Monday, January 13, 2014

Christianity is Realism. Press the Gospel!


Pastor Stephen Feinstein

Hello everyone. I am glad to get back to this blog. Military duties pressed me for time and I was unable to keep up with my original planned pace. With that being said, I think it is more realistic for me to post on this blog two or three times a week rather than five days a week. So please check back every few days to see if there is a new post. With that, I can move towards today's subject. 

Last time, I wrote on how the shift below the line of despair moved from art to music and then to the general culture. The next and final step below the
line is theology. However, that will be the topic of the next post. Francis Schaeffer pauses after general culture to identify one more time what the unifying factor is in the line of despair. He then seeks to exhort and encourage Christians with this knowledge.

The unifying factor is nothing other than the way people understand truth. Philosophy, art, music, literature, theater, cinema, etc., all understand truth in terms of synthesis rather than antithesis. If these terms are unfamiliar, then see the following post where these concepts were defined in a simple way: Philosophers Below the Line of Despair. Each discipline mentioned so far might choose to use different vocabulary to describe "truth," but they all ultimately are saying the same thing. Truth is not absolute. Truth is relative to the individual and society. Truth is arrived at through a process of combining ideas and beliefs together. This makes sense under the atheistic worldview since a chance-based universe can provide no real objective meaning. However, there are theological or religious flavors of this philosophy too, but they often define God as the universe or history itself.

Christians, in contrast, understand "truth" in terms of antithesis. Objective truth exists, and therefore some things are true while others are false. Some things are right, while other things are wrong. The existence of God is the ground of all objective reality. He is the ground of truth. He is the ground of standards.

Schaeffer believed that Christians in many ways should be glad that this shift happened. Prior to the plummet below the line of despair, people held to a romantic and optimistic humanism. They were atheistic, and yet they believed in antithesis.  They believed in standards. They believed in
objectivity. They believed that humanity was the judge and jury of setting and evaluating such standards. People believed in the Enlightenment Era's nonsensical ideas that man can be perfected, that we are generally good, and that the world is a good place. The problems that exist in the world were supposedly nothing more than minor hiccups that man would fix with the scientific method. There was a general feeling of optimism in humanity. God was removed as the standard setter. If He existed, He was said to be unknowable, therefore, He could not set standards for us. So the Bible was dethroned and supposedly refuted as nothing more than myths written by primitive Hebrews. Rather than having theology as the queen of the sciences
where the Christian worldview could be the grand unifying theory, fallen man moved theology to the back of the line, and sought a unifying factor in humanism.

This actually made it quite difficult for Christians of that era to evangelize. People held to a false objectivity. Had Christians used presuppositional apologetics back then, they could have easily shown these humanists that their presuppositions were impossible, and therefore their conclusions were folly. Well, that didn't happen. Instead, philosophers followed the implications of their atheistic philosophy to their conclusion. Meaning is nonexistent, and therefore absolute truth does not exist. The artists, in their depression, followed suit. Then came the music composers, and then everyone else. It did not help that two world wars, a great depression, and the use of nuclear weapons all happened within a 30 year period. These events forever buried the false optimism of humanism. Now people live below the line of despair. They are depressed. They see no meaning. There is nothing that grounds them in reality.

And yet this is our great opportunity. Romanticism is dead, but that is no problem for Christianity. Christianity is a worldview of realism. Christianity is a worldview that even declares itself to be realist. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-18 Paul writes, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." Paul got it. There is no room for silly romantic notions here. Christianity is either true or it is false. If it is false, then we are pitiful people. He makes no room for foolish ideas such as Christ merely being an ideal that lives in our hearts. That does us no good. The Bible pushes for antithesis. Something is either true or false. Thanks be to God that Christianity is true. Paul triumphantly concludes in verse 20, "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead." The amount of evidence in favor of this is massive. For example, Gary Habermas debated noted atheist Anthony Flew over this topic, and the debate judges (who were secular) gave the victory to Habermas. Rationally speaking, the evidence was undeniable. So we hold to the truth. And our faith makes no false pretenses of inward truth that is devoid of outward objective reality.

This is good for the world below the line of despair. Those who are below the line see the world as a hopeless place with no meaning other than that which they artificially choose. And we too see the world as a messed up place. We agree with them that the answer is not found in humanity. However, since they reject the objective reality grounded upon God, they cannot rightly diagnose what is wrong with the world, nor can they effectively fix our woes. They realize their helplessness, which removes all hope. Yet, we can diagnose the world rightly. We can also show them deep down that they do in fact live by absolutes. We can show them the many inconsistencies in their way of thought. We can still use presuppositional apologetics to demonstrate to them that the God of the Bible is the necessary precondition of everything that exists. He is the ground of all reality. He is the ground of nature and its uniformity. He is the ground of the laws of logic. He is the ground of all absolute concepts. He is the grand unifying theory.

We simply need to push the antithesis. We need to maintain that standards absolutely exist. We need to point to the fact that God is the ground of such standards. We must show them that the image of God within them cannot be denied. This is why they betray their claims to synthesis. This is why they act as though truth exists. More can be said on this and would be if I were writing this from a standpoint of apologetics. However, my purpose is simply to encourage Christians to continue to push the antithesis. Continue to share the gospel. Man one hundred years ago clung to a false hope that blinded them to the gospel. Today man admits he has no hope, and thus the real and true offer of hope will shine in great contrast to man's hopelessness now more than ever before. The harvest is plenty as the Lord said.

Of course, it is necessary to end with a warning. Too many Christians do not think about thinking. They do not reflect on worldview matters. Thus, they think in terms of synthesis rather than antithesis. They bought into the postmodern lie. For this reason, we have not stood out in sharp contrast to the world. Instead, we have been just as hypocritical as they are and in many instances we have proven ourselves to be more inconsistent. We lose our voice when we lose our antithesis. Why? Because in a world of synthesis, our objective truth is treated as though it is our relative meaning that we chose for ourselves. It is seen as having no value and no power to change the world. When Christians sit down and act like this false view is right, it only turns people further away from Christ. In actuality, the bolder we are, the more contrarian we are, and the more consistent we are in maintaining a biblical worldview, the more the world will notice, for they will not be able to ignore us. Many will hate us, but many will have their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.

It is tempting to sell out like the liberal theologians and churches do, but they truly have no respect from the fallen world. They are seen as a sick inconsistent joke. Since they live below the line of despair and think accordingly, they have lost their voice. True Christians, in contrast, are in the greatest position to gain our voice back in way that is louder than ever. And it is all because we think according to the Christian worldview. May we grow in our Christ-centered thinking and watch our voices grow louder and louder for the truth. Until next time, God bless.

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