Robert Haldane quotes from Bell’s On the Covenants in his opening remarks on Chapter IX of Romans: “The sinner’s right to Christ turns not at all upon any inward gracious qualifications, but purely on the Divine warrant revealed in the word. Faith is not a qualification in order to come to Christ, but the coming itself; it is not our right to Christ, but our taking and receiving Him to ourselves on the footing of the right conveyed by the Gospel offer” (Exposition of Romans, 433).
Introduction: An anonymous widow cried unto the prophet Elisha because her sons are going to be taken away and made bondmen as payment for a debt. If this occurs, then the widow’s prospects are grim. Equally grim is the state of affairs in the divided nation of Israel. King David died and so did King Solomon, but now wicked men rule the nation and now death is everywhere in the land. However, there is hope for the nation, a hope presented in the story of the widow who God delivers through the miraculous pouring of oil from one vessel into many vessels. And the hope is this – place your faith in YHWH who is the deliverer and Lord of life.
Context: The story of 1 & 2 Kings is a prophetic and political story of Israel’s rebellion against YHWH; a story of the transition from holiness/life to sin/death. When godly men rule the land justice is in the land; but when wicked men rule people cannot appeal to a king for justice, rather they have to appeal to the prophets of God, like the anonymous widow does.
The widow’s sons are going to be taken away as payment for a debt by her creditors, but this is not a just avenue. Although the Law did allow temporary servitude for defaulted charity loans to the impoverished (Leviticus 25), Israel was given instructions to care for widows and orphans (Exodus 22). The creditors have the ability to forgive the debt, to be merciful; but instead, they are wicked, like the priests and scribes that devoured homes of widows (Matthew 23:1-14).
Widow Cried Unto Elisha: So, the widows goes to Elisha, she cries out to the prophet of God for help.
Elisha’s Reply: What shall I do for thee? What do you have in your home? He wants to know if she has anything she could sell to pay off the debt. All she has a single vessel of oil, but even though oil is valuable it is not enough to pay off the debt. So, Elisha tells her to go collect empty vessels from her neighbors and to bring them back to her house, and to then, from the secrecy behind her closed door, to begin to pour oil into the empty vessels.
Widow’s Response: The widow obeys to the letter. She gathers pots and begins to pour, and she pours until all of the pots are full. She then returns to the prophet to notify him that she now has many vessels with oil. It is important to note that she does not presume upon the word of the prophet, she does not go out and sell the oil without his instructing her to do so.
Elisha’s Command: Go and sell the oil. You will pay off your debt and there will also be profits left over for you and your sons to live on. Notice that YHWH has not only delivered this widow, but he has also provided retribution in addition to the sons who have been figuratively returned to her, the sons who were going to be stolen from her by her wicked creditors
Application: We need to “wear our theology” – we need to “wear” the story of the widow who cried unto Elisha – have true faith like she did. In her time of need, in the midst of pain (her husband has died) and hardship (sons will be taken away as payment for a debt), she appeals to the prophet of God (ultimately to God!) for justice and deliverance. The widow had true faith, she obeyed the word of the Lord to the letter (she goes out and appears foolish, collecting empty vessels, and returns to her home and begins to pour).
We must have faith like this widow because the Gospel is true. Our circumstances are equally grim; because of sin our circumstances are grim. However, God has provided deliverance to us through the instrument of faith by the grace and atoning work of Jesus Christ. We must take God at his word, like the widow, and trust and obey. So, put on and exercise real faith, just like the anonymous widow who cried unto Elisha.
We know that God exists because of innate knowledge. But why? How is it that knowledge of God is innate? What makes that the case? To find the answer we must consider two things about our creaturehood.
1. How are we made? God “spoke” creation into existence ex nihilo, out of nothing. God spoke the scientific things we call “space” and “time” and “matter” into existence, and then like a potter does with a pot, he formed that stuff into things. God formed man out of the dirt of the earth and breathed life into him. This is how God created man.
2. What are we made of? Since God spoke the world into existence and created it out of nothing, that is, he merely spoke and it was so, this means that man is made out of God’s spoken word! This means that everything is made out of God’s spoken words, which are so powerful that the thing said becomes the thing. Divine speech is truly creative and powerful!
What are we made of? Raw material that God spoke into existence, out of nothing. And it is God’s voice that sustains us. As N D Wilson says, we are God’s spoken world. It would make sense then that knowledge of God is innate knowledge.
How should Christians “do” Apologetics? If we are going to craft some arguments for the existence, nature, and attributes of the Triune God, then where should we begin? To do so, we need not look any further than Paul’s opening chapter from Romans.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Man, therefore, knows that God exists. This presupposition is where Christians must start to “do” Apologetics.
An Evangelical-Apologetic, in order to be effective, must be Biblical. A Christian Apologist must start with Scripture (man knows God exists), and, from the outset, consider it a settled matter that, in regards to the men and women with whom he will be conversing, all non-believers have “vain imaginations” and “darkened foolish hearts”. Iniquity is wrapped up inside of them. Hence, if a Christian appeals to the ontological or empirical arguments as the primary defense for the existence of God, then he is merely wasting time. God is the base of epistemology (knowledge) because he is the source of all things (the Creator of Creation). This means that knowledge of God’s existence is innate knowledge.
True conversion occurs when men and women take their creaturehood seriously and admit “that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” When men and women take their creaturehood seriously they stop thirsting for “objective” truth or self-discovered truth, and they stop making their perceptions the measure of all things. They need to be humble before the Lord, whose very image they bear as creatures, and put on the mind of a servant and glorify God and be thankful! The aim of Apologetics is to convert non-believers, to tell ingrates to take their creaturehood seriously by “waking up and smelling the coffee”, by tasting and seeing and knowing that the Lord is good!
So, the take away message is this: never concede to an unbeliever that they do not know that God exists. They may begin to shout, they may begin to hop around, and you will begin to think they are doing a rain-dance, but don’t allow this to distract you or dull your wits. God says they do know that He exists! If they say they don’t know that God exits, then they are both an ingrate and a liar.
“The correct theological term for many who label themselves “liberal” or “left-wing” or “progressive” theologians is “heretics.” By definition, a heretic is one who dissents from an essential doctrine (from the Greek haireomai, “to pick out for oneself”). Since most heretics today no longer believe in the very idea of essential doctrines, they do not accept the label” (Peter Kreeft & Ronald Keith Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, 25).
“Western civilization is for the first time in its history in danger of dying. The reason is spiritual. It is losing its life, its soul; that soul was the Christian faith. The infection killing it is not multiculturalism—other faiths—but the monoculturalism of secularism—no faith, no soul. Our century has been marked by genocide, sexual chaos, and money-worship. Unless all the prophets are liars, we are doomed unless we repent and “turn back the clock” (not technologically but spiritually). The church of Christ will never die, but our civilization will. If the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, this world certainly won’t. We do apologetics not to save the church but to save the world” (Peter Kreeft & Ronald Keith Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, 23-24).