Collision between the Spiritual and Civil Laws on Marriage

James Bannerman discusses the relationship between the church and the state, arguing that if they are not cooperating with each other, even if the state attempts neutrality toward religion, the result would be harmful for both institutions. A powerful example he uses is marriage. Note how profound is his case, though writing in 1868. His insight may be helpful for the church’s thinking about either the redefining of marriage stateside or the efforts to legalize no-fault divorce in the Philippines.

III. In the third place, I would refer to the law of marriage as another of those cases which illustrate the general position, that the civil and religious elements are so connected together in human society, that where they do not meet and unite in friendship and mutual co-operation, they must inevitably tend to the serious or fatal injury of one or the other.

Marriage is one of those institutions which, although not of grace but of nature, is yet adopted into the system of Christianity, and regulated by the rules which Christianity has laid down. The law of marriage has its origin in nature, and not in revelation; and yet the duties and rights connected with it, together with their exact nature and limits, are matters with which revelation deals. In so far as these involve moral or religious duties, we are to seek in the Bible for the code of law by which they are prescribed and determined. But marriage is, in another sense, a civil matter, coming under the province of the ordinary magistrate, and necessarily requiring to be dealt with in the way of civil enactment. There are civil rights intimately connected with it, in such a manner that the state cannot avoid the duty of legislating in regard to it, and regulating them by positive statutes and rules. In short, the institution of marriage is to be viewed in two lights,—either as a moral observance, falling to be regulated by the law of Scripture, or as a civil observance, falling to be regulated by the law of the state. And with this twofold character which it sustains, and this twofold legislation to which in every civilised and constituted society professing Christianity it is subjected, how, it may be asked, is a collision between the spiritual and the civil enactments on the subject—fraught, as it inevitably would be, with deadly consequence to the peace, if not the existence, of human society—to be avoided or prevented? If the state recognise the Bible as the Word of God, and the law of the Bible as the law of God, then it will take that law as the guiding principle for its own legislation, and make the enactments of the magistrate in regard to marriage coincident with the enactments of Scripture. But if the state do not recognise the Bible as the Word of God, there can be no security that its regulations shall not come into conflict with the regulations of Scripture as regards the institution of marriage, in such a manner as to put in peril not only the peace and purity of domestic life, but also through these the highest and holiest interests of human society. The ordinance of the family lies at the very foundation of civil society. It is the unit of combination around which the wider and more public relations of civil life associate themselves. Destroy or unhinge the domestic ordinances, unloose or unsettle the family bond, and no tie will be left holy enough or strong enough to bind up the broken and disjointed elements of human life. And yet, unless there be on the part of the state a distinct acknowledgment of the Word of God as the law to which its own laws must be conformed, there can be no security against the danger of the enactments of civil society on this vital point running counter to the appointment of God. The degrees of relationship or consanguinity within which marriage is valid or invalid,—the terms on which it is to be contracted or dissolved,—the rights which it confers on children, and the claims of succession,—all these are questions that fall to be determined both by the law of Scripture and the laws of the state, and any difference or conflict in regard to which must tend to unsettle the very foundation of human society. From the very nature and necessity of the case, if the state is not here at one with religion, it must be a difference deeply, if not fundamentally, injurious to the one or the other.

—James Bannerman, The Church of Christ (1868) loc. 2361-2393

Note especially that if the state does not align marriage law with the law of Scripture, there can be no security for marriage. Consequently, human life as we know it is in danger. Bannerman asserts, back in 1868, that the very foundation of human society will be destabilized. And that is exactly what we see happening before our eyes, today. The church has seen this coming, and yet it’s coming true.

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Should Education be Religious?

Yes or no?

Foundations of Christian Education coverThe Word of God also indicates very explicitly that the education which the parents are in duty bound to provide for their children must be fundamentally religious. If fact, its emphasis is so exclusively on religious training that it almost seems as if it regarded this as the whole of education.

This finds its explanation in the fact that Scripture deals primarily with the religious and moral needs of man, that it regards religion as the most fundamental, the most basic thing in the life of man, and that it would not consider any education as sound and satisfactory that was not permeated with the spirit of religion.

—Louis Berkhof, “Being Reformed in Our Attitude Toward the Christian School” in Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers pg. 29-30

And as Cornelius Van Til says, there’s no neutrality. Yes, even in education. As Greg Bahnsen told plenty of high school students, referring to the myth of neutrality they would encounter in the academic world: they’re not, and you shouldn’t be. Those who claim to be neutral and that you should be too, they actually are not neutral. And you, Christian, should not be because you claim the name of Christ. We should not attempt neutrality because of what God has said in Scripture.

So for those who answer that education should not be religious, that’s actually impossible. Every human being knows God, being made in God’s image. All people are without excuse, because God has made himself known to them.

Therefore, “secular” or irreligious schools are in fact not truly so. They, and everyone in them, like everyone else, are unavoidably religious.

The question “should education be religious?” is already assuming something: that education can be neutral. That neutrality is a possibility. But it’s not. The claim of Christ is comprehensive, total. To then claim that he can be excluded from anything, even education, is to not be neutral but actually against Christianity.

Religiously neutral education? To rephrase Greg Bahnsen’s line: it’s not, and it shouldn’t be.

The question is not whether education should be religious. The fundamental question is which religion. And at bottom, there are only two choices: belief or unbelief. Christianity, or anti-Christianity.

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Man Will Necessarily Have a God

Man will necessarily have something that he respects as his god. If man do not give his highest respect to the God that made him, there will be something else that has the possession of it. Men will either worship the true God, or some idol: it is impossible it should be otherwise: something will have the heart of man. And that which a man gives his heart to, may be called his god: and therefore when man by the fall extinguished all love to the true God, he set up the creature in his room. For having lost his esteem and love of the true God, and set up other gods in his room, and in opposition to him; and God still demanding their worship, and opposing them; enmity necessarily follows.

—Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies“, The Works of Jonathan Edwards Kindle loc. 60837-60843

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Inerrancy and Worldview by Vern Poythress

coverInerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible by Vern Poythress

Copyright © 2012 by Vern Sheridan Poythress Published by Crossway

This is my new “handout book” to people who have difficulties with the Bible. It is very well rounded, tackling challenges from major disciplines that are under the influence of modern assumptions. Just look at the table of contents: challenges from science and materialism, from history, about language, from sociology and anthropology, and from psychology. Critics of the Bible come from these various angles, and reading this book will certainly help you in being prepared “to answer anyone.”

In my frequent apologetic conversations about the Bible with unbelievers, I have realized more and more that nearly all the difficulties with the Bible arise from the worldview that the individual brings to Scripture. The Bible is not dealt with according to it’s own claims. Rather, it is measured by another criteria, an autonomous criteria. This is rarely recognized on the part of the critic, who either alleges his neutrality explicitly or simply argues like he’s neutral (having never examined his own bias). I find myself, over and over again, having to point out the underlying commitments (about reality, or knowledge, or ethics) being brought to the Bible and questioning their validity. This book does just that, and is therefore an indispensable aid to day-to-day apologetics.

Taking seriously the Bible’s own worldview, and not imposing ideas from modern worldviews, helps to dissolve many of the alleged difficulties. (pg. 209)

This book defends inerrancy, Scripture’s complete truthfulness in what it says, from the angle of worldview. Vern Poythress shows that many of the challenges to Scripture, resulting in moves to throw out or redefine inerrancy, are the result of worldviews in conflict with the worldview of the Bible itself.

We can begin to answer many of our difficulties in a number of areas if we make ourselves aware of the assumptions that we tend to bring along when we study the Bible. (pg. 16)

Poythress also makes the necessary connection between false worldviews and the reality of sin. He addresses the noetic effects of sin, sin’s corruption of the mind, “so that we may appreciate the need for Christ to rescue us from sin, not only in its gross forms, but in the subtle forms that it can take within the mind. By so doing, we can also grow in appreciating the role that the Bible has to play in renewing our minds.” (pg. 187)

. . . mainstream modern thinking collides with the Bible. The collision arises largely from differences in worldview. The differences are all the more important because worldviews have entanglements with our hearts. People with corrupt hearts, in rebellion against God, corrupt their view of the world. They pass corrupt worldviews to their children, who absorb them because they too have corrupt hearts to which corrupt worldviews appeal. It is the ultimate vicious cycle. (pg. 237)

Further, Poythress emphasizes that only by God’s gracious work (regeneration) will we trust Jesus Christ, see Scripture’s claims and believe them. Worldview and ultimate trust are connected, and every human being is blinded by sin, and cannot escape that on their own. Thus, they need the Gospel and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit:

God has made provision for sins, not only through what Christ accomplished on earth, but also through Christ’s life now. He reigns as King in the presence of God the Father (Heb. 6:20; 7:24–25). And he sends the Holy Spirit, who empowers people to understand and receive what he is saying in the Bible. Robust reading of the Bible means reading that is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind and life while you are reading. If you do not have the Holy Spirit in your life right now, you can ask Jesus Christ, who is alive in heaven, to send his Spirit to you to enable you to hear and understand the Bible. But, as usual, there is a difficulty: to do that, you have to admit failure—you need supernatural help. You have to admit that you cannot receive adequately what God says unless God enables you. (pg. 186)

I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read. The chapters are short and the whole book progresses quickly. This work is untechnical and very easy to understand. I think every Christian is able to (and should!) read this book, even if English is a second language. Read this book especially if you are frequently talking with people (even professing believers) who have difficulties with believing the Bible. I suggest even giving this book to them (after you have read it), so they can see how the prevalent modern worldview is probably the reason for the alleged difficulties.

The best option is, of course, to read this book with them.

College students (and future college students) would especially benefit from this book. I heartily agree with Wayne Grudem’s praise: “it is a wide-ranging analysis that exposes the faulty intellectual assumptions that underlie challenges to the Bible from every major academic discipline in the modern university world. I think every Christian student at every secular university should read and absorb the arguments in this book.”

Again, I highly recommend this. It is now my handout book for anyone who has difficulties with the complete truthfulness of the Bible, and for any believer frequently confronted with modern challenges to the Bible.

From the preface:

I agree that our modern world confronts us with some distinctive challenges. But I do not agree with the modern attempts to abandon or redefine inerrancy. To respond to all the modern voices one by one would be tedious, because the voices are diverse and new voices continue to appear. Rather, I want to develop an alternative response in a positive way. . . .

The Bible has much to say about God and about how we can come to know him. What it says is deeply at odds with much of the thinking in the modern world. And this fundamental difference generates differences in many other areas—differences in people’s whole view of the world. Modern worldviews are at odds with the worldview put forward in the Bible. This difference in worldviews creates obstacles when modern people read and study the Bible. People come to the Bible with expectations that do not fit the Bible, and this clash becomes one main reason, though not the only one, why people do not find the Bible’s claims acceptable.

Within the scope of a single book we cannot hope to deal with all the difficulties that people encounter. We will concentrate here on difficulties that have ties with the differences in worldview. (pg. 14)

And yes, Inerrancy and Worldview is in the Apologetics Track.

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Evangelism Demands a Presuppositional Defense

The very reason why Christians are put in the position of giving a reasoned account of the hope that is in them is that not all men have faith. Because there is a world to be evangelized (men who are unconverted), there is the need for the believer to defend his faith: Evangelism naturally brings one into apologetics. This indicates that apologetics is no mere matter of “intellectual jousting”; it is a serious matter of life and death – eternal life and death. The apologist who fails to take account of the evangelistic nature of his argumentation is both cruel and proud. Cruel because he overlooks the deepest need of his opponent and proud because he is more concerned to demonstrate that he is no academic fool that to show how all glory belongs to the gracious God of all truth. Evangelism reminds us of who we are (sinners saved by grace) and what our opponents need (conversion of heart, not simply modified propositions). I believe, therefore, that the evangelistic nature of apologetics shows us the need to follow a presuppositional defense of the faith. In contrast to this approach stand the many systems of neutral autonomous argumentation.

—Greg Bahnsen, “Evangelism and Apologetics”, Synapse III (Fall, 1974)

This is vital to understand. One reason (among many) that our apologetic must be presuppositional is the evangelistic nature of apologetics. No, evangelism and apologetics are not categorically different, let alone at odds with each other (a common notion). The apologetic encounter is an evangelistic encounter. Understanding what God’s Word says about the condition of the unbeliever and the nature of conversion makes clear the necessity of a presuppositional defense of the faith, as opposed to a neutralist approach (which is every other apologetic method).

Let this sink in:

Nature of Conversion — Greg Bahnsen

So, what apologetic is obviously necessary?

Apologetics and evangelism are not sharply divided. Rather, the evangelistic nature of apologetics itself shows what kind of apologetic is required: one that is consistent with what God has said about the unbeliever, the believer, conversion, epistemology, etc. If we submit to what Scripture says is the character of evangelism, we will see what apologetic approach we need to take.

Read the rest of Greg Bahnsen’s article for free at Covenant Media Foundation. God willing, all believers as they defend the faith will be encouraged to set apart Christ as Lord, instead of on the shelf.

The article is one of Greg Bahnsen’s best, and has already provoked another blog post, coming soon.

Read more on the relationship between evangelism and apologetics: Pre-Meditated Evangelism, Not Pre-Evangelism.

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What hath Apologetics to do with Discipleship?


Yes, the play on “what hath Jerusalem to do with Athens?” is fully intentional. Much the same intention of the original is communicated by this question. What relation has “Athens” (whatever that means, usually the mind/intellect) to do with “Jerusalem” (whatever that means, typically Scripture, Christianity, and “spirituality”). In much the same way apologetics tends to be divorced from the life of discipleship to Jesus.

“What hath apologetics to do with discipleship?”

My answer: everything.

This makes sense if we understand that Christianity is a worldview. I appreciated this point of personal testimony in Jeff Durbin’s session (what he says between 4:21-6:49) from the 2015 Bahnsen Conference. When he began to read Greg Bahnsen (Always Ready), it was more than just having a philosophically consistent apologetic. It was learning to see all of life as under the Lordship of Christ. “All thinking was to be submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord.” It was more than apologetics, it was a change of life as a Christian.

I can attest to that as well. The same happened to me. I certainly was sanctified when I encountered Bahnsen’s work. When I first read Greg Bahnsen (Pushing the Antithesis), I must say I wasn’t as deeply changed by apologetics narrowly defined, but by suddenly being able to look around me and actually discern presuppositions and worldviews, and see the antithesis between Christianity and unbelief, and self-consciously ground all of life in the Christian worldview. My life was changed. I too, learned to think as a Christian. I learned more than a mere apologetic method.

You know what that was? A huge leap in our personal discipleship. It was a great moment in our lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Everything we do will have an apologetic edge to it, because we live from a Christian standpoint, whereas non-Christians do everything from the standpoint of unbelief. All creation is covenantally qualified. All is in relation to God, and with reference to him (whether acknowledged or not). Christ is the reference point, in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and by him all things hold together (Colossians 2:3, 1:17). The question is not “do you have a personal relationship with God?” All people, by virtue of being created by God, in his image, are in relationship (covenant) with him. The question is, “what kind of personal relationship with God do you have?” A right relationship, or one of enmity? Are you in Adam, or are you in Christ? That’s covenantal language.

With this understanding, we see that everything we do is covenantal, characterized by our covenantal relationship with God. Therefore, all activity is religious activity. Both believers and unbelievers are inherently religious, they were made covenantal creatures by God. So everything we do, regardless of our worldview, we do religiously. Because of this there is no sacred-secular dualism.

What is discipleship? Jesus commanded that disciples be made of the nations, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Teaching and obedience. Learning sound doctrine and living it out, and making more disciples. Disciples are disciple-makers. Simply another way to describe this is learning the Christian worldview, the total perspective of Scripture, and living by it.

Discipleship can be summarized as developing, demonstrating, and defending the Christian worldview.

Understanding that all of life is under the Lordship of Christ, you are going to be doing everything, self-consciously, as a Christian. You will use your words to explain why you live the way you do. You won’t necessarily be doing anything differently than non-Christians (apart from what is explicitly sin), but your basis for doing everything, from family to employment, will be different. There’s that absolute, ethical antithesis between believer and unbeliever.

One way to understand apologetics is: the application of theology to unbelief, wherever it is found. So everything you do is potentially apologetic, as you are living according to the truth in contrast to unbelief. Worldview is the framework for discipleship, for Christianity encompasses all of life, and it is by the Scriptures that we interpret everything. Apologetics is at the level of worldview. It is fundamentally a collision of worldviews. Discipleship and apologetics go hand in hand.

What has apologetics to do with discipleship? Everything, because your personal discipleship is growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, living that out as the Holy Spirit works in you to will and to do (Philippians 2:13), and making disciples of others. So, what struggle with unbelief within you will always be confronted by the Scriptures. As you live it out, you will be confronted with the antithesis, the way of living based on unbelief (way of the wise versus the way of the fool, as in Proverbs). And, as a result, unbelievers will ask or challenge you, and you must respond at the level of their worldview. That’s apologetics.

In addition to that, every disciple is by definition a maker of disciples. How is that done? Exactly what had to happen to you. You believed in the Lord Jesus, being transferred from darkness to light, from “in Adam” to “in Christ.” You are to be proclaiming the Gospel to people. You are to engage in apologetics, confronting their unbelief. Say that God brings them to life, what then? Well, you have a baby, you’ve got to raise him. Time for that “teaching them everything” that Jesus said. Catechism and Confessions come in handy. Teach them the Word of Christ, and model for them what it means to live every day under the Lordship of Christ. This includes sitting under the preaching of the Word, taking the sacraments, and being shepherded in the covenant community of the church. Through all of that, unbelief is continually confronted by the Gospel. What remains of unbelieving thought is replaced by God’s thoughts in his Word. They are being sanctified. As they live accordingly, they understand more of what it means to demonstrate the Christian faith. And in obedience, they are training to be always ready to answer anyone who asks. They know what they believe, because they’ve developed a Christian worldview and are demonstrating it daily, and are commanded to defend it.

In addition, the aim is not merely that they would be holy and happy in their personal discipleship, but the long term goal is that they too would disciple others. The cycle begins again. Disciples are disciple-makers.

Maybe this will be a helpful way to illustrate the interdependency of apologetics and discipleship. They should never be compartmentalized in your life or in the church. Apologetics is not a separate activity. It’s more an angle, a perspective, that is either less or more emphasized or apparent. When you’re talking with an unbeliever, it’s more apparent. In a Bible study, it may be in the background. Remember: there’s one theology behind “discipleship” and “apologetics.” (Of course, if we are in the habit of making false-distinctions between preaching, evangelism, apologetics, and theology, then this will be difficult to understand.) Theology is applied to the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), which is apologetics at work, as your old pattern of thinking is challenged and replaced. You progressively think God’s thoughts after him. So apologetics (theology applied to unbelief) is happening to you in your personal development (discipleship).

Part of your personal development in godliness should be learning and employing apologetics. As far as your disciple-making, you’ll do the same thing for someone else. Toward the unbelievers, you engage in apologetics, challenging their worldview, and presenting the very worldview that you have been growing in and living by.

The transition for the newly made disciple should be smooth, since it’s the very same theology driving your apologetic that you are presenting to the unbeliever, and when God saves them, bringing them into covenant with Christ, they now stand upon (and learn) that same theology, which now drives their whole life. Presuppositional or covenantal apologetics is evidently not optional. You present the unbeliever with the absolute authority of the self-attesting Christ, not attempting neutrality, then after they are brought under that authority, they live self-consciously under that authority. You do not grant neutrality in apologetics, and they do not grant neutrality in any area of life after conversion.

Toward believers, you teach that same theology that grounds and drives apologetic methodology. Teach that pattern of sound words for their own personal growth, viewing and living all of life as a Christian, and they have a defense for anyone who asks, so they can be disciple-makers as well.

Apologetics and discipleship are interwoven and constantly overlapping. I’m not sure a chart or graph could be made to illustrate the relationship. It’s a bit tangled. But we must grasp that Christianity is a worldview. All of life is under Christ’s Lordship, and only properly understood through the lens of his Word. The biblical apologetic is a worldview apologetic, challenging the root of unbelief itself. The (worldview) teaching you are getting (should) have an apologetic edge, for your personal sanctification and also to provide something to say to others.

All believers must be discipled and equipped to make disciples. Part of that is training in apologetic methodology, specifically. The practice of apologetics is a component of complete discipleship. At the same time, apologetics will always be an application of Christian theology, no matter what activity you are doing. Whenever and wherever there is a clash of worldviews, within you or between you and others, there’s apologetics. And there is discipleship there, also! Because whoever you are interacting with is in covenantal relationship with God. If they are an unbeliever, and you are confronting their worldview and offering the hope of the Gospel, you have begun disciple-making. As Jesus said, make disciples of all nations.

If you are helping a new believer with basic doctrine, there are worldview changes taking place, as unbelieving categories and presuppositions are being replaced with ones from Scripture. The change of mind is sanctification. And you begin to train them in apologetic methodology so they are prepared to tell others about their new faith, in obedience to Christ, which is characteristic of being a disciple (1 Peter 3:15).

For the more mature believer, they may pursue more advanced training in apologetics or not. Regardless, it will always be part of their life as a disciple. We are always growing in the knowledge of Christ, and must always be ready to give a defense to anyone.

I am confident in saying that if apologetics has no place in your life, or in your disciple-making, then that discipleship is deficient. On the flip side, if discipleship is missing from the teaching of apologetics, in other words no development or demonstration of the Christian worldview, then that’s a serious deficiency. You really cannot separate the two. This is beyond the fact that apologetics is for the church, and should be developed within the local body. What I mean is that apologetics is dependent on and flows from the very “everything I commanded you.” Theology drives methodology. And do we really understand theology if we cannot offer a defense? It would be very strange if someone claimed to learn or teach apologetics and not also learn/teach sound doctrine. How could anyone learn apologetics apart from developing the very Christian worldview being defended? How could one avoid undermining or contradicting the Christian worldview by his apologetic methodology if he did not know that worldview? (a methodology that assumes neutrality, for example). If you are learning/teaching apologetics as a naked method, you’re doing it wrong.

Disciple-making is apologetic: making disciples by engaging unbelief, then simultaneously teaching the Christian worldview and how to defend it. Apologetics permeates discipleship: from the point of unbelief being challenged with the Gospel (apologetic clash of worldviews), to the moving from unbelief to belief (changing worldviews), then as one’s worldview is transformed (continuous unbelief being confronted), and for the rest of your life as a disciple of the Lord Jesus as you bear witness to him (demonstrating and defending the Christian worldview), in turn making disciples (engaging in apologetics).

It’s all very involved. Intertwined. No clean-cut, sharp distinctions here. It all may seem a little scattered and repetitive, but such is the nature of the case, I think.

By the way, if you weren’t completely convinced that a presuppositional (or covenantal) apologetics is the only way, this interdependent and overlapping relationship between theology, discipleship, and apologetics should help.

I could go on, and add a whole bunch of substantiating quotes, but this post is long enough.

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