Perhaps nowhere are these false ideas more manifested than in the area of ethics and morality. This is why we at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families work for the preservation of biblical truth in these areas. It is not merely for the purposes of maintaining a particular moralistic perspective, but rather for preserving the authority of Christ on which these moral perspectives rest.
It is the advance of false moral perspectives that have contributed significantly to a culture of unbelief in America. In other words, because, the Church, has been unable to articulate meaningful, rational and compelling reasons for the preservation of biblical moral truth and authority, Christianity has become irrelevant in shaping the moral consensus. If it is irrelevant there then it naturally follows that it will ultimately become irrelevant in offering any valid explanations of reality, meaning and purpose.
If the first step toward developing a Christian mind and discernment is a comprehensive understanding of God's Word, then the second step is understanding the opposition. Colossians 2:8 says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy..." The only way one can see to it that they are not taken captive through deceptive philosophy is to posses a solid understanding of biblical truth and maintain a general understanding of how that truth relates to every other false worldview or belief system. As Christians we should understand the false worldviews present in the culture or at least be able to recognize them and then be able to compare, contrast and demonstrate through rational discourse the falsity of these worldviews.
This is one of the principal aims of the National Coalition through our commitment to providing a "cultural apologetic": rational answers defending the biblical truth in matters of moral and social conflict. Through our Cultural Apologetics ministry we seek to educate the Church with an intelligent understanding of today's social and moral issues that confront the truth, and equip them with rational arguments rooted in historical, sociological, and empirical evidence in order to assert and defend biblical truth in a way that is persuasive. In doing this, Christians can then move out into the culture and become a transforming force empowered by the Holy Spirit, effectively equipped for the task before them with the renewed mind of Christ. Instead of being overwhelmed by the world or worse conformed to it, we will be used to transform the world, bringing every thought captive and making it obedient to Jesus Christ. These are the kind of Christians that are desperately needed in the 21st century: men and women who will love the Lord their God with all of their hearts, with all of their souls and with all of their minds.
Here are several practical recommendations. First and foremost, please do not assume that what I am advocating can only derive from so-called higher education. This is simply not possible for everyone. If this is the case with you do not be discouraged. I certainly value the benefits of a formal education and I challenge the Church to recapture its commitment to education as a principal work. Nonetheless, I do not believe that universities and seminaries represent the exclusive and only legitimate sources of knowledge. (In fact, given the current educational paradigms and the dominance of secular humanist thinking in American universities, I would urge prospective students to be both aware and adequately prepared for the antagonistic philosophical climate that is all too common.) Instead, I advocate for a self-discipline that is available to everyone with a desire to learn in order that they may grow in the knowledge of their Lord and present themselves as good and faithful servants. This is a desire for knowledge that seeks to honor God and not ourselves. In other words, we do not seek after "knowledge that puffs up" or exalts ourselves. If this is the premise with which you begin then you have the assurance that the Lord will take your earnest motivations to acquire knowledge and from them He will give wisdom and understanding.
"For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:6
Beginning with this God-honoring motive in our quest for knowledge every Christian should then invest in building a personal library that includes, at the very least, a comprehensive set of Bible commentaries and a good concordance. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is very good and includes complete Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. In addition, I would recommend having one or two resources on Systematic Theology. I think Alister E. McGrath's two works; Theology: The Basics and Christian Theology: An Introduction are an excellent choice for beginning theologians. I would also recommend owning apologetic reference books such as Baker's Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler and Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. Additionally, one should include the various apologetic perspectives by such notables as Norman Geisler, B.B. Warfield, R.C. Sproul, and Cornelius Van Til. I think Blaise Pascal's Penseés is an outstanding 17th century classic with relevance today.
In addition to these direct biblical resources I would also advocate the inclusion of some general philosophical resources that provide an overview of Western philosophy and thought. Classics of Philosophy by Louis P. Pojman is one of the most comprehensive and user friendly resources and more recently, Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans by Steve Wilkens is an excellent introductory work on key thinkers and philosophers.
The literary works of such giants in the Christian faith as Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, as well as other modern notables like J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul and Os Guinness to name a few should be essentials in any personal library.
Lastly, I would recommend including some resources on Church history. Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley is a concise and easy-to-read survey of the last two millennia that is ideal for first-time Church historians. Of course none of these resources will aid in the slightest if they are not read! I do hope and pray that you will be both inspired and encouraged to take on the discipline of intentional biblical scholarship and philosophical study for purposes of "preparing your minds for action." I also pray that in doing so you will become wise and gracious in your speech and conduct toward the lost, seeking every opportunity to answer their questions seriously. We must realize that the task of taking every thought captive in a culture dominated by false ideas is overwhelming but responsibility for the results are not ours. We are only called to guard the good deposit entrusted to us by the help of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 1:14). May this be our motivation as we endeavor to grow in truth and knowledge.
Part 5 of 5.
This essay is available in the 27-page booklet,
The Christian Mind: The Key to Cultural Relevance and Renewal
by S. Michael Craven by calling the National Coalition at 513-521-6227
© 2006 S. Michael Craven, All rights reserved. For reprint permission contact Philip Barnett at [email protected].
S. Michael Craven is the vice president for religion & culture at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families and leads the work and ministry of Cultural Apologetics. Through the Cultural Apologetics ministry Michael works to equip the Church to assert and defend biblical morality and ethics in a manner that is rational, relevant and persuasive in order to recapture the relevance of Christianity to all of life by demonstrating its complete correspondence to reality. For more information on Cultural Apologetics, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.CulturalApologetics.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.
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