Prophecy does not prove the Gospel

Monday Musings for December 03, 2018

Good morning, Musers,

The knowledge of Christ comes in two flavors: the kind that’s designed to get you going at the beginning of your walk and the kind that’s designed to keep you engaged once you are more mature — and Scripture uses a food metaphor to describe the difference between these.

“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”
(1 Corinthians 3:2, NIV)

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12, NIV)

But no matter what else these verses teach, they show that, within Christ, there is a dichotomy of knowledge… and that those who need milk should have it… and that those who are chronologically mature — but who still need milk because they cannot tolerate solid food — should be embarrassed by that predicament.

The data is in. The Bible tells us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Nowhere does it tell us to stay immature. This implies that appropriateness is one of the constraints we should use to assess Christian knowledge.

It’s okay for new Christians to be immature spiritually, scripturally and philosophically… the idea being that this should change with time. But Christians aren’t the only players in town. There are unsaved persons, too. So, what aspects of Christ do we share with an unsaved person? This can develop into a Catch-22, and this is the basis of today’s question.

You see, many skeptics are erudite and philosophically sophisticated… but salvation is simple. A person must respond to God’s drawing (John 6:44)… and if he doesn’t, he’ll likely remain closed to the Gospel. The problem is that everyone enters Christ through the basics… by repenting of sin and receiving the Savior. This stuff is necessary… but it’s not fun and attractive. In fact, it is a reproach! (Romans 15:3; Hebrews 13:13).

So, should we bait these people with the more advanced things of the kingdom —  things that have some philosophical tooth (like how Christ fulfilled prophecy) … but things they probably won’t agree with until they are saved? That’s the catch. Until they are saved, people cannot “see” the kingdom of God (John 3:3) because many of its elements are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

"Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed. 'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed." (Joseph Heller, Catch-22 )

Like Heller’s fictional Yossarian, I am often moved by that Catch-22… the Christian version, that is. You see, there is much to “know” in Christ. But much of it is known with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. So here’s the problem: he doesn’t indwell us until we act in faith to be born again. Only then can we “see” the world as God wants us to see it (John 3:3)… and much of the evidence for the existence of God is hidden from those who don’t hold a Christian worldview.

Fortunately, it doesn’t require sophistication to be convicted of sin. It just requires honesty… and earnest seekers tend to find what they are looking for (Jeremiah 29:13). But when it comes to sophisticated people, should we skip over the basics and build the case for Christ on more advanced topics?

Well… I’m for what works! … and who knows what will win the heart of another person? But that process could be sticky. If things went badly, our efforts could work as a vaccine — preventing a person from catching the more mature truths in their season. So, although I stop short of saying don’t do this, I recommend discernment.

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