Choosing to Walk in a Fog
There are a multitude of ways that one can defend the Christian faith. My last post was meant to highlight one way, a way that has enormous cultural, political, and social implications. It has those implications because it is fundamentally gospel-centered and gospel driven; its focus is not on the cultural, political or social. Its focus is on the redemption that is ours in Christ alone. If that focus is maintained, then the effects downstream will be seen and felt, in a variety of ways and contexts.
As we saw last time, however, it is the clear and steadfast conviction that Christ, and Christ alone, is Lord that motivates such a defense. I well remember in my nascent years as a Christian the debates that were raging over whether we receive Christ as Savior only when we are converted, or whether we receive him as Lord as well. With all due respect to those who endured such debates, they seem silly to me now and are not really worthy of the time and energy they consumed back then.
Peter's point, though (in 1 Peter 3:15), is a bit different from that. In commanding us to set Christ apart as Lord, his point is not whether one has received Christ as Savior, or as Savior and Lord, not at all. Peter's point is that, if one is to be adequately prepared to give an answer for one's Christian faith, the Lordship of Christ must be a solid and unwavering commitment of one's heart.
But why? Again, the answer is as simple as it is profound - because that is what He is. The specific command that Peter gives can be stated more generally. We are to think about, and live in, the world according to what it really is, and not according to how it might at times appear to us. More on this in a minute. As Peter writes to these persecuted and scattered Christians, he recognizes that it must surely be one of their paramount temptations to begin to interpret their circumstances in such a way that Christ is not Lord. It may begin, in the midst of their suffering, to look like someone else is in charge. After all, if Christ were Lord, how could these things be happening?
As a matter of fact, the Lordship of Christ explains why "these things are happening." The Lordship of Christ is the conclusion to His own suffering and humiliation. It is because He was obedient, even to death on a cross, that He has been given the name that is above every name. It is because He suffered that every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. The road to His exaltation was paved with blood, sweat and tears. If we are to be exalted with Him on that last day, ours will be so paved as well. With all of the attendant mysteries surrounding the suffering of Job, two words from God himself -- "My servant" (Job 1:8, 2:3) -- initiate our understanding of what Job was called to endure. As Job was called to be a suffering servant, Christ was the quintessential Suffering Servant (Is. 53). Those who know their Redeemer lives (Job 19:25), who are called to be united to Him, will be suffering servants with Him.
The Lordship of Christ is basic to our defense of Christianity. Christ now reigns. He is Lord. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. That authority is the prerequisite to the command to make disciples. Without that authority, baptism and disciple-making in and for the church are meaningless. All things have been placed under His feet and Christ has been given as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22). The process of history is the process of making Christ's enemies a footstool for His feet. That footstool is being built because He is Lord. Just like Jesus' earthly father, His heavenly Father is a carpenter. He's building a footstool for His Son (see, for example, Acts 2:35, Heb. 1:13, 10:13).
So, wherever you go, to whomever you speak, Christ is Lord there, and He is Lord over that person. Since He is Lord, His truth is truth in every place, and for every person. The same Christ who rules over you, rules over those who oppose Him. The fact that someone has not set Christ apart as Lord in his heart in no way detracts from or undermines the central point that He is Lord. At least two implications of this truth are important to remember.
The first implication is that truth is not relative. Most Christians agree with that point, even if they don't quite understand it. I remember years ago reading Alan Bloom's bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom began that book by noting what was patently obvious then and what is even more pronounced today. He said that there was one cardinal affirmation that every college student believed - "Truth is relative." He went on to say that it was such a part of the fabric of our culture and our way of thinking that it was thought to need no argument; to demand an argument would be to misunderstand the status of that truth. The bedrock conviction that truth is relative, Bloom asserted, was as ingrained in the American psyche as baseball and apple pie; it was the air that we breathed."Truth is relative" -- ironically, that proposition alone seemed to be universally affirmed (thus was, itself, not relative).
The sinful power of self-deception cannot be underestimated in this regard. The power of sin in us makes us adept anosognosiacs (look it up). In our sins, we have an uncanny ability to fashion a world that has all the substance of an ethereal fog. If anything is patently obvious on the face of it, it is that truth cannot be relative. The notion itself betrays a decided lack of self-awareness and a stubborn blindness to the "big picture." At the micro and the macro levels, we live and move and have our being in the God who alone is truth. Anyone who wants to argue that truth is relative betrays, by that argument, that it cannot be. Anyone who wants to hold that truth is relative, but pretends apathy about the matter, and thus eschews argument, is like David Hume who plays backgammon even though he knows that such an act annihilates his own philosophy. So the relativistic air that we think we breathe turns out to be a sleight of hand; it's a magician's illusion.
The point for the Christian, however, and the point to stand on in our apologetic, is that the truth of Christ's Lordship - which not only includes the fact that He now reigns, but also that He has spoken and that all owe allegiance to Him - is true for anyone and everyone. Christ is Lord even over His enemies, and over ours. And part of what this means is that the authority of Scripture, which is the verbal expression of Christ's Lordship, is authoritative even over those who reject it. The Bible is authoritative, not because we accept it as such, but because it is the Word of the risen Lord. It has a claim on all people. Its truth is the truth for every person in every place. Why, then, would we be reluctant to communicate that truth in our apologetics? Perhaps because we have not reckoned with the actual Lordship of Christ. Perhaps we haven't really set Him apart as Lord in our hearts.
The second implication, which we have already broached, is that we must base our defense of Christianity on reality, and reality is what God says it is. What we dare not do in our apologetic is let the enemy choose the weapon. Any enemy worth his salt will choose a weapon that fires in only one direction. But we are called to use the weapons that the Lord himself has given us. "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4). The weapons of our warfare are divine weapons, and they have their focus in the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).
Why choose these weapons? Because they are God's weapons, given to us by God so that we can "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). In other words, they are the real and true weapons that God has given to us to fight the good fight. They are the weapons through which God is building His Son's footstool. They are the weapons that alone have the power to subdue the enemy. They are the weapons that alone are used for footstool construction.
There is more to be said on this point, and more will be said later. But the basic principle is this: our apologetic must proceed on the basis of reality and not on the basis of illusion. We must proceed according to what Christ the Lord has told us, not according to what our enemies have decided is "appropriate." We view our apologetic, and we proceed in it, as in the rest of life, through the 20/20 lenses of Holy Scripture. Anything less would be like choosing to walk in a fog in order to see more clearly.
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