Our Best World: A realist approach to apologetics and evangelism
I. Broken Dreams (what’s wrong?)
Not enough jobs, wasted effort, mismatch work and skills, underpaid, overpaid, lazy people
Authorities abuse their power (fathers, teachers, police, government leaders, religious leaders), powerful nations abuse and oppress smaller nations, followers rebel, protest and complain, equals envy, gossip and attack each other behind other’s backs
Families broken by physical, emotional, sexual abuse, affairs, divorce, gambling, drinking, drugs, medical practice is used to harm and take life (abortion, euthanasia), health education is infected by lies of liberalism (any risky sexual behavior is ok if you use a condom)
Families broken by sexual immorality (before, during marriage, heterosexuality, homosexuality, prostitution, lust fantasies, pornographic photos and videos, one-night stands)
Relationships broken, businesses ruined by stealing and cheating
Relationships broken by lying, hurting one another’s reputations with gossip
People filled with envy, greed, always see more/want more . . . Greed and envy is the root of all the other broken dreams.
II. Why all these broken dreams? Various answers
Folk religion has various external spirit-world answers: feng-shwei, hungry ghosts, displeased ancestors need to be placated, resisted. Taiwan folk religion develops out of fear of externally caused evil from hungry ghosts, unhappy ancestors or unhappy gods that must be either appeased or resisted, with some sense of filial piety toward ancestors (SyauSuen). But there are no clear, unchanging laws or standards given by these ancestors, so you are always guessing inductively based on bad circumstances, never sure if you are accepted or they are pleased with you.
Evolutionary theory has various historically shaped interpretations: we are only evolved physical matter trying to survive, rules and laws are just ways we have learned to survive, but wars can change all that and start everything over again.
Communism’s theory is based on class struggle: the under-privileged and oppressed people must resist their oppressors, and establish a new utopia of equals without different financial classes, where everyone shares all things in common (property, resources). But we know that those in power are unequal and can oppress the people with unfair laws just like any other government system.
Democratic theory is that elected officials with integrity, whom we know and trust, will bring a better society and more fair laws, taxes, health care, build social infrastructure for the common good. But we know this system fails as well, by corrupt leaders who are greedy and selfish, failed government policies and high taxes to try to fix problems that can’t be fixed with big government programs.
Because of sin against the moral law of the Creator-Lord, man just tries to survive even if it means using our power to hurt others (similar to evolution and communism).
Because this world is under the curse for man’s sins, the Creator-Lord permits external spirit-world problems with demon-spirits (fallen angels) that seek to injure us (similar to Taiwan folk religion). But Christianity’s solution does not propose to make everyone equal (communism) or use various rituals to protect ourselves from evil spirits (Taiwan folk religion). Christianity believes government is important, with current best models approving representative government and fairly enforced laws as the least potentially dangerous, with the ability to remove and punish those who are selfish or misuse power and money, but there are still many abuses and problems with foolish, selfish or greedy leaders, so Christianity doesn’t think that government can fix the broken dreams.
III. My Broken Dreams are real (I have hurt others and I have been hurt)
Doesn’t this fit with what feels right in your heart? (Rom. 2:14-15) and don’t you already practice some of these things yourselves?
From experience we know that breaking these laws, failure of moral self-control of the mind, will and emotions, brings relational and social chaos.
Our moral knowledge is used to judge others who hurt me or hurt others I care about.
Our conscience accuses us for personal evil and this produces “You are bad” responses of deep inward self-estrangement, self-hatred, isolation, torment, alarm, dread, anxiety, depression, alienation, shame, hiding, remorse, fear of being found out, some forms of mental illness, self-punishment or injury, and anger toward ourselves, or alternately, causing a secondary relieved conscience because of self-defense, self-deception, or excuse-making to pretend innocence. God gave this witness of your conscience to testify about himself to you.
IV. Why all these broken dreams? Christianity says . . .
Start by comparing religious values defining the most important things about meaning and purpose of life. Does the moral law of the 4th-10th commandments fit with “Our Best World”? I just showed you two ways to define seven of the Ten Commandments, the ancient wise law given through Moses to the Jews, and has become the moral teaching of Jesus and the apostle’s Christianity. I think you would agree that these 6.5 laws do give us part of the meaning of “Our Best World”
You shall work six days (0.5 law)
You shall honor your parents
You shall not murder
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not give false witness
You shall not covet
2. Christianity’s definition of the biggest problem for broken dreams in the world is called sin (heart [mind, will, emotions] and behavior) against the 1st Table of law, namely against the defined will of the Creator-Lord in the garden of Eden brought curse, and resulting chaos and sins against Second Table of law on man’s work, misuse of authority, rebellion among followers, and fighting, wars, sickness and death, marital unfaithfulness sexual immorality, stealing, lying, envy into the whole world of living things. We also know this because of why the Father-Lord send Jesus-Lord into the world—to save people from their sins.
BIGGEST SIN: STARTS WITH DEFINITIONS IN 1st TABLE of law, the other 3.5 laws: If so, then we cannot just accept part of the Creator-Lord’s wisdom and understanding, but need to accept the 1st-4th commandments. If you have the wrong god and way of worship, you do not know the true God and his power to change personally or patiently work for changes in your family, work or culture to make “Our Best World”.
NOTE: The American and Taiwan legal system have tried to separate religion from the power of the government. This principle comes from years and years of religious wars in Europe that accomplished very little growth among any religion. Each religious group should be free to practice and worship its own concept of god, so allows for persuasion and freedom of speech to show the value of your religion to other religious groups without fear of attack or persecution and freedom of conversion to another belief system or religion. This principle also comes from Christianity, because Christians believe God has power to save by his Word and Spirit, so no government force is needed or useful in expanding the kingdom of God.
You shall have no other gods before me
Consider that the one True God is in your 1st place, 1st teacher, 1st father, 1st law-giver: You shall learn about, submit to and ONLY worship the Lord defined by the Christian Bible, and there are not any other real gods like him (including temple idols and ancestors).
You shall not make any idols
You shall worship the Creator-Lord in the way he describes and defines that he wants to be worshiped in the Christian Bible, by faith in Jesus Christ, not with any ways that man imagined, like creating idols. He is self-sufficient, giving us everything we need, putting us to live in this place on the earth at this time, and doesn’t live in your temples or need your offerings (Acts 17:22-31). He is near to his people to hear our prayers and help us when we are afraid, worried, angry, ashamed, weak, sick, sad, lonely.
You shall not use God’s name in vain
You shall live in the world in a way that represents his character in the world, respectfully representing God and his moral law in your words, actions and relationships and using your influence to point others to the true God by his moral law.
You shall remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy
You shall set apart one day for worshiping the Lord every seven days, also for your rest and to teach you to trust me to supply your needs in six days of work.
V. How can we prove Christianity provides “Our Best World” answers?
OUR BEST UNDERSTANDING OF WHY WE HAVE BROKEN DREAMS IS EXPLAINED BY CHRISTIANITY: The Bible says, and Jesus taught that the biggest broken dream in the world that needs to be fixed, and the reason he came into this world to fix it, is inside us, what the Bible calls your heart (mind, will, emotions). Our world is broken and all living things are under the curse of sickness and death because of this problem as well. We Christians also know we are living in a fallen world where we expect sorrow and frustration, but know the Creator-Lord is helping us face them so we can become stronger believers. The Lord doesn’t always change all the broken things in the world, but does use us to help make broken things better.
“OUR BEST WORLD” PRINCIPLES ARE EVIDENT WITHIN CHRISTIANITY: Christianity provides a wise and understanding, ancient moral law that fits with “Our Best World,” both for personal ethics and for socio-cultural, academic, international, geo-political transformation. Many of Taiwan’s laws are based on the Christian Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments show us the character or the God who gave these laws, and his pleasure in blessing and drawing near to hear the prayers and receive the worship of those who keep his law.
ESV Deuteronomy 4:5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
3. Because the dream of a world (present possibilities) . . . fits “Our Best World”
Where people enjoyed work as part of an international kingdom-building company, where workers are paid fairly, profits and losses are shared with employees, where your abilities fit with your job, where everyone is eager to work, where you are not overworked like a slave, where co-workers support and encourage each other to do their best and help you do better when you fail. This would change our labor laws for ethical treatment of employees related to overtime work without compensation. This would change government welfare assistance to help only those who cannot work, or those who are in emergency need.
Where those in authority (government, parents, teachers, religious leaders) always used power to love and help others improve, never for selfish reasons and those in submission (citizens, children, students, religious members) were glad to follow their leaders. Equals were happy to praise each other without envy. This would change parental relationship with children, husband’s relationship to wives, our government leaders relationship to citizens, police law enforcement, military use for just war or prevention of evil rulers, foreign affairs policies toward other countries. Where other nations do not use their power to dominate other nations, but to help and strengthen them as peacemakers.
Where people valued human life and showed great concern for controlling their negative emotions (anger, bitterness, hatred) for health (choosing the best practices and in proper proportion, for hours of work, foods and drinks, exercise, rest from work and sleep), health education and helping medicine from conception to death, no matter your culture or language or physical or mental ability. This would change our relationships to each other in emotion-control. There would be no suicide or suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts. We would not need as much health care since everyone proactively promotes and protects health. Guns and knives would be used for protection and work, not murder. This would change many doctors and hospitals abortion practices and medical education. This would change our foreign affairs policies toward other countries.
Where families were stable: parents stayed happily married, never threatened divorce when they had disagreements, trusted each other and were faithful to their partners, and raised their own children. Where young people saw the value of waiting for the best sex possible in one man-one woman marriage for life and wouldn’t be deceived by any other tricking substitutes (premarital sex/one night stands/oral sex, homosexuality, pornography addictions) or seek to trick others into any forms of cheap sex. Married couples and young single people would have no regrets, no sexually transmitted diseases, no emotional sorrow for getting sexually used and then rejected. Where government leaders, academia, media and judges upheld this marriage foundation for healthy society.
Where private property was valued and cared for, (never stealing anything), and everyone worked for their own living as much as possible, but was willing to share with others in need. (guidance for dealing with national and international poverty). Everyone would pay their bills, there would be no credit card slaves, we would only buy things we could afford, families, institutions and government would never carelessly overspend their budget, and if taking our loans, would repay them according to the terms. Contracts would be fulfilled, businesses would trust each other, banks would have less worry about giving loans.
Where optimistic (seen from its best perspective) truth-telling was practiced for every kind of knowledge (historical, scientific, personal, reputation of ourselves and others, promises), and no lies or unproven suspicions were shared with others in speaking, writing or media. This command reforms teachers, reporters and authors to write the truth according to the Lord-Creator, not just changing interpretations of data to fit with one’s own presuppositions (feminism, gender studies often rewrite history to fit it’s political or liberal sexual agenda; some psychological studies of man are rewritten according to humanism). Foreign affairs would get a lot easier, not filled with suspicion about another nation’s honesty. Scientific studies would be carefully worded to show what they can prove, and trust-worthy, compared with what they might guess or hypothesize. Boyfriend-girlfriend relationships would get much easier (did she mean ____ when she said this? Does he really love me or is he just trying to have sex with me?)
Where people lived thankful and contented lives without envy of other’s nationality, positions, property or appearances.
4. OUR FOREVER BEST WORLD IS DESCRIBED BY CHRISTIANITY: Dream of a world (future promises) . . . where all those dreams became permanent and true forever and ever without any brokenness (sin, sickness, laziness, over-worked, abusing, rebelling, fighting, war, stealing, cheating, lying, envying, death or frustration) . . .
VI. How do we make these dreams into reality?
OUR PROMISED POWER FOR CHANGE IS BY FAITH AND BY RESTORED RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE TRUE LORD AND WITH HIS CHANGED PEOPLE: Christianity promises to change our hearts and write these laws on our hearts and give us delight in doing them and teach us to resist all disobedience to them (Heb. 8:10; 10:16). Christian moral law is given to change both outward behaviors and ways of thinking, feeling and choosing. We know polite culture and education alone are not enough.
Christianity develops by following the best examples: Christianity develops (not perfect, but you can see good examples) out of following the example of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, whom God the Father sent to this world to be our Savior and King. We obey these laws because they are ways to show love for God and love for people and we know God is pleased with these things.
This moral law is connected to saving faith in the Gospel (WCF 14:2). A biblical perspective in concise summary form could be as follows.
Righteousness proclaimed (the Triune Lord’s works in history that reveal his righteous attributes and how the moral law reflects his character, as well as commands that reflection by his people). Many Bible stories write about how sin from the heart destroys peace between people, and grieves God, or righteousness promoted and protected brings peace with men and pleases God.
Righteousness fulfilled (in Christ): Use the moral law to show us the character of God, derivatively reflected in the humanity of the resurrected Christ who fulfilled all righteousness, proven by his resurrection, and credited to us [justification] when we believe God raise him from the dead (Rom 10:9-10). The resurrection of Jesus proved that everything he did and taught pleased the Creator-Lord and moral law-giver. The crucifixion of Jesus is the sin-offering to the Lord, so that those who trust in him can have their sins forgiven and start a new life working for “Our Best World” now.
Righteousness applied (by the Spirit to believers who repent of their unrighteousness, receive credited righteousness, and vivify imparted righteousness): Use the moral law to show us our sin and lead us to the cross or Christ [propitiation] Rom 3:25-26; 5:8-9, John 16:8-11. Use the moral law to define our transformation in the New Covenant [sanctification] to write that law on our hearts Heb 10:16). It is especially in this category that the moral law must also be applied to our ministry (our practical theology), as the character of the transformed minister (purposes, motives and practices) and the teaching and discipleship that accords with the new-covenant transformation promised and accomplished in others by the Spirit.
Righteousness perfected (in the New Jerusalem): Use the moral law to proclaim our hope of our final completed righteousness when we, with resurrected bodies, enter eternal life, when we see Jesus as he is (1 John 3:2-3; Phil 3:20-21).
VII. Some Books that Connect Moral Law to Our Best World
International Ethics: Concepts, Theories and Cases in Global Politics by Mark R. Amstutz (Rowman and Littlefield, 5th ed., 2018) show connections between the 5th, 6th and 8th commandments and human rights and foreign policy.
Though not always explicitly linked to commandments, we can make deductive connections between good poverty relief and the Ten Commandments in these good books: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody 2014), From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty through Church-Centered Microfinance by Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask (Zondervan 2015), and Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence: A Practical Guide to Walking with Low-Income People by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody 2015). Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus (Crossway 2013) is filled with ethical dimensions of good political climates for human cultural and economic thriving.
A good biblical counseling book by David Powlison called Good and Angry (2016) shows biblical morality, connecting morality texts with their correlative moral law command. For example, amidst pastoral treatment of different types of anger, he shows that good anger is shaped by indignation against disregard for the moral law (chapter 9). He clarifies that true guilt or anger at self should be shaped by these same moral standards, not simply cultural or social standards (chapter 16). He notes that the commandments prohibit any types of life-destructive anger (6th) sexual immorality (7th) or theft (8th). Another book by Powlison called Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken (2017) offers biblical counseling related to the the entire second table of the law, not just the 7th commandment, since he deals with both sexual lust and sexual abuse.
The Center for Christian Business Ethics Today published two excellent books on moral law foundations for business ethics, called Business Ethics Today: Foundations (2011) and Business Ethics Today: Stealing (2011).
Using this Second Great Command centered practical theology book as one of the course assignments, Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch, and free online companion study guide, my focus on love was clarified, specifically in relation to themes for discipling leaders.