A New World Of Information
I will never forget the night I first believed the Gospel; the truth that I could be forgiven by the Holy, Triune God of Scripture destroyed me. Coming fresh out of a form of Theistic Satanism, I knew there was a God, I believed the Bible to be true, and I even somewhat understood basic and essential doctrines of Christianity. I knew who Christ was, and I hated Him still. But it would seem He was determined to make a fool of me by His sovereign grace and crushed my hate-filled heart in order to believe the Gospel. Shortly after becoming a Christian, I did not know what to do with myself. I very quickly became interested in apologetics, but my interest at many times was tainted by my competitiveness and desire to win… at everything. This was fueled by the fact that I am an aggressive, argumentative, and quick-witted person by nature (to my detriment). My way of ‘defending the faith’ was to memorize arguments from apologetics websites about literal 6-24-hour-day creationism versus evolutionary theory. I also memorized arguments against cults such as Jehovah’s Witness’, Mormonism, Christian Science, etc.
Even though I did not realize it, my worldview had become extremely unbiblical and very, very far off from the truth. My only Biblical and theological ventures had been learned by proxy of the arguments I had memorized from other Christians. Outside of believing in the Trinity and Hypostatic Union (and not knowing how to defend it from the Bible), I had almost no knowledge of the Bible. I believed the Gospel tacitly, or in my heart, but explicitly I pretty much denied it. Why did I do this, you might ask? The cause was, like for many other new Christians, I learned very few Biblical truths and then built the rest of my worldview off of those views using philosophical methods. I had constructed for myself a Christianity in my head to make sense of questions and problems I had. I became a Pelagian (even though I would’ve had no idea what that meant) in order to answer my own struggles of whether or not someone would go to heaven if they believed the Gospel, but sinned before they died. I became a weird inclusivist to answer my struggles with whether or not those who died never hearing the Gospel would have a ‘fair chance’ to go to heaven. I began to hold to many teachings of the ‘prosperity-gospel’ movement because of the church I was going to at the time, and other such things as that.
After I had formed my philosophical worldview built with straw, I ran into some very big problems. I believed at one point that if someone even uttered a ‘cuss-word’ right before they were hit by a truck, they would go to Hell because they hadn’t the time to repent for it and, in my words, Jesus died for the sins you committed before you believed; you had to constantly repent for the new ones or else you’d go to Hell, because those sins aren’t forgiven unless you pray a prayer. The problem I ran into though, was this; I was sinning. I was sinning alot. I sinned so much that, when coupled with my view of sin and forgiveness, I became fatalistic. I could not stop sinning, so I started giving up and started realizing how doomed I really was. Even though I would repent, I could not stop struggling with hating people, speaking dishonestly, and lusting after all manner of things. I started to be constantly filled with doubt.
Once I started going to Rose State College, I had a few friends that challenged me. One friend in particular, whom I knew was an intelligent and Godly man, would throw around foreign words to me like ‘regeneration’, ‘justification’ and even *gasp* ‘Calvinism’. I associated Calvinism with being a cult in the past (for very odd reasons), but this friend of mine loved Jesus. He couldn’t stop talking about the Cross, and studying Scripture! I was so confused that I got into many dialogues with him until I made new friends at his local church (which has been my local church since that time). These friends introduced me to the Bible, and the centrality of Christ and His Gospel. But I had work to do; all of my philosophical presuppositions were being destroyed, and not by arguments but by the Bible, so I knew if God had indeed spoken on such things I must submit. So after relentless hours (or in my case, about 2 and 1\2 years) of study, I was learning many new things about the Bible. I was revitalized by the Gospel. Even though I had previously believed that Christ died for my sins and rose again, when I finally discovered the doctrine of imputation and penal substitutionary atonement in Scripture, my heart rose in worship.
I was so enamored with Scripture, and when I discovered that the truths I was discovering had been confessed by Christians throughout up to a few thousand years, my interest in the Bible and theology were strengthened by studying Church History. After working through countless struggles and questions, I became to have a comprehensive and (more) Biblical worldview. But there was a new problem arising; when I encountered a question I hadn’t heard before, or discovered a Biblical passage that I was troubled by, I would simply look to whatever sources I could memorize the answers from in case I got in an argument. This was partly prideful, and partly a defense mechanism. Once again my pride came out saying: “Now that you know all these truths, don’t take the time to study them in Scripture, but just learn enough of the arguments so you can win the discussion if someone asks you!” As you can see, this has been a common theme of my life. But I was also constantly being attacked from all sides, and had to have something to fight back with. I used the Bible, but many times as simply a way to trump another person’s argument, or to keep them from attacking me. My heart was on competition instead of arguing in order to preach the Gospel. Thankfully, the building of my new worldview was very much tied to my personal study of Scripture due to my obsessive desire to know everything about everything. But I had drifted, once again, into arrogant memorization of Scriptural truth instead of humble saturation of laborious, meditative study.
Thoughts & Warning
Thankfully the Lord graciously brought me back once again to study the Scriptures, and apologetics, and Church History and such with a more humbled heart than I had. However, I cannot help but notice two problems with many of my peers today. I have seen many who have seen truths of Scripture that are new to them. Praise God! But I have seen these peers of mine drift off into a similar problem I had. To paraphrase Brian Dempsey, “These people are new to Biblical doctrine and study and will start whole apologetics ministries. Instead of preparing to defend their faith by deep, thorough Biblical and theological studies, they will simply google ‘what is the Reformed answer to [insert question here].” So a warning is in order; make sure that your beliefs come from your deep, humble-hearted studies of the Scriptures. Yes, it is good and extremely beneficial to a high degree to utilize the writings of others, whether it be the Patristics, Reformers, Puritans, or whomever. I would actually command you to utilize such works. But you will not have a full understanding of what it is you are defending if you do not go to the primary sources, but instead memorize only parts of secondary or third wave sources as a means to win an argument, or to feed your theological-narcissism. Stop reciting things you don’t fully understand, and come before the Lord through prayer and Scripture with a heart that seeks to understand truth, and to learn wisdom.
I have also seen an interesting trend in those who have learned these things, maybe even gone through being arrogant for awhile, and have grown out of it. I am glad that those whom I know have grown out of this; it is great to see humble, Gospel-centered people who are well-versed in Scripture, and even in historical theology. But in many of those who went through the aforementioned stage and were humbled, there is now a noticeable tendency to avoid almost any and all Biblical conversations, discussions, or arguments concerning many ‘controversial’ theological topics. In my estimation this is due, primarily, to two things; 1. Fatigue. After you have been an arrogant controversialist for awhile, it gets old and it certainly gets tiring. After being on both sides of the gun for awhile, you want rest. 2. In realizing that many Biblical truths are indeed true, but not necessary to believe in determining whether one inherits eternal life or not, many have refused to discuss secondary issues with reasons like ‘It isn’t necessary to the Gospel, so I don’t see why we should argue about it.’ The problem is this; we are to defend the whole counsel of God. Those who assert that the Gospel is more important than the specific doctrines of Calvinism (to give an example) are absolutely correct. But the Bible speaks of these things; why should we pretend they aren’t important? Just because monergistic regeneration is not as important as the doctrines of the incarnation, active and passive obedience, penal substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, etc, does not mean it isn’t important.
I simply desire to tackle these problems by giving the antidotes to them (even if I must reitirate some things); study the Bible with all of your brain and heart. Stop just quoting theologians; become well studied in their works. Be worshipful in your defense of the faith, with a heart for the lost. Stop being arrogant, but do not play down the importance of Biblical doctrines. Be careful of avoiding discussion simply because you do not want to argue. I completely understand not wanting to answer to or get involved in every single Facebook argument, but when you tell someone the Gospel be prepared for the hard questions that unbelievers will many times unashamedly ask you. When you simply tell the Gospel and the man on the street asks if you believe in predestination (yes, this has actually happened to me) be prepared to answer him Biblically, but remember that such doctrines are inextricably connected to the Gospel. Answer truthfully, but point to what the doctrines center should be on; Christ’s person and work.
Soli Deo Gloria
–Wesley Tyler Robinson