The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness: Did The Constitution Have it Right, or Does The Bible Say Its Wrong?

We take things for granted sometimes. The friends we have, our family, our home, we all recognize, or at least I hope we do, that these are gifts from God. Gracious gifts- we wouldn’t have them unless He had provided them for us. I do wonder though- is this just lip service? When we thank God for providing the food when we eat a meal, do we really know what we are talking about? In what way did He provide it for us? It wasn’t His hands that that got the vegetables from the fields, the fruit from the trees, and the meat from the animal. Sure, He provided the field, the tree, and the animal. Yes, He let the crops grow, He allowed the 
 trees to bring forth fruit, and the animals are available to be killed for eating.

But really, if God is loving and all-powerful, if He controls all things, does He really need to be praised for this? Perhaps, is the better question, “Why wouldn’t God cause a bountiful harvest, fresh springs bubbling forth pure water, and livestock aplenty for meat?” If God is good, if God loves us, and if He controls all things, isn’t providing food for us His reasonable service to us? True, we wouldn’t have food and shelter and water and health if God didn’t give them to us, or at least give us the means to attain them, but what kind of good, loving, and all powerful God doesn’t give at least the basic necessities to all of His creation? The answer is: our God.

Millions of people are starving to death, all because God didn’t bring them food. Yes, don’t try to get God off the hook; if you believe God is all-powerful, totally sovereign, that the wind and the rain and the animals and the trees, if all things obey Him and live and move and have their being in Him, then God isn’t feeding everyone. Further, He is allowing disease. People are dying, God could stop it, yet He doesn’t.

Why? I thought God was good and all-powerful and loving? A God like that, surely a God like that doesn’t let His people starve to death. Maybe we should be questioning God for not giving everyone food to eat, and not giving us more food to eat.

So, on the surface, we have a great dilemma. We are so fond as Christians of speaking of God’s love, of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, yet we ignore the fact that God could end all this suffering if He wanted to at any moment that He wanted to. In fact, since God is sovereign and controls all things according to His will and predestined plan, it is absolutely true that God has willed that people starve, get sick, and die.
 Now, given all that, what do you think about the Constitution where Thomas Jefferson says, 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How happy do you think a starving child in Africa is? What do you say to families that are ravaged by disease, famine, widespread pestilence? Do you cry out, “God has given you a right, yes a right, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” I hope not. If you do, you had better have a good reason for why God has refused, in His sovereign and predestined plan, to give these people their rights.

So what do you say then? Surely you recognize that not every person that is starving, sick, unhappy, and dying is due to some oppression by other men? Surely you recognize that homeless people are quite often homeless simply because of the way things played out, also known as the way God allowed things to turn out?  Sick people get sick, not always because of some sexual sin, but because God causes them to get sick. And liberty, well, how do you define liberty? Free to do what you want, when you want? Does anyone besides a tyrant really have that?

Let’s just all point out the obvious right now: If God is good and all-powerful, and He has given us a right to live, to be happy, and to have liberty, then we should be healthily alive, totally free, and abound in limitless liberty. The reality is, none of us has that. Conclusion: Either God is not good, or God is not all-powerful, or we don’t have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Out of those three choices, which are you going to pick?

If we say God is not good, or not sovereign over all things, then we are saying God’s Word, the Bible, lies, and therefore God is a liar, or else the Bible is not God’s Word. If the Bible is not God’s Word, then we have no Christianity, we have faith in nothing.

If we say we have no rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we say that the Thomas Jefferson, our Constitution, at its very basis, is in error. That it’s not only in error but also contrary to the very Word of God. So which is right, the Constitution, or the Bible?

Granted, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t trying to go against the Word of God. But, then again, Thomas Jefferson is the Deist who ripped out all the miracles from the Bible too. Jefferson was not a Christian; he was a deist, meaning he basically believed God created the world, wound up the clock, then let it all run on its own. Of course, in order to declare freedom from England, and to establish the United States, they had to come up with something. And where else do you appeal for human rights except God? So, Thomas Jefferson and the rest came up with the Declaration of Independence.

If I haven’t made my position clear yet, let me go ahead and do so. I think the Bible, the Word of God, is infallible, inerrant, and inspired. The Declaration of Independence was written by an unbeliever who cannot discern spiritual things because of his deadness in sins and this unbeliever, Thomas Jefferson, got it wrong. We do not have, in any sense of the word, a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this would mean that the Bible actually teaches that we do not have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, if God is good and all-powerful and loves us, wouldn’t He give us that right? I mean, to not have those rights sounds pretty evil and unloving, like an evil dictator or tyrant. So what’s God’s excuse for refusing us those rights?

Sin, of  course. The truth is, before mankind fell into sin, we did have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This life was abundant, there was no pain, suffering, sadness, sickness, we were totally free, free to serve God and live for Him, and even walk and talk and fellowship with Him. There was just one command, one rule, that God gave us- found in Genesis 2:16-17
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
And we all know what happened right? Our first parents ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They disobeyed God, even though He had given them everything, and listened to the devil in the form of the serpent instead. It says in Genesis 1:26-27 that God made man and woman in the image of God, after His likeness. We were created by God, for God, in His image, to reflect His image, and we were created to be fully alive, fully happy, and fully free in our image bearing of God. Yet, unthinkably, our human race still chose to sin. We decided God was not enough, that this knowledge of good and evil business, that was where it was really at. We bought the devil’s lie. And don’t say you are any different, you sin all the time, I sin all the time, we are living proof that we hate God and love sin, that He does not satisfy us, that we think sin will satisfy us.

Now, what was the penalty for disobeying God, what was the penalty for eating the forbidden fruit? It was death. God said the day you eat of it, you will die.

Now, here is what is fascinating. Either one, God lied, because they didn’t die right away, or two, God immediately extended grace to them. And quickly we learn, right after God has discovered the sin of Adam and Eve, that immediately He puts them in a state of grace. I’ll get to that in a second, but we also need to look at something else. It also says, in Genesis 3:16, that women will suffer pain in childbirth. Now we see were pain and suffering came from. In the next verse, verse 17, God says to Adam that the ground will be cursed, and it will be hard work, sweating, backbreaking labor to produce food to eat. Even thorns and thistles will come forth. Now we see where exhaustion, more pain and suffering, and famine and starvation come from. It is all a result of sin, of the fall of man into sin.

 Yet already, as I alluded to a moment ago, we see in Genesis 3:15 that God has a plan to save man:
      “And I will put enmity
      Between you and the woman,
      And between your seed and her Seed;
      He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

What is this talking about? It’s talking about Jesus Christ. It’s the first reference to Jesus. God is saying, “Jesus will come, Jesus will crush you Satan, although you will bruise Him. Christ will die for His people; He will restore their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in Me, God Almighty.”

Most of us are pretty familiar with Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  But I think the broader context of Romans 6 really helps show the power and true meaning behind the last verse of Romans 6, which is verse 23. Romans 6, if you read it, says that, apart from Christ, we are dead, dead in trespasses and sins. We are slaves to sin. So we are dead, spiritually speaking.

And because of sin, we are also dying physically. Our body is decaying, wearing out, we suffer sickness, famine, pestilence, sorrow, sadness, all kinds of lamentable things, and then we die. That is the wages of sin. Death, and pain, and suffering, is the wages of sin. We don’t have liberty anymore, we have to work all day long just to maintain life for a few years, and then we are going to die anyways because, after all, as soon as we are born we are physically dying.

We have sinned. Therefore, we have no right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, we live. We all live physically. And those whom God has chosen and covered with the blood of Christ, those who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus, they will have life everlasting. Spiritual life forever. Even though they die physically, it is no longer death, for death has no dominion over them anymore. Why? Because their Savior, Jesus Christ, died for them. He paid for their sins, bearing God’s wrath against their sin on the cross. He, in effect, paid hell for them, all of hell, and God raised Him from the dead. Death and sin did not hold Him, the grave did not hold Him. He defeated sin and death, He rose from the dead. And Romans 6 says that if we died with Him, we also live with Him after death. In other words, since by the blood of Christ true believers are united to Christ, we are also risen from our deadness in sins, and we are free from our slavery to sin (Romans 6:5-11)!

True believers, Christians, have new life. They have life in Christ. Now, we look forward to physical death, because it means spiritual life in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now knowing all this, Romans 6:22-23 brings to light some more important stuff:

2 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here is what is important for this blog. If we have eternal life, if we have the gift of God of salvation which is in Christ Jesus and through His blood, then we are free from sin (Romans 6:7). If we are free from sin, we are free from the wages of sin, which is death. But, because none of us are born saved, we are still in our sins, and God’s wrath still remains on us. This is essentially what John 3:36 says:

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

All of us, before we believed, were under God’s wrath. And we were under God’s wrath because we were still under the slavery of sin; we were still in our sins, we were still God hating and enemies of God. We were not yet covered with the blood of Christ, which paid for our sins. The blood had not yet been applied, for we had not yet received the atonement through faith in Christ. What this teaches us is, outside of Christ, in other words, in the case for all unbelievers, they are under God’s wrath, and God’s wrath, as we saw from Genesis, is expressed through famine, pestilence, sickness, disease, sorrow, sadness, and ultimately, death.

The truth is, when we go without food, when we go without health, when we go without liberty, we are getting what we deserve. Whenever we have food, whenever we have health, whenever we have joy and freedom to do as we please, as we by and large do here in America, we are in a state of God’s exceeding grace. When we go without want, when we have food and shelter and clothing and good health, we are getting what we do not deserve, we are getting grace and mercy.

So when we praise God at the dinner table for giving us food to eat, we need to have all of this in mind. We need to recognize our unworthiness of the roof above our heads and the food that is on the plate before us. God has provided it out of His grace and mercy, NOT because we somehow deserve it, Not because we have a right to it.

Many may object and say that Thomas Jefferson was referring mainly to the king and government taking away freedom from other men. While this is true, Jefferson’s reasoning for why it was wrong for them to do so I believe was totally wrong, and I think I have demonstrated that. Yes, it is wrong to murder, yes, slavery is wrong, and yes, to take away someone’s happiness, that is wrong as well. But it is NOT wrong because human beings deserve these things. It is wrong because God alone has the right to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Man has no authority to take another man’s life, or his freedom, or his happiness, for the sin of mankind was not against other men, but against God. To take the life of a human being through murder is to kill what God has created in His own image, and therefore, is a most grievous sin. Even though we have no right to live, we do. Even though the only right we have is to burn in hell, we aren’t. This is God’s grace, His mercy, which was provided by His Son Jesus Christ paying for God’s wrath against sin.

So no, we do not have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, by God’s grace, by Him giving us what we do not deserve, all men have life, and even some unbelievers and even non-elect have health and freedom and happiness as well. Knowing this, we can think Him even for the air we breathe, for each breath we take is by His grace, not a right, and if God so chose He would be perfectly just to take away oxygen from us and have us suffocate to death.

We do not have much to praise Him for, we have everything to praise Him for, for its all by grace, not by rights, and all made possible by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why I Am Not A Presuppositionalist And My Interpretation Of Romans 1

Firstly, let me say that this is one of the few blogs that I have written in my life that I am not at least about 98 percent sure that what I am saying is actually the correct interpretation of Scripture. While I am fairly confident in my position on this, I am not to the point where I cannot be dissuaded to see things from the presuppositonal position, or more specifically, I am not yet to the point where I believe my interpretation of Romans 1 is certainly the correct one. There are things I am absolutely, 100 percent sure of, such as Calvinism, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, The sinlessness of Christ, the penal substitutionary atonement, Christ’s resurrection, etc. Other things, like the cessation of tongue speaking and prophecy, I am about 98 percent confident in. Other things, like whether or not we should baptize infants, I am about 51 percent confident in lol. I am about 85 percent sure that all babies are elect. I am about 70 percent sure that if a believing husband and wife raise their children in the ways of the Lord and pray to God that He save their souls from sin and hell, God has promised to do so.

This particular topic, which is going to be a mix of my interpretation of a portion of Romans 1 and my stance against the little bit that I do know of presuppositional apologetics as well as my support for classical (at least as articulated by R.C. Sproul) apologetics, falls somewhere  between 65-75 percent.  I am about 70 percent sure that my position is right, but quite frankly I need to be more sure than that before I start making dogmatic statements on my position. So, this post is basically me just throwing out my interpretation which, if I am right and can articulate my position clearly enough, could persuade some people to leave presuppositional apologetics in favor of something more closely associated with Sproul’s apologetic.
One other note, I know very little about presuppositionalism. I just know the little bit that I have seen of lay people who claim to be presuppositional and I have read maybe a very brief summary or two of presuppositionalism. I do know that there are many strands of presuppositionalism. Also, I have watched R.C. Sproul’s lectures (which is about 13 hours of material) where he articulates the classical position, and based off of that and he, Lindsley, and Gerstner’s book Classical Apologetics (of which I did not read their critique of presuppositional apologetics) I have taken Sproul’s classical position. And that is basically the entirety of my exposure to apologetics. So yes, I am bias, yes, I do not know the presuppositional position well at all. I am only going to tell you what I have mostly heard presuppositional people tell me and show why I have a problem with it.

At last, let’s begin. I have heard some presuppositionalists say that God cannot absolutely be proven. Whether this is true of all I do not know, but that would seem to be the correct logic if carried out. It seems presuppositionalists interpret the Bible, particularly Romans 1, as teaching that all men, including atheists, deep down really know that God exists, that God has given this knowledge to them, and it cannot be blotted out. Therefore, when an atheist says he does not believe in God, he is really a liar. This is why some argue that there really is no such thing as an atheist, just liars. Some presuppositionalists will go so far as to say that, because most atheists have refused to look at the world (the creation) around them and admit what they in actuality already know, that there is a god, there is no common ground, no point of reference, so we must now construct a “Christian worldview” and ask the atheist to look at things from this worldview. The goal is to hopefully persuade the atheist that his “presuppositions” as they would call it, are in fact wrong. There belief that there is no god is wrong, because the Christian worldview makes, by far, the most sense.

This seems to be the basic argumentation and way of apologizing by presuppositionalists. I have found presuppositionalists, thankfully, to borrow heavy from classical apologetics and make appeals to logic and reasoning to demonstrate the likelihood of their being a god. The problem is, most presuppositionalists fail to realize that their logical proofs are just that, proofs of God. The presuppositionalist seems to use logic as an aid, a notch in the belt for Christianity, but not as an absolute proof of the existence of God. Therefore, sadly, they weaken their own argument.

I was just told by a rather rowdy presuppositionalist the other day that you cannot “technically” even prove your own existence. Yet, he also later said that “if anything exists, God exists” which is a classical argument which Sproul proves to be true. Yet, if we cannot even prove our own existence, how could we ever hope to prove the existence of anything? Where do we start from with our knowledge? Is it God? Of course not, yet this is exactly what the presuppositionalist claims and then attempts to do. The truth is, none of us presupposed the existence of God, and then looked for evidence that made it very likely that our presupposition was correct, and based on that, came to faith in God/Christ. Nobody is born with a presupposition that God exists. I am not sure if presuppositionalists would disagree with me here, but it seems that they do. I am not sure why though.

At this point I should outright state my position- I do not believe that God has written on the heart of men the existence of God. I do not believe that we become simultaneously aware of our own existence and God’s existence. I do not see this idea supported anywhere in Scripture. I do believe however that men with their minds and eyes can deduce that an eternal being must exist. But, they do this by observing the creation and by analyzing their knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, the law of God that is written on their hearts. From this knowledge, this general revelation, men can come to know that an eternal being exists. I do not believe however that they will necessarily come to know that God exists.

Romans 1:19-20 does not say that God is known by all men. What it says is that “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” So far, nothing is said about God being known by all men, it does however say that all men should be able to perceive that God exists because of His creation and, as it says later in Romans, the law of God, knowledge of right and wrong, is written on their hearts. The creation outside of them, and the law within them, is sufficient evidence to render them without excuse. They should 
 be able to figure this out, that God exists, but they don’t. Why?
Well, ultimately this is because, as Romans 1:18 says, men “suppress” the truth of God in unrighteousness. They fail to recognize reality, to use their brains to discern the necessity of the existence of God. They should be able to do this but, because of sin, some do not.
Now it is true, Romans 1:21 does continue the same sentence of the verse prior and says:
“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—“
I am arguing here, that their knowledge of God does not necessarily mean a knowledge of His eternality, of His lordship, of His being the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Do all men have some sense of a god? Yes, I do not think this can be disputed. But to apply this verse to the modern day atheist who denies an eternal, self-existent being is a stretch. I don’t think we can use this verse as a proof text showing that when atheists deny an eternal, self-existent being, they are actually lying and deep down know that there is such a god. And I think Acts 17 all but proves my point.

Acts 17:22-31:
“Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

   Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Notice, Paul explains to these men of Athens that God made all things, is the Lord of all things, and gives life to all things, including them. But what’s more, we actually see here that God has created all mankind in such a way that they will dwell exactly where He wants them to and exactly at what point in time in all of history He wants them to IN ORDER that they should “seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” This is incredibly important. What Paul has just said is that men must search for God, and that God has created all things to work this way, that men might grope for God and find Him. Clearly, this means that men do not have an inherent knowledge of the existence of God written on their hearts if they must grope for Him in order to find Him.

Now you may say, “But, these men of Athens did know God.” No, they did not. They had a sense, a knowledge of some kind of being, but the altar said “to the unknown god.” And clearly, whatever their belief was of this “unknown god” it was less than a knowledge that this god was the creator of all things, sustainer of all things, gives life to all things, and is the sovereign lord of all things. If they did know this, Paul wouldn’t have explained this to them. Or, if Paul was a presuppositionalist, he would have rebuked them for what they deep down already knew, that God exists and God is an eternal being that is Lord and Creator of all things. But Paul does not do this, because Paul knows, being inspired by God, that these men truly do not know of the existence of God, at the very least, not of the existence of God rightly. They did not know that He always existed, or that He created all things, or that He was Lord of all things. They had to be told that all this was true of God and, you can be sure, since it says that Paul was reasoning with these people in the synagogue (17:17), that if they denied this was true he would have reasoned with them that they were wrong and it was true, that God is the Creator, life giver, and Lord of all things, and that men are to seek Him out, grope for Him, through logic and reasoning and the evidence around them (for what else would they grope for Him with?), in hopes that they might find Him.

So it would seem to me that men do not have the knowledge of the existence of God written on their hearts, but rather they have the means inside of them, and the evidence outside of them, to discover the existence of God. No doubt, in varying degrees, some do this. Others, such as atheists, do not. Now I will grant that very likely many atheists have had at one point in time a conviction that some kind of being outside of us, above us, exists. This must be true, for Romans 1 says that, in some sense, they knew God. However, and I believe this is very important, Paul also says in Acts 17:23 that “THE UNKNOWN GOD” that the men of Athens were worshiping was indeed the God of the Bible. But, Paul says they worship Him without knowing Him. And then, Paul makes God known to them by explaining that He is the Creator of all things, the Sovereign Lord, the giver of life of all things including men, and then connects this with and jumps right into a gospel presentation- Paul basically is saying that God can not be shaped into an idol by the hands of men BECAUSE He is the Creator of all things and has made us, the human beings, for we are His offspring (17:29). It was necessary that this be explained to them BEFORE they could understand the gospel. Once Paul explains this, now they see why they are sinners and sinning when they carve a god out of wood (those whom God regenerates that is) and then Paul explains to them that Christ came as Savior and calls them to repentance (17:30-31).

So, in fact, we do have an example in the Bible where Paul gives evidence and reason for the existence of God; Paul attempts to persuade, prove, and explain the existence of God to these men, rather than condemning them for lying and denying what they already know- that God exists eternally and is Lord and Creator of all things. Further, we also see that demonstrating the eternal existence, sovereignty, lordship, and that God is Creator of all things is a necessary prerequisite (what Sproul calls pre-evangelism) to being able to hear, understand, and savingly believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again, from my very limited and likely erroneous understanding of presuppositionalism, they would argue that deep down everyone knows God eternally exists and has created all things. Scripture seems to say just the opposite. Presuppositionalists would argue that there is no common ground between the Christian and the atheist, yet Scripture seems to disagree as well. Although the men of Athens weren’t atheists per se, it is true that they did not know God. Could it be that natural selection and chance, the things that keep things running in this world with such beauty and order and precision for the atheist, is actually the atheists “unknown god?” I think so. I think atheists “worship” natural selection and chance and evolution like it were god, since they ascribe to it the power and the reason/cause for why everything works the way that it works. This isn’t really so absurd when you consider that the men of Athens were worshiping a gold or silver or stone crafted image formed by their own hands as if it were god. In fact, the atheists of today seem to be more reasonable, perhaps closer to the truth than the men of Athens, at least in some ways.

And I think the men of Athens actually could be somewhat connected to the passage in Romans 1. Why? Because Romans 1:23-25 tells us that these men “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man- and birds and animals and creeping things....who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” This sounds a lot like what the men of Athens in Acts 17 were doing. They were worshiping God, yet without knowing Him. They had, in the broadest sense, some sort of idea that there had to be something outside of themselves that makes this universe click and go off like clock work (for them it was represented as an idol made with hands, and in a sense I believe for the atheist it is science itself, natural selection and chance and evolution and so on, which is also a form of worshiping the creation because they are worshiping the laws that God is using to sustain and uphold and make all things work rather than the Creator/giver of the laws; and if the atheist argues that it is the universe itself that is eternal and from which all things come, that would be the ultimate example of ascribing deity to the creation rather than the Creator, for the universe would be the entirety of God’s creation!).

Romans 1:28 explains that mankind does not like to retain God in their knowledge, and because of this God gives them over to a debased mind, to do things which are sinful. Notice before this, in verse 25, it says that these sinful men “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” And because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, God gives them over to vile passions such as homosexuality. But then again in verse 28 it says that they do not even like to retain God in their knowledge, and because of this God gives them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. And then there is a laundry list of sins that they are given over to, but verse 29 sums it up by saying they are “filled with all unrighteousness.”

So there is a progression here in Romans 1 of the sinfulness of man, of the hardening of his heart. We start out, as it says in Romans 1:18, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Now I interpret verse 21, when it says that they “knew” God, to mean that they had, in some loose sense, a knowledge of God. But, as Acts 17 demonstrates, this is not necessarily a knowledge that He is the creator, sustainer, lord, and life giver of all things. So, what then is this knowledge of God that all men possess?

I would argue that it is the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge is written on the hearts of all men that do not have a mental handicap, as it says in Romans 2:15. And Paul in Romans 2:15 is using the law written on our hearts for his argument supporting and demonstrating why God’s judgment is righteous. This is still in the same line of thought and process and line of reasoning as everything else that we have been talking about in Romans 1. And all men, all unregenerate unbelievers, suppress and distort this knowledge of the truth written on their hearts, do they not? And who writes this knowledge on their hearts but God Himself? And what is this knowledge of but God Himself? So in this sense, they indeed know God. And that is what Romans 1, I believe, is talking about. They know God through the law written on their hearts, the knowledge of good and evil. Everyone recognizes good and evil, but as sinners we suppress the knowledge of this truth as it says in Romans 1:18, and we reject the evidence of the existence of God displayed through His creation because in part of the suppression of the knowledge of good and evil written on our hearts, and then what happens? Everything that the rest of Romans 1 lays out. In our suppression of the truth, the law written on our hearts, we live in sin, in sexual sins, in all kinds of sin.  

As sinners, we don’t have to deny the existence of God to be homosexual or to commit any kind of sin. This is another reason why I see the passage in Romans 1, of suppressing the truth as it says in verse 18, as the truth of the knowledge of good and evil that is written on our hearts. It is true, the more we suppress the truth of the existence of God, and the more we suppress the truth of the law written on our hearts, the more sinful we become. They go hand in hand and can often work together, yet I think for some who did believe in some form of deity but are now atheists, their suppressing and distorting of the truth written on their hearts and their increased desire to live in sin guilt free is what motivates them to suppress and distort the evidence of the existence of God through the creation around them.  But I know  a good many theists out there, even those that profess to be Christians, that are living in sin, even homosexual sin. They say they believe in God, yet are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and are exchanging the truth for a lie and living in sin, living for the creation rather than the Creator.

Further, let us not forget that we are talking about the sinfulness of man here, why we suppress the truth of God, in what ways we suppress the truth of God, and how God reacts and judges and pours out His wrath on us because of our sin. Romans 1 was not written as a manual on how to treat and debate with atheists. Because of all of that, I think the suppression of the knowledge of good and evil, the distorting of that law written on our hearts, makes a lot of sense for what Romans 1 is referring to given that when Adam and Eve fell, they ate the from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And God says in Genesis 3:22
“Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.”
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing in itself, except for the fact that, in our eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were sinning against God, disobeying His command, and thus showing that their use of the knowledge of good and evil would be distorted, and used to live for self rather than their Creator God. I think all this ties in with Romans 1. God is the one, ultimately, who gave us the knowledge of good and evil, and what is the knowledge of good and evil but knowledge of Himself, of His divine attributes, that good is what God is, and that evil is the violation of the goodness of God, the opposite of good, the opposite of what God is like? To know good and evil in the heart is to know what God is like, and therefore in some sense to know God, even if you are unaware of this connection between good and evil and God. Now, once we get to the point where people deny the truth of truth, deny the knowledge of good and evil, 
we can declare them liars, because we know God has written this much about Himself on their hearts.

So, in conclusion for now, we do know that all men, except those who are mentally handicapped, have the knowledge of God, His attributes, what is good and what is evil, written on their hearts. All men have this knowledge, because in the fall of man Adam and Eve received the knowledge of good and evil when they ate the forbidden fruit, and we are all fallen and “In Adam” before we are saved. So we all have this knowledge; this knowledge is universal to the human race, and this knowledge is undoubtedly a knowledge of God. So in this sense, indeed, all men know, or have a knowledge, of God. And I think that is all that Romans 1 is saying. We know God because we have the law of God, what right and wrong is, written on our hearts. And because we know right and wrong, and have intelligence, and we have the creation around us, we have the means in which we should be able to grope for God, to seek Him out and discover Him. But, because of the hardness of our hearts, we often do not do this. And in fact, unless God softens even the unbeliever’s heart, they will not see the truth that God exists.

So, because of everything that I have said, I am of the conviction that, when an atheist tells me he does not believe nor see the necessity of the existence of an eternal being which is also the sovereign Lord, Creator, Life Giver and Sustainor of all things, I do believe that it is possible that they are actually telling the truth. In fact, I generally believe they are telling the truth, this would make absolute sense, it would just be demonstrating that they have, as Romans 1:18 says, suppressed the truth to the third degree, to the point that Romans 1:28 speaks of, where they “did not see fit to acknowledge God...” Indeed, as Romans 1:25 says, they have exchanged the truth of God for the lie.

I am not at all denying, and neither does Sproul, that unbelievers and atheists are suppressing the truth. But what I am arguing is that Romans 1 is not claiming that all men know God  the way we as Christians know God, and that some may not even know God as an eternal being, or even a being at all. The men of Athens thought God could be made into an image carved of stone, atheists think He can be explained as random chance, natural selection, evolution, or the universe itself. Neither the men of Athens nor the atheists understood, for some ever apparently, that God is Lord of all, Creator of All, Life Giver of all, Sustainor of all, and eternal. What they did have was the knowledge of good and evil written on their hearts, and the Creation around them, but they suppressed the knowledge that was there in unrighteousness, because they, we, are all sinners. We know that Paul taught in Acts 17:27 that God indeed did create us all in such a way that we might seek out the Lord, in the hope that we might grope for Him, and find Him, yet we also know that, because of the hardness of our hearts we suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and none of us end up seeking the Lord (Romans 3:11).

God has ordained all things, predestined all things, in such a way that we might seek for Him, grope for Him, and find Him. But we don’t. No, because of the hardness of mankind’s hearts, of my own heart, we do not seek Him. But He seeks us out. He is the seeking Savior. He sent His Son to die for His chosen people and to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). And in the proclamation of the gospel, we must proclaim the existence of God, we must demonstrate the existence of God as He is, the Sovereign Lord and Creator of all things, giving life to all things, sustaining all things with His omnipotent hand. This was connected with the gospel when Paul preached to the men of Athens in Acts 17, so this knowledge is essential for the evangelist to proclaim to those who do not know it and do not believe it. Paul reasoned with them, and we should reason with the atheists today too. They are suppressing the truth, we are to reveal the Truth, in order “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).

This mainly explains why I am not a presuppositionalist, it doesn’t yet explain why I am a classical apologist. I will have to elaborate on that next time. But in short, it seems that presuppositionalists believe that all unbelievers deep down know that God exists and is Creator of all things, and since they are suppressing this truth, it is either impossible to prove the existence of God to them, or not very advantageous since they will just distort and suppress it anyways. So they try to attack their presupposition of “there is no god” by asking them to see things from a Christian worldview. An atheist can do that just about as well as a Christian can see things from an atheist’s point of view, which is not very well at all, because we, like they, are not convinced of their position because of logic and reasoning and the evidence around us. However, presuppositionalists would disagree with me and say that atheists actually do know and believe deep down that the evidence supports God and not atheism, so because of this, the presuppositionalist actually believes that the atheist can, and even does, see things from the Christian worldview/theistic worldview, he just needs more dots connected for him apparently and to be called out on his suppression of what he already knows- that an eternal, necessary being does exist.

If an atheist asks a presuppositionalist for proof or evidence that it is necessary for their to be an eternal, self existent being that has created all things and is the sovereign lord of all things and gives life to all things, the presuppositionalist will often not even attempt to give any, and instead resort to telling the atheist that he already knows there is a god and is just trying to deny what is so obviously true because of evidence around him or conviction in his heart. Classical apologetics actually starts with proving the existence of man and from there works out the provable truth that, if anything exists, then  self-existent eternal being must exist. This is demonstrated logically as being absolutely necessary, and at this point the atheist has no option but to either admit there is an eternal, self-existent being, or deny the existence of truth and logic. Its at this point that we CAN tell the atheist he is lying and knows that there is truth, because for one he had to use logic and reasoning (albeit poorly) to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as truth or logic and reasoning.

At that point, the atheist’s mouth is stopped. And I have seen this. I have one particular friend who, on two separate occasions, once I proved to him the logical necessity of an eternal, self-existent being, he has said, “Ok, so maybe there is a god.” Of course, because he wants to suppress the truth of God now that he has been shown the evidence for the existence of God and to continue to live in his sinful lifestyle guilt free, he reverts back to being an atheist and tries to distort the knowledge of truth, of good and evil, right and wrong, of logic and reasoning, in his heart.   

P.S. It should be noted that I did not address Romans 1:20 above, which says that because of the creation of the world, God's eternal power and deity is displayed and clearly seen. I would have to address this more fully perhaps in a separate blog posting, but my argument is that many unbelievers do indeed suppress what is clearly seen. They should recognize God's eternal power and deity, but many do not because they distort their logic and reasoning. This is a suppression of the truth. Do note however, that Paul still had to explain in Acts 17 to the men of Athens that God was the Creator, Lord of all things, and life giver of all things. Should the men of Athens recognized this? Yes. Are they without excuse for not recognizing this? Yes, because their own sinfulness blinded them. I am, again, simply arguing that some may have never, because of their hard-heartedness and sin, never come to the point of realization that there is a Creator and a necessary, eternal, divine being. I will grant that many, if not most, have, but I am not of the persuasion that the text is saying that all have recognized this truth of God. You can suppress the truth without ever recognizing the truth for what it actually is. Many atheists likely have had this conviction and have seen this truth, that there is a Creator God, but have long since suppressed it to the point where they are now truly, in reality, convinced that they were mistaken before when they thought there was a guy and now believe there is not a god. This is due, again, to sinful rebellion and hard-heartedness, and we should still try to show the logical proof that an eternal Creator being must exist.