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Speaking to the Christian Difference

Almost everyone sees that Christians are different from other people. They are physically or outwardly very similar to others but are inwardly quite different. They don’t think the same way and seem to have a different value system. In fact, the differences are far greater than even most Christians realize. When Christians, interacting with unbelievers, attempt to tell them why they believe as they do, they almost always fail to take into account the basic foundation of these differences.

The root of the differences between believers and unbelievers goes much deeper than either of them usually appreciates. It extends into the most basic ideas of what constitutes reality, how we know things, and how we attach values to things. The Christian believes that before anything else existed, there was God; that God created the world, the sun, moon and stars, the entire universe; that He then created living things, plants, animals and finally, He created man in His own image. He created all things and controls all of history, past present and future. The Christian believes that all of reality is God’s created reality, all knowledge derives from God’s revelation of Himself in nature and in Scripture, and all values are the values that God assigns.

The Christian believes that Adam, the first man was created out of the dust of the earth, that Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs, and that they both sinned against God and came under Satan’s power. He believes that, as a consequence of the fall, all of mankind has been born into subjection to Satan, from which only the Holy Spirit can release them. He believes that he is now a born-again, Spirit-filled, redeemed person; he believes that God has released him from Satan’s grip and his desire is to obey his new master.

The unbeliever, though, believes none of this. He may have some fuzzy ideas as to how the world and living things came into being. But on the other hand, he has very firm ideas about his own autonomy. He firmly believes that he possesses an ability to make choices that is independent of God. He believes that he has this ability and is able to judge as to whether God exists or not. He does not realize that his ability to think rationally depends on the fact that God exists, and were there no God he would not be able to make any sort of judgment about anything. He thinks he has a place in a scale of being alongside of God. He believes he may be lower down the scale but that he is, at least to some degree, independent of God. He does not see himself as the totally dependent creature he actually is.

In speaking to unbelievers about spiritual matters, it is important that Christians do not mislead them as to these truths. We cannot concede to them by implication or in any other way that their basic view of reality is true. When we begin, for example, by citing fulfilled prophecies and expecting unbelievers to react favorably, we are telling them two things: (a) that we think they possess an ability to reason that is independent of God. Also, (b) we confirm their claim to be basically unbiased and able to take a neutral stand on the question of God. We are telling them first, that they can do what no man can do and second, that sin has not biased their thinking.

But this is not the truth and, in fact, it actually contradicts and undermines what we want to tell them later about original sin, spiritual blindness, and the need to be born again. Such attempts to soften the message are all the unbeliever needs. He has just been given free reign to stand on his own false premises; he says, you have your opinion and I have mine. I don’t believe your evidences are sufficient to prove your point; end of discussion! Instead of having been softened, as was intended, he has been hardened against God’s truth. He has received an affirmation that his basic philosophical ideas were correct.

Instead, the unbeliever needs to be brought face to face with the reality he knows in his heart is true. He knows that he is God’s creature and that he has sinned and is now in rebellion against his Creator. He has suppressed this knowledge and will fight as hard as he can to support his decision. Just as we believers have an old nature we need to deal with, so the unbeliever has his old nature; it is that he is God’s creature and was created in God’s image. This is what we must speak to when we practice apologetics. When we begin by telling the unbeliever that his ability to reason logically “from the facts,” is perfectly OK, we can’t later on turn around, tell him the opposite is true and still retain our own credibility. We also fail to be obedient to the command that we “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).