On today’s Tuesday Tea-ology, the testimony of our moral sense to the reality of God. Also, an encomium on the virtues of Yorkshire Red. Well, a commendation, at least.
The story hit the news the other day that Mark Galli, who retired as editor of Christianity Today at the beginning of this year, has crossed the Tiber (i.e., converted from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism). This was not, of course, a split-second decision; one wonders if there is any connection with CT putting Pope Francis on the cover in 2014. It is, at least, suggestive that perhaps not everyone at CT understood why justification by faith is so very important.
That’s an awful thing to not understand. It’s sad to read stories like Galli’s, where, as far as the news report has it, his conversion seems motivated by outward structure and ritual and tradition–and for that, he will embrace a church that denies the truth of the gospel by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Those three ‘alone’s are some of the key elements of the Protestant Reformation. Ritual and liturgy, history and unity, are not nearly enough to outweigh those three ‘alone’s. Let us grant that many evangelical churches are shallow and over-politicized, that the Protestant world is absurdly fractured and painfully fractious; let us grant that we have much reformation to undertake. None of that is good reason to trade away justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
We cannot earn the gift of salvation. It is God’s gift, and we can only receive, if we believe. Christ alone can make us holy and whole.
Continuing ruminations about musician Jon Steingard’s departure from the faith, I want to draw attention to the methodology used by one apologist, Robin Schumacher, in trying to appeal to Steingard. In a piece in the Christian Post, Schumacher invited Steingard to consider the evidence for God and Christ, specifically without reference to Scripture.
This is a tricky matter, and I want to be clear that I’m not wholly out of sympathy with what Schumacher is saying. It’s true that the world is sufficient evidence for men to conclude that God exists; it’s true that the life of Jesus is historically attested; it’s true that the non-biblical evidence for the reality of the resurrection, via the witness of the disciples and the rapid growth of the church, should be taken seriously. These are real apologetic claims in defense of the reasonableness of Christianity, and have their value.
What I find problematic is the wisdom of appealing to someone with such pronounced exclusion of the Bible from the discussion. Again, I understand, we want to reach people where they’re at, and Steingard doesn’t seem like someone who’s going to see the Bible as very authoritative. But there is a sense–and I think Schumacher misses this–that the authority of Scripture abides even when someone is deliberately resistant to it.
For Schumacher says of belief in God, “you don’t need to reference the Bible to have confidence in this fact”, “You heard me right–you don’t need your Bible for this one”, and “you don’t need to open your Bible to reach a conclusion” on the evidences for a Creator. Three times he hammers the point in the space of a short article. This runs the danger, I think, of pursuing a disarmed apologetic.
In the first place, we may question how much understanding man is capable of apart from the illuminating work of the Spirit. While the world IS adequate testimony to the existence of God, sin has so corrupted mankind that we suppress the truth (Rom. 1). That the cosmos justifies belief in God, and that fallen humans will see that justification apart from the gift of faith, are two different things.
But, even more, Scripture is the greatest weapon in the apologetic arsenal, the sword of the Spirit, God’s testimony to Himself. How can we possibly set it aside and try to persuade men without it?
For the Bible is the Word of God written. God has spoken, by the Holy Spirit, through the inspired writers. And God’s Word is authoritative, powerful, transforming. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Going into battle without your sword is an obvious tactical mistake. Disarmed apologetics is not the approach we should take towards a lost and dying world.