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Who Is the Truth?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 3, 2022 12:01 am

Who Is the Truth?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 3, 2022 12:01 am

How we think about God will determine how we think about the world and our place in it. Today, R.C. Sproul explains the essential role that theology plays in forming a Christian worldview.

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Dr. R.C. Sproul points us back to our Creator as we seek to understand ourselves and interpret the world around us. We are in a terribly difficult time coping with seminary education. He was an athlete. He was bright, personable, and really one of the most spiritually oriented students at our institution. He had to deal not only with the rigors of the academic life and the skepticism that was pervasive in that institution, but he also had personal tragedy to deal with. The first year we were together in seminary, his wife died suddenly from an ectopic pregnancy. And I remember Jimmy wrestling through his understanding of the character of God and the providence of God in the midst of that.

He was determined to spend his life in obedience and devotion to God. And I remember an occasion at the beginning of our senior year where we were seated on the steps of the chapel of the seminary, and Jim was earnestly concerned about the fact that he had had a dream the night before, and that dream included images that were less than pure. And the discussion we had that afternoon was focused on this. He said, how can I learn to control the thoughts that go through my mind when I'm asleep? Surely God is going to hold me responsible for the cleanliness of my mind, not only when I'm awake, but when I'm asleep. And I'd never heard anybody raise that question before.

I'd never seen anybody that concerned about their personal sanctification that they would repent of thoughts that they had in their mind while they were asleep. But Jim was that sort of fellow. Almost at the end of our senior year, Jim became violently ill one night and was rushed to the hospital. I went to see him in the hospital room, and he had all the tubes and things inserted in him, and he was bleeding internally. And the doctors diagnosed that he had a severely ulcerated colon. Two days later, Jimmy died right before we were to graduate. And I look back on that episode as one who survived the seminary experience and certainly trust the hand of providence in taking Jim from the church and from this planet. But humanly speaking, I couldn't help but conclude that the instrument of his death was the seminary classroom. Not a few of my friends, but many of my friends in seminary were during that experience being treated on a regular basis for all kinds of stomach ailments and ulcers and the like.

Why? Because that particular seminary had an atmosphere of cynicism and skepticism about the things of God. Many of the professors in that environment were openly hostile toward biblical, classical Christianity.

And these were learned men, men from the continent of Europe, men who were far more educated than we were as students. And often they ridiculed our faith in Christ. And you imagine preparing for a life of ministry, entering into an institution that you think or assume is committed to grounding you and training you in the truth of your faith, only to find that to be the institution most skeptical of it.

That puts a man or a woman in an exceedingly difficult situation. And some of the students cracked underneath the pressure. I would have to say to you it was one of the three most difficult years of my life enduring that crucible of skepticism. But I survived, and I survived with my faith intact. And I saw some of my classmates survive with their faith intact. But they took a different approach to the issues in seminary from the one that I took.

And I always struggle with this because some of my friends, when they were facing the heat and the turmoil of the debate in the classroom, simply bowed out of the discussion. They fled into the security of their closet, and they answered all objections to the claims of Christianity by an appeal to sort of a mindless faith. They said, I believe it, and that settles it. And they just plugged their ears to the criticisms leveled by the scholars, and that's how they survived. But beloved, I was convinced that that was not an honest way to deal with skepticism. I didn't think that it was obedience to the biblical call to give an answer for those who inquire about the faith.

We are always prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us. Now, I struggled in seminary, but I wasn't totally intimidated for this reason. I had been blessed by having been instructed in 36 hours in the science of philosophy as an undergraduate from an extremely brilliant professor who was a Christian. And he was also knowledgeable of the competing philosophies in the world that sought to undermine the truth claims of Christianity. And so as I would go into one classroom in the college where the professor was a skeptic and he would ridicule the Christian faith, I could turn around and run back to my professor and say, that professor said this, is there a cogent answer to this? And he would go through patiently the ground basis that supported the claims of Christianity against the critics and against the cynics. Now again, as a seminary student, it was obvious to me that the professors were far more knowledgeable than I was.

I couldn't debate a New Testament scholar on the basis of the technical points of his expertise in New Testament research. But the one thing that helped me through, humanly speaking, was that it was obvious to me when I would listen to these skeptics who were teaching New Testament and Old Testament and things like that, that they knew next to nothing about the science of epistemology. And I could see the glaring epistemological errors that were at the very foundation of their skepticism. And that helped me make it through that crucible without having to rush into the corner and hide my eyes and cover my ears and plead blind faith as the basis for the hope that is within me. What I'm trying to say with that simple illustration, ladies and gentlemen, is that as Christians we need to be aware of epistemology. We need to be aware of the relationship between faith, which is real, and reason. See, what the skeptic and the critic of Christianity does is says this, that faith and reason are dichotomous things.

Never the twain shall meet. And they are willing to give you faith. But they claim reason for their side. They claim science for their side. Ladies and gentlemen, it is manifestly irrational to deny the existence of God. And when a scientist speaks out and says that he is convinced scientifically that there's no God, he has stopped being a judicious scientist and has uttered the expression of the fool.

He hasn't paid attention to the data he's supposed to master because the creation itself not only bears witness to the Creator, it screams of the Creator through the data. What I'm trying to say is that Christians need to understand that sense perception, the testimony of history, the testimony of archaeology, and the function of reason itself are tools that God has given His people to stabilize and solidify that faith and trust that we have in Him. Our faith in God is a reasonable faith. It is not an irrational leap in the dark. But we have been almost as a generation brainwashed into thinking, into thinking that we ought not to be thinking, into thinking that prayer is a substitute for thought. See, this kind of thought, this kind of intensity that we see again in Rodin's The Thinker, I think should accompany the same kind of intensity in prayer, that we pray with our minds alert. We read the Scriptures which are addressed to our mind that are given to our understanding, and only as we are armed by the information that God gives to us and the clarity of it are we able to stand in an age of skepticism. It's an American tragedy that children are nurtured in the life of the church and then go off to a college, and we see it repeated over and over and over again, go through a serious crisis of faith.

Why? We haven't grounded them in epistemology, we haven't grounded them in metaphysics, and so I'm pleading with you to take seriously those two steps of structuring a Christian life and worldview. The third element of the Christian worldview which really should be placed at the beginning in terms of the order of importance is our understanding of God, how a person understands the character of God, I think more than any other concept determines how we live.

That is the most foundational of all for the grid by which we interpret the significance of every aspect of our life. You know, Paul makes the statement in the New Testament that the person who is without Christ is without hope because that person experiences the pain, the suffering, and the perplexing mysteries of human existence without the benefit of the perspective of God incarnate. If God is not in your consciousness, if God is not in your mind, then how you interpret your job, your bank account, your recreation, your marriage, and everything will be reflected in that.

Christianity is theocentric, that is to say it is God-centered, and now of course I'm maybe starting to sound like I'm giving a commercial here, but that's the prerogative of the theologian to talk about God because that's my business to talk about God, that's my profession to talk about God, that's my identity to talk about God, and some of my students over at the seminary sometimes think I stretch things a little bit when I try to find theological significance in everything. When I come in all excited about the victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Los Angeles Raiders and I see that as a foretaste of the heavenly triumph of the forces of good against the forces of evil, you know, they begin to suspect the way the tentacles of theology reach into every avenue of human existence. And on the other hand, I've had people say to me, where do you get all your illustrations from? Do you read up on these things? Do you get books of anecdotes and so on?

I say, no. I draw the illustrations that I use for theology from the daily events of my life. Yeah, they say, but when you bring these things into me, I would never have seen any theological significance in those things that you find, and I take that seriously because I know that when people say that to me, they're serious about it, and I understand it. And I tell them, you know why you don't see any theological significance in that? And I do.

And they say, no, why? I say, because I think about everything theologically, because everything has theological significance. Ladies and gentlemen, if God is the Creator of the whole world and has not simply been isolated by a power higher than Himself to have dominion and rule over one tiny corner of human life that we call religion, but if He's really the Creator of the universe, and if He is the sovereign ruler over all things, then all things find their meaning and their significance as they are related to Him. The late Professor Cornelius Van Til from Westminster Theological Seminary, a seminary that helped get me through my experience of an unbelieving seminary through the writings of those learned professors, by the way.

Dr. Van Til once said, there's no such thing as a brute fact, and there's no such thing as a mute fact, because every fact is tied to its Creator and find its meaning and its significance in its relationship to God. So if we're going to have a Christian life and worldview, the first thing we have to have, beloved, is a Christian God view, because how we think about God will determine how we think about the world and how we think about our lives. But what I'm saying here is that we must think about God. I really don't think that the Christian community in general devotes a lot of thought to the character of God. Theology is not a favorite pastime among Christians.

In fact, many Christians express an antipathy to it and reveal an allergy to theology. I hear again and again and again from the students, I don't need to know any theology. All I need to know is Jesus. I say, well, that's neat.

Who is Jesus? You know? And as soon as they begin to answer that question, they have been plunged immediately into theology. Recently we had a board meeting for the Ligonier Ministries, and the board voted that it was time for Ligonier Ministries to enter into phase two. And phase two was sort of an abbreviated shorthand for a whole concept that we had discussed. We said for 20 years this ministry has focused our teaching outreach on addressing the Catholic questions of Christianity, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of the authority of Scripture, the person and work of Christ, being careful not to give too much emphasis to the distinctives of the theology that I personally embrace of Reformed faith. Because we wanted to minister to the broad evangelical audience, because we understand that the church is being torn apart in this day not over issues of predestination or not, but over issues of whether or not God exists, or whether or not Christ is divine, or if the Bible is the Word of God. Those have been the central issues, and these issues touch every Christian, not just those who are in this small minority group called Reformed people. But at this meeting I said, look, we've done that, we've produced the materials, now it's time to go into phase two.

And the board said, what do you mean by phase two? I said, I'm tired of pussyfooting. Because I don't think we're ever going to see a healthy evangelical church until the evangelical church is Reformed, solidly Reformed, where it takes seriously biblical Christianity and its concept of a sovereign God, because unreformed Christianity has failed in our culture. It has been pervasively antinomian, it has been pervasively liberal in its trends and tendencies away from Scripture, because there's not a basal commitment to the sovereignty of God.

And so I'm not going to play around anymore. When people tell me that they don't believe in predestination, I'm going to grab them by the throat and say, why not? The Bible teaches it. I say, enough of your humanistic clinging to your concept of free will that it's as foreign from the biblical doctrine of the bondage of sin in the heart that you can find. But never mind that the majority report of evangelicals is Arminian.

I'm not, and I think Arminianism is death to Christianity in the final analysis. At the heart of Reformed theology, at the heart of Luther's struggle, at the heart of Calvin's awakening, at the heart of Knox, at the heart of Edwards were men who were awakened to the greatness, to the majesty, to the holiness, to the sovereignty of God. And finally, by contemplating the holiness of God and the sovereignty of God, they were driven to develop their doctrines of the grace of God. Because until you face a God who is holy and who is altogether sovereign, you don't know what grace means. See, most Christians really never get outside of that temple experience of the Pharisee who says, I thank you.

I'm going to pray, God, and I thank you very much. I'm not like that miserable sinner over there. The Pharisee prayed. He went to church, and he expressed his gratitude, acknowledging that to some degree and in some measure he owed his righteousness to God.

I thank you. I'm not like that miserable sinner over there, where the other man couldn't even lift his head to heaven. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. And that man stood in a posture of utter dependency upon God's grace. There was no mixture of human merit, no mixture of human ability, adding dross to the pure gold of grace in that man's life. That man was amazed by grace. Evangelicals are never amazed by grace, because they don't understand grace, because they don't understand sovereignty, because they don't understand God. The greatest weakness, I'm convinced, in the evangelical church today, ladies and gentlemen, is sick, sicker than it's ever been in my judgment.

It's an honest judgment. If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't be speaking so strongly about it. It's in the evangelical world that people are saying that you don't have to believe in Christ's lordship to be saved. That you can be carnal in your life and still be a Christian. I had a pastor come to me recently and say that there was a young man he was ministering to who was involved in drugs regularly, even in the sale of them, and he was living illicitly with another woman, and the minister went to him and said, because the fellow claimed to be an evangelical Christian, he said, don't you realize that you must leave this style of living and repent of it to be right with God?

And the young man looked at him and said, oh, it's okay. He says, I'm a carnal Christian. That can only happen in evangelicalism that is bereft of an understanding of the character of God. We need a style and variety of Christianity that is not a religion, but it's a life and it's a worldview where at the heart of the foundational structure of it is a sound and deep biblical concept of the character of God. Without it, it becomes simply another human religion.

I think what Dr. Sproul said there at the end bears repeating. We need a style of Christianity that is not a religion, but it's a life, a worldview. We have no compass if we live our lives outside the revealed truth of God's word.

Any other way of thinking leads to chaos and disorder. It's so important for us as believers to learn to think critically and biblically. This week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Sproul from his series Blueprint for Thinking is helping us put these pieces into place. We will add the five messages of this series to your online learning library when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. We'll also send you Dr. Sproul's survey of Western Thought, his series The Consequences of Ideas. In 35 messages, he shows how the major thinkers and philosophers of the ages have influenced culture. Request the nine-DVD set of The Consequences of Ideas along with a digital download of Blueprint for Thinking when you call us at 800-435-4343.

If you prefer, you can give your gift and make your request online at renewingyourmind.org. Another helpful resource in this enterprise of thinking critically is the magazine we publish each month, Table Talk. This month's edition deals with misunderstood biblical words and phrases. When you subscribe to Table Talk, not only will you receive the monthly printed version, but you'll also have access to an ever-growing digital archive of past issues. Learn more and get a free three-month trial subscription when you go to tritabletalk.com. Well, tomorrow Dr. Sproul will continue providing us with a Blueprint for Thinking with a lesson titled, How Does Truth Relate to Me? I hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-17 11:23:37 / 2023-03-17 11:31:51 / 8

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