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October 1, 2022 12:01 am
How can Christians remain committed to God's Word in a world where they are increasingly marginalized and belittled for their faith? Today, W. Robert Godfrey and Stephen Nichols consider what it means to remain steadfast in challenging times.
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We are committed to the proposition that there is a God and that he is spoken and the world is going to sneer at us over a lot of these things but we have resources to challenge those sneers and say you may sneer all you want but how are you going to answer these claims and these arguments in defense of our position to recognize her cultural climate look to him that kind of boldness welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday night.
We will antedate doctors W Robert Godfrey and Stephen the goals consider what it looks like to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Even when the persecuted this Joyner moderator for the session, Pres. and CEO Chris Larson. I came into understand a reformed theology through ducts.
Teaching and it was really his eliminating of church history in the way that he would uniquely make some theological points, exegetical points, but he would do it through the illustration of church history and of course he just had this illustrative style of just bringing history to life and I wasn't a very good student, I was publicly educated in these United States. And I know you can all feel very sorry for me about that.
But there is something captivating about the way that he would teach an end and I would come to find out later that all he was really trying to do through his own teaching was just to get us to go back to the past and to continue to carry forward the truth that has already been delivered to us from Christ to the apostles to the early church and how God has continued to build his church through the ages and I'm thankful for this session to be able to talk with two church historians, because it's a subject that I think a lot of people are drawn to reformed theology through this study of church history and in this moment where everybody in the church feels a little bit dislocated and thinking about how to transmit the truth to the next generation. Perhaps you could just begin by helping us to answer a simple question. What is going on right now in the world and I asked that tongue-in-cheek, but but in in all sincerity, and we been here before. Is the church face these times.
I like were in before. What can we learn from the past so it's it's a wide-ranging question, but think you see where trying to go with that. What is going on. Dr. Godfrey. I have spent almost all of my life as a historian following out an observation of a distinguished historian by the name of Lawrence Stone number of decades ago. Now who observed that most historians are either lumbers or choppers. Most historians either one look at continuities in history. How one thing leads naturally to another or their choppers.
They want to distinguish things and see how one thing is different from another in my whole life I've been a lumper. I believe in trying to see continuities and how one thing leads to another and how there aren't such dramatic breaks as we often think there are and now in my extreme old age.
I'm becoming a chopper because I think we today live in a moment where Western civilizations.
History is changed from what's been for 1500 years and we live in a cowardly New World.
I just thought about. I thought I was clever the already brave new world is a cowardly and and what I mean by that is for 1500 years in the West, Christianity has had a legal and cultural position of dominance and leadership, and whether people were actually Christians are not.
They almost all believe in God. They almost will all believe there was an afterlife. They almost all believe there are moral absolutes, and in general they mostly believe the moral absolutes of the Bible were the real world. Absolutes. Now, it isn't that they all live that way.
But there was a kind of common consensus that the family was important that divorce was bad that week we looked a moral life that we understood together and for about 200 to 300 years in the West that consensus has been under attack and a lot of the 18th century in the French Revolution. A lot of the rise of Marxism and Darwinism in Freudian is him have all been parts of the attack on that Christian consensus and when movies started to be made in Hollywood in the People's Republic of California churches attacked the movies because they were undermining morality and I used to scoff at that notion. I've changed my mind. The churches were right there was a anywhere from subtle to unsubtle attack on Christian values and Christian standards and I think all that attack gained momentum. It didn't succeed until the overfull decision on gay marriage from the United States Supreme Court in 2015 and I say it's not that decision that marked the end of Christendom. I say it's the reaction to the decision. How did America react to that decision by March with a shrug. Okay, who cares because the new religion of America is individualism. We all get to do what we want to do as little generally affect me. It don't matter and now in the last 5 to 10 years.
What what do we see we see a cultural consensus that if you criticize homosexuality.
If you criticize marital infidelity. If you criticize premarital sex. If you criticize anything transgendered. You are a big you are guilty of hate speech and no that's true on Fox news as much as it is anywhere else.
There is a new cultural consensus and that's why we all feel discombobulated that the Latin term. What why we all feel discomfort popular with you confused.
We feel off balance and that leads us to feel angry, who took away the world will grow up with and the answer is a long-standing combination of universities and arts and media and entertainment and our societies been remade and we have to get used to being a minority, which brings us right back to the first or second century of Christian experience and what we have to insist is we are respectful minority. We are a cooperative minority in so far as we can be, but we are an uncompromising minority in saying we have a right to speak the truth that our God has revealed to us and you do not have a right to shut us up. And I am too old to run the race, but I can sit we don't need to: can you read about the latest Dr. Nicholas. I could not agree with you more Dr. Godfrey II think there is something significant. This is not just one generation, looking at the next generation and scratching their head at their music choice. There is something substantively different in our moment and I think it is the rapidity of it.
It's been in the works for a while but we had a lot of borrowed capital of our Judeo-Christian worldview whether that was sincere visible sainthood or not it was a Christian worldview. There is a lot of borrowed capital for that to cover its long, slow death. Now that borrowed capital is being used up and were seeing it. Couldn't agree with you with you more than that and I think that we all sense the chicken Little. The sky is falling, what I think we though do need is to remember that we have maybe not been here before. With this aggressive secularism in the 21st century, but we have been in similar situations before, and that the time I go back to is the collapse of of Rome.
And so we go back to the early couple centuries and we see a hostile culture and we see a hostile environment and everything about Christianity is out of step with the Roman world. And so we see the persecution, then we have Constantine in route to get into whether that was a genuine conversion are not, but there was something different.
Post Constantine and instead of these bishops being thrown in jail and beaten there now meeting at this at Constantine's summer palace in Nicaea in writing the Nicene Creed that the fourth century was a different moment, but when we get into the fifth century and the collapse of Rome. I find this a come back to this. The illustration of we've got Jerome on the one hand, who is a scholar behind the Vulgate at this time is in Bethlehem, he hears of the collapse of Rome. It reaches his ears, he literally throws his hands up in utter despair. What can be done. He cannot conceive of Christianity without the culture of the Roman Empire.
He can't conceive of God advancing the church without the assistance of the Roman Empire and he gives up hope. He literally goes into a literal cave is not a metaphorical and going to go into my cape goes into a cave in Bethlehem to die when Rome collapses, and we have a good friend Augustine and he goes in Wright's book and first page of that book. It's a very long book.
Almost as long as your Russian novels that you like all the empires that on this world do totter and that would include room that would include Babylon that would include Medo Persia, Greece. He starts off with that perspective. And he says here's the city of God hears the city of man and we know that God is sovereign.
We know that God has his destiny for the city of God, and that is our hope is Christians and we don't need to go into a cave to die. We can stand for firmer set firm. Whichever the case may be, so I think we have these cataclysmic cultural shifts in our background that we can turn to and see yes, things have changed. We can't be na´ve. We have to recognize that we have to acknowledge it, but we don't have to throw up her hands and say the sky is falling, and and we also I think will be greatly served by remembering that we have terrific resources in the history of the Christian church and its study so that we may not have in much of church history face the militant atheism that we face today, but there is atheism to be faced in the history of the church and wonderful resources arguing for how we can recognize there truly is a God and defend the existence of God.
So we we have resources that we have to revive precisely when we can't take things for granted. We have to revive the arguments for these things. We are committed to the proposition that there is a God and that he is spoken and the world is going to sneer at us over a lot of these things but we have resources to challenge those sneers and say you may sneer all you want but how are you going to answer these claims and these arguments in defense of our position and in our think RC used to talk about how people suppress the truth but the truth is not ultimately suppressible and that's our confidence.
That's our confidence so drawing from some of those examples. What are some of the ways that we can be salt and light in this generation confronting some of the particular challenges that I think even just what you faced Dr. Nichols at the college level and you're seeing this firsthand with students and families of of this generous generation look at Jens E coming up and now it's a it's a new world that they've grown up in and so what are some of those ways that we can we can encourage the next generation to be salt and light anything about the tremendous pressure that they are under just a barrage of idolatry is coming at them on a daily basis how you pick and choose, sometimes which battle to fight. Great question. I think a couple things we can say here and want to tie together something you ended with an bulletin with what you're talking about Chris. I think the main thing we need to tell people and and I think this is true especially for youth. First of all, let's acknowledge the challenges they are facing.
They are so unlike the challenges we faced as youth, so let's be very sympathetic to the voices that are coming at them.
It's a barrage of it of an anti-Christian almost anti-human even worldview.
So let's have some sympathy for them and what I want to see if the college what I think we want to do through always ready what I hope we can all see is we have answers to these questions. So here's the thing we don't have a world that this secularist lives in a world that the Christian lives in this secularist lives in the Christian world and what I mean by that is this secularist lives in the world that God made and they can attempt to suppress the truth but it's a vain attempt and what will happen is the truth will pop up. Now I know this is in a very good image but the image of the beat merely at the beach ball in the pool and you try to sit on it. You know, to keep it under water in your weight shifts in the beach ball pops up. That's how I like in this case, like you trying to sit on the truth but something will happen right cancer diagnosis will come of job loss will come. We go to a kids life, a breakup will come in their world shatters and now the sun that beach ball is popped up right in there perfectly ordered world without God is now starting to tear apart at the seams and they're starting to see that this idea of self identity and therefore self-fulfillment isn't all it's cracked up to be. I think we as Christians need to be there at that precise moment and we need to state that Scott that's God popping up. That's apologetics. It's reminding people who God is. It's telling them when they see these traces of God in the universe and see this truth revealing itself in God's world because it is the world that he made. We need to be there at that moment and say that Scott I think the other thing we can do is that other part of apologetics, which is taking them to the gospel and I've been reading through the minor prophets a lot recently and project them involved in and it's just strikes me judgment and mercy judgment and mercy and course.
The focus of this comes to a head in the book of Jonah. We talk about wickedness.
Let's go to the city of Nineveh and this is judgment but this is the surprising thing what God said about Nineveh was so repulsive to Jonah that cause Jonah to be disobedient that God would be merciful to one who would repent, even wicked, Nineveh. Let's remind kids of that to our God is a God of judgment. Our God is a God who is full of mercy and I think I think those are some of the things that we can do some things we as Christians can even think about soulful Dr. Godfrey last question for you.
Just at the local church level. What are some of those healthy discipleship and and church rhythms that we need to recover and not forget to pick be able to perpetuate strong and faithful Christian disciples in the next generation. Well, I think we need strong patterns to teach our children in particular in the local church. My own conviction. I'm sorry if I offend you, but I get to leave soon. Our children ought to be in church with us. They shouldn't be in a children's church. Our children should not be able to remember a time when they weren't Sabbath by Sabbath in the church worshiping with the church and part of the church and knowing people in the church who are at different age from them that they need to know old Christians as well as young Christians they need to be knowing Christians are can still run the race on Christians who can only sit and be firm and we and and we need to establish a pattern that the church is a priority.
It's not an option. It's not an occasional experience. It's our weekly experience. We organize our life around it and in it I just think establishing those patterns of attendance of worship of study. We are to have good catechetical instruction for our young people so that they learn not only the stories of the Bible, but they learned the pattern of truth they learn the basic systematic theology that the Bible contains in all of these things need to be in a context of seriousness, but also enjoy I do remember talking to a wise old pastor who said you know the children that I observed that to our most in trouble in our tradition are the ones who go home every Saturday afternoon to eat roast preacher if you establish with your children. A pattern of only talking about the problems with the church and criticizing the church children to grow up and say I guess the church is worth much if we affirm the importance of the church and what we say and how we live. It's going to go a long way. We don't have guarantees in this life, but the more effective patterns we can lay down of discipling our children and I'm a great believer in Christian schools in that's a little halfhearted this country. The 19th century from Ireland and from Italy and from Eastern Europe. One of the first things the Catholic churches did was to establish a Roman Catholic school system to send the kids to and when they were asked why did they do that they said because in America the public schools are Protestant schools in the 19th century that may well have been true. I do want to disillusion you.
It's not true anymore and if we say to our children. God is a God is important. One day a week, but you couldn't spend most of your time learning about this world in a context where God is never mentioned were going to cause trouble and our church has a Christian school aid tuition fund so that the deacons seek to help every family who wants her kids in a Christian school to be able to do it.
It's a communal responsibility and the more secular antagonist that the public schools become. I mean, I'm all in favor Christians being teachers in public schools and being what like they can be there but when we are entrusted to raise our children in this increasingly hostile world where there are people apparently seriously saying grammar school children sale dynamical grammar school grammar school children should be talking about their sexual identity. This is a vicious wicked place and we need to do everything we can to protect our children. How can Christians live with integrity, as we engage a world where God is hated immorality celebrated and the truth is suppressed. We've heard some helpful answers today here and Renewing Your Mind. This was a panel discussion from our 2022 link international conference here in Orlando. It featured Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, Dr. Steven Nichols, along with our president and CEO Chris Larson. I will be just heard underlines our need as Christians to know what we believe why we believe it how to live it and how to share it and we learn how to do that by discovering what the Bible says about all of life. With that in mind, let me commend Dr. RC Sproul's book, everyone's a theologian and introduction to systematic theology and it RC surveys the basic truths of the Christian faith.
If you never contact us before we would be happy to send you a free copy you can make a request online at Renewing Your Mind to work. If you are new to this ministry. Let me also recommend that you explore the many podcasts we produce. When you enter one of them is ultimately with RC Sproul, you know, I have to admit that there when I drive somewhere. My first impulse is to turn on the radio for the latest news but that only increases my blood pressure much better use of my time is to listen to things of eternal significance like this podcast called ultimately each brief episode is filled with theological wisdom to help you set your mind on what matters most.
Subscribe and listen when you look for ultimately with RC scroll next Saturday will return to the 2022 link international conference host Nathan W. Bingham will interview Dr. Michael Reeves on the topic of a continuing Reformation. I hope you'll join us for that next week here on Renewing Your Mind