By C.L. Bolt
Non-Christians suppress the truth in unrighteousness, distorting every fact. Unbelievers are both spiritually and intellectually lost, believing themselves to be final authorities with respect to their own intellectual evaluations of the world. Yet in appealing to one’s own authority one appeals to a shifting foundation that certainly does not serve as a norm. Truth itself is relative in this scheme. The standards, purpose, meaning, motivation, etc. for reasoning are completely lost in this assumption of the possibility of thought independent of God. This series has sought to show in some detail how the creaturely mind asserting its independence from God becomes trapped within itself.
One may observe the lack of purpose behind the unbelieving scholar’s work, intelligent men missing obvious points, and people making obvious blunders in reasoning and see these as a result of the noetic effects of sin. Scripture describes in great detail the futility, darkness, ignorance, and hardness of the unbelieving mind, understanding, and heart.
If evidences and facts were clear and the minds and reasoning capabilities of people were everything many want to claim for them then we would expect to find widespread agreement concerning evidences and facts, but we find the opposite. Sometimes people even indulge in their irrationality and take pleasure in error. Reasoning is directly tied to morality and soteriology. There is a desperate human need for salvation not only spiritually but intellectually as well. The person must be viewed as a whole even in discussions of sin and salvation.
Central to the Christian worldview is the Gospel and so central to our apologetic is the thing that every sinner needs; the truth of redemption in Christ Jesus. The Gospel is the preached and received message that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised again in accordance with the Scriptures. The Gospel of Scripture does not call for changing or adding a few beliefs to one’s worldview, but calls for repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Conversion includes the entire person and worldview rather than parts of them. In conversion God removes the unbeliever from his sinful, rebellious, allegedly independent presupposition and places him or her onto the Christ-saturated center of the Christian worldview as the ultimate presupposition. The entirety of the Christian worldview must be brought to bear upon the unbeliever through the Word of God. It is only a thoroughly biblical view of the world that makes sense of anything.
The cross of Jesus Christ brings us as believers into a knowledge of God whereby we begin to see God, the world, and ourselves as they truly are. Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior. His work saves us from our corruption and guilt, and this applies even to the intellect which is, again, affected by sin. Were it not for the work of Christ it would not be possible to think as we ought. Apologists have long pointed out the need for redemption in the context of justice. God, if He is just, must punish sin, but apart from a Suffering Servant this means that none of us will go free. The necessity of redemption in this sense has been brought against positions like Islam and Judaism which claim to have a just God and yet have people who get away with their sins. This is an important point, and one which should not be neglected in an apologetic, but the necessity of redemption goes deeper than this.
God did not plan for humanity to find its way to Him on an individual, autonomous basis. God revealed Himself to humanity. There is a necessity to the revelation of God, and it is redemptive in nature. If an apologetic method is to be consistent then it must start with the Bible and plead with sinners not upon the basis of their own authority but upon the authority of the Word of God which defines the unregenerate sinner as created by God in His image and for His glory. We as believers walk now as children of light and have been saved from the futility of our minds, lack of understanding, alienation from God, spiritual deadness, ignorance, and hardness of heart. We are in union with and alive in Christ and no longer stumble through the darkness as we once did. Redemption renders it possible to see things truly. We are saved eternally and epistemologically.
The need for the salvation of the whole self, and hence the mind, is to be emphasized in an evangelistic/apologetic encounter. There is neither hope nor remedy for the sinful state and intellectual folly of the unbelieving worldview apart from the Christ of Scripture. Having the problems of the intellect fixed begins with having the problem of sin fixed and there is only one way that happens – conversion to Christ. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.