Sunday, May 23, 2010

Truth and Regeneration

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:18-20)

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. ...

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2: 6-7, 14-16)

In many circles in professing Evangelicalism, the idol of academic intellectualism holds sway. In the world, unregenerate "biblical" scholars produce "scholarly" academic theological articles and books. The viewpoint of the Bible is sneered at as being anti-intellectual, backward and outdated. While it may be possible for them to condescendingly look kindly on those from a former era who hold to these views, Christians who do so in this so-called mature era are sneered at as idiots and fools, no different from flat-earthers and those who continue to hold on to Ptolemaic astronomy.

What does Scripture say however to the world of unbelieving academia? In the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians, we can see that Scripture categorically denies that those who are not of Christ can accept the truths of Scripture. They most certainly can cognitively understand biblical truths, but they cannot accept them as true, instead seeing them as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18, 2:14). It should come as no surprise to us therefore when unregenerate academia treats the biblical viewpoint as being unscholarly, outdated and foolish. The Bible has already told us that such would be the case, so we shouldn't be too surprised when the Bible proves itself true.

The passages in 1 Corinthians go on to show the reversal engineered by God. The wisdom of the world God would show to be actually foolishness in His sight (1 Cor. 1:20). All the accolades and applause by the world's elite would mean nothing when the scholarship of unbelieving academia is tested and shown to be found wanting in real scholarship as judged by the King of the universe. They are instead exposed to be nothing but intellectual trash, fit to be burned in the fires of hell where they have originated.

Conversely, for those who humbly believe in God, their seeming foolishness is actually heavenly wisdom (1 Cor. 2:7, 16). Building upon the axioms of the revelation of God's Word, they have a firm foundation which is Christ the eternal Word (Jn. 1:1, 14). While not many believers have the capacity to build vigorously on the foundation to produce scholarly material, their lot is much better than any of the unregenerate biblical scholars. After all, a small non-discrete house built on a strong foundation would stand, while a giant edifice complete with ingenious designs rivaling anything the world has ever seen would not stand if such was build on a foundation of sand.

Unregenerate scholarship, being alienated from Christ and thus bereft of the mind of Christ, cannot produce anything of spiritual truth, for no one produces any work which they themselves think is foolish. Therefore, they have nothing to contribute to true theological reasoning. Their only contribution can only be in areas that are not doctrinal in nature like languages and ancient cultural studies, but they have absolutely nothing to contribute in terms of the doctrines of the church. From Schleiermacher to Barth/ Brunner/Bultmann to Wright and Pannenberg and the Torrances, because they are not of Christ, they have nothing to say to the church with regards to doctrine. Intellectual trash is still trash no matter how academic it sounds, in the same way fallen humans are still depraved no matter how "cultured" they are brought up to be.

As Anselm of Cantebury states: Credo ut Intelligam — I believe so that I may understand. Faith which comes by regeneration is required before eternal truths can be properly understood and accepted as the heavenly truth that they actually are. It is because of this that the truths of God are "secret" and "hidden" (1 Cor. 2:7), not that God is actually hiding something but that the spiritually blind cannot see the truths even when they are placed directly in front of him. As it is written:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor. 4:4)

Unbelievers are blinded to God's truth and cannot perceive them. The only way to perceive God's truth therefore is by faith which comes about by regeneration as God opens the eyes so that the spiritually blind may see.

We therefore should not give credence to these so-called scholarship from those who are clearly unregenerate. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. In the same way, unregenerate scholars will always produce unsound teaching. A leopard can never changed its spots (Jer. 13:23). What truths these scholars have is occasional, in the same way as a broken clock shows the correct time twice per day.

Let the New Evangelicals continue to worship the idol of academia. True Christian scholarship is determined by the Scripture, not by the elites in academia. By all means, let them mock, for they know not what they are doing. In actual fact, their scholarship viewed in light of God's Word is simply laughable, as seen in for example the so-called "Documentary hypothesis" — a fantasy that liberals invent out of the wildness of their own imaginations that is riddled with all manner of logical and reasoning fallacies.

In conclusion, let us not give credence to these false teachers with academic degrees. Rather, let us rather respect teachers of God's Word who earn their academic degrees through building on the foundation of Scripture. An MDiv from bible-believing seminaries like Westminster Seminary California for example is of much more spiritual value than a PhD in theology from Yale or Harvard. In fact, I would venture to say that degrees from these places are of no true worth at all, and the churches should despise these degrees as being essentially worthless for true Christianity. Such degrees have as much spiritual value as PhDs in other religions, since liberalism is in fact another religion altogether anyway, which is why John Gresham Machen entitled his book Christianity and Liberalism, thus showing even in the title that Liberalism is NOT Christianity.

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