Notes from P.E. Hughes “Crucial Biblical Passages for Christian Apologetics”

Following are my notes from Hughes excellent contribution to Jerusalem and Athens:

Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. “Crucial Biblical Passages for Christian Apologetics.” In Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, edited by E. R. Geehan, 131-140. Nutley, NJ: P&R, 1971.

Genesis 1:1-31

“Of absolutely radical importance for the development of Christian apologetics is the biblical doctrine of creation. Indeed, so much is this the root of the matter that apart from it no effective apologetic is possible; for the doctrine of creation is the indispensable foundation of our understanding of all existence.”131

Affirms the “absolute primacy or priority of Almighty God.” 131 “God is dominant throughout the whole of the biblical revelation.” 131

The scope of God’s work in creation is comprehensive. “the whole created order bears the imprint of the mind and will of God.” 131 Therefore, “the being of God is the ground and principle of all other being, and thus that all other being is, unlike God, not self-subsistent but is completely dependent on God both for the origin and for the continuance of its existence.” 132

“The knowledge of God is the ground and principle of all other knowledge.” 132 God’s knowledge is eternally prior to all other knowledge and it is also comprehensively exhaustive. Only his knowledge is an “authentic knowledge of reality.” 132 God’s knowledge is the source of man’s knowledge. Man’s knowledge is derivative of God’s. This is what Van Til calls analogical knowledge.

Man in the image of God. “All that can be said now, is that man, constituted in the image of God, cannot possibly isolate himself from God; he cannot possibly be ignorant of God; he cannot possibly usurp the place of God. The image of God is the most intimate and distinctive feature of man’s constitution as man, and he cannot possibly cease to be what he is. The image of God is stamped upon this [sic] creature man, at the very heart of his being.” 132

Twofold implication of being created in the imago dei: “No man can divorce himself from the knowledge of God but also that every man is answerable to God. Man’s responsibility is an important aspect of man’s dignity, of the uniqueness of his humanity.” 132

To deny the knowledge of God and to reject the responsibility of being created in the image of God, man “inevitably cuts himself adrift and experiences alienation and disintegration at the very heart of his being.” 133. This is the root cause of hopelessness in the hood. When anyone rejects the knowledge of God, seeks to suppress it in unrighteousness, they end up willfully becoming entirely alienated with the very root and foundation of their being, God. When this happens their entire world and life fall apart. It is either Christ or chaos (DeWitt). When God, in Christ, is rejected only chaos ensues.

Genesis 3:1-24

Creation and fall when understood together make it clear that humanity’s problem lies “not in his finiteness but in his fallenness.” 133 That is where the critical problem of man resides.

Satan’s assault was against the Word of God. He called into question the Word (has God really said?) and he contradicted the Word (you surely won’t die).

“This is the essence of the fallen state of man, that in rebellion against the sovereign authority of the Creator he madly attempts to make God in the image of man and at the same time to overthrow the Word and the will of God.” 133

The ontological situation, after the fall, is not changed one bit. God is still God. Man remains completely subject to him. But epistemologically there is a “disastrous upheaval.” “Sinful man, by making himself instead of God the center and key to the understanding of the reality both of himself and of the universe, severs the life line of the Creator-creature relationship so essential to the right knowledge of things and drifts off in to the ocean of alienation, where the fulfillment he desperately seeks will always elude him.” 133. Rebellion against God always ends in chaos, alienation, disillusionment. Adrift in an ocean of alienation.

Romans 1:18-34

“All men know the truth about the existence of the divine Creator, but in their unrighteousness they hold it down, they suppress it.” 134

Yet, the knowledge of God remains in the “inward” part of man. In two respects, First, in a general sense, all knowledge is internal to man. Second, there is a specific knowledge of God “within men because, as creatures made in the image of God, it is stamped upon their inmost being…” 134. Therefore, “no man can separate himself from the reality of his own constitution.” And this is the cause of all inner turmoil: hatred and rejection of God. We are broken inside, within our very beings, because we are at war not just with God, but this war with God brings war within ourselves. When we fight against God we must also fight against ourselves because his knowledge is within us and because we are created in his very image. This is why we rage against him.

There is also the “inescapable testimony to the existence of God by which man is surrounded on all sides.” 134 In other words, the created order. It shows off God’s eternal power, his deity, etc. “The whole cosmic system points incontestably to the truth that there exists a Creator of all who is unique in the eternity of his sovereign divinity.” 134. All of creation declares and sings and proclaims of the glory of God.

The suppression of this inward and outward knowledge of God is irrational. It is rational to believe in God because of he himself faithfully bears witness to himself both inwardly and outwardly. It is purely irrational to suppress the knowledge of God. When anyone does so, “he is acting contrary to the integrity and dignity of his own being.” This is why we must recover the imago dei. All humanity is created in God’s image, but when we fail to understand this we have corruption, hatred, racism, brokenness, hopelessness, etc. All of this stem from the fall where man betrayed himself and his God. And it continues to this day as humanity continually, willfully rejects the knowledge of God.

The knowledge of God, both inward and outward, shouts at us. 135. “It is inescapable because it is universal.” 135 “The life of man, is in fact, based on the presupposition (instinctive and subconscious though it may be) that the whole of reality is a coherent unity, that is makes sense, that it is a universe and not a jumble, a cosmos and not a chaos.” 135

If this were not the case, nothing would make sense. It is either Christ or chaos. And the hood is in chaos because they have wholly rejected Christ. In order to recover hope we must recover Christ.

“The seat of all sin lies in the denial or suppression of this truth in man’s arrogant claim to autonomy in defiance of the sovereign authority of his Creator.” 136

The Christian apologist must always “insist on the certainty of the existence and sovereignty of Almighty God.” 136 We cannot, we must not stand on the same ground as the unregenerate mind. That ground assumes the denial of the Creator. And ultimately the denial of our being created imago dei, the denial of our creaturehood. “God is the great fundamental and dynamic fact behind and above all other facts. There can be no uncertainty about God.” 136

“Nothing is more destructive of the dignity and integrity of man than to know the truth about God and yet to suppress it…” 136

It is the whole man in rejection, willful rebellion against God. “It is the refusal to give God the glory which is due. It is the grossest ingratitude.” 136

Here are the consequences of humanity exchanging the truth of God for a lie: 136-138

  1. Intellectual futility. All of their thinking ends in futility. “they made nonsense out of logic” (Jerusalem Bible).
  2. Spiritual darkness. Their minds became darkened. Darkness rejects the light, ie. Gospel of John.
  3. Incredible stupidity. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. The fool says in his heart there is no God (Ps. 14). It is the height of folly, to be created in the image of God, but to reject being created in the image of God.
  4. False religion. Proliferation of idolatry. We are created to worship. When we exchange the truth of God for a lie we must still worship something, even if it is something less. And this is what we do, we turn to counterfeit gods to fill the void in our lives.
  5. Gross immorality. Mutiny against God affects not only the mind of man, but his whole person. It results in a “substitution of the lust of the flesh for flesh in the place of the love of the creature for his Creator.” 137. We should be pursuing and finding our satisfaction in Christ. Instead, we trade in the wealth of Christ for the depravity of our sinful lusts.
  6. Social depravity. All of human society if infected. All of the above, while individual at first, have consequences for the broader human society. We are all parts of the whole and when the parts are corrupt the whole will be corrupt. Our society is faced with “disintegration from within.” 137

1 Corinthians 2:14

Because of our rejection of God and his truth we are “incapacitated from seeing things as they really are.” 138 We live in a world which is a false reality. We have constructed a false world filled with false gods and false illusions. But breaking from without are always reminders that there is something more, that we are something more, that our gods are mere broken reflections of the true beauty, wonder, and splendor of our good and great God.

Our incapacity to know the truth, to know reality is due to our choice. It is our willful rebellion against God that has led us down this path. “He is unable to see because he has willfully closed his eyes to the source of life and light. He knows the truth about his Creator and therefore about himself, as we have already explained, but he does not want to know it and so he suppresses it; he shuts his eyes to it; he cuts the life line of his relationship to God and in consequence he finds himself adrift in an ocean of unreality and alienation. It is he who has incapacitated himself.” 138, emphasis original.

Only the regenerative work of the Spirit will be able to bring man back from the brink of destruction, really back from the dead.

Ephesians 2:1-10

“The effects of sin are lethal.” 138. They have ended in death. The wages of sin is death. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. “The dead man is totally incapacitated; there is absolutely nothing he can do.” 139.

This spiritual death is the “proper background to the gospel.” The incarnation and the cross make no sense unless God had to send his Son with a specific reason and purpose. And that is to make sinful humanity alive, for all who believe and trust in the Son. They will have life. “The incapacity of the sinner is overcome by the omnipotent love of God. In Christ the new birth is triumphant reality; the new man in Christ owes everything to grace, the free, undeserved, sovereign grace of God.” 139. God is rich in mercy!

We are God’s workmanship. “In this new creation, we see the restoration and fulfillment of all God’s purposes in the original creation.” 139

Revelation 21:1-4

Apologist must start with Genesis and end with Revelation.

Sin expresses itself in a variety of ways in keeping with the culture and times of the present day. “While at root the disease remains the same throughout the ages, its outward expression varies in accordance with the temper of the times.” 139.

“For each man is a man of destiny, and his destiny is either judgment of glory.” 140. And this keeps with the nature of man. Is he in Christ or in Adam. This state of being determines not just man’s present reality, but also his future hope (or hopelessness).

“Apologetics is incomplete and inadequate without eschatology…” 140. This is worth thinking through in more detail later down the road. The relationship of apologetics to eschatology.

“The promises of God’s covenant of grace receive their full fruition and God’s creation, pronounced ‘very good’ at the start, is, as the new or renewed creation, very good at the end.” 140 God has a purpose, a goal, a telos. And it is complete when new creation is complete. Apologetics plays a central role in this process.

“Man, redeemed and glorified, is man at last as he was always intended to be: without interruption enjoying harmonious fellowship with his Creator…” 140

This is the goal of apologetics. Discipleship. New creation is the work of the Spirit, but God uses human means, he uses apologists and apologetics to help disciple men and women so that they see the God who made them and give him the proper due.

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