11/2/12

Bahnsen Cubed

This is my third posting regarding the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen and his apologetic methods. In this episode, I will cover Bahnsen's argument that neutrality is not only a myth, but is downright immoral due to the presuppositions its adherents adopt. So, let us hear from Dr. Bahnsen.

"Attempting to be neutral in one's intellectual endeavors (whether research, argumentation, reasoning, or teaching) is tantamount to striving to erase the antithesis between the Christian and the unbeliever. Christ declared that the former was set apart from the latter by the truth of God's Word (John 17:17). Those who wish to gain dignity in the eyes of the world's intellectuals by wearing the badge of "neutrality" only do so at the expense of refusing to be set apart by God's truth. In the intellectual realm they are absorbed into the world so that no one could tell the difference between their thinking and assumptions and apostate thinking and assumptions. The line between believer and unbeliever is obscured.

Such indiscrimination in one's intellectual life not only precludes genuine knowledge (cf. Prov. 1:7) and guarantees vain delusion (cf. Col. 2:3-8), it is downright immoral." (Bahnsen, Always Ready, pp. 7-8)

How can the good Doctor make such a claim? I mean, don't most Christians try to find some sort of common ground with the unbeliever when speaking to them? Isn't this what we are supposed to do? Most Christians would answer this in the affirmative, seeking to find a common ground to relate to the unbeliever. But, this is precisely what not to do. "What fellowship has light with darkness?" (2Co 6:14), the Apostle Paul asks. Bahnsen continues,

"In Ephesians 4:17-18, Paul commands the followers of Christ that they "no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance in them, because of the hardening of their heart." Christian believers must not walk, must not behave or live, in a way which imitates the behavior of those who are unredeemed; specifically, Paul forbids the Christian from imitating the unbeliever's vanity of mind. Christians must refuse to think or reason according to a worldly mind-set or outlook. The culpable agnosticism of the world's intellectuals must not be reproduced in Christians as alleged neutrality; this outlook, this approach to truth, this intellectual method evidences a darkened understanding and hardened heart. It refuses to bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of life, including scholarship and the world of thought." (Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 8)

Dr. Bahnsen lays it on thick here. In essence, his argumentation in this regard is very much saying "A man cannot serve two masters" (Matt 6:24). Granted, the original sermon on the mount statement made by Our Lord was in reference to God and money (or mammon), but the same principle is applicable here. The apologist cannot serve Christ in the realm of theology but adopt secular presuppositions (which cannot account for anything rational or universal) in order to find a neutral common ground with the unbeliever in the apologetics arena.

"One has to make this basic choice in his thinking: to be set apart by God's truth or to be alienated from the life of God. It cannot be two ways. One shall be set apart, set against, or alienated from either the world or the word of God. He will stand in contrast to that intellectual method which he refuses to follow. He either refuses to follow God's word or he refuses to follow the vain mind-set of the Gentiles. He distinguishes himself and his thinking either by contrast to the world or by contrast to God's word. The contrast, the antithesis, the choice is clear: either be set apart by God's truthful word or be alienated from the life of God. Either have "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16) or the "vain mind of the Gentiles" (Eph. 4:17). Either "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5) or continue as "enemies in your mind" (Col 1:21)." (Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 9)

Now Dr. Bahnsen really gets rolling. His point is clear. Either a person will submit to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of their life or they will not. He continues,

"Those who follow the intellectual principle of neutrality and the epistemological method of unbelieving scholarship do not honor the sovereign Lordship of God as they should; as a result their reasoning is made vain (Rom. 1:21). In Ephesians 4, as we have seen, Paul prohibits the Christian from following this vain mind-set. Paul goes on to teach that the believer's thinking is diametrically contrary to the ignorant and darkened thinking of the Gentiles. "But you did not learn Christ after this manner!" (v. 20). While the Gentiles are ignorant, "the truth is in Jesus" (v. 21). Unlike the Gentiles who are alienated from the life of God, the Christian has put away the old man and has been "renewed in the spirit of your mind" (v. 22-23). This "new man" is distinctive in virtue of the "holiness of truth" (v. 24). The Christian is completely different from the world when it comes to intellect and scholarship; he does not follow the neutral methods of unbelief, but by God's grace he has new commandments, new presuppositions, in his thinking." (Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 8-9)

These are cutting statements, especially in light of the fact that most professing Christians do in fact adopt the vain thinking of the Gentiles that Paul refers to in Ephesians 4. They do in fact adopt the same modus operandi as the unbeliever, seeking to prove God from secular presuppositions that in fact are an attempt to suppress the truth. So Bahnsen concludes,

"Therefore, the Christian who strives after neutrality in his thought is found actually to be endeavoring to efface the fact that he is a Christian! By denying his distinctive religious commitment he is reduced to apostate thought patterns and absorbed into the world of unbelief. Attempting to find a compromise between the demands of worldly neutrality (agnosticism) and the doctrine's of Christ's word results in the rejection of Christ's distinctive Lordship by obliterating the great gulf between the thinking of the old man and that of the new man.

No such compromise is even possible. "No man is able to serve two lords" (Matt. 6:24). It should come as no surprise that, in a world where all things have been created by Christ (Col. 1:16) and are carried along by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3) and where all knowledge is therefore deposited in Him who is The Truth (Col. 2:3; John 14:6) and who must be Lord over all thinking (2 Cor. 10:5), neutrality is nothing short of immorality. "Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4)." (Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 9)

And there we have it. A Christian who refuses to submit to the Lordship of Christ in his intellectual endeavors is someone who is as of yet holding hands with the world -and not Christ- in a very key area. Instead of proclaiming the truth in this manner, they actually end up joining the unbelieving world in suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18-23). Sadly, most apologists do indeed adopt this line of thinking when it comes to apologetics in an attempt to speak from a neutral (read: worldly, agnostic) position in an effort to prove God, never stopping to think that nothing can be proved apart from God, since the absence of God destroys the presence of certainty (e.g. absolute truth). Without the Christian God, we cannot know anything and cannot prove anything, for there is no basis for anything abstract, universal, or uniform (uniformity of nature) in a universe apart from the Christian God.

11/1/12

The Evangelical Obsession With Satan

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ~1 Peter 5:8

In addition to the excellent book on apologetics I have been reading, authored by Dr. Greg Bahnsen, I have also had my nose in another book written by John MacArthur entitled Our Sufficiency in Christ. In it, he exposes the modern day obsession of Christians with Satan. His analysis, in my judgment, is spot on.

MacArthur opines, "I am amazed at the number of Christians being drawn into the burgeoning "spiritual warfare" movement. I am convinced it represents an unhealthy obsession with Satan and demonic powers. Judging from the turnouts, thousands of Christians really believe that if they don't attend a spiritual warfare boot camp and learn some strategy for fighting demons, Satan will have them for breakfast." (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 214)

Now take careful note what MacArthur is and is not saying. He is saying that he believes that this participation in the spiritual warfare movement is unhealthy and represents a foolish obsession with Satan within the Christian community. He is not saying that spiritual warfare is a fiction and does not exist.

He continues: "Is that true? Is there some secret strategy to be learned from "experts" in the art of spiritual warfare? Do Christians need to study mystic teachings for confronting and commanding evil forces, "binding" the devil, "breaking the strongholds" of territorial demons, and other complex strategems of metaphysical combat? Is it simplistic to think that the basic armor described in Ephesians 6 is sufficient to keep us from being breakfast for Satan?" (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 215)

The short answer is, why do we need to be trained by certain incantations to get rid of Satan? I will also propose another idea that needs to be considered. Is Satan omnipresent like God? That is, is Satan available to be everywhere all at once? If so, then many evangelicals may be right, Satan attacks them all the time. However, what Scripture do we have that supports this idea? Simply put, we have none. Scripture never tells us that Satan is omnipresent. It does tell us, however, that God is. My conclusion is that yes, Satan does go after the saints, but not all at once at the same time.

MacArthur continues, "Absolutely not. One of the glorious truths of our sufficiency in Christ is that we are alredy more than conquerors in the great cosmic spiritual warfare (Rom. 8:37). Satan is already a defeated foe (Col. 2:15, 1 Pet 3:22)."  (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 215)

Why then are we so obsessed with Satan? Is he our enemy? Yes, absolutely. Are we supposed to seek him out and defeat him? Nope. In fact, Christ already defeated him via his work. Let us see what the Scriptures have to say about this topic.

Colossians 2:15: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Matthew 12:25-29: Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

In fact, I would argue strongly that Christ already has bound Satan. That does not mean that Satan doesn't exist or that Satan doesn't stir up strife or attack the saints. But it does mean that Christ, through His work, has defeated him already. The idea that God is trying really hard to defeat Satan and He needs our help to do it is absurd. Satan is already defeated. He is already bound. He has not once been able to rally the whole world together to make war against the saints since the work of Christ was completed at Calvary.

MacArthur continues, "Certainly we are involved in an ongoing "struggle...against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). But Christ is already the Victor in this spiritual war. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians, he was not suggesting that they view their conflict with the powers of darkness as a battle whose outcome still hung in the balance. He was telling them they needed to "be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (v. 10); to "stand firm" (vv. 11, 13); to use the spiritual armor - truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and God's Word - to resist the schemes of the devil. They were to fight from a position of victory, not out of fear that Satan might make them toast." (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 215)

How different this is than what is commonly portrayed and practiced today!

"Nor was the apostle suggesting that the church should infiltrate confrontations with evil principalities and powers. There's no need for Christians to seek to engage Satan in combat. Nowhere in Scripture are we ever encouraged to do so. On the contrary, we are to "be of sober spirit, [and] be on the alert," for he (Satan) prowls around like a roaring, devouring lion (1 Pet 5:8). After all, who is after whom?" (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 215-216)

Excellent insight here from MacArthur. We are never commanded to seek out Satan and engage him. Why would a Christian ever want to do that? I'll let MacArthur have the final word.

"Since Satan is pursuing us, how do we keep from becoming instant breakfast? Certainly not by chasing after him, hunting him down, attempting to bind him, commanding him, or rebuking him with some incantation. We simply "resist the devil and he will flee" (James 4:7). Why? Because the One who indwells every believer is greater than the devil (1 John 4:4) - and all the powers of hell know it (Matt 8:28-32).


That a movement so obsessed with Satan and his minions could suddenly gain popularity among Bible-believing Christians is proof of the influence mysticism has had in the church. Many of the tactics these self-styled experts in spiritual warfare are advocating have no Scriptural warrant whatsoever. They are the fruit of mysticism run amok. Those who advocate them speak as if they had great authority, but the truth is you won't find biblical support for most of the techniques they recommend. Where does Scripture indicate, for example, that Christians should band together to wage prayer wars against crime and traffic jams or exorcise phenomena like the Bermuda Triangle?

Worst of all, such teaching actually encourages Christians to dabble in demonic affaris or to live in fear and superstition. That is exactly contrary to God's design. We are to equip ourselves for spiritual warfare by becoming experts in righteousness, not by focusing our thoughts and energies on the enemy and fearing his power (Phil 4:8, Rom 16:19).

To put it another way, our sufficiency in Christ fits us for the battle. The spiritual resources we gain in Him are sufficient to sustain us in the face of the enemy - apart from any maneuvers that might be learned in some spiritual warfare seminar. "We are not ignorant of his schemes" (2Cor 2:11); we have a greater power indwelling us (1 John 4:4); and we have God's own promise of absolute security in Christ (Rom 8:38-39)." (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, p. 216-217)

Indeed, it is Christ alone who has won the victory over Satan, sin, and death. Only in Him - and not by seeking out Satan and engaging Him - are we victorious. Precisely because He alone is the Victor. It's not "me and God against the devil." Satan is not sovereign, God is. Christ alone has already won.