March “Tabletalk”: Loving the Neighbor and Resisting the Spirit of Our Age

TT-March-2018We have not yet introduced the March 2018 issue of Tabletalk and tonight affords us the opportunity.

This month’s issue has as its theme “Loving Our Neighbors.” Editor Burk Parsons leads us into a good understanding of the subject and of our calling as Christians in his editorial “Enabled to Love.” Here is part of what he has to say:

Although we often hear about loving God, we don’t as often hear about loving our neighbor. And while we can certainly distinguish between these commandments, we cannot ultimately separate them, for we cannot claim to love God while at the same time hating our neighbor. If we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. What’s more, those who attempt to narrowly restrict the identity of who our neighbor is must remember that Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–45). As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called not only to love our neighbor but to love our enemies, and sometimes they are one and the same. Just as our love for one another demonstrates that we are disciples of Christ (John 13:35), our love for our enemies demonstrates that we are sons of our Father. If we belong to the Lord, we will love the Lord, because He first loved us—enabling us to love Him and our neighbor to such a degree that we would pray for and speak the truth in love to our neighbor. We love our neighbor in the hope that he might know the truth of God and, by His grace, turn to the Lord in faith, believing the gospel as the Spirit enables him to love the Lord and his neighbor, even sinful, albeit justified, neighbors like us.

Subsequent articles in the issue address who our neighbor is and why we should love him, loving ourselves, loving our family, loving the church, loving our communities, loving the unlovely, and Christ and the love of neighbor. Profitable subject, indeed.

It is, however, another rubric article that I wish to draw attention to this evening. Under the rubric “City on a Hill,” Matthew Roberts writes about “Resisting the Spirit of the Age.” In it he tackles the “new” religion of today’s secularists who claim to have freedom from religion. He shows that while they argue that they are free of all gods (especially the Christian one!) and all religious beliefs and practices, in reality they have simply taken another idol god and practice another false religion.

What follows is part of what he says by way of Christian response:

So, then, this is the spirit of our age. How are we to respond? In the same way, of course, that Christians in every age are called to respond to the reigning idols of their day. Let’s go back to Paul in Acts 17.

First, we must get God right (vv. 24–25, 29). The God of the Bible is the only, the true, the ultimate God. There are no fundamentals of human civilization deeper than Him. We must see the secular version of “freedom” not as our friend or a safeguard for our private religion, but as a false, invented deity to be decried and to be denied the worship it desires. There will be no defeating of identity politics and all the horrors of our secular age in any other way.

Second, we must get history right. The “progress” of “freedom” assumed by our age is an illusion and a lie. Rather, history is leading unstoppably from the resurrection of Christ to His return to judge the world (v. 31). The story of now is the story of the risen Christ calling people to turn from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9–10). We live waiting for that day. We therefore need to lose our fear of persecution. It is to be expected for those who refuse to worship the idols of this age. But it will be temporary, and at its end is a crown of glory.

Third, we must get the gospel right. For too long, conservative Christians have presented the gospel as if it were an option, one of the ways in which those who hear us may exercise their (unquestioned) service of the god “freedom.” But the Bible never speaks in this way. Rather, God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). We don’t ask the world to give people permission to worship the Christian God; we proclaim to the world the imperative to worship the Christian God. And attached to that imperative is the promise of mercy to all who come to do so through Christ.

We resist the spirit of the age by refusing to worship the idols of the age. And we do this by trusting, obeying, and worshiping the one true God of this and every age, who has called us to know Him forever through His Son and by His Spirit.

This tied in well with our pastor’s sermon this morning on the first article of our Christian faith: “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” He explained the Heidelberg Catechism’s beautiful explanation of this truth in Lord’s Day 9:

Q. 26.  What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father;3 on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

What a blessing of God’s grace to know and trust in this one true God, who has revealed Himself to us in His Word and in all His daily providences as our loving Father – for Christ Jesus’ sake!

The God who makes His people “incapable of having any other object except Himself.” – B. Pascal

Mind-on-fire-pascalThe Christian’s God does not merely consist of a God who is the Author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements. That is the notion of the heathen and the Epicureans. He isn’t merely a God who extends his provident care over life and property so that men are granted a happy span of years if they worship him. That is the attitude of the Jews.

But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians, is a God of love and consolation. He is a God who fills the soul and heart of those he possesses. He is a God who makes them aware inwardly of their wretchedness while revealing his infinite mercy. He is a God who unites himself with them in the depths of their being. He is One who fills them with humility, joy, confidence, and love. Indeed, he is One who makes them incapable of having any other object except himself.

All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further than the observations of nature, either find no light to satisfy them or find no way of knowing and serving God without a mediator, unless they are seduced by either atheism or deism. Both are equally abhorrent to Christian faith.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his Pensees (Christian apology, that is, defense of the Christian faith) as found in the anthology of his writings The Mind on Fire, part of the “Classics of Faith and Devotion” series published by Multnomah Press (1989), edited by James M. Houston, with an introduction by Os Guinness.

This quotation is taken from section XIV titled “The Transition from Human Knowledge to Knowing God” (pp.149-150), picking up where we left off last time. I plan to post such portions of the Pensees throughout this year.

The Christian Apologetic toward New Atheism and Its Attack on God

PassionateIntellectbookScientific atheists often challenge Christians to prove the existence of God, as if Christians understand God to be an object within the world – such as an additional moon orbiting the planet Mars, a new species of newt or an invisible unicorn. Perhaps they think Christians imagine God to be like an Olympian deity, sitting on the top of Mount Olympus, waiting patiently to be discovered. Of course, for the Christian, God is not an ‘entity’ alongside other entities in the world but rather the source, ground and explanation of all that exists. God is the creator of all things, not a member of this class of things.

…What a word means needs to be determined by the way it is used. Dawkins [Richard, the avowed “new” atheist and ardent opponent of the Christian faith] understands one thing by the word God, and I understand something quite different. The new atheism conducts its polemic against a notion of God that bears little resemblance to that of Christianity. Christians will not find their faith shaken by evidence or arguments that make assumptions they do not share and consider to be completely wrong. The atheist ‘critique’ of Christianity at this point amounts to little more than a circular argument concerning the internal consistence of atheism, rather than a considered engagement with what Christians believe about God.

Taken from Chapter 7, “The Natural Sciences” pp.110-11), in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.

Knowing God and Our Sinfulness in Jesus Christ: “The Mind on Fire” – B. Pascal

The Christian faith teaches men these two truths: there is a God whom men are capable of knowing, and they have a corrupt nature which makes them unworthy of him. It is equally important for men to know both of these points. It is as equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own sinfulness as it is for him to know about his sinfulness without knowing the Redeemer can cure him. Knowing only one of these aspects leads either to the arrogance of the philosophers, who have known God but not their own sinfulness, or to the despair of the atheists, who know their own wretched state without knowing their Redeemer.

Thus it is equally necessary for man to know these two issues, so it is equally merciful of God to reveal them to us. The Christian faith comprises both of these.

…Jesus Christ is the object of all things, the center upon which all things focus. Whoever knows him knows the reason for everything. But those who go astray only do so for a lack of seeing one of these two tenets. For it is perfectly possible to know God but not our own wretched condition, or to know our own wretchedness but not God. It is not possible to know Christ without knowing both God and our wretchedness.

That is why I am not trying to prove naturally the existence of God, or indeed the Trinity, or the immortality of the soul or anything of that kind. This is not just because I do not feel competent to find natural arguments that will convince obdurate atheists, but because such knowledge, without Christ, is useless and empty.

Mind-on-fire-pascalBlaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his Pensees (Christian apology, that is, defense of the Christian faith) as found in the anthology of his writings The Mind on Fire, part of the “Classics of Faith and Devotion” series published by Multnomah Press (1989), edited by James M. Houston, with an introduction by Os Guinness.

This quotation is taken from section XIV titled “The Transition from Human Knowledge to Knowing God” (pp.148-49). I plan to post such portions of the Pensees throughout this year.

Apologetics: “Enabling people to glimpse something of the glory and beauty of God.” – A. McGrath

Where does theology come into apologetics [the defense of our Christian faith and practice]?

…First, a proper understanding of Christian theology gives us a mental map which allows us to locate the resources and tasks of apologetics. Apologetics is often presented simply as a technique for winning arguments. …Yet a right understanding of apologetics, resting on a secure theological foundation, insists that God is involved in the apologetic enterprise. It is unthinkable to dissociate the grace of God from the understanding of commending God. To think of apologetics in terms solely of human techniques and arguments is to run the risk of lapsing into some form of Pelagianism, which neglects, perhaps even denies, God’s presence, power and persuasion in the past of apologetics.

Furthermore, the apologetic task cannot be limited to developing arguments. In some way we must realize that apologetics involves enabling people to glimpse something of the glory and beauty of God. It is these, not slick arguments, that will ultimately convert and hold people. True apologetics engages not only the mind but also the heart and the imagination, and we impoverish the gospel if we neglect the impact it has on all of our God-given faculties.

…Arguments do not convert. …[A]pologetics is not about developing manipulative human techniques but about recognizing and coming to rely on the grace and glory of God. [pp.87-89]

PassionateIntellectbookTaken from Chapter 6, “The Tapestry of Faith: Theology and Apologetics”, in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.

Abortion: The Infamous Decision, the Prolonged Sin, and the Steadfast Christian

Psalm139-14Today marks the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Woe v. Wade, the infamous ruling legalizing abortion on demand in our country (Jan.22, 1973). It is a day that most Christians and most Christian churches (except the most liberal) rue. On that date our state sanctioned the murder of the unborn, contrary to the law of God and its testimony in the conscience of the human soul (cf. Romans 1:18ff.).

Since that day Christians have consistently protested that decision and in opposition proclaimed a pro-life message. While the specific grounds for that pro-life message may vary among Christians, they are united in their conviction that life is the gift of God alone and that death too is in His hands, so that the senseless taking of the life of the unborn is murder, plain and simple. Abortion is man taking to himself the prerogative of God, bringing on himself the judgment of the very One he pretends to usurp.

Today our pro-life president Donald Trump declared this to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day. While we can easily criticize such declarations, we ought at least recognize the attempt to set things right in terms of life and death with regard to the unborn and many others whom our society judges unfit or unworthy of life. Here is part of what President Trump said today:

Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.

Science continues to support and build the case for life. Medical technologies allow us to see images of the unborn children moving their newly formed fingers and toes, yawning, and even smiling. Those images present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs — precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope. We can also now operate on babies in utero to stave off life-threatening diseases. These important medical advances give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn.

Today, citizens throughout our great country are working for the cause of life and fighting for the unborn, driven by love and supported by both science and philosophy. These compassionate Americans are volunteers who assist women through difficult pregnancies, facilitate adoptions, and offer hope to those considering or recovering from abortions. They are medical providers who, often at the risk of their livelihood, conscientiously refuse to participate in abortions. And they are legislators who support health and safety standards, informed consent, parental notification, and bans on late-term abortions, when babies can feel pain. These undeterred warriors, many of whom travel to Washington, D.C., every year for the March for Life, are changing hearts and saving lives through their passionate defense of and loving care for all human lives. Thankfully, the number of abortions, which has been in steady decline since 1980, is now at a historic low. Though the fight to protect life is not yet over, we commit to advocating each day for all who cannot speak for themselves.

But, of course, as Reformed Christians we go deeper and further in our evaluation of abortion. In a Standard Bearer article penned in August of 1994, 21 years after Woe v. Wade, Prof. David Engelsma wrote an editorial with the title “Some Other Thoughts on Abortion.” Here is part of what he had to say in his important message on this subject:

From this world, the Reformed believer is called to separate himself by the Word of God. Abortion is an urgent reminder. For there is divine wrath upon this wickedness. An impenitent Justice Harry Blackmun, main framer of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, lauded upon his recent retirement as a great jurist, will shortly stand in judgment before the Judge of all the earth. The sentence will be the everlasting death due a man who has done evil, not only in decreeing the death of scores of millions of boys and girls but also in betraying his office as minister of God, charged to punish evildoers and protect well-doers.

Wrath falls upon the nation. Every storm, earthquake, and natural disaster; all the social and economic trouble; and, particularly, the increasing violence are God’s punishments of the nation for the national sin of abortion, as for its other transgressions. In the end, the nation will perish, perhaps in a judgment of God in history, certainly in the Day of Christ.

Abortion makes loud to the Reformed ear the call of God in the gospel, Come out, my people, and be separate, “that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). This call the Reformed believer obeys, not by any physical removal to a remote place or to another country, certainly not by any revolutionary behavior, but by living antithetically in the power of the Holy Spirit. He refuses to amuse himself with the world’s pornography; he keeps himself from the television programs, movies, and books that entertain by means of violence; he will not allow the state’s schools to teach his children the goodness of adultery, the lawfulness of abortion, and the necessity of the deifying of man; he sees to it that his thinking on sex, marriage, children, state, justice, killing, and bearing (rather than escaping) responsibility is formed exclusively by Holy Scripture; and he most assuredly leaves, indeed, flees, the church that is unable unequivocally to condemn abortion, as well as the sexual unchastity for which abortion is the world’s panacea.

In this separation is nothing of pride. “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures . . . .” (Titus 3:3). Resentment of our own children, when they come, is heart-abortion. Reformed Christians who now vehemently (and rightly) condemn abortion will soon be put to the test concerning the genuineness of their abhorrence of the destruction of the unborn. When the pill is marketed in North America that enables a woman to destroy the unborn child soon after conception in the privacy of her bathroom, without any trip to an abortion clinic, the Reformed young woman who has sinned and is sorry, but dreads being found out, and the Reformed couple who have convinced themselves that they cannot bear the responsibility of yet another child will be tested whether their hatred of abortion was rooted in the love of God.

Grace rescues us from this present, evil, aborting, heaven-storming, perishing world.

Only grace.

In its own way, abortion brings home to us Reformed Christians the reality of the grace of God to us and our children.

The world butchers its own offspring.

Reformed believers obediently have children in marriage; thankfully receive them; gladly rear them; and joyfully fellowship with them in the family.

The grace of God in the covenant with believers and their children makes the difference.

This is the difference. Either parents bury their children in the blood of Christ in baptism, or they choke them in their own and their mother’s blood in abortion.

We have it so good in the covenant. The covenant means life for us and for our sons and daughters.

We must be thankful.

Outside the covenant, it is horrible: grisly death for unbelievers and their children.

Well may we pray the petition of Psalm 74:20: “Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.”

In humility, may we all repent of our murderous sins and seek refuge in that sin-removing, guilt-covering, and wrath-sheltering grace of God.

Creation: The Theater of God’s Glory

Can the Christian faith offer a richer, deeper account of the natural world than its pagan or atheist rivals? The importance of the question is obvious. Both the credibility and utility of the Christian faith can legitimately be called into question if it fails to offer a better account of reality than its rivals.

Christian theology offers a distinct angle of gaze, a way of seeing things which both discloses the true identity of nature and mandates certain ways of behaving toward it and within it. Theology enables us to see the fullness of reality, the world as it really is or could be. For contrary to what most thinkers of the Enlightenment believed, nature is not an autonomous, self-defined entity; rather, it is something that is always interpreted, whether consciously or unconsciously, from a theoretical standpoint.

…Christians see the natural world through a theological prism. In the eighteenth century many Christians chose to interpret nature through a lens that was deist, rather than trinitarian. God was seen as the creator of nature, whose involvement with the natural realm ceased thereafter. This encouraged the emergence of a functional atheism, in that God was, to all intents and purposes, thought of as being absent from the world. Yet during the twentieth century, through the influence of theologians such as Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, there has been a rediscovery of the coherence and explanatory power of a specifically trinitarian vision of God.

…If God created the natural world, does it not bear the divine imprint? Is not one of the implications of a trinitarian doctrine of creation that the natural world displays in some sense the marks of its Creator? {Which leads the author to point to Psalm 19:1.}

Israel already knew about its God, and did not need to look at the natural world for proof of God’s existence. Yet it saw God’s glory reflected in the creation. To use John Calvin’s phrase, the natural world is to be recognized as the ‘theater of the glory of God.’ God’s glory is stamped on the world by the act of creation; this is supplemented by the mighty acts by which God chose to redeem the world, which take place within this same theater of nature.

PassionateIntellectbookTaken from Chapter 5, “The Theater of the Glory of God”, in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.

While not agreeing with all that McGrath posits, I like his “apologetics” approach to the subjects treated in this book. He makes you think, and he makes you think about defending the Christian faith intellectually and rationally (of course, also by faith in God’s revelation of truth in the Bible alone), in the face of unbelief’s ridicule of our faith.

The title is still available for review if someone would like to do so.

Theistic Evolution vs. the Word of God: An Article and a Book

This part Saturday (Nov.18, 2017), as part of its “Saturday Series” on significant books World magazine posted an article by Elizabeth Handford titled “Evolution vs. the Bible,” in which this pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother, licensed pilot, and Bible teacher takes on noted Christian theistic evolutionist, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and founder of BioLogos, a Christian scientific think-tank.

Collins also wrote an influential book, as Marvin Olasky, World’s editor-in-chief explains:

After she [Elizabeth H.] read Francis Collins’ The Language of God (Free Press, 2006) and saw how it undercuts the inerrancy of Scripture, she carefully examined its premises and evidence and sent me the essay that follows. It’s important, because 10 years after publication the paperback edition of The Language of God is still ranks in the top 10 of Amazon’s “Science & Religion” category. Please read Elizabeth’s essay and think hard.

Today we post part of Handford’s important article, as we believe it strikes at the heart of the “debate” on the origins “question” among professing Christians and churches. That heart is the authority and accuracy of the Bible as God’s inspired, infallible Word. The entire essay is worth your read (not very long), but we pick it up in the middle, where Handford states this:

If a reader of Scripture can decide for himself what is true and what can be ignored, he is setting himself as arbiter over the Scriptures. He becomes the decider of truth. This is indefensible if the Bible is truly God’s inerrant Word. Scripture is not “of any private interpretation.”

This puts Collins in an ambiguous position. If a number of individuals began the human race, as he believes, then Adam and Eve are myths. But that puts in doubt New Testament Scripture that have serious theological implications. Chapter 5 of Romans asks, “How could the death of one man, Jesus, pay for the sins of the world?” The answer? “Because sin, and death, came into the world by one man, Adam” (Romans 5:13-21). If Adam did not exist, then all the Scriptures that refer to him (Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1:2; Job 42; Luke 3; First Corinthians 15; 2 Timothy 2; and Jude) must be stricken from our Bibles.

…The issue here is not which scientific theory on the origins of life is correct. Our focus is only to show that the inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God cannot be reinterpreted simply to make it fit any theory of science.

In her closing paragraphs, Handford puts the cap and crown on her basic argument:

…Francis Collins yearns for a safe place for perplexed Christians to find answers for their questions concerning Biblical truth and science. I also yearn for a safe place for people to express their doubts and get sure answers. But there is no “safe place” anywhere if human being must carry the burden of deciding which parts of Scripture are true and which are not. Thank God, He has given us His Holy Word, without error of any kind, trustworthy far beyond what our puny minds can understand.

All of us need humility of mind and heart, admitting that we are fallen human beings without the capacity to understand all God is. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV).

True science and the Bible do not conflict. They cannot conflict. We simply do not yet know enough science to discern the answers. Meanwhile, we can trust our great and holy God to teach us everything we need to know about this wonderful world. After all, He created it simply by His command. He sustains it (Hebrews 1:3). He knows how it all fits together. We can trust His infinite wisdom and goodness.

I simply want to add, well said, Elizabeth.

In this connection, I also point out a new book on this vital subject. Crossway has just released Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, edited by J. P.Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem (2017, 1008 pp.). The publisher gives this description:

The debate about biological origins continues to be hotly contested within the Christian church. Prominent organizations such as Biologos (USA) and Faraday Institute (UK) insist that Christians must yield to an unassailable scientific consensus in favor of contemporary evolutionary theory and modify traditional biblical ideas about the creation of life accordingly. They promote a view known as “theistic evolution” or “evolutionary creation.” They argue that God used—albeit in an undetectable way—evolutionary mechanisms to produce all forms of life. This book contests this proposal. Featuring two dozen highly credentialed scientists, philosophers, and theologians from Europe and North America, this volume provides the most comprehensive critique of theistic evolution yet produced. It documents evidential, logical, and theological problems with theistic evolution, opening the door to scientific and theological alternatives—making the book essential reading for understanding this worldview-shaping issue.

The comprehensive table of contents is available at the Crossway link above, which you are encouraged to consider.

I have received a review copy, which I am eager to see one of our science specialists examine and review – either for the PRC Seminary’s Journal or for the Standard Bearer. Contact me if you are interested.

TODAY! 4-6 p.m. ET – Radio Interview with Prof. David J. Engelsma on “Gospel Truth of Justification”

You may have remembered and listened in on previous interviews Chris Arnzen of “Iron Sharpens Iron” has had with Prof. David Engelsma (emeritus professor, PRC Seminary) about his books. This afternoon (only 1 hour away from now!) Chris will conduct another live interview with Prof. Engelsma, this time about his newest book, Gospel Truth of Justification (RFPA, 2017).

Below is the notice that the RFPA put out this week and again today as a reminder:

On Friday, September 1, Prof. David J. Engelsma will be interviewed by Christopher Arnzen on his radio program “Iron Sharpens Iron” from 4-6 pm EST.

The subject will be his recent book, Gospel Truth of Justification. You can go to the website and click on live stream to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone (563)999-9206, following the prompts and press #3 for Christian Radio.

Be sure to tune in Friday!

Now that the live interview is done, if you would like to listen to the interview as recorded, Chris A. has generously allowed it to be posted. You find the mp3 file here.

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — Radio Interview with Prof. David J. Engelsma on Gospel Truth of Justification

Is God unfair to save sinners only through Jesus? – August “Tabletalk”

TT-August-2017The August issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine) has as its theme, “Giving An Answer,” focusing on the Christians’ calling to be faithful witnesses to and apologists of the gospel of our Lord based on 1 Peter 3:15.

I read a couple more of the featured articles yesterday before worship services, including James N. Anderson’s “Is There Only One Way of Salvation?” Part of his defense of the gospel of exclusive salvation through Christ alone involves answering the objection that God is unfair not to save sincere followers of other religions.

I appreciated his great answer to this issue (which included the truth that because salvation is by grace alone God is under no obligation to save anyone) and post part of it here, so that you too may have a good defense of salvation in Jesus only.

The unfairness objection also reflects flawed assumptions about who gets to define salvation. Surely, it is up to our Creator – not us – to diagnose our problem and prescribe a remedy for it. The pluralist treats salvation as if it were like a hair treatment: you should be able to choose your color, your style, and so on, all according to your own preferences. Whatever works for you.

But what if salvation is more like a medical treatment for a fatal disease? If there is only one medication that can actually cure the illness, it would be extremely foolish to advocate ‘medical pluralism’ – a have-it-your-way approach to treatment – and it would be bizarre to accuse your doctor of unfairness for prescribing the only remedy that works.

And so Anderson makes the application to salvation from sin:

The point should be obvious: the prescription must fit the diagnosis. If the basic human problem is as the Bible describes it – that we’re sinners standing under the judgment of God, unable even to begin to make an adequate atonement for our sins – then only Christianity presents a solution that adequately addresses the problem. No other religion offers a perfect mediator between God and man who removes the enmity between us and our Creator by bearing the penalty for our sins in our place (Rom.5:6-11; 2 Cor.5:18-21; I Tim.2:5-6) [p.17].

Do we truly believe that? And are we, then, prepared to “give an answer” to those who may ask us about our precious Savior?