Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

Preaching

Another atheist loses it.

When Street-Preachers are confronted by atheists, there is always a challenge. “Prove the existence of your God,” they demand. Then when you present them with the evidence they reject it as proof. It is a rather obvious conclusion that the proof for a Creator is the creation itself, as the Bible affirms. But atheists reject this. They have convinced themselves there is no evidence for the God of the Bible. Thus, one atheist threw down the gauntlet in a Facebook group:

So here is my challenge to anyone on this page. Make a positive argument for the existence of the Christian god that does not ultimately fall back on the “I know because of personal experience” position. If you are unable to do such a simple task then your position is ultimately untenable.

I took up the challenge, with a deliberate plan of how I was going to do it. And the way I did it frustrated this atheist. We pick up the dialogue:

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Is the Bible Self-Explanatory?

When Noel Weeks wrote The Sufficiency of Scripture, he was well aware of the controversial nature of his conclusions. In the book he discusses contentious issues and puts them into a biblical perspective. For example, his treatment of Genesis 1 and 2 outlines the difficulties created by the framework hypothesis and the assumptions leading to the framework conclusions.

There is another group of conservative scholars, however, who would accept Weeks’s thesis, but they have a problem with the sufficiency of Scripture in other areas. Their issue relates to the capacity of the Scriptures to explain themselves unaided by prophets, pastors and teachers (Eph.4:11ff).

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There were two writers who directed my sanity when I was in my early 20’s. One was Malcolm Muggeridge, the other, C.S. Lewis with his Screwtape Letters.

Later my reading broadened, but it took Richard Baxter to bring sanity back time and time again, in his book The Reformed Pastor. He made comments such as this:

They will give you leave to preach against their sins, and to talk as much as you will for godliness in the pulpit, if you will but let them alone afterwards, and be friendly and merry with them when you have done, and talk as they do, and live as they live, and be indifferent with them in your conversation.”

The abandonment of systematic theology in our age is an indication of the influence of non-Biblical thought forms. It demonstrates a commitment to man-centered epistemology. Things are what man declares them to be. But things can never be what man declares them to be while creation stands at the beginning of the Scriptures. For it identifies the source of all things – Elohim, the Creator.

The alternative to an epistemology based on the idea of God as Creator and therefore the source of the eternal decree, is an epistemology based on an abstraction – unrelated facts.

When it comes to preachers and preaching, theologians and theology, it is thus necessary to understand their system of thought as it applies to what they say or write. That is, it requires an understanding of their presuppositions, for what is said and done is no more than applied presuppositions – or applied systematics.

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Peter Brown, in his book, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity Ad 200-1000 (Making of Europe), made this observation about preaching style in the early Syrian churches:

Hence the qeryana, the ‘Reading’ of the Scriptures, was essential for the culture of the Syrian Churches. In the qeryana, the Syriac vernacular that spanned the Fertile Crescent was raised to a new pitch. It became a tongue rendered sacred by the repeated, exquisite recitation of the Word of God. So beautifully did Mar Jacob read the Psalms in church that a visiting bishop quite forgot what he himself had intended to say in his sermon. Even exegesis itself was not a purely intellectual probing of the Scriptures. It was a re-recitation of the Scriptures, a reverential ‘robing’ of the Word of God by reading aloud, interspersed with explanations, in a manner that closely resembled the Midrashic techniques of the rabbis.” (p. 174)

It would be hard to find a better alternative to the often mediocre preaching in today’s pulpits. The Word of God. Uncluttered.