If I am Guilty for Who I Am, the Gospel Is of No Benefit

This post is not going to go the way you think it will, so please read to the end.

If I am guilty of something merely because I am white, there is no redemption for me. I cannot stop being white. 

White Guilt

Now, I know that those who use the phrase “white guilt” often mean not just (or not primarily) the color of my skin, but the privilege that goes with it (something to be addressed in a future post). But the heart of white guilt is the idea that if I am white, then I must have sinned in some way connected to my skin color, most likely (say some) in a racist way against a black person. And while technically my guilt arises out of privilege, many people are getting the less nuanced message that it arises out if skin color.

This fits well the narrative promoted by those who subscribe to Critical Race Theory and intersectionality (also to be addressed in a future post). It does not, however, fit the Christian narrative. I will say this many times over subsequent posts: This present national crisis is going to reveal how many professing Christians have either drifted into a Marxist worldview on the left or Individualistic worldview on the right. And it should challenge us to seek out a distinctly Christian worldview as a third way between the other two.

An article in the New York Times asks, “How Can I Cure My White Guilt?” The authors seek to answer an inquirer who writes:

I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color. I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else…I’m curled up in a ball of shame.

Their answer to this tormented soul? “Every white person should be ashamed of that injustice [the privilege whiteness afforded]. Which is different than being ashamed of being white.” The solutions given are various works of penance: becoming an ally, expressing anguish, relinquishing privilege. In other words, law.

This is what we might call ontological guilt, culpability and shame for your very nature. It is distinctly not a Christian view of guilt. God declared his creation of man and woman to be ‘very good’ because they were made in his image. The image of God is what gives us our inherent dignity. Ontological guilt, then, is not Christian. There is no redemption for ontological guilt. There is no good news.

Biblical Guilt

In the Bible guilt is always connected to thoughts, words, or actions. This is what we call moral guilt. I am guilty when I do something I should not do or fail to do something I should do. Guilt is primarily in relation to God, and only secondarily in relation to others (Psa. 51:4). I become guilty when I break God’s law or erect idols in my heart. The gospel is the good news that because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. By repentance my moral transgressions can be forgiven, and I can be made clean.

So, if I am not guilty because of my whiteness, am I still automatically guilty of racism because I am white? Automatically? No, but I should not dismiss the notion that I have committed an act or thought of racism just because none comes to mind in a quick review of my sins. David asked God to search his heart to see if there was any wickedness in him (Psa. 139:23-4) because sins can remain hidden (Psa. 19:12). 

Perhaps every white Christian should ask God to search his heart for hidden preference, favor, hatred, or injustice toward people based on ethnic differences. So should every black, Asian, Latino, and other believer regardless of his ethnicity. We should also do this based on economic status (James 2:1-13), class, education, or any other difference. No discrimination is acceptable to God. He hates unjust treatment of others (Prov. 20:23). We should ask ourselves hard questions like:

Am I friendlier to people of certain ethnicities than to others when I encounter them?

Am I more willing to help people of certain ethnicities than others?

Do I care about the injustices experienced by people of certain ethnicities more than others?

Do I pray for and work to minister to people in need regardless of their ethnicity?

Do I care about the well-being of people of other ethnicities as much as I do those who look like me?

These are just a few of the many questions we can ask God to search our hearts. We may find after doing this that God reveals some prejudices. If so, we should experience shame and grief for our sin that leads us to repentance. And if we have sinned against another person as a result of these heart attitudes we should seek out their forgiveness.

Black Guilt

It would be awful to be guilty simply because of my skin color. It would be anguish to know that there is nothing I could do to escape condemnation simply for who I am and not for anything I have done. 

This is exactly the position in which many black people find themselves. It is hard for me to understand that until I listen to their stories. Because many white people are insulated from close relationships with black people they may not be aware of this. I presently live in the whitest place I have ever lived. I have never known what it is like to be pulled over by a policeman for no apparent reason. I don’t know what it is like to be called names for my melanin. I have never been afraid to walk through a nice neighborhood because I am white. 

A black friend from the West Coast told me yesterday that he was harassed for his ethnicity this week. One of his sons is a mechanical engineer in his 20’s and has been pulled over a dozen times in the last year on his way home from work. Many other compelling and heartbreaking stories have been told. Are we listening?

I am well aware as a theologian that the root problem is sin in the heart. You cannot legislate or educate hatred out of the heart. Most African American spokespeople do not assume we can. This raises the issue to be addressed later of what can be done, not just in human hearts, but in police training, the justice system, and other realms.

But before we go there, I ask myself and my white friends, are we willing to listen to the stories of those who have been harassed and mistreated merely for who they are? Will we weep with those who weep and resist evil when we see it?

Here’s who I am presently listening to: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/george-floyd-and-me/

Next: Human dignity and equality are only consistent in a Christian worldview.

I invite comments, corrections, suggestions, and questions.

God Interferes in Our Free Will, and It’s a Good Thing, Too.


Jared Wilson exposes the myth so many Christians believe that God has limited himself and his power in order to respect the complete exercise of our freedom (or free will) to choose him or not:

“One of the chief ways we distort the biblical picture of God’s love is when we presuppose, as many Christians do, that love demands freedom. Where we get this notion, I do not know, but it is not in the Bible. In fact, we find in the Bible quite the opposite: the love of God violates human freedoms constantly and consistently. If there’s one thing any biblical figure can count on, besides that God loves him, it is that he is not in control of his own destiny…

“If my daughter is unaware of the Mack truck bearing down on her, or if she is aware that putting her finger in a light socket will electrocute her but she wants to do it anyway, do I love her if I am able to intervene but defer to her freedom? Or am I a loving  father to tackle her out of the truck’s way, to slap her hand away from the socket?”- Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus, 26.

As I often say to my students, it all sounds good until you open your Bible.

Justified Before God


Guest post by Jeff Mindler. [Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where he serves as an elder. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

“Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”[1]Such is the answer to question 37 in the Baptist Catechism, which mirrors the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the subject of justification.

The beauty of a catechism is that it summarizes Christian doctrine and provides a framework for thinking through a subject like justification. Justification is a doctrine that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked or misunderstood and that to the detriment of those who do so. Justification was at the heart of the protestant reformation in the 16th century, and is still a topic of vital importance today. With such an important topic, it is critical to have clarity on the subject, and the above catechism does this by providing a brief and Biblical definition that is easy to memorize while also providing Scriptural texts that accompany each question and answer. We would all do well to memorize this question and answer.

In this post I want to highlight one important element regarding the doctrine of justification as outlined by the Baptist catechism question and answer 37, namely that justification is an act of God’s free grace.Justification is an act of God (Rom 5:1, 8:33), not something man works himself to or accomplishes himself. Justification is what God does, not what man does. It is not a process that man undergoes overtime but is a declaration by God that He makes regarding the status of that person: God declares them just. James White elaborates on this more fully in his definition of justification, which includes all of the major elements found in the doctrine:

To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believers sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.[2]

Pay close attention to the fact that justification is centered upon what God does, not upon what man does. Romans 8:33 states, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (ESV. Emphasis mine) Justification is fundamentally an act of God, a declaration upon sinful man, not a process that man undergoes that can be undone and that therefore he would need to be re-justified. It is a once for all declaration based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf and therefore results in our being accepted in the sight of a Holy God (Rom 5:1).

May we all pause to consider the great comfort it is to know that we do not earn our justification; rather we are justified before God by His grace alone and receive it through faith alone and therefore, all the glory for our justification belongs to God alone. That is good news indeed!

[1]The Baptist Catechism. Question and Answer 37.

[2]White, James. The God Who Justifies. 74

Answering Objections about the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Part 4

suffering childrenA Christian Answer to the Problem of Evil and Suffering

The Christian answer to the problem of evil and suffering begins with God himself. When we have a proper view of God, the apparent problems begin to melt away.

God’s Nature

First, God is the standard for his actions—whatever he does defines concepts of justice, goodness, love, and mercy. Too many times the supposed problem of the justice of God begins when we mistakenly believe that there is some standard of justice that stands above God and to which God’s actions must conform. Such a view reflects the philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. In reality, however, God is ultimate and his character sets the standard for what justice is. We can’t do all that God does, because of our limited knowledge and creatureliness, but God can do as he pleases and whatever he does is just.

Second, some people believe that God needs to justify certain actions recorded in Scripture. However, Scripture makes it clear that God does not need to defend his actions to us. He does not defend himself for giving Adam a wife who led him into sin (Gen. 3:12), or when he tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22), or when Job wants answers for his apparent unjust suffering (Job 23:1-7; 31:35ff; 40:4-42:6). God is the sovereign Almighty Lord who does what he pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Eccl. 8:3) and owes no one an explanation (Rom. 9:19-21).

Third, as fallen, finite, and created beings we cannot understand the reasons of a perfect, infinite, and uncreated God (Ezek. 18:25). Like a two-year old can’t understand the reasons a parent insists on a necessary medical procedure for the child, so we do not have the capacity to understand all that God ordains in this world. To assume that God does not have a good reason for something he allows is to presume that because we do not understand God’s reasons, He could not possibly have any.

Finally, God is not obligated to show kindness or mercy to anyone, or to deliver anyone from human evil or suffering (Exod. 33:19). Sometimes there is an underlying assumption in objections to God’s existence that fallen humans deserve mercy and a trouble-free life. In reality, fallen human beings deserve nothing but God’s wrath. The fact that God allows anyone to live and experience good in this life is purely by his own benevolent kindness.

God’s Reasons

An even better Christian answer is that God may have a perfectly good reason for allowing evil and suffering that we cannot know or comprehend. The standard atheistic view assumes that God could not possibly have a good reason for allowing evil and suffering, yet cannot prove that assertion in any way. The Christian answer says that with man’s limited understanding, he cannot possibly know whether or not God has good reasons for allowing suffering.

The Christian response to the standard atheistic view might look like this:

  1. Premise 1: If God were all-powerful, he would be able to prevent evil.
  2. Premise 2: If God were all-good, he would desire to prevent evil.
  3. Premise 3: But there is evil.
  4. Premise 4: God may have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil that we don’t know about
  5. Conclusion: Therefore, God may allow evil for reasons we don’t know, and still be all-powerful, all-good

We understand this in real life. If you see a man standing over a child slicing open the child’s body with a sharp knife, you might assume that what he is doing is evil. But then if you see that the man is a doctor and is performing surgery, your view of the situation changes. You begin to see that the man is actually being good and merciful, even though he is causing pain to the child. In the same way, humans can only see the evil and suffering that God allows from a limited viewpoint. Only God knows the ultimate, eternal plan for evil and suffering that will end in good.

Taking Evil Seriously

Ultimately only the Christian worldview validates that suffering is genuine, yet not meaningless. Unlike worldviews that deny evil and suffering, the Bible fully acknowledges that such things truly exist. Further, the universal human longing to find meaning in suffering is fulfilled only in the Christian faith. Evil and suffering do have a purpose, and they are guided and limited by the all-powerful God of the Bible. Some worldviews, especially those that believe in the evolutionary progress of man tend to minimize evil so they can claim that the world is evolving into paradise.

God does not stand aloof from evil and suffering. Instead, he enters the creaturely experience by taking on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus experiences every kind of trial and temptation that can be experienced by human beings, yet without sinning (Heb. 4:14-16). He willingly subjected himself to the frustration and sorrow of life in a sin-cursed world, and grieved it passionately. God grieves over evil and suffering (John 11:35). In order to make sure that evil and suffering would not be the final chapter of the story of creation, God himself experienced the greatest suffering in order to ensure an end to suffering. Jesus suffered the ultimate evil and pain by taking our hell on the cross in order to offer redemption and rescue from sin and the curse.

Hope for Deliverance from Evil and Suffering

Ultimately only the Christian worldview has grounds to call evil what it is, to see evil as destructive and awful as it really is, and to provide hope for future judgment on those who perpetrate evil. The Bible tells us that God hates evil and has nothing to do with it (Hab. 1:12; Jam. 1:13-17). Evil is the enemy of God and all he has made. When God brings all things to an end, the devil, Death and Hell are cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10, 14). This speaks of the absolute end of death, evil, and suffering.

Non-Christian views minimize evil, fail to recognize it as such, or are unable to give distinctions between good and evil. The Christian worldview sees evil in all its complexity. First, evil is individual—there is evil in each individual. Second, evil is collective—societies can do evil, such as Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and China, or the murderous tyranny of ISIS in the Middle East. Finally, evil is structural—such as international sex slavery or government corruption. Christianity has a thorough view of evil that considers any failure to keep God’s commands as sinful, rebellious, and mutinous.

The Christian worldview, however, provides a decisive answer for good and evil. God ultimately overcame evil by the death of his Son, Jesus, who conquered the consequences of sin and death by his resurrection (John 16:33). He makes it possible for us to overcome evil by copying his example (Rom. 12:17-21; John 11:25). By Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we are now victorious over sin and already enjoying the benefit (1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4).


The very difficult challenge of the problem of evil and suffering in the world is turned into a positive argument for the Christian God once we see the biblical answer to this objection in all its richness and complexity. Apart from the Christian faith, there is no meaning and purpose in suffering. Human evil will go unpunished and most people in the world are destined for a lifetime of hopeless victimization at the hands of others and cruel nature.

In the Christian worldview, however, we have answer, meaning, purpose, and most importantly, a loving, sovereign God who guides all things for his own glory and the good of his children. Rather than this objection being an insurmountable wall, it is a doorway into fruitful evangelistic and apologetic conversations.

The Doctrines of Man and Sin for Apologetics, Part 3

adam-and-eveThe final segment in this topic deals with the fall into sin that corrupted all of God’s creation and plunged man into guilt and condemnation.

4. Because of sin, man is completely fallen

In contrast to many worldviews and religions, Christianity believes that man is fallen and his heart is corrupt. Since the Fall into sin, every person is born with a depraved heart that will not choose God apart from the Holy Spirit’s supernatural drawing to Christ (Rom. 3:10-18; John 14:6; 6:44). In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve tried to do without God in every respect. By rejecting God’s evaluation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they asserted their right to interpret the world as they saw fit. In the case of the forbidden fruit Eve determined that it was “good” for food, even though God declared it to be the spiritually and physically poisonous.

The motivation for Eve’s disobedience, however, was not simply to try a new flavor of fruit, but to transcend her humanity to become divine, as the serpent had promised her (Gen. 3:5). In other words, Eve wanted to escape her creaturely limits and become like God—infinite and divine. This was all a lie, however, and her actions resulted in death. Many false religions and worldviews are based on a desire to become divine, or to escape death like God. What they promise, however, can never come true. Humans will always be created beings, finite and limited.

In eating the fruit Adam and Eve also attempted to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They tried to establish their own ethics in rebellion of God’s declaration of right and wrong. Here is another common aspect of unbelieving belief systems: they want to reject God’s laws and establish their own. These false ethical standards often lead to a removal of any restraint whatsoever, which leads to violence, abuse, and anarchy. We see this most clearly in the days of Noah (Gen. 6:5, 11-12), the time of the judges (Judg. 17:6; 21:25), and the last days predicted in the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:1-9).

The result of the Fall is that every one of natural man’s intellectual and spiritual functions operates wrongly. Man’s thinking is now slanted away from God in rebellion and ignorance (Eph. 4:17-19). Man is not objective, because his sinful, evil heart turns away from God, truth, beauty and goodness, and seeks to satisfy self. The result is that man embraces lies, ugliness, and evil. He loves the darkness of sin rather than the light of truth (John 3:19-21; Rom. 1:25).

Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia used two pictures to illustrate this truth. Imagine a woodworker who sets his table saw to exact measurements to cut boards at a right angle. He leaves the workshop for a few minutes to get the wood, and while he is gone his 10-year-old son enters the room and changes the angle of the saw. Every board that the woodworker cuts after that will be wrong and will be damaged. In the same way God created us holy and perfect, with our intellect, emotions and will operating rightly. After the Fall, these faculties are now damaged, and while they resemble the original design, they are damaged and do not function properly.

Another illustration helps us understand the unbeliever’s bias against God and the truth. Imagine yellow-lensed goggles are glued to the face of the unbeliever. Everything he sees now has a yellow hue. He cannot see colors correctly because of these goggles. Yet, he insists he is wearing no goggles and sees colors correctly. In the same way, the Fall has distorted the man’s intellectual understanding, and he cannot see truthfully until the Holy Spirit removes the goggles in regeneration. It takes the regeneration of man’s reason to correct the damage done by the Fall. When a person is saved, the Holy Spirit replaces his unbelieving heart of stone with a “heart of flesh” that now functions properly (Ezek. 11:19-21; 36:26-27). He takes away spiritual blindness and replaces it with sight (John 9:39).



Having a biblical understanding of God and man provides many powerful avenues for apologetics. We avoid defending concepts we don’t believe. We tap into the powerful truths of the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The more we know the Scriptures and sound doctrine, the more weapons we possess in the war of ideas. We are able to more effectively destroy arguments and pull down strongholds of unbelief (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Knowing what we believe is the best foundation for apologetics and evangelism, because it gives us the ability to answer unbelief from any direction.

The Doctrines of Man and Sin for Apologetics, Part 2

man da vinci2. Man is different from God

Many world religions, especially the Asian religions have a monistic view of the world. That is, they believe that all things that exist are the same at the core. All things participate in Being, and God or the gods possess more Being than we creatures. The goal in these religions is either to erase the distinctions between man and the gods, or to be swallowed up into the Great Divine and cease to exist. Regardless of the details, man is not at all or not much different in his essence than God.

The Christian view of God is quite different, in contrast. We believe in what is called the Creator/Creature Distinction (CCD). The CCD teaches that God is wholly other than us. God is infinite, holy, and divine. In contrast we are finite, fallen, and creaturely. God has always been God and always will be God. We are creaturely (created beings), and will always be creaturely, even when we obtain our glorified bodies in eternity.

Since we are finite, fallen, and creaturely, we could know nothing about the infinite, holy, divine God unless he revealed himself to us. And this is what makes the Christian God unique. God not only tells us who he is, but he continually comes down to us to reveal himself. We call this the condescension of God. All through the Bible God stoops down to his creation to show and tell us who he is and how we can be reconciled to him.

In Genesis 1:2 we are told that the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters as God was creating. In Genesis 3:8 God comes down to confront Adam and Eve about eating the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 7:16 God closes the door of the Ark himself. In Genesis 32:24-32 God wrestles with Jacob and gives him a new name. In Exodus 3:7-8 God comes down to see the suffering of his people before he leads them out of Egypt. Over and over throughout the Bible God comes down to his people, protecting them, speaking with them, rescuing them. This culminates in the incarnation of the Son of God taking on humanity with the birth of Jesus. In this ultimate sense God has come down and revealed himself and reconciled us to God.

The CCD reminds us that God is not like us and his ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). One of the distinctions of Christianity is that we do not make images of God, because those who do invariably make idols in the likeness of other created things (Rom. 1:22-23). But God is so different than us that he forbids the making of idols because they cannot represent him. However, God has revealed himself to us in His Word and through His Son. This means that we can know him, because he has chosen to reveal himself to us.

Some, such as agnostics, like to argue that even if God exists, we can’t know anything about him. Such would be true if it weren’t for the fact that God has revealed himself to us. This is why a clear doctrine of Scripture is so important for Christians. We are able to escape ignorance by acknowledging the Bible as God’s Word to us.

3. Man was designed to represent God on earth

Not only are human beings made in the image of God, but also from the beginning man was given purpose through the tasks given to him in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 1:28-30 reminds us that man was to rule over the earth and cultivate it. That is, Adam and Eve were to develop all the natural resources on earth for their enjoyment, pleasure, and comfort. Everything we have in our modern world today, from the Hubble space telescope, computers, robotic surgery, and skyscrapers, was in the ground when Adam and Eve were created. God gave man the commission to cultivate the potential of the earth. This is a noble calling!

In the next post, we will look at the effects of the fall on mankind.


The Doctrines of Man and Sin for Apologetics, Part 1

finger_of_godWe are unique from all the rest of creation by being made in the image of God. We are not like animals or angels because we were created to reflect the glory and image of God. Humans alone in creation are made in God’s image and likeness. This partly explains why all people are without excuse before God—their very purpose is to be in relation to God. To deny God when we are designed to reflect his glory is to rebel against everything that we are. To deny the existence of God is to deny our very humanity.

Since there is limited space , we can only touch on a few points about man and the Fall. We will focus on the theological truths that serve as the foundation for our apologetic endeavors.

Man and Sin

The view that a particular religion or worldview has about human beings tells a lot about important issues, such as the meaning and purpose of life, human dignity, what is wrong with the world, and the nature of right and wrong. In many worldviews, man is nothing more than a product of the blind force of evolution. This makes him an accident of nature, since there can be no intelligence in the universe. In this view, man is nothing more than an animal, and no purpose or meaning can be derived from random forces. This view however makes human dignity and ethics impossible to argue. If man is just an animal, violence, disease, and calamity are the nature of life.

In other views, such as New Age religion, Hinduism, and most of the Asian religions, man is divine and a spawn of the gods. Man finds his dignity in having a spark of the divine within himself, or else he is just as much god as anything else. One of the problems with this view, however, is that these supposed divine humans commit evil acts. If a divine being does evil, what makes it evil? And considering the amount of evil in the world, what good does the divine do in the world? These questions cannot be answered in a meaningful way if everything is equally divine.

The biblical view of man, however, provides answers to the most pressing questions of humanity, such as where did I come from, why am I here, what is wrong with the world, who am I, what is my purpose, where am I going?


  1. Man is created in the image of God

The Bible teaches that man is a special creation of God, different from the animals by virtue of being made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). In this sense, man is greater than the angels who do not bear the image of God. Because man is made in God’s image, he bears intrinsic value and dignity, apart from anything he does. This dignity is so basic because of the image of God, that to murder is to commit a crime that strikes against God himself. As a result, God demands that the life of the murder be taken by proper authorities to demonstrate the heinous nature of such an act (Gen. 9:6).

The image of God is never explicitly explained in Scripture, but most theologians agree that it pertains to rationality, a sense of right and wrong, and the implanted knowledge of God. These inherent qualities demonstrate that God is a personal, moral being who has revealed himself to all people. Our calling as human beings is to know God through Christ, live a life marked by wisdom and obedience to God, and share the good new of Jesus Christ, which is the wisdom of God. This feature of humanity—being made in God’s image—is the key to human identity and understanding our place in God’s world.

The image of God in man also means that God is the original and we are the copy. God is the eternal I AM, and we are an icon, or picture, that reflects the glory of the I AM. The reflection is not praised or worshiped; rather, the reality is worshiped. If a soldier has a picture of his wife with him on the battlefield, he stares at her image to remind him of her beauty. But the picture can fade and be wrinkled in a day. When he returns to her, he does not stare at the picture anymore, but gazes upon the beauty of his wife, who is now right in front of him. In the same way, we are to so reflect the glory of God that people want to worship God when they see our lives.

In the next post we will see how man is different from God and the nature of his role in the world.

The Doctrine of God for Apologetics, Part 2

trinity symbolThe doctrine of God is fertile ground for resources for apologetics. The more we know of what God has revealed about himself in the Scriptures, the more we are able to defend the truth. For the sake of space, we will focus on two attributes of God here–his triunity and his personality.

  1. God is equally three and one

God is equally three and one. He is not more one than he is three, and not more three than he is one. We speak of one essence in three persons and three persons in one essence. God as one thinks, feels, and knows as an individual being. Yet, each person of the Trinity has a unique consciousness. When Jesus cried out to the Father on the cross, he was not speaking to himself, but rather to the Father. Yet, both are God. All three persons of the Trinity are called God in the Scriptures, yet they are distinguished from one another.

The Father is called God (Rom. 1:7; 15:6; 1 Cor. 1:3; 8:6). The Son is called God (2 Pet. 1:1; Tit. 2:13), calls himself God (John 5:18) and accepts worship as God (John 20:28-29). The Spirit is equated to God (Act 5:3-4) and is the one who searches the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11). Clearly, then, the Scriptures teach that each of the persons of the Trinity is God. Yet, God is one God. The unity of God was the foundation of Jewish religion, in contrast to the polytheistic religions of the nations around Israel (Deut. 6:4; Is. 44:6-8). The New Testament likewise repeatedly emphasizes that there is only one God (John 1:18; Eph. 4:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5).

Some would say that the Trinity is a contradiction, but it is clearly not. A contradiction would be to say “God is one and God is not one.” The Christian doctrine of God, however, states that God is one and three, and his oneness and “threeness” are understood in different ways. This makes the Trinity a paradox (an apparent contradiction), not a contradiction. A paradox is something that is difficult, but not impossible, to reconcile logically and intellectually. Certainly, the Trinity is one of the most difficult doctrines that Christians believe; yet we do believe it because the Bible teaches it.

One of the strengths of the Christian view of God is that it can answer the fundamental question of philosophy—the question of “the one and the many.” The problem of the one and the many addresses the question of how existence (the one) relates to every individual thing that exists (the many)? This is universally recognized as the most basic question with which philosophers wrestle. While there is no room here to develop this idea, we will simply note that in the triune God the one and the many exist in perfect harmony. In other words, God’s being is the basis for an answer to philosophy’s most pressing conundrum.

  1. God is the absolute, personal God

The God that Christians trust and defend is a personal God, that is, he possesses rationality and self-consciousness. This is apparent in that God does things that persons do. He creates, speaks, leads, judges, gives, loves, controls, punishes, wills, and many other actions. He can be pleased, grieved, angered, betrayed, saddened, and appeased. God relates to us as a person who understands, communicates, and responds to us. God is not a force or an idea, but a personal God who is intent on pursuing those made in his image to restore relationship with him.

In addition, the Christian God is absolute. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at once. He does not share power with anyone else. He is the only God in the universe, and all authority resides in him.

The attributes of personal and absolute stand in sharp contrast to the impersonal gods of philosophy, Islam, Buddhism, and deism. These belief systems hold to a God who is not much different than the law of gravity—very powerful, but not a being to which one relates. On the other hand, many religions have personal gods who are not absolute. The Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pantheon of gods are a good example, as are the 330 million gods of Hinduism, and the spirit beings of Asian religions and tribal religions. All false gods are either personal or absolute, but not both. Only the Christian God is personal and absolute.

It is important, therefore, when Christians defend God, that they have these distinctive attributes of God in mind, so they are not tricked into trying to defend a God in which they don’t, in fact, believe. For example, if an unbeliever says “I can’t believe in a God who would create the world and walk away while it falls apart,” our response would be something like, “I don’t believe in that kind of God either.” We don’t want to defend a distortion of God as revealed in Scripture, but rather, the true God of Scripture.


Not only is the truth of God important for apologetics, but it is also important for the fullness of Christian faith. That is, these truths of God’s triune nature and personality are precious to believers because they show us who God is. As a result, we come to God more truly and that brings us closer to him. Knowing someone in great detail makes for a stronger relationship. The more we know God through the Scriptures, the more our relationship will strengthen our apologetics efforts. In the next post we will look at one more doctrine—the doctrine of man and his fall into sin.

The Doctrine of God for Apologetics, Part 1

triune godNow that we have established the authority of the Scriptures to reveal God to us, we move on to what God tells us about himself and ourselves. Sadly, the doctrine of God is one of the most ignored subjects for many Christians. The very God we are defending is virtually unknown to us. As we said in the previous lesson theology is the study of God. But we don’t study God like we study bacteria under a microscope. Rather, we study God as finite, fallen creatures learning about an infinitely greater being who has revealed himself to us for the purpose of relationship. We study God as desperate, needy people who receive a message of peace and blessing from a benevolent king who has showered us with grace upon grace.

Yet, we are unique from all the rest of creation by being made in the image of God. We are not like animals or angels because we were created to reflect the glory and image of God. Humans, alone in creation are made in God’s image and likeness. This partly explains why all people are without excuse before God—their very purpose is to be in relation to God. To deny God when we are designed to reflect his glory is to rebel against everything that we are. To deny the existence of God is to deny our very humanity.

Since this is a blog and not a full-length book, we can only touch on a few points about God and man. We will focus on the theological truths that serve as the foundation for our apologetic endeavors.

The Triunity of God

Most Asian religions, animism, and the ancient Greek, Roman and Babylonian religions taught polytheism, the existence of many gods. Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism, on the other hand teach that God is one without distinctions. The God of the Bible, Yahweh (Jehovah), on the other hand, is both one and three. This is what we call the triunity of God, or the Trinity. This is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp for anyone, because there is nothing in our world to which we can compare this doctrine.

There is no human analogy that adequately pictures the relationship between God’s oneness and threeness. Analogies such as the three states of water (liquid, gas, and solid) or the three parts of an egg (shell, white, and yolk, yet one egg) fail to properly picture the triunity of God. It is something we believe because Scripture teaches it, not because we can fully understand it. Because we are creaturely, finite and fallen, we should expect that some attributes of God will be beyond our ability to comprehend. Our minds are similar to a calculator, and God’s nature is like a supercomputer operating system. We can’t download and run the operating system because we simply do not have the capacity. If God did not exceed out ability to comprehend, how would he be worthy of our worship? Therefore, we accept the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity and explore its depths as much as we can, but we realize at some point, our ability to comprehend it fully falls short.

In the next post we will look at some of the specifics of the triune God that are unique to Christianity.

How Knowing What You Believe Makes You A Better Evangelist

biblicaldoctrineMany Christians who are interested in evangelism and apologetics make the common mistake of thinking that they don’t need to know more than the basic plan of salvation to be a good evangelist. They believe that knowing just a little about Jesus is enough. They may even think that too much knowledge will be a hindrance to effective outreach. As a result they proclaim a message about Jesus without knowing very many of the details. Consequently, they don’t know how to deal with objections to the Christian faith because they are relatively ignorant of the faith they are defending. They are easy prey for an unbeliever who knows even a little of the doctrinal content of the Christian faith and its complexities.

It is no surprise, then, that many Christians avoid interaction with unbelievers because either they have had an unpleasant encounter in which they could not give an answer for an objection raised by an unbeliever, or because they know that they really don’t know what they believe. Even worse, they may have serious doubts about some of what they have been taught, because they haven’t given the time to study their faith.

Surprisingly, the key to becoming an effective evangelist and apologist is to know the Scriptures and sound doctrine! Knowing what you believe thoroughly provides a sure foundation to confronting the worldviews of others who reject the truth of the gospel. Instead of rushing off to evangelize before they even know what they are proclaiming, Christians would be better served if they would take the time and effort to gain a systematic understanding of their beliefs and the Scriptures on which they are based.

The Relationship between Apologetics and Theology

Theology is, at its heart, the study of God. The word theology is the combination of two Greek words, theos (God) and logos (a word about, or the study of).  Christian theology studies all that God has revealed about himself, his creation, and his divine plan. While theology can be understood in its basic form even by children, because it is the study of the infinite, eternal, divine God, it can also occupy the greatest minds with its complexity, depth, and beauty.

Apologetics is primarily a biblical and theological endeavor. This surprises many people who think of it first as a philosophical enterprise. While apologetics often deals with the same questions posed by philosophers, and at times incorporates contributions from philosophy, it is not primarily a philosophical activity. Philosophy rejects divine revelation; therefore, it can never provide a true picture of reality or a solution for the redemption of all creation.

Our apologetics, then, must be in agreement with our theology. If our theology tells us that the Fall corrupted man completely, so that even his intellect is damaged and his heart totally depraved, we cannot develop an apologetic method that counts on the objectivity and goodness of humanity. By knowing sound doctrine thoroughly, therefore, we will possess more powerful intellectual arguments against unbelief.

Our doctrinal convictions begin with a faithful study of the Bible. We should move from the text of Scripture to our theological system to our apologetic methodology. This has the benefit of making us logically consistent, which is important since we aim to reveal the logical inconsistency and contradiction of the unbeliever’s worldview. The more we know Scripture, the stronger our theological conclusions will be, which in turn will make our defense of the faith more robust.

In the next post we will begin to look at some of the key Christian beliefs about the Bible that serve as the foundation for our apologetics.