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A LIGHT TO GUIDE US IN THE CULTURE WAR

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, September 21, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place…For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:19, 21).


On Tuesday evening last week I finished swimming at my gym and stepped into the jacuzzi. There were five other people there in the warm water that evening. What happened there in the next few minutes was a microcosm, a small picture, of what is happening in the larger culture of our nation and the Western world. It was a miniature picture of the culture war that is taking place all around us.

On one side of the jacuzzi were two Korean people, a man and his wife. On the other side was a young boy. On either side of the boy were two people talking loudly to him. One was a man about fifty years old. The other was a woman in her seventies. The boy was evidently from a Christian background. I am not certain what he said to the middle-aged man and the elderly woman, but it must have been something about God and life after death.

As I entered the water the man and woman, on either side of the boy, were gesticulating wildly, their voices rising to a fever pitch. The man said that you cannot know anything about God or life after death because you haven’t experienced it. The woman agreed with him and shouted, “That’s why I’m an atheist!” The boy looked at me and said, “What do you think?” I said, “Well, these people are epistemological empiricists.” That’s all I said, but it drove the elderly woman into a frenzy. She started screaming at me. I thought, “I’m out of here.” As I left the water I simply gave the “V for victory” sign and said, “This is not the time or the place to preach your religion. It is a place where people come to relax, not to be preached to. I don’t do it to you here, and you shouldn’t do it to me here.” I believe that is true. There is a time and a place to preach and to witness. And there is another time and another place when it is rude and unsuitable to do so.

A few minutes later I saw the boy in the locker room. He seemed happy that I had defended him. The Korean man was there as well. He was still silent. From previous conversations I know that the Korean couple are Christians. I also know that he thinks these loud-mouthed American atheists are weird. One time when we were alone in the jacuzzi he told me that.

What did I mean when I said that these two atheists were “epistemological empiricists”? Epistemology refers to how we obtain knowledge. Empiricism is the view that the only source of knowledge is experience. The man in the jacuzzi had clearly said that you can’t know anything about God or the afterlife because you haven’t experienced it, or seen it. The woman agreed, saying she was an atheist for that reason.

They represent one side of the culture war – those who think that all you can know comes from human experience. We call this form of empiricism “humanism” because it views man as capable of understanding the ultimate truth of life and the universe by his own human senses. These are the people who will tell you that there is no objective reality, no standard of right and wrong, no spiritual reality, no God, and no ultimate meaning to life. Hitler was a humanist. But Churchill said, “The idea that nothing is true except what we comprehend is silly” (My Early Life, Butterworth, 1930, p. 131). He was right on this, and Hitler wrong.

On the other side of the culture war are people like the Korean couple. They hold Christian values, but they are silent. President Nixon called them “the great silent majority.” And that majority is still largely silent. Where are the preachers who stand up and speak out against the Abortion Holocaust? They are silent. They vote, but they are silent because they are afraid of speaking out and doing anything practical to stop abortion. They are afraid of upsetting someone in their congregations. God help us! Dr. Martin Luther King died for his cause. Today it is very popular to say that he was right to speak for the “little people” who had no national voice. But what conservative Baptist preacher would do what he did with enough intensity to stop the Abortion Holocaust? Where are our preachers? Where are the African-American preachers? Where are the white conservative preachers? Why has no national preacher of either race done as much for the aborted children as Dr. King did for the downtrodden Black people in America? They are silent and I am ashamed of them. They will have to answer to God for their sinful silence some day.

Going back to the scene at my gym the other night, the boy in the jacuzzi represents you, the young people of our time. Which way will you go? Will you join the humanists – or will you be a Christian? There’s a struggle going on for your mind and heart.

But human reason and human experience cannot answer the great, ultimate questions of life. Where did the whole universe come from? Where did I come from? What is the meaning of my existence? Does life have any meaning or purpose? Where am I going after I die? Dr. W. A. Criswell, long pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, said,

In our day and time there are…millions, especially in the academic community, who find the great authority for whatever they [teach] in existentialism, in neoorthodoxy, in the persuasion that a thing is true because it is true to them in experience…If it is not true to them, then it is not true. And they base all of life and every interpretation of life on their experience or existence (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., The Great Doctrines of the Bible, Volume I: Bibliology, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982, p. 65).

But Dr. Criswell was a careful and insightful scholar. He saw clearly that this view of life is so subjective, based on experience and humanistic rationalism alone, that it could not explain the “inside” of reality, the part of reality that eludes experience and the reasoning power of man, because man has been ruined spiritually and morally by the Fall in the Garden of Eden. As a result of the Fall, man is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). And from this state of spiritual and moral “death” proceeds the fact that, to unconverted man, “our gospel [is] hid, it is hid to them that are lost,” in whom Satan “hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

In this condition of “death,” man cannot get beyond the physical, material world in his quest for understanding the spiritual side of life and the cosmos. He is trapped by his own inherent natural depravity, so that he cannot draw from his own experience the spiritual reality and moral principles that exist outside of his own mind and his own experience. Dr. Criswell went on to say,

All reason and all understanding are like that. We can go just so far with it. We can write, probe, compare, and put into equations and formulae, and still we do not see beyond the outward phenomenon. The meaning behind, the reality that lies beyond what we observe in physical phenomenon – we cannot know.
       In studying and looking at the Creation of God, we can look at the stars forever and come to a decided and firm conclusion that whoever made them was omnipotent, and all-powerful. But what is His name? What is He like? Does He know us? Could He call us by name? We can study the phenomenon forever and never know Him.
       We can study…the rainbow, the autumnal sunset, the trees…the flowers…and we can come to a firm and sound conclusion that whoever created them loved beauty, symmetry, and color. But who is He? What is He like? We could study the rainbow and the clouds and the shades of color in the Grand Canyon and the sunset – we could study it all forever and never know Him.
       We can look in ourselves, and we can see the moral sensitivity of our souls…Studying sociology and morality we can come to a firm conclusion that whoever created us is morally sensitive. But who is He and what is His name, and does He know us? How is it that God has fashioned us for meaning? These things lie in the self-disclosure and the self-revelation of God. If there is no self-revelation of the Lord, we can never know Him (ibid., pp. 59-60).
       The purpose of the Bible is to bring us the answer for the need of our human souls. Redemption and forgiveness of sin, the hope of heaven, and the purpose and meaning in life…that is the purpose of the self-revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures (ibid.).
       That is the Bible! It presents for us the self-revelation of God, a knowledge we could never know without that self-disclosure (ibid., p. 61).

And that self-disclosure of God is given to us on the pages of the Bible. Our text said that the prophecy of Scripture

“came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21).

Dr. Henry M. Morris said of this verse,

The Spirit of God moved the hearts, minds, and pens of the holy...men of God, and the Scriptures were formed, proceeding from the eternal mind of God (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishers, 1995, note on II Peter 1:21).

Dr. McGee said,

“As they were moved by the Holy…[Spirit]” is a delightful figure of speech. The Greek actually portrays the idea of a sailing vessel. The wind gets into those great sails…and moves the ship along. That is the way the Holy Spirit moved these men…These men who were set apart for the writing of the Scriptures were moved along by the Spirit of God (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, note on II Peter 1:21).

So, we believe that the original writers of the Bible were given the very Hebrew and Greek words. We believe in the word-for-word inspiration of the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Moses said,

“Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Jesus said,

“My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Again Jesus said,

“He that is of God heareth God’s words” (John 8:47).

We depend on God’s self-revelation in the Bible to show us how we can be saved. The facts of the Gospel are given to us by the words of Scripture. In I Corinthians 15:3-4 we read,

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

It is the Scriptures that tell you you are a sinner. It is the Scriptures that tell you Christ came to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. It is the Scriptures that tell you your sins must be cleansed by the Blood of Christ. It is the Scriptures that tell you that you must be converted. It is the Scriptures that reveal to us what we could never learn by human reason or experience. It is the Scriptures that are

“a light that shineth in a dark place” (II Peter 1:19).

And it is my prayer that you will pay attention to the Scriptures, that you will come back to church, that you will come to Christ and be converted. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Peter 1:19-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Faith of Our Fathers” (by Frederick W. Faber, 1814-1863).