Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 7

Street EpistemologyWe have spent the last couple of months looking at street epistemologists and their goal of talking young theists out of their belief in God. That is not my ‘opinion’ or ‘interpretation’ of their goal – it is their ‘stated’ purpose.

“The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, and the community–into any and every place the faithful reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.” (A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter I, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013)

Since starting this series about street epistemologists, I have heard from atheists who say they are not ‘after our children’ and Christians who say I am ‘overreacting to atheists.’ I have also heard from many Christian parents who share with me a deep concern about their children’s future.

In this final section of our special series, Street Epistemologists – On Guard, we are sharing the 5 Steps to Faith Defense that will help prepare your children and children in your church to face the enemy head on. If you haven’t read the first step, Be Aware, please read that before moving to the next step.

Step 2 – Beware

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:6-8

God knows exactly what His children are going to face during their lifetime on earth, so His Spirit inspired a select group of men to write God’s Word in documents that would be preserved for centuries. Each document (known as Scripture) represents a different historical, geographical, sociological and spiritual situation facing God’s people.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians in the ancient city of Colossae, located in Asia Minor, during one of his imprisonments (e.g. Rome, Caesarea). Though Paul had never visited Colossae, he knew a lot about the challenges Christians faced there from his friend Epaphras.

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.” Colossians 1:4-8

Paul quickly addressed attacks on Christianity by reminding the Colossians about the preeminence of Christ and reconciliation in Christ. Paul also stated clearly that ‘warning’ Christians was a primary purpose of his service to God and them.

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 1:28

The word ‘warning’ in the Greek is nouthetountes, which means ‘to put in mind, admonish, exhort, warn.’ The words nouthetountes (warn, admonish, exhort) and didaskontes (teaching) describe the activity of kataggellomen (preaching, announcing). ‘Preaching’ the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes both ‘warning’ and ‘teaching.’ They complement each other and are necessary to complete the whole duty of preaching.

Unfortunately, and to the severe detriment of the health of tens of millions of Christians and hundreds of thousands of churches, modern preaching often excludes nouthetountes (warning, exhorting, admonishing) and nouthesia (admonition, warning). What many preachers and teachers do not understand, apparently, is that they cannot cut biblical ‘preaching’ in half and throw away the less popular ‘warning’ half. True ‘preaching’ cannot just be about teaching without ‘warning, nor can it be just about warning without ‘teaching.’ The Gospel message comes as a ‘whole’ and cannot be presented as Truth without warning ‘and’ teaching. Anything less than the Truth is .. not the truth. Anything less than the Gospel is .. not the Gospel.

I’m reminded of Paul’s admonition to Timothy almost 2,000 years ago – words that should continue to ring in the ears of everyone who calls themselves a ‘minister’ of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:2-4

The words noutheteo and nouthesia belong to Pauline writings in Scripture. Here are the 11 occurrences in the Greek New Testament. Look at how important ‘warning’ is in Christian preaching, and please be sure to read them in context so you can see how they fit into Paul’s overarching purpose for each.

“Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:31

“Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Romans 15:14

“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.” 1 Corinthians 4:14

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 1:28

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

“Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:15

“Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition.” Titus 3:10

‘Warning’ Christians to Beware is an vital part of any ‘preaching’ ministry. If we’re not ‘warning’ God’s people, we’re not ‘serving’ God’s people – not in the complete sense that God defines as service. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any ministry that excludes or downplays ‘warning’ as part of its message is performing a ‘disservice’ to its audience. Unfortunately, that audience is massive and growing in size daily. I’m reminded of what James wrote about the teaching/preaching ministry: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) [May those words cut us to the core if we teach God’s people.]

Why Christians Need To Beware

Paul first told Christians in Colossae that they should ‘walk’ in Christ in the same way they had ‘received’ Him: “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” Then, Paul warned the Colossian Christians about the danger of ‘cheaters’: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

This is Paul’s preaching methodology presented in just a few sentences: Teaching and Warning. I ‘highly’ recommend this method to all parents, teachers and preachers.

Teaching

  • Walk in Christ in the same way you received Him
  • Rooted and built up in Him
  • Established in the faith, as you have been taught
  • Abounding in it with thanksgiving

Warning

  • Beware of cheaters
  • Cheating through philosophy
  • Cheating through empty deceit
  • Cheating through the tradition of men
  • Cheating through the basic principles of the world
  • Cheating ‘not according to Christ’

As we look at Paul’s method of preaching (teaching and warning), we see that nothing has really changed from the middle of the 1st century AD to the early part of the 21st century AD. We still need to walk in Christ in the same way we received Him. We still need to be rooted and built up in Him. We still need to be established in the faith, as we were taught (or should have been taught). We still need to be abounding in our faith with thanksgiving. We need to beware of cheaters who would cheat us through philosophy, empty deceit, the tradition of men, the basic principles of the world, not according to Christ.

What do you see that we should no longer be doing? What do you see that we shouldn’t be doing with our children and teens? What do you see that we shouldn’t be doing with our young adults? What do you see that we shouldn’t be doing in our churches? What do you see that we shouldn’t be doing in our large and small Christian gatherings? I don’t see anything that has changed in the past 1,900+ years since Paul wrote the Colossian believers, other than the sad fact that many Christian parents and many Christian preachers and teachers no longer follow the biblical method for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am sadly aware that many Christians are not interested in following the biblical model for preaching. I am also happily aware that more and more Christians are realizing how the weakness of modern preaching has led us to the brink of disaster morally and spiritually. The way back will not be easy and will most likely be filled with pain and suffering, but  ‘warning’ with ‘teaching’ is the only way back for the Church to ‘walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.’ 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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5 thoughts on “Street Epistemologists – On Guard 7

  1. Pingback: Street Epistemologists – On Guard Final | Faith & Self Defense

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