This is episode number 200. And in fact, I’ve been doing this for 201 episodes. There actually is an episode zero, which is probably confusing to you. I work in the kind of computer software field and computers often start counting at zero, and so I did that, and yeah, I’m a nerd, but you probably realized that by now.
But anyways, 200 full episodes together. And I want to share today what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed and grown through that, and also some of the trends I see just in Christianity and the world and evangelicalism. And so I have five things I have learned in the last 200 episodes. There’s obviously hopefully more than that, but these are five that stick out to me that I wanted to share with you.
The first is an increased dependence on the holy spirit. Something I have learned over the last almost four years now is an increased dependence on the holy spirit. And what do I mean by that, and how does that fit into apologetics and that sort of thing?
Well, just practically speaking, most of the time when we think about apologetics or when apologetics is talked about, we’re giving rational arguments, at least that’s how it’s talked about. We’re appealing to the mental faculties, the intellectual faculties of a person. We’re giving arguments and evidence and we’re pointing to data and things like that, and all of that seems very cognitive and rational. We don’t often think about the fact that there is much more to the equation than that.
So yes, we are trying to change minds, but we forget that the heart of a person has to change. We have to think about this whole enterprise of apologetics theologically and biblically. And biblically, the person who’s not a Christian is dead in their sin. They have hearts of stone. And we can give all of the best arguments and evidence all day long to a stone and the stone isn’t going to come to life. The holy spirit is the one who brings life.
All the way in the Old Testament, when God is talking about what the new covenant will bring, he says, “I will take out your heart of stone. I will put in a heart of flesh. I will give you my spirit and cause you to walk in my ways.”
And so, how I have had to think about this and how I’ve changed over the last several years, over 200 episodes, is that I realize that yes, we are called to reason with people. We must share the gospel. We must explain the gospel, perhaps more importantly. In doing that, we must realize that yes, God has ordained that these means of reasoning, of doing apologetics, that those are important and necessary, but God alone changes someone’s heart. If this enterprise we’re on is going to be effective, it will be because God has changed someone’s heart. So I’ve come to have an increased dependence on the holy spirit.
Now, can you not have that and God still work through you? Yes. If God couldn’t work through sinful people who didn’t have their theology right, then he’d get nothing done. But thankfully, we can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. But it’s important for us and it’s important for me to remember that yes, I am doing this thing. I am talking. I am reasoning, but it is God who saves sinners, God who changes hearts.
Now, the second thing I’ve learned is that gospel issues are greater, they’re more important, than worldview issues. I don’t want to create a false dichotomy here, so let me say that right off the bat, and I’m going to separate something, but I’ll hopefully bring it back together.
Now, what do I mean by gospel issues and worldview issues? Traditionally, in apologetics, at least this is how it used to be and I think it still often is today, the issues that get focused on often revolve around kind of four key worldview questions. Where did we come from, like why is there something rather than nothing? What’s wrong with the world? How do we fix it? And what happens when we die?
There are other questions that could come to mind too, like what’s the nature of man, is he good, is he bad, is there a God, those sorts of questions. Those are important questions. I think we need to be able to talk to those. But, they often devolve into talking about the age of the earth and evolution, creation and evolution, those sorts of conversations.
We might argue for the existence of a God, a single God, so theism, and all of that is important, but those worldview issues, if you get them all right, that doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. There are people who have better worldviews than us in their details that aren’t Christians. I mean, Christians share our worldview, largely speaking, with Mormons and Jews, and Mormons and Jews are not Christians. So either the Mormons and the Jews are right and the Christians are wrong, or the Christians are right and the Mormons and the Jews are wrong. Only one group can be right. We all could be wrong in some ways, but we all can’t be right.
We agree on morality. We agree on the existence of one or more Gods, depending on which religion we’re talking about. It can make us seem like we’re similar, but we disagree on the gospel. And that’s the thing we have to talk about.
You can tell someone the gospel. You can explain it to them, and God can save them. God can change their heart through that. If you explain the right worldview precepts to someone, the same thing cannot happen. The gospel is the power of God for salvation, okay? It’s the message of the cross. The gospel, that’s the power of God to those who are being saved. But, worldview principles do not have that same effect.
Now, in order to get to someone understanding and believing the gospel, often we have to lay some worldview foundation, but that foundation sometimes is viewed as an end unto itself in apologetics, where we just get stuck talking about worldview issues and we never talk about the gospel. We don’t even lead with the gospel to show people that they need a foundation to understand the gospel. We just kind of find an area of cultural or ethics or morality that we disagree on and we talk about that.
This probably flows from my first point, an increased dependence on the holy spirit, but I believe that even the person who’s an atheist and doesn’t believe supernatural things can exist, God can save that person when they hear the gospel. I believe that.
Now, if they don’t, if that doesn’t happen, do I need to be able to explain how the gospel makes sense, how this worldview that Christians believe, how that actually accords with reality best? Yes, I talk about this. We’ve had multiple episodes on it. But all of that to say, the end goal is the gospel. It’s where I should start. It’s where I should end. It’s my hope to end there. It’s my hope that that person will believe it. And I think sometimes we lose sight of that in apologetics conversations.
Like I said, I don’t want to divide things too severely. We must be prepared to talk about the way that Christianity makes best sense of the world because it does. God created this world, so when God tells us how the world actually is in his word, it’s true. It’s accurate. It’s going to make more sense than any other philosophy out there. But, having the right philosophical and scientific and naturalistic views does not amount to anything if someone does not trust in Jesus alone for salvation. So that’s the primary.
Now, some people are going to say, “Yeah,” on the theological point. Yeah, but we need more of the worldview undergirding to help commend what we’re saying and make it seem like it makes more sense to people. We need to clear away objections with our apologetic answers. So we need a both and, but the primary thing, the end goal is the gospel.
So, first thing I’ve learned, I need an increased dependence on the holy spirit. The second thing, gospel issues are greater and more important than worldview issues. Now, what are these gospel issues? I didn’t talk much about that. Well, the person and work of Jesus. Who is Jesus? Many people think Jesus is worthy of following. But the Islamic Jesus, different than the Christian Jesus. The Mormon Jesus, different than the Christian Jesus. The Jehovah’s witness Jesus, different than the Christian Jesus. Okay, the Jesus of cultural Christianity, once again, different.
Now, what did Jesus do? We disagree with all those different religions on that. We disagree with the work of Jesus when it comes to Roman Catholicism. There’s a different work there in some ways. There’s a different work in Mormonism and Jehovah’s witnesses. The work of Jesus is very important.
Justification, how are people actually righteous in God’s sight? Is it because of their works? Is it after all they can do? Is it by learning enough, or is it by simply saying, “I can’t achieve this on my own. I repent of my sins. I turn from what I’ve done wrong and I turn to Christ and trust in him alone to be my substitute”? That is a central point in what we must be prepared to articulate and defend and realize that there is a wealth of differences out there on this point. Okay, so we have to be prepared to talk about that. Worldview issues and gospel issues. Gospel issues are more important.
The third thing, and this is a short one, I talk a lot less about the age of the earth than I thought I would. I talk a lot less about the age of the earth than I used to. This just seems to not be a big issue anymore except in little pockets and comments sections on the internet. So, I’m thankful for that in large part.
I do think there’s a right answer on this. Of course there’s a right answer on this. I think I know the right answer, but it doesn’t matter to me if I disagree with someone else on this issue. What’s really important is that God created everything, God created life. If everything’s old, if everything’s young, it doesn’t matter to me.
I do think the issue of evolution is a very important issue. Okay, God says he created life. That does not leave room for a naturalistic, unguided process, that did not have us in mind. If God did use evolution, then it’s not evolution. You can’t have a guided unguided process. But all that to say, the age of the earth question, not an issue largely speaking anymore, at least from my vantage point, and I’m thankful for that.
Fourth, I’ve realized over the last 200 episodes in the last 4 years or so that biblical literacy is a huge issue. Now, if you’re into apologetics, that’s great, but in my experience, a lot of people who are into apologetics are not really into the bible. The bible is something that other people study.
If apologetics rightly understood is giving a defense for the hope we have in Christ Jesus, not our worldview … Once again, goes back to a previous point, and I think we’re often very confused on this in apologetics circles, practically, Maybe intellectually we’re not, but in practice I think we are. But if it is giving an answer for the hope we possess in Christ Jesus, that hope can only be known through the bible.
So, biblical literacy, understanding the bible from beginning to end in its genres, in its overarching themes, in its biblical theology, that’s really important. And so if you’re into apologetics, just let me challenge you, if you don’t read your bible regularly, you don’t study the scriptures, what is it you’re actually defending? What does your hope rest on? What are you commending to other people if something that is not rooted deeply in the scriptures? Because I think there are too many positions that “work well”, they’re pragmatically suitable in apologetics conversations to some people, and you can’t actually square them with what’s in scripture. That’s deeply disturbing.
People will adopt lines of argument to try and convince someone of the truthfulness of Christianity and yet you can’t support it from the bible, or the bible directly contradicts it. We should endeavor to have positions that are true according to scripture, not just positions that seem compelling to other people. There are some things that scripture clearly teaches that we cannot compromise on, and if we do not compromise, we’ll be off putting to other people. That’s just the reality of it. Okay, and so it should not surprise us that those people who have their minds and hearts opposed to things of God would disagree with us on some biblical issues.
But all that to say, we must be prepared to read the bible, understand the bible rightly, rightly divide the word and explain the word, and show people that we don’t just have a hat tip to the bible, that it’s what we’re grounded in, that our arguments actually come from the scriptures.
There are arguments we could use to be compelling that the bible would say we shouldn’t use. There are tactics we could use that the bible would say we should not use. Often, we don’t even realize that. That’s my point here, because we don’t read the bible well. So we need to engage on reading the bible. It should be a core part of our life. It should be what we base our whole conception of reality on, and yet too often, we use worldview and theological categories and philosophical categories to make sense of the world at the expense of the bible and its categories.
Now, I’m not saying, I’m not trying to divide two things that should be together. Okay, so I’m in favor of theology and apologetics and philosophy and the bible, but my point is simply, the bible sometimes seems to get forgotten, or it’s what you start with and you move past it. No, it’s the beginning, the middle, and the end. We never move on from the bible. We never want to develop a theology or a philosophy so robust that the bible doesn’t recognize it anymore or it doesn’t fit in the scriptures and doesn’t flow from them.
But, when I talk about a passage with someone, even if it’s a passage I know really well, I always turn to it. I want to make sure that I am getting this passage right. I don’t want to simply go from memory. As the way the brain works, accessing a memory actually changes that memory, so I want to always go back to the text and make sure that what I’m saying accords with it well. So, biblical literacy is a huge issue. I’ve realized that over the last 200 episodes.
Lastly, biblical sufficiency and authority are current battlegrounds. Now, why do I say that? One reason people are leaving the faith is they refuse to sit under the authority of scripture. When it defines what a man is and what a woman is and how they relate, and that that’s not an identity that’s chosen but given, or what marriage is, or what proper submission to government looks like, name the issue, people are refusing to submit their lives to that teaching and sit under it. They think they can stand over and judge the scriptures. And that’s not good. And so people actually are leaving churches when that church holds fast to the authority of the bible.
Now, practically speaking, the big battleground for the authority of scripture was fought a while ago. Now, it continues to be fought. I’m not just saying we’re done with talking about the authority of scripture, but there were decades in the past where this battle raged hot and heavy. That’s not really the case as much anymore.
What we’re seeing now inside the church, and I’ve seen this progressively over the last years, is a battle for the sufficiency of scripture. Do we really believe 2 Timothy 3:16, that all scripture is breathed out by God and it’s useful for teaching, instructing, correcting, and reproving and training in righteousness so that the workmen of God may be capable and equipped for every good work?
That passage, largely speaking, when it was written, referred to the Old Testament. Paul was telling Timothy that the Old Testament was sufficient for living a life that was pleasing to God, for every good work. And we have the New Testament now, the prophetic word made more sure. We have more revelation.
And so surely, what we have is sufficient, and yet what we see time and time again in kind of implicit, in subtle, and sometimes in explicit ways, though, is where the sufficiency of scripture is jettisoned, where for instance, we say, “well, you know what? In order to actually make sense of the world, we need to go outside of scripture, that the solutions to our intrapersonal sin issues are not only found in scripture, they’re found in secular philosophy, in sociology” or something like that, where the way to address injustice is not found in scripture. Now, I’m not saying specific political policies, but even what justice is, what injustice is, and how we think about that.
Often, we’re going outside of scripture and finding something that actually contradicts scripture, or the human condition. Are people basically good? Are they basically bad? Are we letting our categories there be formed from scripture, or do we think we need something from outside of it? And sometimes when it comes to science, due to wanting, I believe, to be affirmed by those who are respected in their communities, do we need to bring in other scientific theories to explain who we are, how we came to be, where we’re going in life, what the issues in life are? Do we need those, or are the scriptures sufficient to tell us about where we came from?
I don’t obviously mean in all the details. I think science is a good tool, okay, but sometimes what we’re doing is we’re bringing in whole philosophies which do not fit in scripture and then we’re adopting them over and above the scriptures. And that’s not something we should do.
Is the bible sufficient? Now, I’m not just saying you and your bible under a tree. That’s not my point. We’ve talked about this in the past. But, there’s so much more about each of these I could talk about, and perhaps my brevity here is a liability to actually give the wrong idea, but I hope that won’t be the case.
But so, just to recap, in 200 episodes, I have realized I need an increase dependence on the Holy Spirit. I’ve come to realize that for myself and in apologetics circles, gospel issues are greater than worldview issues. Both are important, though. For instance, the person and work of Jesus Christ is a core battleground. It’s where the fight should be.
Third, I talk a lot less about the age of the earth. Thankful for that. Fourth, biblical literacy is a huge issue. Yes, for apologetics, many of the questions that come up as you start talking with someone about Christianity and the bible, they deal with the bible. We have to be able to rightly interpret the scriptures.
And fifth, biblical sufficiency and authority are consummate and constant battlegrounds. We cannot give ground there. We must be asking ourselves personally, are we submitting ourselves to the scriptures? And more than that, do we believe the scriptures are sufficient, and do we actually live like they are for living a life that’s pleasing to God?
Well, I hope this has been helpful, and honestly, I hope the last 200 episodes have been helpful to you. I’ve changed and for those of you who have stayed with me through this process, I’m thankful. For those of you who have offered feedback and criticism and constructive comments, I am thankful, and I’m looking forward to 200 more, Lord willing. I’ll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.