(image courtesy ChristArt)
By Spencer D Gear
In the letters-to-the-editor, Time Australia, 10 January 2005, I read: “As a southern Baptist Sunday-School teacher, I tell my students what most of us here in the Bible Belt [USA] believe: the Scripture is the inerrant word of God, given by inspiration to the writers of the Bible. That Matthew and Luke record different details makes neither of them inaccurate. Nor does the fact that some of this cannot be corroborated by other sources. That’s why we call it faith” (on 18 June 2016, this article was not available online)
This was a response to a one-eyed liberal theological view that debunked the Christmas story, “Secrets of the Nativity” (13 Dec. 2004 cover story, Time).
Is this Sunday School teacher’s response the way to communicate with unbelieving Aussies who don’t give a hoot about God and who wouldn’t go near a Bible?
This seems to be a call to some blind leap of Bible-Belt faith that accepted the inspired, infallible word of God. When the apostle Paul was dealing with the pagan philosophers at the Areopagus, Athens (see Acts 17:16-34), he took a different line.
Dialogue with them
If they didn’t care about God, he started where they were. He got to know his audience: “He was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (v. 16).
If God was not at the forefront of their agenda, he reasoned daily with them – even in the marketplace (v. 17). This was no one-way communication. It was a vigorous dialogue.
For those who had very different views of God, he even debated the professional philosophers (v. 18). This is not everybody’s cup of tea. Thank God for leading apologists such as William Craig, Norman Geisler, John Montgomery, Josh McDowell and others who debate some of today’s leading secular philosophers.
For those with a view that we ought to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” Paul still proclaimed the Gospel, even at the risk of being called a “babbler” (v. 18). Even in that pagan paradise, he proclaimed the good news about Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
If these pagans were interested in philosophy other than the one true God, Paul continued his listen-observe-proclaim approach and other doors of opportunity opened. Those at the Areopagus asked: “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?” (v. 19).
With this new opportunity, he identified with the fact that “you are very religious” and have an altar “to the unknown god” (vv. 22-23). Now he’s back to using dialogue with the views of his audience.
He even discusses these issues: the nature of the one true God (vv. 24-25), the nature of human beings and their responsibility before God (vv. 26-27), ordinary quotes from secular people (vv. 28-29), and then he proclaimed the Word (vv. 30-31) – repent (the cross), judgement (the Christ) and the resurrection (Christ’s alive). This is hardly a politically correct method in these days of tolerance toward most things – except born-again Christianity.
K.N.N.O.W. the steps:
Know people and their “idols”
Nature of God
Nature of human beings
Ordinary quotes from life
Word of God (repent, judgement, and resurrection)
Let’s try to flesh this out in a very compact summary of three one-hour conversations with John, a secular counsellor (he could be a school teacher, labourer, medical doctor or a bus driver), who is fairly vocal about his postmodern views. Postmodern? Just hang in there.
Spencer (S): John, in your presentation to that sex education class, I appreciated your enthusiasm for the subject and the practical and thoughtful ways that you answered their questions. You did say that all values were relative. You left it up to the students to choose their own values and you wouldn’t suggest the best way to respond to sexual choices. Are you saying that there are no sexual values that are absolutely fixed?
John (J): Yep! I would never tell students that this or that is a wrong view about sex. That would be judgmental. Besides, there are no such things as absolutes.
S: Are you saying that there is no way to say that having sex with anybody is wrong?
J: Absolutely! Choice of these values is up to the individual. Who are you to say that Peter (a 20-year-old) having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Jane (as long as Peter uses a condom), is wrong?
S: You are committed to free choice in your view of sexual ethics. Are you absolutely sure of that?
J: You got it! Absolutely.
S: So you do believe in absolutes? Do you see what you are doing with sexual values? You say that there are absolutely no fixed standards. Relativism reigns! And yet you are absolutely sure about that.
J: It’s the only sensible way to go. As a counsellor, I am committed to being non-judgemental with my clients (and sex ed. students).
S: If those sex ed. students want to have sex with a 10-year-old, that’s OK – because you can’t be judgemental?
J: Don’t be ridiculous! I don’t support paedophiles.
S: So you have given up being the postmodern, trendy guy. You really do believe in absolutes. Sex with children is absolutely wrong. I agree with you. But let’s talk about absolutes and values.
J: You caught me out on that one.
S: But there’s more to it, John! You are left to your own human devices to decide what’s right and wrong. It’s self-defeating!
J: I’m not going to give up that easily. It makes sense to my grey matter that being non-judgemental is the way to go.
S. You mean that being non-judgemental is right. So you do believe in right and wrong after all! Let’s talk about another way of deciding right and wrong. Your god of relativism has let you down. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of values that will never let you down and you don’t have to make arbitrary judgements.
J: What do you mean? I don’t know of any other way. Any other way will put me out of step with my counselling and sex ed. colleagues.
S: Ah, you want to be postmodern, politically correct, good-guy counsellor in your profession! The Lord God of heaven and earth who made us as moral beings, has taken the guesswork out of value judgements. He sets the rules for morality and they make sense in a world that wants to throw out His kind of morality.
Let’s look at a few examples: (1) “You shall not murder.” (2) “You shall not commit adultery.” (3) “You shall not steal.”  Sounds pretty restrictive, doesn’t it? Law and order in Australia are built on two of these – laws against murder and theft. But it’s too bad the other has been ignored.
You’re a counsellor. You know the heartache that adultery and busted marriages cause for adults and for children. What would happen if murder and theft also were unregulated according to your rules? The Lord God states that good law invokes rules against murder, theft and adultery.
Remember situation ethicist, Joseph Fletcher? When he debated John W. Montgomery, he stated “that none of the Ten Commandments represents a normative principle for human conduct which is intrinsically valid or universally obliging regardless of the circumstances, so that, for example, in some situations theft is the right thing to do; in other situations, respect for property of others is the right way to act.” Fletcher stated that a feature writer for a national news organisation reported this comment and Fletcher “received in ten to twelve weeks about 1,500 letters, almost all of them of protest and denunciation.”
You as a counsellor know what relativism is doing to sexual morality for your clients and in this country. According to your premises, you have no grounds for opposing paedophilia, sexual abuse, domestic violence, murder or theft, if we choose our own values.
J: Your view sounds too religious and restrictive for me [ends dialogue].
Dr. J. Budziszewski calls all of us to unmask the “intellectual bluff”  of people like John and “follow-through” with an expose of their ways.
Biblical Christianity does not say, “Just believe!” Acts 1:3 states, “After his suffering, [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” He gave evidence to the disciples, as he did for “doubting” Thomas after His resurrection (John 20:27-29).
In the traditional verse in support of the ministry of apologetics, Peter wrote, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [an apologia, defence of the faith] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . .” (I Peter 3:15 NIV).
1. Exodus 20:13-15.
2. Joseph Fletcher & John Warwick Montgomery 1972, Situation Ethics, True or False, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota, p. 13.
3. J. Budziszewski 2003, “Off to College: Can We Keep them?,” in Ravi Zacharias & Norman Geisler (gen. eds.), Is Your Church Ready? Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 121.
Copyright (c) 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 June 2016.