|Taking Every Thought Captive|
Our Evangelistic Strategy is Guided by the Nature of Faith
By Jay Wegter
I. Scripture reveals the nature of faith and the condition of the
A. Scripture never describes the heart of the unbeliever in a favorable
light. The Word of God depicts unbelief as an expression of the moral
state of the inward man. In order for faith to germinate in the heart of a
man, there must be a moral change in the heart (John 8:43-45; 1 Cor.
2:14; Ez. 36:26,27; Luke 18:26,27).
B. An understanding of the nature of faith is essential in shaping the
method by which the sinner’s need is addressed.
1. Is the issue of unbelief a matter of rebellion, or lack of data, or both?
Scripture affirms that it is rebellion. The sinner is already hostile to
the light he has been given – the suppression of God’s truth has been
his practice, prior to hearing the truth of the gospel (Rom. 1:18-23).
2. Only a moral change of heart can reverse this (Matt 12:33).
C. In his book, Always Ready, Greg Bahnsen notes that Scripture gives us
numerous descriptions of a fool. When the Bible speaks of a fool, it
does not refer to a dimwitted buffoon. The biblical meaning of a fool has
to do with the person whose unbelief is expressed as disregard for God
and His truth.
1. The fool is characterized by self trust – this is why he lacks wisdom. He has forsaken God, the only source of true wisdom.
2. The fool relies upon his own (allegedly) self-sufficient intellectual powers. He thinks that his mind can operate effectively without being informed by Scripture. As a result, he is not teachable (Prov. 1:7;10:8; 15:5; 1 Cor. 1:20). 
3. From God’s omniscient perspective, the fool lives a life of vanity and folly. The fool is his own worst enemy, he opposes himself by rejecting God, the source of life. (By rejecting God’s offer of life and forgiveness, the fool makes a choice for his own destruction, thus he proves to be hostile to his own eternal welfare.)
4. Jesus alluded to the fool’s value system when He said, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
D. The biblical fool may have a normal intellect, but he is characterized by
the misuse of his intellect. The following thought behaviors are
descriptive of the fool:
1.) He avoids the topic of his creaturehood and origin. He operates from a position of “non-createdness.”
2.) He does not distinguish between his own thoughts and God’s thoughts.
3.) He views himself as the ultimate authority for determining truth.
4.) He attributes God’s attributes to himself (as if he, the finite creature, has the power, unaided by Scripture, to answer ultimate questions and uncover universal truth by the use of autonomous reason).
5.) He denies God’s authority and absolute claims upon his life.
6.) He says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).
E. The biblical fool does not make God and His revelation the starting point in his thinking. Therefore, in his reasoning, he is antagonistic toward God. In his mind, he is an enemy of God because he uses his God-given intellect to obviate the Holy Scriptures (Col. 1:21; James 4:4; Mark 7:8-13).
1. Man’s break from God ethically, was also a break from God intellectually. God bears witness in the Scriptures as to the nature of man’s fallen intellect (Romans 1:18-23; Eph. 2:3; 4:17,18).
2. When fallen man regards himself as the ultimate reference point, he puts himself in a position to not understand God’s truth (Romans 3:10,11). (Since his heart is in a state of enmity against God, he is in no position to independently verify divine truth.)
3. The natural man’s rebellion is seen in his covert enmity toward God’s claims upon him – though the unbeliever assumes the posture of a “truth-seeker who lacks data,” he is actually committed to his own independence from God. (Proofs from the wonders of nature and the creation will not overcome the unbeliever’s enmity toward God. As long as his core commitment is to autonomy, he will continue to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.)
4. Frequently, the unbeliever describes himself as neutral when it comes to the testimony of Scripture. He pretends to be objective. The Bible exposes this as a façade. For God’s claims upon a man eliminate every notion of neutral ground. There is no neutral spot in the universe and there is not a single rational creature in the universe who is neutral (the two orders of rational creatures are men and angels).
5. The Creator will not leave a man’s imagined autonomy in tact – instead God in His Word, confronts it head on and exposes it as rebellion.
II. When considering absolute truth, there are only two philosophies.
A. The first philosophy is what the Bible commends as genuine faith. It submits to the authority of God’s Word – this submission involves a presuppositional commitment to the veracity of the Scriptures.
1. The faith of Abraham perfectly illustrates this confidence in the reliability of God’s Word – Romans 4:14-22;
Hebrews 11:8-10, 17-19.)
2. God and His Word are self-authenticating. God doesn’t go outside Himself to define, understand or present Himself. There is no truth standard outside of God. There is no truth “magnifying glass” large enough to place over God and His authoritative Word -- every imaginable scholastic discipline is but a “particular.” Only God is the concrete universal absolute.
3. Without God’s ultimate truth, man attempts to create his own reality. Such an attempt moves man from reason to irrationality. Ultimate truth cannot be argued independently of the preconditions inherent in it. One might as well say, “Let’s stop breathing oxygen while we debate the necessity of that gas.” The only way we know anything with certainty is by God’s authoritative revelation - Psalm 36:9.)
B. The second of the two philosophies is the commitment to self as the ultimate authority.
1. As a result of mankind’s fall into sin, there is a universal commitment
to self as the ultimate starting point for all knowledge.
2. The debate between the two philosophies is over ultimate authority.
Where does the ultimate authority reside? Does it reside in God or in
3. Jesus Christ is God’s reference point for man (Col. 2:3). He is the
source of absolute truth and He is the source of
ultimate answers to ultimate questions.
III. Because the two competing philosophies constitute a clash between
sources of ultimate authority, they totally condition the process of
A. These competing philosophic systems govern a man’s philosophy of facts. Every person interprets facts according to one of these two philosophic systems.
1. When the natural man is confronted with the witness of God in
creation, he studiously suppresses the truth or holds it down by
means of false interpretation. His use of autonomous reason as the
starting point means that he will be an untruthful interpreter.
2. Man’s consciousness is a covenant consciousness. In other words,
God placed man on this planet to be a steward over the works of His hands (Psalm 8).
3. That stewardship involves covenant obligations – the Creator’s
ownership is upon man, for man is the “image-bearer” of God. This
is an immense privilege – man has a great purpose because he is
created for a great task. Central to this covenant responsibility is
man’s calling to be a truthful interpreter of God, creation and
humanity (Genesis 1-2).
4. Scripture proclaims that God’s attributes, power and divine
nature are clearly seen, yet the natural man interprets these facts of
creation untruthfully. He resorts to speculation and futility of mind
and becomes a fool as a consequence. Man’s unbelief in God’s Word
issues forth in disobedience to covenant obligations.
5. The Scripture says that unbeliever is without a defense (Greek,
apologia) or without excuse before God (Romans 1:18-23). They
have no excuse because God has clearly shown Himself to mankind.
6. Remember, one’s world view is inseparable from one’s theory of
knowledge. The natural man “worships” his own mind as ultimate;
he has a theory of knowledge that exalts autonomous reason. As a consequence, he rebels against God’s authoritative revelation. His world view reflects his commitment to think independently of God.
B. According to God’s Word, human reason is to be the servant of divine
1. Reason is a faculty designed by God for the task of interpreting
truthfully. The divine mandate of interpreting truthfully can only
be fulfilled when man is in submission to the Word of God,
thinking God’s thoughts after Him.
2. When men reject the Word of God, their interpreting will always be
false. The refusal to follow God’s truth will lead a man into error in
all fields of thought. (An erroneous starting point necessarily leads
to erroneous conclusions concerning the origin and meaning of
every fact in the universe.)
3. When men interpret falsely it is because they have regarded their
reason to be an independent and neutral faculty, not the servant of
C. God’s Word puts the sinner’s intellectual assumption of autonomous
reason on trial. Holy Scripture turns the tables on the unbelieving
sinner. Though unbelievers talk as if God and His revelation are on
trial, the Word of God places the sinner’s errant heart on trial.
The divine arraignment of the sinner is cast in a fourteen point
indictment found in Romans 3:10-18:
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
“Their feet are swift to shed blood’
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
D. God’s indictment of Adam’s sinful race reveals why no man can
reason his way to God. Man’s mind is not neutral, but in rebellion.
The natural man uses his mind to sin against God. (God has
endowed man with the gift of reason and logic in order to receive
divine revelation. The independent exercise of reason will always
result in erroneous interpretation.)
IV. Without reverence and faith, there is no understanding of God and all
He has made.
A. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise
wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). (Those who fear God are in
awe of His sovereignty. They maintain a deep reverence for the His
B. Faith in God is NOT based upon autonomous proofs that satisfy our
1. God demands faith in His Messianic Son (John 6:28,29). There
is NO knowledge of spiritual things until a person has savingly
believed upon Christ. For Christ is God’s authoritative Interpreter
put over man as sovereign Lord.
2. Rejection of Christ is rejection of God the Son as Interpreter of the
world (Christ has absolute epistemic authority in all fields of knowledge – Col. 2:3).
3. When man arrogates to himself the position of epistemic
authority, he defies God’s authority and God’s appointed
Representative, Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:9-11; Ps. 2). (The field of
epistemology concerns the origin, validity and structure of
knowledge – it deals with how we know what we know with
C. Faith therefore has a moral basis – it reveals what is in the heart of a man.
1. When a man’s heart is wrong in the sight of God, his thinking will
correspondingly be futile. Unbelief is not an error in judgment, unbelief is the fruit of a heart in rebellion against God (Heb. 3:12).
The opposite of truth is not ignorance, but rebellion.
2. Jesus declared that the means by which a person knows and
understands spiritual truth with certainty is by being willing to do
God’s will (John 7:17). According to the Son of God, understanding
is the reward of faith.
3. As long as a man uses his depraved intellect to “put God on trial,”
(or judge God), he cannot know or understand God. Human reason
cannot be the support of faith, for the object and
source of faith is God and His revelation (Rom. 10:17).
V. Man cannot reason his way to God.
Genuine faith does not depend upon what it sees, but upon the self-
attesting veracity of God’s Word (Heb. 11:1-6). Faith submits to the
dependability of Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16,17). 
A. There can be no “flat line” reasoning to God. There are two important
reasons for this. First, when one argues for an ultimate intellectual
criterion, circularity in reasoning will be unavoidable. Every world view
and every argument must have a starting point that is unquestioned,
authoritative and self-authenticating.
1. Without this ultimate starting point, facts will be unrelated and
“brutish,” (isolated, without interpretation by a universal). (One
cannot even begin to evaluate the very first fact he encounters
without a set of non-negotiable presuppositions about knowledge and
the universe in general.)
2. Every world view or philosophy of necessity must use its own
standard of truth to prove its conclusions. There is no standard for
truth that sits above the Scriptures and there is no fact in the
universe more certain than the Scriptures.
3. The Bible believing Christian affirms that there are no neutral
facts that hold an authority independent of a scriptural interpretation. “They are God’s facts. And they are to be interpreted according to God’s Word.”
4. Reason either begins with God or self. Reason that begins with
God involves thought dependent upon God’s revelation. Reason that
begins with self assumes the false presupposition that man’s mind is
B. Second, those who come to know God have had a radical overturning of
their presuppositions about autonomous reason. The ability to
understand God is stipulated upon faith. Faith is the soul’s
“abandonment” of itself to God and His Word. Thus the only way to
know God is by forsaking one’s independent thinking about God. This is the very opposite of attempting to reason in a “flat line” manner.
C. God commands unbelievers to renounce their antagonistic reasoning and
to embrace a new system of thought (John 8:24).
1. Repentance (which always accompanies genuine faith) involves
radical abandonment of autonomous world views and independent
thinking about God.
2. Where there is true faith and repentance, there is a submission
to the mind of God and a new commitment to think God’s thoughts
after Him. The renewed mind embraces an entirely new epistemology
in which Christ and His Word are the final reference point and
authority for knowing (1 Cor. 2:14-16).
3. Repentance puts a halt to man’s judging God – it terminates a
man’s commitment to think “ultimately” (or with autonomous
reason). Repentance by means of God’s authoritative truth
mortifies the natural man’s view of self. It destroys his
presuppositions of ultimate thinking. It brings to bear the full
weight of God’s claims upon him.
4. There is a self-renouncing character to saving faith – it looks
away from itself to God as the source of truth and life. Thus faith
cannot be grounded in man’s self-reliant thinking – in true
repentance, the final reference point and starting point shift from self
to God (Phil. 3:3; Jer. 17:5; Prov. 28:26; 1 Cor. 2:4,5).
VI. The point of contact of God and His truth with sinful man is at the
point of man’s rebellion.
A. Though the sinner is commanded to seek God, he cannot take a step
in God’s direction without divine assistance (John 6:44,45; Is. 55:1-
11). When the sinner cries to God for mercy, he is also pleading for
the ability to come to God, believe and be saved (Luke 18:13).
1. God makes Himself known to the unbeliever by FIRST setting
forth the man’s predicament. His habitual breaking of God’s
law, his ill-desert, his legal guilt and his moral failure must be stated.
When the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, He “shows the sinner
his chains and the weight of his guilt.”
2. Men are not ready for the good news of the gospel UNTIL their
consciences have been educated concerning the seriousness of God’s
claims upon them (Gal. 3:23,24; John 16:13).
3. Man’s spiritual apathy constitutes rebellion. Man’s apathy is a
symptom of a heart dead to the things of God. The Scriptures
state that the solution to man’s spiritual deadness is the vivifying
power of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:1-5):
“And you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”
4. Christ is God’s comprehensive answer to man’s predicament. God
commands sinners to appeal to Christ for a new heart of faith and
repentance. Man’s number one duty is to come to Christ and be
forgiven (Rev. 22:17).
B. The unbeliever’s arguments sound “rational” until he is taken back to
his world view and presuppostional starting point. At that juncture,
his system falls apart – man’s existence in order to be meaningful
cannot be grounded upon chaos, chance and absurdity.
1. Even unbelievers presuppose theism in order to reason at all. There
are certain “preconditions” of knowledge that only an almighty
Creator can supply.
2. These preconditions include the following: God knows all things
exhaustively, God is the concrete universal that unites all particulars,
God’s control over the universe is manifested in the uniformity of nature,
God is the source of morals, God is the source of logic, God supplies the
categories of knowledge, God has interpreted all things, God answers
every ultimate question, God rules the universe according to His purpose
3. Without these preconditions of knowledge, man is unable to predicate
anything. He is adrift upon a sea of epistemological despair –
certainty and rationality are ever out of reach. Man can only retreat
into solipsism (solipsism is the theory that the self is the only thing
that can be known and verified – self is the only reality).
4. “When one willingly limits his faith, presuming to question the ability
or truth of God based upon human intellect or argumentation, it is a
serious provocation before the Lord – e.g., Psalm 78:18-22” (Greg
Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 93).
5. A universe without God’s sovereign moral authority and rule is a
universe based upon chance. The natural man clings to chance in
order to escape the claims of God. To opt for a chance universe is to
reject the God of the Bible.
6. The natural man’s theory of knowledge is synonymous with his world
view. Since the unbeliever trusts in the ultimacy of his own mind, he
correspondingly rejects the authority of God’s Word. His world view is
necessarily constructed so as to invalidate God’s claims upon the
7. God’s almighty control of all things is manifested in His preservation
of His Word, the Bible. In a universe where chance is ultimate, the
Word of God is necessarily falsified by man. Thus, chance destroys
the infallibility of the Scriptures and the Gospel. (The unbeliever’s
system of thought is internally rotten. He cannot have it both ways –
he cannot have rational universe and at the same time, have a
universe based upon chance. Reason is slain on the altar of chance.
The God of the Bible is the precondition of knowledge and rationality.)
C. The nature of biblical faith governs our apologetic method.
The nature of belief must guide our strategy when defending the faith
and evangelizing the lost. As a result, we never hold the ultimate
authority of God’s Word in abeyance for the sake of neutrality amidst
1. When defending the faith, we do not appeal to autonomous empirical
“sight,” instead, we proclaim the a priori Word of God.
2. Man is utterly dependent upon God for existence and meaning. We
are God’s thought and creation, upheld and sustained by Him every
moment (Col. 1:16,17; Acts 17:24-27).
3. It is absolutely impossible to find a vantage point that is neutral,
objective and autonomous from which to scrutinize God and His
Word. There is never a moment when the claims of the Creator are
not resting upon the creature.
4. When men pretend to operate from a neutral vantage point, they are
in reality revealing a heart full of revolt against God. Their greatest
need is not a superior vantage point, it is repentance and faith toward
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, (American Vision, Atlanta, 1996) 55.
 Ibid., pp. 65-67.
 James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism TH 701, (Syllabus from The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, CA copyright 1999) 84,85.
 Ibid., pp. 84,85.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, pp. 66-68.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, (Presbyterian and Reformed, Phillipsburg, 1955) 90-95.
 James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, p. 17.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, pp. 87,88.
 Ibid., p. 88.
 Tom Wells, The Moral Basis of Faith, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, 1986) 9-11.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 89.
 Michael J. Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics” in The Master’s Seminary Journal, (12:1, Spring 2001) 70, 81,82.
 James F. Stitzinger, Syllabus, p. 89.
 Ibid., p. 104.
 Ibid., p. 103.
 Ibid., pp. 58,99,101,113.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, A Critique of the Evidentialist Apologetical Method of John Warwick Montgomery, pp. 5,11.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, pp. 140-150.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, pp. 91-93.