When I look at the world around me, everything I see is proof, not only of God's existence, but also of providence, His wise organization and care of both myself and the rest of mankind and the world. Yet, unbelievers demand proof of God's existence. It is comparable to a man in a lifeboat in the middle of the sea demanding proof of the existence of water. This is a clash of perspective, of course, but, more importantly a clash of natures. The believing mind has been taken into a relationship with God, and thus recognizes all things as centered upon Him. The unbelieving mind, however, desires to rule for itself, and thus must retain a blind spot over God in its world.
When the Christian apologist seeks to perform his ministry on the basis of commonality between himself and an unbeliever, then he runs into this unbridgeable gap and is necessarily stymied.
In his description of the Man of Sin (probably equivalent to John's Antichrist), Paul tells us (II Thessalonians 2:9-10), "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." The Apostle tells us that "those who are perishing," i. e., unbelievers, will be vulnerable to the deceptions of Satan through this man, not because of ignorance, but because of a willful refusal to accept the truth. In other words, they close their minds to biblical truth, and are thus left susceptible to spiritual deception.
The same apostle makes a similar comment in I Corinthians 1:18: "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." And again in I Corinthians 2:14: "The natural person does not accept the things
of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to
understand them because they are spiritually discerned." In the unbelieving mind, there is an a priori judgment that the spiritual truths regarding God, sin, and redemption, are foolishness, not by a process of reasoning, but rather because of an inherent condition of his heart. His spiritual nature blocks his rational openness to those truths.
The Lord Jesus explained to His disciples the principle that results in the conditions described by Paul (John 14:16-17): "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him." It is the Holy Spirit who creates the gulf between the believer and the unbeliever. A believer is not smarter or morally superior to the unbeliever. Rather, the presence of the Spirit in Him renders him able to understand. And His absence leaves the unbeliever clinging desperately to his refusal to understand. Thus, where Paul says that truth is "spiritually discerned," he isn't talking about a man's spirit, for both classes of men have spirits. he is talking about the action of the Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.
39 Articles—Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude (4)
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