Home > Mallinak, The Lord Jesus Christ, Truth > Walk in Christ the Way You Received Him (Colossians 2:6-8)

Walk in Christ the Way You Received Him (Colossians 2:6-8)

February 3, 2010

A Case for Christian Presuppositions

We have been inundated with books of the “evidential” variety, beginning with McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and most recently continuing with Lee Strobel and his very popular The Case for … series of books.  I’ll not go so far as to say that these books have no value.  No doubt, there are those who have come to faith in Christ after having taken a candid look at the evidence.  Nor would I argue that there is not a veritable universe filled with evidence of our Creator.  The whole earth is full of his glory.

But I have a problem with this method of evangelism.  I believe that it elevates human intellect and invites men to come to Christ on their own terms.  The Bible characterizes the world as having an autonomous self-sufficiency, and the evidential approach to apologetics appeals to this autonomous self-sufficiency.  For, when an autonomous man is persuaded by human wisdom and evidence that he “just can’t answer,” that man has come to Christ on his own terms, rather than coming on Christ’s terms.

Christ’s call to salvation requires mankind to repent.  But the evidential approach requires no repentance.  It merely requires a progression in one’s understanding.  The worldly mind promotes human reasoning above all else, and the evidential approach appeals to human reasoning.  Paul often spoke of the worldly mind.  In Colossians 2:8, he described it as philosophy that is vain deceit, and characterized it as “after the tradition of men… and not after Christ.”  In I Corinthians 1:12, Paul tells us that “the world by wisdom knew not God.”  And in Ephesians 4:17ff, Paul demands that we “henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind…”  He says that their understanding is darkened, that they are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.  We have not received the spirit of the world (I Corinthians 2:12), but the spirit of Christ.  Nor will the spirit of the world ever bring a man to Christ, for “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spririt of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”  (I Corinthians 2:14).

Brethren, I would remind you that it is the natural man who demands evidence (I Corinthians 1:22).  But we refrain from speach that utilizes the words which man’s wisdom teaches (I Corinthians 1:23-24; 2:13).  The worldly mind refuses to believe anything that does not meet its criterion for evidence.  This is why men who lived during the time of Christ, who saw His miracles and heard His preaching and even made up lies to deny His resurrection did not become believers or disciples of Christ.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of evidence.  They had more evidence than any man can possibly want in our day.

The world’s problem is and always has been its presuppositions.  The world sets its presuppositions against the presuppositions that the Bible demands.  And the world by wisdom does not know God.  God requires a man to repent of these worldly presuppositions, or he will perish.  And this, as I see it, is exactly the problem with the evidentialist approach to apologetics.  Evidentialism appeals to a man to keep those worldly assumptions and come to Christ that way.  So that when a man converts, he does not convert because he has submitted himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  He converts because he has persuaded himself that Christianity is the truth.  He comes to Christ, not on Christ’s authority, but on the authority of his own autonomous mind.

As an aside, I believe that this kind of “converting” explains why so many of these converts continue to lead such a worldly and sensual lifestyle.  They walk in Christ the way they received Him.

We receive Christ on His terms.  He is God.  He does not appeal to evidence when He calls men to salvation.  He appeals to His own authority.  He demands that we lay aside our own assumptions and take up the Christian presuppositions of Scripture.  Sight does not make a man a Christian.  And yet, many Christians in their desire to persuade men, appeal to their own self-sufficient sight by appealing on the basis of evidence.  The just shall live by faith.  We walk by faith, not by sight.  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

The way that we received Christ is the way that we are to walk in Him.  That includes, most obviously, our manner of living.  But it also includes our thinking, our scholarly endeavors, and our witnessing.  When we witness for the Lord, we are to witness in submission to His Lordship.  No doubt, we are the people, and we think that we have found a better way.  After all, these evidentialists, they are bringing many people to make a profession of faith.  We can’t really see evidence of conversion, but at least people are giving lip-service to it, right?  I mean, that’s probably better than nothing.  Which reminds me, why am I wasting my time writing this when I could be out soul winning.

But Paul commands us to be rooted and built up in Christ.  That is how we are to walk in Him.  Stablished in the faith, as we have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  And as we do, Paul warns us, that is, those of us who are walking in Christ the way we received him, to “Beware lest any man spoil (take captive, carry off as booty) you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men (worldly presuppositions that demand evidence and refuse to acknowledge the authority of Christ in the realm of knowledge), after the rudiments of the world (autonomous self-sufficiency), and not after Christ.

In this, then, we should take note of yet another evidence of true conversion — that the former man of the world has repented of his former basic assumptions, and now has a new basic assumption.  He now assumes that whatever God says in His Word is true, and he approaches Scripture that way.  As Ephesians 4:20-24 teaches, that man has new committments, new assumptions, new presuppositions, a new love, a new direction, new evidence, a new life – behold, all things have become new!

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  1. February 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Good fleshing out with application to apologetics. And a nice shelling of evangelistic methods. A question comes: what inclines a soul to a new basic assumption?

  2. Joshua
    February 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I can attest that from a child up until I got saved I was firmly and utterly convinced of the truth of the Bible and the existence of God in the way Dave writes about here. I had read several books of apologetics, all the Creation Science magazines, and my parents have carefully instructed me on the many infallible proofs of Scripture. But it didn’t regenerate me, and my sins were a testimony of it. Thanks for this Dave. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Kent’s question.

  3. February 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I am thankful for the good material in this post. I have one question. Where does Colossians 2:6-8 state that “The way that we received Christ is the way that we are to walk in Him”? Or is this established in other passages? I believe (unless my article on “As ye have received Christ . . . so walk ye in Him” at my website is incorrect) that every time the Greek construction that is found in the “as” of this verse appears in Scripture and in relevent Koine, it does not mean “in the same way as you have, so,” etc. but simply “since,” so that the verse is “Since ye have received Christ [in an unstated way], walk in Him [in the way specified by the following verses].” Of course, I could very easily be missing something. Thanks again for the good content.

  4. February 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    BTW, just in case readers don’t know what article I’m talking about and want to read it, the article on “As Ye Have Received Christ . . . So Walk Ye In Him” is at http://thross7.googlepages.com.

  5. February 4, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Faith is the new basic assumption. Although I might not have been very clear in the post on this, I believe that this is what Paul is referring to in verse 6. We receive Christ by faith, and we walk by faith, not by sight. So, to answer Kent’s question (and Joshua’s), faith inclines a soul to a new basic assumption. Before faith comes, men walk by sight. Faith is God’s gift, so we could say that God produces faith in the heart, and this faith inclines a soul to believe. Joshua, I think I can say the same thing in one sense — I believed what my parents said about God, about Creation, about sin, really about everything. Their teaching inclined me to believe. But there was still the necessity of the new birth, which, as we know, is not the result of knowledge, but the result of God’s work (John 1:12).

    Thomas, I’m not sure that I am competent enough with Greek to discuss your question intelligently. I am in my second year of studying first year Greek, so I’m a novice in this, and must rely on what other men have said. Wuest says, ““As” is hōs (ὡς), “In the same manner as, like as.”” A.T. Robertson concurs, saying, “As therefore ye received (ὡς οὐν παρελαβετε [hōs oun parelabete]). Second aorist active indicative of παραλαμβανω [paralambanō] in same sense as in I Thess. 4:1; Phil. 4:9.” So, I admit that I am relying on them in part. However, since we believe that the English is derivatively inspired, we can also say that the English reading would naturally be understood to be saying that “like/similarly/in the same way/as” ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him…” Also, verse 7 seems to add specifics to the general principle of verse 6, that when we received Christ, we were rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, and that we are to walk in him as those who are rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith.

    I was not aware that you wrote an article on this verse. As I have time, I will try to see where you came up with “since” as a meaning for “as.” Again, my ability in this is limited, but none of the dictionaries or helps that I have available to me give “since” as a possible meaning of “as,” nor does our English language give that as a possibility. Could you point me to some commentaries and/or lexicons that give “since” as a meaning for “as”?

    Your argument is plausible in the sense that the Colossian believers had received Christ Jesus the Lord, and so Paul is urging them to walk in them as they received Him. In an earlier discussion, you argued that there can only be one meaning, so I am assuming that you believe that the word “as” can only possibly mean “since” in this verse. If that is your view, then that seems to go beyond the plain meaning of the word “as” here.

    I’ll look forward to hearing what you have to say.

  6. Bobby
    February 4, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly quoting this to the church here, but this is the verse that came to mind as I read your article: Lu 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

    Thanks for the work.

  7. February 4, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Its hard to even know what I’m asking. So are you arguing against absolute

    evidntialism or all evidence in apologetics?

  8. February 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Ok maybe this is a better question how much evidence should be used in

    evangelism?

  9. February 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Dear Pastor Mallinak,

    The question is not the Greek word hos on its own, but hos oun. That construction never means “in the same way as.” I won’t repeat the entire article on my website here; anyone who wishes can go there and read it. The question of the English translation is also answered there.
    Also, while certainly faith is a gift from God, since in Scripture we see that evidences were used to get people to believe (500 witnesses, etc. of the resurrection, and many other examples in Acts), we have a Biblical warrant for using evidences to prepare people to receive the gospel. I don’t think you would disagree with this.
    Have a great day presupposing the truth of the Bible.

  10. February 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Even though I believe that presenting evidence is acceptable, it is not a basis for faith. No one will be saved because he was persuaded by evidence. That is a little longer conversation and perhaps we should do a month on it at Jackhammer. I don’t think that Thomas is disagreeing with that, since he said “prepare people to receive the gospel.” People who think someone will be converted because of evidence are headed the wrong way in evangelism.

  11. February 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Thomas,

    I agree with you about the “as therefore.” In context, Paul is speaking in the previous verses about their full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgement of the mystery… of Christ. He is joying and beholding their order, and the steadfastness of their faith in Christ. And then he says “as ye have therefore received Christ.” As I was re-reading that this morning, it came to me that this obviously means “since you have received Christ.” So, I understood what you were saying as of this morning. I didn’t get that yesterday or before that, so thank you for pointing it out.

    That being said, I also think that this is yet another example of the way that Scripture often speaks, with several layers of meaning. On the one hand, Paul is saying “since you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” But he does not simply mean “since.” For one thing, it would have been easy enough for the KJV translators to say “since.” But they didn’t. And I believe their translation reflects the depth of meaning. Certainly the phrase means “since.” You have received Christ (that is Paul’s subject), and Paul wants them to walk in Christ that same way. This is a frequent theme with the Apostle Paul (Galatians comes to mind), and it certainly fits with the wording of this passage. For this reason, the KJV inserts the word “so.” Paul is saying that you have received Christ by faith — I joy and behold that — and since you have received Him this way, walk in Him the same way.

    I did not say that evidences are not to be used, did I? I am looking back over the original post, and I don’t see where I said that. Here is what I did say about evidences…

    I’ll not go so far as to say that these books have no value. No doubt, there are those who have come to faith in Christ after having taken a candid look at the evidence. Nor would I argue that there is not a veritable universe filled with evidence of our Creator. The whole earth is full of his glory.

    But I have a problem with this method of evangelism. I believe that it elevates human intellect and invites men to come to Christ on their own terms.

    I did not comment on the proper use or place of evidence in evangelism. I think it can be used. But I also believe that we must be careful. When we invite men to come to Christ on the basis of evidence, we tempt them to come on their own terms rather than on God’s terms. That is not to say that we should reject evidences altogether. That is to say that we must use them lawfully, and as we use them, we must understand that they will still need to presuppose the truth of God’s Word before they will believe.

    Phil,

    To answer your question, I believe that we can and should use evidence, especially in refuting the assumptions of unregenerate men. But we must not stake our case on evidence, nor should we make a habit of incorporating external evidences (classical arguments, archeological findings, Josephus, etc) as a basis for believing. Of course, the first proof for the truth of Scripture is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (Romans 1:4). And that must be the kind of proof (the internal proofs from Scripture) that we must rely on.

  12. David Emme
    February 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    How I see it as fundamentalism was started as a faith movement where the moidern man could not concieve what he sees as irrational or as we term it infinite thought-thought beyond our comprehension.

    When this happens, this is where faith comes in-believing something to be true we cannot prove0where the modern man comes in and disbelieves a 7 day creation.

    When Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron-literally I thought this was a debate in my bible college with two freshmen debating. A Watch/coke can shows a creator? Though this might be true-this ends up being a very poor example of a modernist philosophy called Evidentialism. On some of these other resorces, they are good when accused of false beliefs such as the bible was changed but 15,000 manuscripts in the NT does not share this view and as evidance of God preserving his word.

  13. February 16, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Dave, good points made about certain types of apologetics – and the assumptions some have that if they do not accept the Bible, they will somehow be intellectually convinced of the truth.

    People like Stroebel, Lewis, McDowell, Colson, etc. that are ecumenical to the hilt and water down the truth are not really helping the cause of Christ. They are reducing Biblical truths to the lowest common denominator, and basically (through their associations) teaching that it does not matter whether you are a Catholic or a Protestant, Evangelical or Fundamentalist, etc. just as long as you believe in a Jesus and have some token faith in commonly accepted theology in Christendom.

  14. February 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Axiopisticism is what apologetics is about. Axiopisticism provides rational and/or scientific proofs intended to result in faith or belief in God.

    Autopisticism is the faith assumption. Autopisticism begins by ACCEPTING the Word of God as true by faith and building faith from every Word of inspired Scripture. Autopisticism is an appeal to simply believe.

    Which of these two axioms does the Word of God prescribe?

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