17. The outcome of those things is death (Romans 6:21) -- Or: The irreconcilable antithesis between the unbeliever and the believer
The significance of the antithesis between believers and unbelievers for an apologist can’t be overstated; it is not just spiritual, it is also mental, social, political, artistic, or in any other field. Note the words of Paul in Romans 8:5-8: “5 Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God's Law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.” For Paul there is no neutral place between the regenerate mind and the unregenerate. Our mindset is different; one is death and the other is life, one is hostile to God and the other submits to God. Hence the apologist must understand and acknowledge the often implicit worldview - system of thought - of unbelievers, which at its core is autonomous and might be present in any form, whether rationalistic, secular, humanistic, pseudo-religious, or spiritualistic. An apologist should never approach the discussion as if he merely had to string together isolated evidence which might increase the probability of the Christian worldview; such an approach ignores the fact of the unbeliever’s autonomy and in fact strengthens it. We need to challenge this autonomy; we are not seeking to make Christianity “merely as reasonable as other belief, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else” (Cornelius Van Til, Why I believe in God). We are seeking the repentance of the unbeliever - what the Bible calls “μετανοώ” (literally “think differently afterwards”). That is to say, neutrality when we are talking with unbelievers is:
a) impossible, b) unbiblical, and c) immoral. Do not fall into this trap!
It is very clear, then, that believers are not to be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2). We have been sanctified by the Truth, the word of God (John 17:17), the word which makes us clean (John 15:3), and thus we must remain in Christ if we really want to bear fruit (John 15:4).
When the world calls upon us to surrender our Christian distinction, temporarily assume there is no God and take a “no one knows yet” attitude, if we ever agree to such an attitude we have already lost the battle. An unbeliever doesn’t seek after God (Romans 3:10-12). As the way of the fool way seems right to them (Proverbs 12:15), we are going to end up in the same place as the unbeliever. It is impossible to try to reach a spiritual truth using a method of someone who is spiritually dead.
It is also unbiblical, as the Bible requires a full commitment from believers: heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Contrary to the demands neutrality places upon us, God’s word demands unreserved allegiance to God and His truth in all our thought. Paul declares “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ.” (Colossians 2:3-8). Note Paul says “all” - not just some - whether we are talking about music, law, or logic! Every endeavor we pursue, every thought must be related to and anchored in Jesus Christ. Paul isn’t being dogmatic or unreasonable; he is declaring this truth for our protection, so we won’t be taken “captives” (v. 8). Believers mustn’t walk the way of unbelievers do; in the futility of their minds, their darkened understanding, and their ignorance which is caused by a hardened heart (Ephesians 4:17-18). We have to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), the unbelievers’ thoughts as well as our own, and we can’t go back to being enemies of God in our minds (Colossians 1:21).
If we assume neutrality with unbelieving thoughts and assume that there is any area of discussion not under God’s authority and dominion, where do you think we are going to end? Do you really think an unbelieving methodology would lead anyone to believe in Christ as Lord? Yet even some modern theologians seem to be unable or unwilling to even consider the truth of Christianity as stated by God. “There will be no attempt to show that any one of the mediators is superior to the others ... what has already been said ... has shown the impossibility of any such judgment. No human being - and certainly not the present writer - has the exhaustive knowledge of the several mediators or the requisite criteria for making such a judgment. Neither does he or she have the detached situation that would enable a purely objective view of the question. Only God, I suppose, could make such a judgment” (John Macquarrie, Mediators between human and divine: From Moses to Muhammad, 1996, p. 12). Here we have a theologian who has conformed to the world’s presuppositions, and who can’t - or won’t - even consider asking whether Moses, Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Krishna, Jesus, and Muhammad are the same or whether one of them is superior to the others. And we see these sentiments echoed by many others nowadays.
If you also think along these same lines, I hope the following verses may give you a different outlook.
Do you think if we are talking with someone who thinks God’s wisdom is folly, who doesn’t stand in the truth, who makes the straight paths of God crooked, who is blind in his mind, do you think we are going to reach the truth of God by assuming neutral ground with such a mind?