Looking ahead to the forth coming “Reason Rally” I find myself eager to engage “atheists” with the apologetic power of the gospel. The rally has caused me to reflect on the nature of this gathering, which is being conducted under the banner of “reason” of all things. Part of our mission in going to the rally to preach Christ crucified will also be to demonstrate to our atheist neighbors that “reason” is not really an atheist concept; at least not in any historical or philosophical sense. Here are some thoughts on Atheism, apologetics, and the “Reason Rally.”
Politics not Philosophy
Its clear from reasonrally.org that what is afoot in this rally is much more of a liberal-politic than epistemology, philosophy, logic or reason etc. The atheist website says, “The goal of Reason Rally 2016 is to showcase the presence and power of the nonreligious voting bloc…” The problem of course is that this only adds confusion to the classic question of whether there is a rational cause to believe in God. It also makes clear that the rally has an adopted political worldview and will therefore be committed to several governing presuppositions and principles that will inform the atheist’s mind on an entire host of things (e.g. meaning, morals and beauty). They are quite explicit about this as well, “Not only are we celebrating our secular, atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinking, and nonreligious identities, we are preparing to exercise our power at the voting box to bring good sense back to government.”
Setting aside the fact that this country was founded upon theism not atheism, this gathering of militant atheists has a worldview that informs every area of life. That is why they are seeking to inject their atheism into the political arena. This is a reminder of the worldview implications of a person’s recommitments either to non-Christian thought or to biblical Christianity. It is our job as Christian apologists and evangelists to show the atheist community that reason is not part of the “secular, atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinking” world and life view at all. This also includes showing them, to their much chagrin, that in fact, atheists live like virtual Christians all the time.
“Knowing While Suppressing”
It is never the Christian position that unbelievers do not possess knowledge. Of course it is not that they do not have knowledge, but that they do not have a justification for knowledge that is rational and comports to reality. The reason for this is because they ‘know while they suppress’ (Rom. 1.19). In his book Covenantal Apologetics (Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics, Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2013) 44.), Scott Oliphint argues:
“The problem is not with the evidence, but with the “receptacle,” (i.e., the sinful person) to which evidence constantly (through creation) comes.”
As Van Til was known to say, ‘we are all wrong with God.’ Man’s deepest need is religious or spiritual not intellectual. We are not in the business merely to give evidence, convincing arguments, or even present a moral example; our job at the Reason Rally is to preach Christ crucified— everything else is auxiliary. The cross is the hope of the nations not simply showing the atheists how inconsistent they are. But how do we do this faithfully and biblically?
It is not only that we must deal with the faulty logic of our atheist friends, Covenantal Apologetics is also important (as Oliphint points out) because it shows man who he is as God’s creature and why he is as God’s image bearer. In other words, man has a covenantal relationship with God, through Adam, that places him in epistemic contact with God. It is his/her creatureliness that supplies the atheist with their worth and purpose. The atheist’s inability to account for their worldview is owing to the fact that they have offended their covenant Creator who will judge them for their sin. But covenantal apologetics also tells us that all truth is actually Christian truth. As God is sovereign over history, God is also sovereign over reason (Col. 2.2-3). Atheist’s only hope is to repent by turning from sin and trusting in Christ in order to know and live in the truth they presently suppress as covenant breakers in Adam (Rom. 5.12-18; 1 Cor. 15.21-22). Although man is in a non-redemptive, Adamic-covenantal relationship with God, he/she is not neutral, autonomous or absolved from his/her obligations before their covenant Creator. As image bearers, all human beings must glorify their Maker or suffer not only the eternal consequences but also the epistemic consequences as well. It is precisely at this point that Paul reminds us why God gives man over:
Romans 1:21–26a 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over…”
Paul’s words here should not be viewed as nothing more than a popular apologetics proof text, rather it is a covenantal-apologetic masterpiece. Paul leaves us with image bearers of God suppressing the revelation of God, worshiping what is not God, exchanging the truth of God, for a lie about God (e.g. atheism), being given over by God, and forced to bear the wrath of God. I know what to expect at the “Reason” rally, sinful covenant-breakers in a Romans 1 condition who have no hope apart from the power of God in the gospel. Thankfully, that is precisely what the gospel is (Rom. 1.16).
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.