It Is Time For Cultural Apologetics Pt. 2

In cultural apologetics, we need to show that the good news of the Gospel that Christ died for our sins depends on and goes much further back than the simple Gospel message.

What can we propose to this new powerful, unholy, planetary “Roman” Empire which, at best, reduces everything it knows about Christianity to “personal testimonies” of individuals. Personal testimonies are important but few in our culture have heard the deeply satisfying good news of a cosmology of holiness and beauty. This grand vision lies behind Paul’s seemingly innocuous exhortation to the Roman Christians to give to God their bodies in self-sacrificial holy living before the world to which they must not conform (Romans 12:1-2), thereby witnessing to the coming transformed world of absolute holiness.

In cultural apologetics, we need to show that the good news of the Gospel that Christ died for our sins depends on and goes much further back than the simple Gospel message. The Gospel and personal testimony are based on the good news that the deeply personal is at the origin of everything, namely the personal being of God. The Gospel is only personal and we as humans are only personal and can offer “personal testimonies” because the God of the universe is personal. God the Creator as the source of everything means that God has written the notion of relationship and personhood into the very structures of the cosmos. If we want human personhood, and most of us do, we must understand that we are totally dependent not on something but on Someone who precedes us. Thus God’s being, which is essential to everything else must require our full attention. It must be part of the Gospel.

Before the cosmos, before matter, the Word was with God, both as intelligent and personal (John 1:1). The origin of all things is not an impersonal being, as June Singer believed. Singer, a Jewish convert to Gnosticism and follower of the psychologist Carl Jung, knew a lot about paganism and especially modern sexuality, believing its highest form was to reach the state of androgyny, [that is, the joining of male and female in one person]. Convinced she had figured out the God of the Bible as worthless, she stated: “The Creator God is in a state of utter loneliness, in the midst of endless emptiness.”[1] She should have read John 1:1. Rather, in God there is the Logos who “was God,” who was also “with God” and there is the Spirit in a dynamic personal unity. In the Trinity there is a diversity of persons, not a single Being, but three.  Interpersonal relationship was, therefore, eternally present even before anything or anyone else came on the scene. God was already enjoying intimate personal relationship long before He said: “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:1).

Very quickly, once you understand the terminology, it becomes evident that holiness is an essential notion for understanding God. In spite of what we often think, holiness is not primarily a moral or ethical concept. My generation conceived of holiness in moralistic terms. Upon mention of the word, I immediately think of my grandmother in Liverpool, England, God bless her, who belonged to a “Holiness” church and wore skirts down to her ankles and had her hair pulled back into a bun, in a vivid outward statement, so they thought, of “holiness”! But when we say God is holy we are not saying he is primly and properly moral. We are speaking cosmologically, that is, we are speaking about the nature of God and the universe He created. We are saying he is totally different in his being, that, relative to everything else, he is “other.” Nowhere does Scripture define God’s essential being as found within the creation, as Oneist pagans, ancient and modern, believe. In his saving outreach, by his Spirit, he can dwell within a believer. But without fail, the essence of the God of Scripture, his ultimate being, is other. God is holy, because he has a distinct “place,” separate from the creation of which he is the Maker. The popular Christian song says it simply but well:

God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are Holy, Holy!

The universe declares your Majesty, and you are holy!

Moses had been raised both with the faith of his mother, but with Egyptian paganism, worshipping Isis, the Earth Mother, the goddess within. But something changed him from top to bottom. He met the transcendent Lord of the universe in a bush that burned but was not consumed, and was commanded:  “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5). Wherever God appears in this world the place is scarily holy.

For Moses it was either Yahweh the Creator or Isis, the goddess of the underworld. Talk about polar opposites—and like the poles of the Arctic and the Antarctic. In spite of global warming, Yahweh or Isis are still the only real choices!

Later Moses declares: “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness “(apartness, sacredness), fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Ex 15:11). The prophet Isaiah hears the cherubim cry out the trisagion—the thrice uttered angelic confession of transcendence: “Holy, holy, holy.” (Isa 6:3). Like Moses, Isaiah realizes he is on holy ground, and is scared to death.

God is not only holy in his relation to the world, but he is holy in himself. As already noted, God’s divine being consists of three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are never confused, and so always retain their individual holiness or separateness from one another, while remaining one in divine essence. We often call this the Holy Trinity. This is where the Gospel must begin, with the personal Trinitarian God revealed in Scripture.

[1] June Singer, Androgyny, 61.

Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism. This article is used with permission.