Avoiding the twin pitfalls of compromise and isolation

think and live apologetically

JP: Worthwhile read by Mark Farnham

Remembering Who the Enemy Is


I sit every week in secular philosophy classes at a university in the Philadelphia area (to fulfill external course requirements at Westminster) and hear deadly error taught with the passion and sophistication one would expect to find in the madrassa schools of Iran or Saudi Arabia. I see the insidious doctrines of Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Hegel, and Derrida being swallowed uncritically by the doctoral students around me. Error is so influential in academic circles and its proposals so sweeping in its social implications that I wonder what hope (apart from the sovereignty of God) Christians will have to freely worship and proclaim the gospel in the coming days. I think we are beginning to see the influence of radical philosophy behind the decisions and initiatives of our recently elected president.

The deleterious effects of worldviews that begin in the mountain streams of philosophy departments in colleges and universities trickle down to the literature, science, and history departments (among others). These streams join the flow of cultural tributaries and raging rivers of pop culture until they empty into the ocean of popular consciousness in the world itself. At times in these classes I wonder what hope Christians have to resist the powerful currents of thought that have swept our culture into the sea of unbelief. The cosmos, the system of this world that stands in opposition to the gospel and the redemptive work of God, is our true enemy. It is relentless in its work of suppressing the truth, blinding hearts and minds, promoting hopelessness, destroying lives, and securing souls for hell. Apart from the clarity and power of the gospel, there is no hope for humankind.

As one who is struggling to effectively contend with complex and intricate suppression of truth and opposition to God, I welcome the aid of others who share my commitment to the gospel, love for the truth, adherence to the Scriptures, and courage to contend for sound theology, even when they differ in some doctrinal issues. I have benefited immensely from apologetic and theological sources from outside Baptist circles. (A good argument could be made that the best apologetic and theological literature published in the last thirty years has been Calvinistic). This is not to minimize our differences, for they are real and have the potential (both directions) to weaken the effectiveness of our mission. I’m sure the Army has legitimate gripes with the way the Navy conducts its operations, and vice versa. However, the Army would be seriously hamstrung in its mission if it devoted the bulk of its effort to opposing or correcting the Navy instead of focusing on the true enemy.

I want to issue a call for fundamentalists to get out of the church building, get off campus, get out of the ivory tower, and engage in protracted spiritual battle by confronting unbelievers with the demands of the gospel. We will be wounded and energized at the same time. This will drive us to depend on others around us who are fighting the same battle. We will see the enemy up close in the suppression and rejection of the truth, and it will drive us to spend our efforts on casting down strongholds of unbelief. We will not see allies as enemies, but will appreciate the commonality of our mutual cause, even while maintaining our distinctions. We will balance our efforts between apologetics and polemics and in doing so will avoid the twin pitfalls of compromise for the sake of the gospel and isolation for the sake of purity.

Mark Farnham is Assistant Professor of Theology and New Testament at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA). He and his wife, Adrienne, grew up in Connecticut and were married after graduating from Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Watertown, WI). They have two daughters and a son, all teenagers. Mark served as director of youth ministries at Positive Action for Christ (Rocky Mount, NC) right out of seminary and pastored for seven years in New London, Connecticut. He holds an MDiv from Calvary and a ThM in New Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, MA). He has also studied ancient manuscripts at Harvard Divinity School and philosophy at Villanova University. He is presently a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary (Glenside, PA) in the field of Apologetics. These views do not necessarily reflect those of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary or its faculty and administration.

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