How should we attempt to reason with unbelievers? How many points of connection should we hope to make with the unregenerate? I know we need to be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that is within us, but does that mean we must justify it on the grounds that unbelievers set forth?
I am all for giving reasons why we believe what we believe, but think we must guard against exalting logic above that of God’s revelation of Himself. When we begin to use logic, in the stead of dependence upon The Holy Spirit, to convert the unbeliever we commit a error – two of which are.
1. We deny what Scripture teaches about the depravity of man, and insist that man is capable of reaching the conclusion that the claims of Scripture are true if he is just given enough intellectual impetus to stop fighting the truth. When we do this, we are actually appealing to a higher standard than Scripture. If the veracity of Scripture is not accepted unless another source verifies it then that other source takes precedence over Scripture. The other sources are useful, and it shows that Scripture is accurate in it’s records – it is not that I am saying we should not employ archeology, history, and the like at all – but outside sources are not to be the determiner of whether we believe Scripture or not. The Word of God is believed to be such by Christians because they hear the voice of The Shepherd in it. The Holy Spirit grants a conviction that it is what it claims to be. Thus when presenting the truth of Scripture to the unregenerate we must proclaim the truths of God as they are – authoritative. To appeal to any outside source to try to convince them to accept the truth we are actually diminishing the truth we are attempting to proclaim.
2. We deny the Holy Spirit’s power to regenerate the unregenerate. This lack of faith has led to inflated stories, or just plain fabrications, in order to sway a person to accept what is being said. We think that unless we can give the unregenerate something he can identify with somehow then he will not believe. Sometimes this desire to identify is so great that we even leave out bits of truth thinking that if we can get them to accept some of the truth we can work in the rest; or we just don’t want to scare them off, so we don’t give them the whole truth.
This can lead to personal issues within the thinking of the believer as well. For once an outside source is set as authoritative over Scripture then all of Scripture must be in a constant state of scrutiny. This is different than our approaching Scripture always with an understanding that our preconceived notions of what it teaches may need to be changed. This scrutiny is of the Bible itself. It is a constant wondering if it is correct seeing as “science” seems to contradict it or at least give seemingly believable explanations for things. Or if we appeal to archeology then there is always not quite enough evidence to “exactly” prove the veracity of Scripture. This leads the Christian on a search to prove what doesn’t need proving. Eventually faith will dissipates and we want explanations for everything and begin to hold Scripture in suspicion unless we can prove to the unbeliever’s satisfaction that it is true.
Extra biblical sources are good, but they are never effective in converting an individual. They may provide hurdles for an unregenerate man to jump over, but he will jump over them. Extra biblical sources provide data that can be interpreted by one’s presupposition. For example – we see order in the universe and patterns in nature. The Biblicists says it evidences it’s Creator, the unregenerate will claim it is a process of billions of years of evolutionary sequences. We see a consistent morality in every human as evidence of God’s law written on their heart, the unregenerate may give evolution as an answer to that, or just social traditions passed down as the reason for morality. We must give them God’s truth as the primary authority.
We are to employ apologetics; we are to reason with men (for our faith is reasonable – contrary to the popular opinion of unbelievers), but we are to reason from the Scriptures. We reason with the Scriptures as our foundation, rather than reason being our starting point in trying to prove the Scriptures true.
The reformers called it “Sola Scriptura”. The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to pen it this way in Acts 17:2: “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,”
My desire is to be thoroughly “Sola Scriptura” in all I do, as I hope
is evident quickly as you read through this. Although I am going to
begin with a premise given to me many times over by those who condemn
contemporary music. I address this mistaken illustration initially
because anything can be proven from a false premise.
The illustration often used to prove the morality of music goes
something like this:
If I write a letter, then that letter has no moral quality. It is
neither good nor bad as it stands alone, but when I put letters
together to form words it then has value as it communicates something.
Color is the same way. Red is neither good or bad, but can be used to
paint pictures that have moral value.
The illustration then says music is the same. A single note is amoral,
but string that not along with other notes and it begins to
communicate, and once communication occurs the it is either good or
The problem with this illustration is that it is not founded upon an
accurate understanding of any of the forms of communication it uses in
the illustration. It is true that all three forms of communication are
moral, and it is true that a single letter, color, or note does not
have moral value. It is also true that once communication occurs it
carries a moral message. It fails to realize that all three of these
are not just communication forms but art forms as well. This
illustration, in not allowing for variation of style, subtly
encourages one to subjectively place the moral value completely upon
the style instead of the what is being communicated. Let me show you
what I mean by recasting the illustration in a more accurate light:
If I write a letter, that letter has no moral quality, but letters
combined make words. Even still, these words do not have a moral
quality unless they are combined to communicate ideas. It is the
sentence that communicates. I can use the word “God” positively or
negatively. It is not just the word, but the context in which it’s
used. Then there is style. One can employ prose (and in various forms)
essay, etc. Various styles will better carry the message. Even
Scripture employs different writing styles throughout, which will
determine how the words employed are interpreted.
A color, standing alone, is neither good or bad. But when employed to
paint a picture, that picture takes on a moral quality. But this
picture can be painted in the style of Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, or a
myriad of others.
Now let’s move to music. A stand alone note is not good or bad, but to
string them together in a melody begins to communicate. But I can take
the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle” (a Mozart melody) and play that in
All factors combine to make a whole, not just the stringing together
of letters to make words, colors to make pictures, or notes to make
melodies; but one must also account for style in the evaluation of
music. Monet was an impressionistic painter, his lines were not as
much defined as Rembrandt’s’ seemingly exasperatingly detailed
portraits, but both have beauty and both can be used to draw
positively and negatively moral things. But style in art enables us to
say things through the combination of all those elements in powerful
ways we otherwise would not be able to say.
Just as there are some forms of art that are truly not art but the
equivalent of setting of a bomb in a paint shop, so every style of
music is not acceptable – but then again it would be agreed that both
in artistry and music those unacceptable styles have no symmetry or
beauty to them but are products of chaos. We must be careful not to
impose our musical preferences as the determining factor of what is
good and what is not.
So, a quick recap before we move on:
1.Music is not just a language, but an art.
2.Art have varying styles in which it communicates
3.The same style can be used for good or evil
4.There are some exceptions to the rule above, but those exceptions
are few (styles rooted in chaos)
5.We must not elevate our preferences as the determiner of good and pad style.
Does this sound complex? If so then you’re beginning to see that the
reductionism taken by those who want to simply dismiss contemporary
music out of hand has skirted the issues. This reductionism fits quite
well when trying to make areas black and white that Scripture doesn’t
address in those terms.
(to be continued…)
“It is time to turn away from all this; to rub our eyes, and look clearly at the path by
which we and our culture have come. It is time to turn back again, following the old
sola scriptura principle, to the source and origin of one of the great doctrines of the
New Testament: that when, through God’s effective call (sola gratia) in the preaching
of the gospel of Jesus Christ (solus Christus), someone comes to believe that he is the
risen Messiah and Lord, God thereupon (sola fide) declares in advance what he will
declare on the last day when he raises that person from the dead: this person is in the right, their sins have been forgiven, they are part of the single, true, worldwide
covenant family promised to Abraham, the sign of the coming new creation and the
counter-sign to the boast of Caesar. Justification is ultimately about justice, about God
putting the world to rights, with his chosen and called people as the advance guard of
that new creation, charged with being and bringing signs of hope, of restorative
justice, to the world. Let’s put the justice back in justification; and, as we do so,
remind ourselves whose justice it is, and why. Soli Deo Gloria! Having thus stolen
Luther’s slogans, I thought I might end with ‘Here I stand’; but let me rather say it in
Paul’s language. hode hesteka; allo ou dunamai.”