cannot be the conclusion of a valid argument based on more clearly evident premises. This conviction is produced by the Holy Spirit himself.

It must always be kept in mind that the proclamation in the Gospel is part of a spiritual struggle against the supernatural powers of the evil one, and victory comes only through the omnipotent grace of God. Accordingly, as Jesus explained his mission to both Peter and the Pharisees, so we today must expound and explain the Scripture in all its fullness to all sorts of men; and we can then be assured that our Father in Heaven will reveal his truth to some of them.

Original Blog Post Found Here.