False Teachers and Itching Ears – A Match Made in Hell

Some things never change, and the topic of false teachers arising from within the church spoken of in 2 Peter is one of those timeless lessons:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Also just as relevant today as when it was penned is the Apostle Paul’s advice to young Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound. teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4: 1-4)

Combine false teachers and itching ears and you have the perfect match. The false teachers in our midst peddle destructive man centered heresies, and people with itching ears flock to them to have their passions validated and listen to promises of their fulfillment.

Nothing new here……move along?

Not just yet – not without a word concerning ‘destructive heresies’.

The above scripture connects destructive heresies to sinful human passions In other words, tell people how they can have all of their temporal wishes and desires and you have a winner. You can start your own church in your living room, and if you repackage the same old lies, you might even end up a megachurch with campuses all over town!

So what do these heresies look like today? Good question. The term ‘dream destiny’ comes almost immediately to mind. I hear it quite a lot these days. We are even told that the dream destiny/personal vision we have in our hearts and minds is God given! Furthermore, if we don’t yet have a personal dream destiny, we probably haven’t had a real encounter with God (but that’s a separate subject). If you are old like me (mid-60s) and have been paying attention to trends in today’s churches (especially megachurches), you might observed the same thing I have. Or, you might think I’ve been smoking whacky weed (I do live in Colorado, after all).

I think that today’s ‘dream destiny’ is yesterday’s ‘purpose’. Although personal ambition has always been a part of the human construct, I think that ‘self-centered’ Christianity was kicked into high gear when “The Purpose Driven Life” was first published in 2002. The author, Rick Warren, was slick. In the first few pages he tells us that life’s all about God. With that thought in the back of our minds, helped along with a gentle reminder now and again, the book proceeds to help us, and center on, discovering our individual, tailor made, God given purpose for living.

The book became the second best seller in human history, we are told. An small ‘industry’ was spawned that included a partnership with Reader’s Digest in order to “provide a suite of bundled multimedia tools: The Purpose Driven Connection, a quarterly magazine; small group study materials delivered in DVDs, workbooks and downloadable discussion guides; and a state-of-the-art Christian social networking Web site.”

Fast forward to 2015. While we don’t hear so much about being ‘purpose driven’ anymore, we sure hear about ‘personal visions’ and ‘dream destinies’, even from Pastor Rick. Terminology has changed, and quite naturally! Once we have our God designed special purpose figured out we need to move on and grow into something ‘more’, something ‘bigger’ – our personal ‘destiny’!

Our need for Christ is no longer based on the need for a savior from our sin (its penalty, power over us in this life, and its very presence in the future), but it’s based on fulfilling our own special purpose and destiny in this life.

We now have a form of ‘Christianity’ so self-centered it hardly resembles the New Testament church or the teaching of the Apostles, to which early believers were so devoted. (See Acts, Chapter 2). In fact, it opposes many of the teachings of Christ himself! In other words, the combination of ‘false teachers’ and ‘itching ears’ has turned Christianity completely on its head! A match made in Hell, indeed!

______________

As an afterthought (not really), consider for a few moments the following passages of scripture and what our attitude should be concerning things temporal:

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12: 2)

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Why the World Hates Christians

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:18-25)

1. We’re not part of the world’s system, but have been called out of the world. (v. 19)

2. The world hates Christ and a servant is not above his master. Christ was persecuted and his followers will be persecuted. (v. 18, 20)

3. The world not only does not know God, the world Hats God and his Son. (vv. 21, 23)

4. To fulfill scripture. (v. 25 [Ps 69:4])

HT: John MacArthur

If you would like to watch or listen to the sermons from which the above points were taken, use the following links.

http://www.gty.org/resources/Sermons/43-85/Why-the-World-Hates-Christians-Part-1

http://www.gty.org/resources/Sermons/43-86/Why-the-World-Hates-Christians-Part-2

Evangelism Tip: Two Religions

by Jordan Standridge, The Cripplegate

In 1915, Coca-Cola and its bottling partners decided to issue a creative challenge to a handful of U.S. glass companies: develop a “bottle so distinct that you would recognize it by feeling it in the dark or lying broken on the ground.”

image Because they believed the taste to be so unique, and the sales proved them to be right, they wanted the bottle to be as unique as the taste. They envisioned a scenario where people would reach their hand into a cooler looking for a Coca-Cola, and they wanted to make sure that the individual would be able to easily identify the bottle and grab it.

When we share the gospel we want to show Christianity as what it truly is; the only way to Heaven. We want people to walk away from the Gospel conversation understanding that there is nothing else like it. We want to make the Gospel stand-out from all other religions, in light of the fact that the Devil attempts to make all religions indistinguishable. The best way I have learned to do this is, is through the “two-religion” method.

No matter whom you are talking to, the two-religion method is helpful. Whether you are talking to a nominal Christian who still thinks he is getting to heaven based on his morality, or you are talking to a Roman Catholic trusting in his baptism to save him, or an atheist who believes that every religion is wrong, it is critical, to show the unbeliever what makes Christianity so radically different from every other religion.

So usually at some point in the conversation I explain the difference between Christianity and the devil’s religions, and it goes something like this:

I don’t know if you know this but there are only two religions in the entire world.

You might say I’m nuts.  There are hundreds if not thousands!

But there is one religion that likes to put on hundreds if not thousands of different masks on, and so ultimately there are only two: the religion of Human Achievement and the religion of Divine Accomplishment.

clip_image004You see Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism and every single religion that you have ever heard of, ultimately teaches some form of a works-based salvation. They say that you have to be a little more good than bad in order to make it to heaven. These religions encourage you to hand God a resume when you face Him one day. The resume will be filled with all your accomplishments. It will list everything you’ve done for other people, every penny you’ve given to charity and every good deed you’ve done. God will look over this resume and say, “Good job! You’ve made it into heaven”.

The problem is that if you were to enter into heaven because of a resume based on your accomplishments God would get no glory; you would be the one who gets all the praise. In fact, Ephesians 2:9clip_image008 would say that salvation is not of works lest you should boast! Genesis chapter one shows us that God created the entire universe including you. Everything He created is designed to bring Him glory. The problem is that sin has entered the world, and from birth we all have replaced exalting God with exalting ourselves. Everything we do from birth is geared towards bringing us glory and bringing praise to ourselves. We all have a throne in our hearts that God should be sitting and reigning on, but instead we are born with ourselves sitting on it. We are so used to it we don’t even notice it to the point where we all think that our resumes are good enough to get us into heaven.

clip_image010Of course we are going to think that we are good people! Of course my mom is going to tell me I’m a good person! But what does your Creator think? He says in Romans 3:23clip_image008[1] that we all have sinned and fall short of His glory. He also says in Romans 6:23clip_image008[2] that the wages of sin is death. So if we stand before God and start listing accomplishments or hand Him a resume we might as well slap Jesus in the face because God is going to look at the resume and say, “I killed my only Son because you were not good enough to get to me!”

And that’s where the only other religion comes in.

The religion of Divine Accomplishment. God saw your situation, and decided that since man was so sinful and could not save himself, that He would come Himself and take the form of a man. He humbled himself, spent nine months in a womb he created, grew up with every temptation you and I face every day, but without sinning. He then died on the cross for our sins, and then rose from the dead and defeated death. He made it possible for human beings to stand before God one day and not hand Him a resume and condemn themselves further, but rather, tell God that they deserve His wrath but have placed their faith and trust in the work that Jesus did on their behalf on the cross and through His resurrection.

You see we need someone to be a substitute for us because no matter how hard we try, we can never bridge the gap between God and us. And the substitute can’t be merely a human.  It must be God Himself.

Do you see the difference between Christianity and every other religion?

Ultimately, we know that people aren’t saved based on clever marketing or slick evangelism tactics. But we want to ensure that as we present the Gospel, we do so in a way that is distinct from the impostors.

I have found this to be an effective way to explain what makes Christianity so unique.  I’m curious to hear what method you have used in your evangelism to make Christianity distinguishable. Let me know in the comment section.

A.D. The Degradation Continues

Episode 6 Highlights, in order:

1. Stephen’s mother has a fit as the wrapped body of Stephen is carried through the streets of Jerusalem.

2. Paul shows up at the desert camp of the Christians and preaches against the new movement.

3. Stephen is buried.

4. Caiphas discusses the pain the Jews are experiencing with his father-in-law(?) who wants Caiphas to stop persecuting the Christians.

5. Back to Paul preaching in the Christian camp against the new movement. Peter and Paul face off and argue about prophecy.

6. Paul is invited to sit on the Sanhedrin by Gamaliel(?).

7. Caiphas converses with Herod and gives him a gift, I guess demonstrating the political environment.

8. Paul tells Caiphas wife he has been preaching against the ‘movement’ in the Christian camp.

9. Mary Magdalene sternly counsels Peter in the Camp.

10. Paul asks Caiphas for ‘authority’ to continue preaching against Christianity.

11. Peter and John return to Jerusalem to preach in the city.

12. Paul shows up with ‘authority’ to continue his persecution, Paul and Peter face off again and Christians are arrested by Jewish religious leaders.

13. Pilate and his wife discuss Caiphas and Pilate wonders about the closeness of his wife’s relationship with Caiphas’ wife.

14. Pilate prays to ‘Minerva’ concerning who should be high priest.. Some interesting coin flipping takes place and Caiphas continues as high priest.

15. Paul gets sealed documents authorizing his persecution of the Christians, shows up again in the streets (better dressed), recruits a mob and distributes weapons and armor. They invade Christian homes, beating folks and making arrests. Paul and Peter face off again.

16. Paul and his mob head for the Christian camp. Everyone leaves, but Peter stays. Oil is poured in a trench that encircles the camp, that seems to have been dug for just such an occasion. When Paul & Co are inside the camp Peter sets the oil on fire, glares and shouts at Pauls, and leaves the scene. The end.

In terms of biblically accuracy, this might have been the worst of the lot so far. While it’s true to the biblical account that Paul had papers of authority to persecute Christians, the entire rest of the episode was pretty much ‘filling in the blanks’ left out of the Bible.

Why do I call it ‘The Degradation Continues’? Maybe because this entire series has been an adventure in missing the point of the message of the Gospel. My God and Savior deserves better.

Youth Yoke: The Necessity of Hardship for Young Men

yoke1Hardship comes to us via every avenue of life, from beginning to end. Affliction is no more avoidable than air. And thankfully, Scripture has much to say about it. But one passage that has often redemptively grabbed me is from Lamentations 3.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope.” (Lam 3:27-29). Now, the degree of hardship faced during the time of this verse exceeds what many of us will face. Even so, the verse illustrates a timeless principle on the topic of affliction: it is good for us young men (“young” could refer to under 40ish +/-) to experience a measure of hardship’s yoke.

But why? What is it about us young men such that affliction is particularly profitable? For the most part, it’s simply because we are young. We lack the full seasoning of sanctification. Our spiritual development is many stages from completion. The flesh has undergone less mortification. So, in God’s good sovereignty, affliction’s yoke in youth is a necessity which can move us along in the school of Christ. There’s nothing easy about it. But when our loving God grooms us with hardship, we young men can profit greatly. As a friend and mentor, Ray Mehringer, once said to me, “It’s the ‘ABC’s’ of Christianity: Adversity Builds Character.” And character building is the need of the hour for many of us young men.

Oak-sapling-Quercus-robur-001By God’s grace, some are well-trained in hardship’s academy. For others of us, we may need to simply enter the school or re-take a few classes. For those like me who have often flunked in the school of struggle, here are a few reminders on the necessity of hardship, especially for us younger guys:

  1. Hardship reminds us that God is God.

As young men, we do not naturally gravitate towards respecting that God reigns solo on the throne of the universe. We are natural-born sovereignty contenders.

Further, as young guys, we sometimes glory in beholding what we’re capable of. Things like physical strength, energy, vigor, and the like; we suppose that they are something of cosmic value. Because they helped us bench more, play a sport well, experience a measure of success, that they carry sovereignty. We can accomplish things and get stuff done by our own strength.

Affliction is good, then, because it reminds us that our young-manness exercises no sovereign sway. God is God. And in his love for us, he may hand us hardship so that we cease secret self-admiration and bow low before our sovereign God.

  1. Hardship grows us in the concept of Christ’s lordship.

“Lord.” Generally, the word refers to one who lawfully owns other people as property, someone of supremacy, or one who possessed a right to individually rule over others. A lord was someone to whose requests you did not dare say, “No.” “Lord” is a word that has long-passed out of cultural style because submission is out of style because self-worship is in style. Like a stubborn donkey, our decadence can hardly handle the concept. We are far too awesome and important; we matter too much for lordship. Plus, with the internet and social media, everyone and their words radically boosts their matter-meter. If we look hard enough, everyone can find a place in which we can function as a little-lord. But it’s spiritual smoke and mirrors.

Christ is the Lord. The word appears about 700 times in the New Testament; far more than any other title. And the term, “Lord,” captures in large part our relationship with our loving God. It means that he possesses extraordinary and unrivaled supremacy: he will do things his way at all times in all places with all people. The lordship of Christ is perhaps the most necessary thing to know about Jesus. And hardship serves that knowledge.

Suffering is not a spiritual boot-camp given to us young men so that we can narcissistically prove ourselves. It is a spiritual endowment given to us so that we can submissively humble ourselves. As we embrace it, God grooms us in the concept of lordship.

  1. Hardship reminds us that we are extraordinarily frail in every way.

One of the things we enjoy most about our youth is our not-so-strong strength. We love what we can do. We love what we can do to be known.

Such impulses evidence that, in our brief existence, we may not have had enough encounters with our frailty and God’s power. However, even a brief consideration of God’s creation is convincing. For example, among trillions of other things, Jesus made this thing out in space called a “black hole.” A black hole is so strong that light moving at 186,000 miles per second is not fast or tough enough to evade its grasp. How fast does something have to be moving to evade your grasp?

Yet, if you’ve been stubborn like me, even the daily demonstrations of our weakness and God’s strength in creation are not convincing enough. We need something more. As our perfect Father, God will see to it that we decreasingly operate in a delusional state of personal potency.

He may ordain some physical weakness, sickness, or disease. Now, the presence of illness does not automatically mean God is disciplining us for some form of pride. But in either case, such great difficulties serve redemptive purposes to convince us of our frailty, which drives us to him. Young men need to know that they are frail.

  1. Hardship reminds us that we should not expect Eden-like circumstances in this life.

normalAs I look back, I have many embarrassing moments in my ministry (and certainly more to come). Many of them bloomed from an unseasoned heart, ignorant that life outside of seminary is not edenic. Those first few years of things like ministry mistakes, people leaving the church, coming under slander and scorn; it was a shock to my infantile soul.

Other things like financial hardship, losing jobs, non-ideal housing and family circumstances, not getting to work your dream job, mistreatment at work and in the home; often young men suppose that these are bizarre things between Genesis 2 and Revelation 20. Yet they, and worse, are status quo.

So, one of the great ways we can position ourselves for a stable, fruitful life in Christ is to settle into the fact that life now is the photo-negative of heaven. Too often we unnecessarily compound our own discouragement because we make demands on this world that only heaven will meet.

So then, a measure of hardship reminds us of the ubiquitous thorns and thistles which we like to pretend are non-existent. By God’s grace, we can embrace things like little ministry fruit. That very well could be God’s best for us for where we are spiritually. It very well could be his mercy to withhold that which would lure our corrupt cravings for glory. If we experienced too much success, we could easily become glory thieves.

  1. Hardship reminds us that we are not great.

J.C. Ryle once wrote, “Pride never reigns anywhere so powerfully as in the heart of a young man.” We begin life with excessive-self-inflation syndrome. And in young men, many of us seem to have a bad case of it.

Even in Christian ministry, many of us quietly cling to the buzz of praise and recognition. It’s such a fun high. Some of us, for example, love social media because we can secretly bask in our pseudo-greatness, beholding the retweets, compliments, and flattery. We can make people believe that we are humble, yet still cyber crowd-surf behind the facade.

Young men, stop thinking you are great. You are not. Heaven laments at the loathsome spectacle when any young man meditates on his own mythical greatness.

But in heaven’s mercy, affliction eradicates self-inflation syndrome. Hardship serves to pull us down from the proverbial crowd surfing. Because he loves us, God may pull the praise out from underneath us so that we fall flat on the floor. At that point, we have begun to assume a posture of worship. It’s as Thomas Watson once said: “When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven.”

  1. Hardship reminds us that our usefulness depends entirely on God’s mercy.

A bit of success in youth is a potential hazard. Temptation can whisper that our might made it happen. We begin to believe the praise. And we look at God’s glory with covetous eyes.

young manIt’s then that affliction can shake us out of the spiritual stupor. John Newton put it this way when he once said to a young pastor, “Many distressing exercises you will probably meet with upon the best supposition to preserve in you a due sense of your own unworthiness and to convince you that your ability, your acceptance, and your usefulness depends upon a power beyond your own.”

God may raise gifted preachers or writers or athletes or engineers or doctors from dirt. In fact, he does it all the time. Clay pots are not indispensable. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7).

  1. Hardship renders us more useful for God.

God has such great purposes for us. He loves us so much that he will settle for nothing less than conforming us daily to the image of the greatest Person in the universe: the Lord Jesus Christ.

But young men often suppose they are quite OK the way they are. So, we are slow to change. We are both blind and resistant to our woeful inadequacy before God to live a life for his glory. And many, if not most, of us possess little usefulness to God until we are older and have weathered many storms.

sanctificationHardship is often God’s chisel with which he bashes away anything on us that does not resemble Christ.

Other seasoned saints have observed this far before us:

Thomas Watson: “God’s smiting his people is like the musician’s striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! When they are pounded they send forth their sweetest smell.”

Augustine: “Affliction is God’s flail to thresh off our husks; not to consume, but to refine.”

  1. Hardship fosters perseverance in our lives.

As young men, there is one thing which is a scarcity in us all: perseverance. That is not to say that young men will not persevere. Rather, by virtue of our youth, we have not demonstrated much perseverance.

Especially for us younger guys, by God’s grace, a measure of struggle serves us well by eradicating pride and entitlement and infusing perseverance and humility.

  1. Hardship deepens our love for God’s word.

Since youth usually means less experience with hardship, Bible verses on suffering sometimes remain two-dimensional to many of us young men. We read them, hear them preached, and observe seasoned saints cling to them. But in our spiritual infancy, they are still a bit out of our reach. We’ve yet to put them into practice. And it’s not entirely our fault. We’re just young and inexperienced.

So, affliction charters us into biblical territory which we’ve seen and heard, but yet to thoroughly navigate.

Places like Psalm 119 become frequently visited territory:

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Ps 119:50).

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Ps 119:67).

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps 119:71).

Oftentimes we erroneously say, “He makes the Bible come alive to us.” But the Bible is living (Heb 4:12). Hardship profits us because it makes us come alive to the Bible.

  1. Hardship deepens us in God’s great sustaining grace.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I have personally been frightened at verses like, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12), and, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:2-3). But my fears of those verses reveal a deeper immaturity: I know little about God’s great sustaining grace for his children in trials. Really, it’s a sinful fear of God.

But as he holds our hand through various valleys, we learn an extraordinary lesson. Our weakness doesn’t change much. But, our understanding of his sustaining grace does. The fear of the unknown morphs to a trust in the Known. We learn that our suffering and weakness are not detrimental, but fundamental, to our intimacy with and usefulness for Christ.

We never have a “bring it on” attitude towards affliction. Rather, it is more of, “God, I would never choose this for myself, but as a young guy, I know that this is your good, fatherly care for me. And by your competent, intimate care alone, I will walk through this.”

We learn the priceless truth: “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9).

Many more benefits come from God’s good hand in hardship. We could talk about, for example, how suffering weans us off the world and its vanity, increases our compassion for others in affliction, sets our compass more towards heaven and an eternal perspective, makes us more malleable and calm in the face of other hardship, and reminds us of the far greater sufferings of Christ in propitiating the wrath of God in our place.

Hardship is so helpful for us young men because it convinces us of our radical ordinariness. From the soil of ordinariness blooms a pure worship of, and usefulness for, our extraordinary Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us bow under the glorious youth yoke that we might be more fully shaped into his image for the good pleasure of our Father.

by Eric Davis

Posted at The Cripplegate

The State of Today’s Evangelicalism

Below is an excerpt from J.I. Packer’s introduction to one of the most important classics of Christian literature, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen. Following the excerpt are links to both Packer’s introduction and Owen’s famous work.

“There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was “helpful,” too—more so, indeed, than is the new—but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference.”

 

J.I.  Packer’s Introduction to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ – John Owen

Does the atheist merely deny that which he knows is true?

Atheists either totally deny the existence of God or they claim they just don’t believe in God, or gods. I have met both types, however there are far fewer professing atheists who tell me that God doesn’t exist than those who merely tell me they just don’t believe in God. When it is suggested that to claim God doesn’t exist necessarily presupposes ‘all knowledge’, thoughtful God deniers will move into the ‘I just don’t believe in God’ camp.

We ask the above question because of what scripture tells us in the New Testament book of Romans, Chapter 1:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. . . 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Note the following points about men in the above text.

1. Men suppress the truth (by their unrighteousness). (v. 18)

2. They (men) knew God. (v.21)

3. They (men) exchanged the truth about God for a lie. (v.25)

If you read the rest of Romans 1, you will also find out what the results are when men exchange the truth of God for a lie, but those results are not the topic of this post. The point of this post is the original question “Does the atheist merely deny that which he knows is true?” If the answer is ‘yes’, should it inform how we discuss the existence of God with professing atheists? If that’s another ‘yes’, how should it inform our end of the dialogue? What might change in the way we discuss the issue of od’s existence?

Food for thought and discussion.