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Volume 15, Issue 2: Incarnatus

Knowing is Telling

Michael Metzler

The eternal Word took to Himself a human body and a human soul. Forever. In the Son, "anthropomorphic" experience, imagination, personhood, and embodiment had in those final days fully disclosed the very image of the triune, eternal Creator. He who spoke all things into existence in the beginning became light in the darkness in the fullness of time, the first-fruits of the redemption of the world; a new, long age began. Then there came the Enlightenment. Light was called darkness and darkness light. The new hope was a cloud with no rain and a tree that in season would bear no fruit. Cloaked with the sheepskin of "understanding," the boastful philosophers began luring us away from our true understanding and amused us with a priori intellect, the arbitrary manipulation of symbolic logos, and the dry bones of systematic propositional arrangements. We gave in and the darkness came. We now see revelation from our Father as propositional, timeless, and axiomatic. This is a terrible falsity; with respect to the apogee of revelation, a gnostic heresy. The Word indeed became man.

In our new enlightenment rebellion we refuse to speak as the word speaks to us. For us, word now means abstract concept, and doctrine now means a body of propositions. Gospel, teaching, instruction, tradition, belief, truth, knowledge, and faith, are now simple matters of truth-value cognition, platonic TR indicatives. Honest reading of Scripture, however—any page—reveals the hollow error in all of this. Rip off the enlightenment scales, and the gospel becomes a royal proclamation, a story, and a command; teaching becomes example and exhortation; instruction becomes moral training; tradition becomes the passing on of precepts, belief becomes freedom from the disobedience of unbelief; truth becomes a person; knowledge becomes personal and experiential, or a metaphysical union or indwelling; and faith becomes an observable union of nobility and action, of a clean heart and speech, of a good conscience and zeal.
This disagreement between our language and the language of the word shoots through all our endeavors—preaching, teaching, theology, disputes, lives, and evangelism. How? Analysis of any area will be illuminating; but for now, a look at our fascination with "Reformed apologetics" is sufficient. Consider the task of the modern apologist:
in the spirit of Clement of Alexandria we defend Christianity as the true gnosis, but it is only a meager gnosis of J or W True Belief. We compare propositional "Christian Belief" with competing "systems" of propositional "world-views." Glossing over Van Til's concern for a "loving knowledge" of a personal God and the renewing of an ethical knowledge unto the image of God, we abandon the cogito only for the barren claim of the certain TAG. The command to be prepared in all gentleness to defend the story of hope we have in the return of our victorious King becomes an exegetical mandate to baptize the world into vain philosophy. But this is all a cloud with no rain; this is the darkness of the enlightenment.
We build pessimistic eschatologies to cope with the results instead of harkening back to the word. But scripture presents the "defense" of the faith as the faithful offense of obedience: "The older women . . . must set a high standard, and school the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, temperate, chaste, and kind, busy at home, respecting the authority of their own husbands. Thus the gospel will not be brought into disrepute" (Tit. 2:3_5); "young widows should marry again, have children, and preside over a home; then they will give no opponent occasion for slander" (1 Tim. 5:14); "that we may lead a tranquil…life in full observance of religion and high standards of morality. Such a prayer is approved by God…whose will it is that all men should find salvation and come to know the truth" (1 Tim. 2:2_4). Right conduct is necessary, for it "will shame any opponent, when he finds not a word to say to our discredit." The same is true of the obedience of slaves, "for in all such ways they will add luster to the doctrine of God our Savior" (Tit. 2:10). If we become "experts in goodness and simpletons in evil, the God of peace will soon crush Satan beneath [our] feet." (Rom. 16:19, 20). When heaven is seen in our worship, the intruder will fall on his face (1 Cor. 14:25). When the church incarnates such truth, goodness, and beauty, it will automatically bear an implicit authority. But we don't like that. We want a priori authority in our individual minds.
But we are to bring not the authority of reason, but bear testimony to the authority of God's law. When our children want to know the meaning of this law, we have been commanded to begin, "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out" (Deut. 6 ). If we are faithful "not to forget what we saw with our own eyes" and "duly keep" this law without addition and without subtraction, then we will display our "wisdom and understanding to other peoples. When they hear about these statues, they will say, `What a wise and understanding people this great nation is!'…whose statutes and laws are just" (Deut. 4 ). No other God has taken a nation for himself as this; we therefore "have had sure proof that the Lord is God; there is no other." Keeping the law because we remember the story; this the gates of hell will not hold and the knowledge of God will fill the earth. Biblical apologetics is a cloud that puts forth rain, and a tree that in season puts forth good fruit.

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