16 September 2009

He saved us

by Frank Turk

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Last week as we were at the advent of a new generation of Johnsons, we were talking about the fact that the goodness and lovingkindness of God was that he didn't do anything to us which we earned, or that we deserved, but that God showed extraordinary mercy toward us, which should make us grateful.

Today I want to engage at the other end of that astonishing historical fact: that God saved us. Turns out that God didn't need us to do anything for him -- he wasn't in any danger. God wasn't waiting like a withered old regent for the apostle Paul to save him from the Old Testament and the ungrateful and hard-hearted Israel. God saved us with the Gospel, and now that we have it, maybe we should remember that it is the power to save rather than acting like it requires us to save it from all manner of enemies.

This is going to be one of those "drunken master" posts, and I am sure many of you are going to be put off by it, so before I get going here full-steam let me say this: I honor the work of thoughtful, erudite apologists who spend their lives effectually dismantling the ideologies which oppose the Gospel, and the church benefits from the work of those men. It does: it must. It is one of the duties of the elder, as I see it, to be able to rebuke those who are, frankly, wrong.

It's the rest of you I am worried about. Let's face it: everyone is not an apologist, and not everyone ought to be an apologist. It takes an interesting and spiritually-mature mix of mental acuity and personal charisma to be an effective and winning apologist. It is not just an exercise in dogmatics or legal or philosophical wrangling.

For the rest of us, the job is to proclaim the Gospel and live like it is true, not to protect the Gospel as if it was in danger of extinction. You know: God saved us -- and for most of us, we should see that God saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness. We got saved when our plight was hopeless -- by the Gospel. By this God according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, we were saved.

He doesn't need saving; he's not in trouble. We're the ones in trouble -- us, and all men like us. And that would be "all men ever born" for those of you who aren't clear about that.

He saved us, and he doesn't need us to return the favor. What he requires is that we behave like people who know what we have, and how we got it, and to treat it like it's the solution to the problem and not like it has problems that we need to provide solutions for.

We are the ones who get saved. We are not the ones who ought to be coming to the rescue of the Gospel. If we get this right, the rest of the book of Titus makes sense, and we know what to do with it.

I have two book reviews coming here, and I think I'll have a link to a podcast from an interesting fellow, so we're going to take a break from Titus for a bit. However, dear pastor reader, I am certain that you have plenty to do with what we have covered so far anyway. Consider this a working vacation.







46 comments:

RichardS said...

The Gospel is its own apologetic in the "hands" of the Holy Spirit. If He opens the heart and shows sinners their vast sinfulness and their guilt before a thrice holy God, they are convinced.

Chad V. said...

Actually Frank, I agree with you and this is something I need to take to heart.

Good post.

Gary said...

So, you are saying: preach and live the gospel rightly, that God may use it to save people. Do not preach and live the gospel rightly because God somehow needs us to do so.

I agree! But, to balance, there is also a sense in which we should preach and live in a way which adorns the gospel. No, God does not need saving, but our words and actions do have a very real affect on peoples perception of God.

olan strickland said...

We are the ones who get saved. We are not the ones who ought to be coming to the rescue of the Gospel.

Frank, you are frankly, right!

As I was reading this I thought of the Ark of the Covenant being an illustration of the Gospel and how men who would dare tamper with it or even irreverently attempt to "save it" (remember Uzzah) do it to their own destruction.

DJ said...

I am reminded of one of my favorite John MacArthur quotes,
"The Word of God is like a lion, you don't defend it, you let it loose."

Chad V. said...

Good illustration Olan.

Johnny Dialectic said...

the job is to proclaim the Gospel and live like it is true

I like that. That has to be the default setting. I do have two questions for clarification:

We are not the ones who ought to be coming to the rescue of the Gospel.

Since this is addressed to pastors, what do you make of Jude 3 in light of the above quote?

Let's face it: everyone is not an apologist, and not everyone ought to be an apologist.

How would you integrate 1 Pet. 3:15 here? I.e., is not being prepared with an apologia applicable to all?

Mike Riccardi said...

I agree with much of what you say here as well, Frank, but could you clarify something for me? How does the thought that the Gospel doesn't need protecting mesh with 2 Timothy 1:13-14:

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

witness said...

So are you saying the best defense for the Gospel is the Gospel. Because that is what I am hearing.

witness said...

The reason I ask that is because then you need to clarify what the Gospel is for those who feel the need to slip in all the apologetic material and legalistic Bible version, blah blah blah stuff.

Frank Turk said...

Johnny:

I don't think that 1Pet 3:15 is about apologetics per se. It reads:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

That's more about evangelism and adorning the Gospel than it is about having an argument which rabbit-punches your enemies.

Apologetics is good when done by actual apologists; it's not what each person needs to do every day.

As to Jude 3:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

It's the same thing we find in Titus: unsound teachers require or produce unsound behaviors and lives in their hearers.

Yes: you should have a sound faith. yes: you should know something about it. yes: your elders should be instructing you richly and not poorly.

Yes. yes. yes.

But the Gospel does not need saving. It is not in danger -- people are in danger.

The point of the Gospel is that God gets worship and people get saved. However we implement apologetics, it has to be so that this happens. And I suggest that apologetics are not the first line of attack in declaring the Gospel.

Frank Turk said...

witness:

bingo.

witness said...

I love ministries like Answers in Genesis, but I truly believe they are things that minister to believers rather than convince or convict unbelievers.

My denomination spends thousands of dollars each year for a large booth at the Iowa State Fair and it is an Answers In Genesis field office trying to convince the public of a six day creation and global flood. Needless to say there is no power to save in that; it makes for great public debate and oohs and ahhs from Christians, but no rebirth.

I think most people have a hard time defining the Gospel or at least trusting in its own inherent power.

Frank Turk said...

Riccardi --

I have said this already:

before I get going here full-steam let me say this: I honor the work of thoughtful, erudite apologists who spend their lives effectually dismantling the ideologies which oppose the Gospel, and the church benefits from the work of those men. It does: it must. It is one of the duties of the elder, as I see it, to be able to rebuke those who are, frankly, wrong.

It's the rest of you I am worried about.


Timothy is not "everyman" Christian. Timothy is a post-apostolic elder or pastor.

But even in this, there is a massive difference between "guarding the faith" and "saving the Gospel".

What if we approached the Gospel like the power to save rather than an ideology on life support? I mean seriously -- if God so loved the world that we was willing to, and thereby actually did, send His one and only Son, is God going to let the news of that great and good grace disappear?



.


.


Really?

I think the only way it might happen is if we spend all our time arguing about the Gospel and forget to declare the Gospel and live like it is true.

Chris said...

Apologetics for the sake of apologetics is worthless. They should always lead to the gospel.

Chris said...

Great post by the way!

David said...

In other words, the Gospel precedes its defense.

Marvelous.

Because if it's the other way around, we somehow never get to the Gospel.

witness said...

"I think the only way it might happen is if we spend all our time arguing about the Gospel and forget to declare the Gospel and live like it is true."

hmmmmm... Live like it is true... Now there is the hard part.

Mike Riccardi said...

Thanks Frank. Sorry for making you repeat yourself. That clarifies things for me.

Ed said...

Thank you sir...

stratagem said...

Wow, this is one confusing post:

That's more about evangelism and adorning the Gospel than it is about having an argument which rabbit-punches your enemies.

Apologetics is good when done by actual apologists; it's not what each person needs to do every day
.

Isn't that exactly what you three Pyros are doing every day of the week on this blog? If not, how is it different? I don't get it.

Frank Turk said...

Two things, Strategem:

[1] 22 of our 1270+ posts life-to-date are tagged "apologetics". That's about 3.5% of all our posts. I think that's about right -- most of the posts here are broadly exegetical or application-oriented, not specifically "rabbit punches" to the apologetic kidneys.

[2] Real life is not a blog. I know it's a shocking concept, but there: I said it. In real life I don't randomly discourse on some subject from a theological perspective for about 3.5 pages when someone talks to me.

I hope you don't, either.

D-Monk said...

Right on!

As the band U2 says:

"Stop helping God across the street like a little old lady!"

+ D-Monk

stratagem said...

Frank:
Point #1, Your answer (or mine) would largely depend on where one draws the line between where the exegetical ends and the apologetic begins. I have no reason to want to disprove your 3% number - but I thought you were saying that 'everyman' Christians (or even pastors) shouldn't be doing apologetic activity at all. Possibly I misunderstood that, so I'm sorry if I did.

Point #2, well, a blog is part of real life obviously, otherwise we would be able to do or say any un-Christian thing on a blog and excuse it as having been done "not in real life" or something like that. So I would disagree with that sweeping of a statement, although I'm sure what you meant was that you can delve into more detail on a blog than you can in real life without being thought of as some kind of nut-job. If that's what you meant, then I agree with that.

Personally, I don't have any issue with any believer "doing apologetics" (however defined) if they encounter a need to do so.

Frank Turk said...

D-monk:

"Bono" is not spoken here. Sorry.

stratagem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stratagem said...

"Bono" is not spoken here. Sorry.

YES! Finally someone who understands that Bono is just a singer of catchy songs, and not someone whom Christians are obliged to take seriously!

Zaphon said...

Frank:

I think I understand what you're getting at. I'm not sure why you assume people think the Gospel "needs" saving, though.

I regularly share my faith when I have opportunity. I stick to the Gospel, and avoid getting into long winded arguments about things like ...how the cranial morphology of Australopithecus afarensis is misinterpreted to prove Evolution. :-)

I used to also be a street evangelist and I would regularaly run into all kinds of objections which I think needed to be answered, if nothing more than to show the veracity of the Gospel. I didn't do so under the pretense that : 1) I was some sort of James R. White 2.0 and 2) that the Gospel was in "need" of some sort of rescue.

I did give an answer knowing that the Gospel has the power to convert the soul and I am only a presenter.

As a presenter, I should be prepared, knowledgeable and sound to make the Gospel presentable, and not a mockery.

Frank Turk said...

{sigh}

So I'm on an airplane (this is a real story), and this woman sits next to me on the last leg of my 14-hrs of flying. Nice, normal person. I offer her the aisle seet becasue it's rude to cause a woman to be trapped in by the window, but we are also in the row behind First Class, so there's plenty of room; she declines.

We start to chat about where we're going, and I tell her I'm headed home. She asks how hot it is at Home, and it's hot. Then she tells me that it'll only get hotter as global warming continues.

You know: she says this to me, and if you've read my blog, well, ... she says that to me.

So what do I do? This is an apologetics moment, right? Need to debunk Global Warming, right?

"What do you think we should do about Global Warming?" I ask. And she was more than happy to tell me all the things we could do about Global Warming -- it was obviously an important thing for her. Inside, I was somewhat grossed out that she really was that interested, but it was obvious to me what she was saying.

After she gave me the talking points (we were in the air by then), I said to her, "Sounds like a big problem when you put it that way. I think the problem you're trying to fix is that people have hard hearts, and I'm not sure a law is going to fix that."

In words to this effect, she said, "Huh. I never thought of it that way."

And from there, we discussed the Gospel, and what kind of thing Jesus does for us, and whether that means we worship him in private or in a community. And while she did not get cut to the heart and ask, "what can I now do to be saved," she did say, "If more Christians were like you, I'd want to know more about what you're saying."

Adorn the Gospel and do not pretend you need to put it in a bunker so that no one will hurt it. It bowls people over when they hear it declared as if it were treasure.

Do that. You -- do that.

stratagem said...

That is a great report, Frank. Really one of the best things you've ever written, in my opinion.

Mike Riccardi said...

That was awesome to read for me too, Frank.

But because I'm extremely dense, could you give an example in that situation how one could respond so as to "put the Gospel in a bunker" like they felt it needed protecting?

Rachael Starke said...

Mike,

Not to speak for Frank, but I think Dan's recent series on how to answer the sincerely-asked question "What must I do to be saved" might offer up some - pinched-lipped replies that start "Well! You can't do anything!" for starters. :)


And Frank, me three on the story. I think it offers up a great example of how living out the gospel actuall "protects" it, as opposed to, for example, a seminary student I dated in college for longer than I should have who was rude to waitresses and who would toss empty water bottles into bushes.

Mike Riccardi said...

I see, Rachael. Thanks. That actually helps me understand. I'm not sure why this idea seems to be evading my understanding so. Perhaps it's cuz I'm often guilty of it!

Joshua said...

But because I'm extremely dense, could you give an example in that situation how one could respond so as to "put the Gospel in a bunker" like they felt it needed protecting?

When Frank used that phrase, it brought to mind a recent example, closely related to @witness comment here about Iowa State Fair:

http://systematicsmatters.blogspot.com/2009/09/fundamentalist-raison-detre-part-4.html

The author of that post is arguing that Young Earth Creationism should be an essential matter of separation and a litmus test for Christians to "test" one another. In the words of the author, refusal to assert YEC "functions to erode biblical authority."

IMO, that does show a sort of "bunker mentality", to suppose that biblical authority will be irreparably damaged unless we "save" the Bible by battling anyone who disagrees with YEC.

Reformed and Renewed said...

Thank you for this post. Pastor John Macarthur preached on "Four Marks of a Hell bound man" and you are saying what he said. We need saving and if we are selfrighteous and self sufficient it is a sure way to go to hell.
Thanks for this

Zaphon said...

The other point I find irksome about this post is the artificial dichotomy between apologetics done by elders and that done by lay people "the rest of us".

Excuse the rest of us Frank, but the elder should be equipping the saints who then are to do the work of ministry, including apologetics, and I've seen far more effective defenders in the laity than from pastors in a lot of cases.

I agree that not not all, or even many of us should be professional apologists, but if a Muslim claims my bible was changed so it can't be trusted, I'm going to answer him, not just smile and say well the blood of Jesus saves us.

Paul reasoned from the scriptures, as did Apollos, as he was mighty therein-refuting opponents-I'm going to do the same, you're *peculiar* take on the apologetic texts of 1 Peter and Jude, notwithstanding.

Frank Turk said...

| The other point I find irksome ...

Uh-oh.

| ... about this post is the artificial
| dichotomy between apologetics done
| by elders and that done by lay people
| "the rest of us".

It’s not hardly artificial. Let me say this as clearly but as clearly as is necessary and warranted: by a long shot, the blogosphere, the internet, the world of publishing and the Christian life would be well-served if more than half (and my number would be well north of 4-5ths) of all alleged “apologists” for the Christian faith took up fishing or needlepoint or handing out cold cups of water even. For every Alpha-Omega Ministries or even CRI/BAM, there are, in my estimation, hundreds of poorly-instructed, poorly-equipped, poorly-received and poorly-presented immature believers who are using apologetics like a club and treating unbelievers like they are baby seals.

We don’t have to do is imagine evangelicalism as it is today. There it is right there. Pheh. Now in that world of people bought by Christ but taught like it’s Corinth or pre-Titus Crete (or possibly worse; not sure how it could be worse), no one would bother to say, “well, we have a lot of pastors preparing younger men to be elders.” It’s just not happening.

So how good could the run-of-the-mill “apologists” raised in that environment be?

And then in that, we then have people who have the basic evangelical fear of “secularism” – and of course we have to do something about secularism. So they hear Hank on the radio, or they hear our friend Todd Freil, and while those ministries may be doing something specific and intentional and worth-while, the fact is that the people listening get all the quick answers, but they don’t have the substantive foundation from which those quick answers are harvested.

So what we really have in the common “apologist” is a person filled up with flash-card responses to apologetic scenarios. And is that what Peter was talking about in 1Pet 3:15? Always have your flash cards ready so you can club down the unbeliever? You should re-read 1 Pet 3 if you think so.

Having legions of bad apologists is not a solution to the problem of having the church in the west full of under-discipled people. It is actually a symptom of the actual problem.

| Excuse the rest of us Frank, but the
| elder should be equipping the saints
| who then are to do the work of
| ministry, including apologetics, and
| I've seen far more effective
| defenders in the laity than from
| pastors in a lot of cases.

I like the word “effective” here, because it betrays something I think you’re not thinking through all the way. I think – and please correct me if I misunderstood here – that by “effective”, you mean “they easily identify problems with arguments and provide robust rebuttals quickly and with some kind of good speaking technique”.

Let me say something here without going overboard: if “effective” is the measure, then let’s measure the in-roads of their “effective” work in the church and in the culture. How’s orthodoxy doin’? How’s the spread of the Gospel and the change in the hearts of men? How’s Bible literacy? How’s church membership?

I suggest that you take care in selecting “effective” as your dip stick for checking the oil on para-church apologetics. What it’s going to measure you’re not going to like. It’s going to make my point better than I have so far.

[more]

Frank Turk said...

[con’t]

| I agree that not not all, or even
| many of us should be professional
| apologists, ...

You are blurring a distinction I made, which is between the elder who ought to be skilled in apologetics, and the rest of us.

It’s a serious flaw in your objection.

| ... but if a Muslim claims my
| bible was changed so it can't be
| trusted, I'm going to answer him,
| not just smile and say well the blood
| of Jesus saves us.

Aha. So you’re worried that Muslim apologetics will overcome the Gospel – that somehow the Muslim is a more-credible person to toss-off his apologetic flash cards than you are when you say that Jesus paid a great price for your sin and live like a person who is grateful.

My counter-challenge is this: the Muslim’s plastic objection will look stupid and cheap next to your Gospel-centered life. In the worst case, the person who is measuring the truth claims being thrown around there will check the pragmatic comparison of love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith to a stupid argument about textual transmission that, frankly, no one really understands.

I think if you are carrying out Paul’s charge (1Tim 1:5), and someone tries to say that you are a fraud because the Bible is somehow corrupt, your character will trump their accusation.

That, btw, is what 1Peter 3:13-17 is talking about.

| Paul reasoned from the scriptures,
| as did Apollos, as he was mighty
| therein-refuting opponents-I'm going
| to do the same, you're *peculiar*
| take on the apologetic texts of 1
| Peter and Jude, notwithstanding.

Aha. We all want to be Paul – it’s like Paul is the only Christian in the NT sometimes, but especially among those who want to be apologists.

As to my “peculiar” take on those texts, I’m fairly confident that what I have posted here is the contexts of those passages. Just because they have one application – that is, a justification for apologetics in general – does not mean that this is their only (or even their primary) application.

FWIW, I would be willing to talk with you at-length about the subject of lay apologetics in the North American church – at my D-Blog. Here’s the thesis I would defend:

The NT gives such specific instruction about apologetics and teaching that most believers in the English-speaking church should refrain from practicing the art.

I’d let the exchange run 20 questions, and I’d give you an open-ended word limit to all your answers – and require of myself only the 500-max as is standard there. I would post a 1500-word opening statement; you could post a 5000-word opening statement if you wanted. However, given the gross word advantage I would be giving, I would require to keep the privilege of the last word/closing statement in the exchange.

Go over there, read the rules, and e-mail me if you are interested. This would probably be the most profitable d-blog exchange ever to occur there, and ironically it would also be the most incriminating.

Let me know.

Frank Turk said...

woops:

D-Blog link for the uninitiated.

Zaphon said...

Thanks Frank. You made some great clarifying points.

I hope you'll forgive me...I wrote that post early this morning after 2 days of stomach flu, with a 5 month old baby girl in one arm...needless to say I should have been more gracious instead of saying "irksome".

I 'll check out your links for sure.
God Bless.
Zaphon

Frank Turk said...

We all have days like that. I took no offense, but I thought that stuff needed to be said.

I hope all of us feel better now, but especially you and yours.

:-)

5ptsalt said...

Frank,

I am a little disappointed that you would make such a statement that I Peter 3:15 has little to do with apologetics 'per se'.
Actually, it has everything to do with apologetics. The word apologia is even used in the passage!

Furthermore, the Lord is speaking thru Peter to every Christian to be apologetic, that is, be able to give a reason for the hope within them.

Brother, I think you are wrong in this article, in this sense, you perpetuate the fallacy of the professional apologist! That is not biblical, and you should know better brother.

I've responded to your post, in case you're interested.

http://5ptsalt.com/2009/09/17/every-christian-an-apologist/

In His Service,
Joel Taylor

Joshua said...

@5ptsalt: Do you feel that 1 Peter 3:15's sense of the word "apologia" is really what people today mean (including Frank) when they talk about "apologetics"?

I always thought of it like this:

A: 1 Peter 3:15: Every Christian should be prepared to answer sincere audiences who have sincere question, and offer personal witness as to why he or she believes. There may be logic and rhetoric involved, but this is about witness.

B: apologetics: People like Ravi Zacharias, who use logic and rhetoric to batter a hostile audience and determined foe secularism, atheism, materialism, etc). The goal being to discredit the foe's worldview and/or make your own side feel more confident in your own position.

Personally, the latter category seems to me to be dangerously close to "casting pearls before swine", and is not what 1 Peter 3:15 is talking about. However, there are people like Iranaeus and Aquinas who did it beautifully, and I think it is what people today mean when they talk about "apologetics". Certainly, when Frank talks about punching people's kidneys, I suppose that he's thinking more of rare souls like Iranaeus and Aquinas instead of the everyday Christian exhorted in 1 Peter.

Stefan said...

"He doesn't need saving; he's not in trouble. We're the ones in trouble....What he requires is that we behave like people who know what we have, and how we got it...."

Solid gold. No, better than gold.

There was no point commenting before now, because there is nothing useful I could possibly add to this discussion.

Frank Turk said...

First of all, I'm am heartened pretty robustly by the regular readers here who (at least) give me the benefit of the doubt when I say things which are, with all self-awareness engaged, pretty harsh. It's pretty harsh to say that more than 80% of "christian apologists" should just pack it up, and to say that while staring at 1Pet 3:16 is even more harsh, so thanks to anyone and everyone who has stuck up for me in this thread.

For the record, I'd own about everything my defenders have provided in defending me.

I will post my extended response at my blog, link it here, and shut down these comments at that time.

Thanks to all who are reading this and thinking about it.

Frank Turk said...

That response is on the other end of this link.

The thread is closed. thanks.