The Robbery of Neutrality
Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen
The plea for Christians to surrender to neutrality in their thinking is not a uncommon one. Nevertheless it strikes at the very heart of our faith and of our faithfulness to the Lord.
Sometimes the demand to assume a neutral stance, a non-committal attitude toward the truthfulness of Scripture, is heard in the area of Christian scholarship (whether it be the field of history, science, literature, philosophy, or whatever). Teachers, researchers, and writers are often led to think that honesty demands for them to put aside all distinctly Christian commitments when they study in an area which is not directly related to matters of Sunday worship. They reason that since truth is truth wherever it may be found, one should be able to search for truth under the guidance of the acclaimed thinkers in the field, even if they are secular in their outlook. “Is it really necessary to hold to the teachings of the Bible if you are to understand properly the War of 1812, the chemical composition of water, the plays of Shakespeare, or the rules of logic?” Such is the rhetorical question of those who are disposed to insist on neutrality from Christians working in scholarly areas.
“put them on the shelf”
Sometimes the demand for neutrality arises in the realm of apologetics (defense of the faith). We are told by some apologists that they would lose all hearing with the unbelieving world if they were to approach the question of Scripture’s truthfulness with a preconceived answer to the question. We must be willing, according to this outlook, to approach the debate with unbelievers with a common attitude of neutrality—a “nobody knows as yet” attitude. We must assume as little as possible at the outset, we are told; and this means that we cannot assume any Christian premises or teachings of the Bible.
Other times the plea for neutrality in the thinking of the believer comes with reference to schools. Some Christians feel that there is no real urgency for Christian schools, that secular education is all right as far as it goes, and that it needs only to be supplemented with Christian prayer and Bible reading in the home. Thus the idea is that one can be neutral when it comes to education; one’s Christian faith need not dictate any particular assumptions or way of learning about the world and man. We are told that the facts are the same at state schools as they are at Christian schools; so why insist that your children be taught by committed believers in Jesus Christ?
“All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ.” Colossians 2:3-8
Well then, in these and many other ways we can see that the Christian is called upon to surrender his distinctive religious beliefs to temporarily “put them on the shelf,” to take a neutral attitude in his thinking. Satan would love this to happen. More than anything else, this would prevent the conquest of the world to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord. More than anything else, this would make professing Christians impotent in their witness, aimless in their walk, and disarmed in their battle with the principalities and powers of this world. More than anything else, such neutrality would prevent sanctification in the Christian’s life, for Christ said that His followers were “sanctified (set apart) by the truth.” Immediately He went on to declare, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Whatever some people may say with respect to the demand for neutrality in the Christian’s thought—the demand that believers not be set apart from other men by their adherence to God’s truth—the fact is that Scripture sharply differs with this demand. Contrary to neutrality’s demand, God’s word demands unreserved allegiance to God and His truth in all our thought and scholarly endeavors. It does so for a good reason.
Paul infallibly declares in Colossians 2:3-8 that “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ.” Note he says all wisdom and knowledge is deposited in the person of Christ—whether it be about the War of 1812, water’s chemical composition, the literature of Shakespeare, or the laws of logic! Every academic pursuit and every thought must be related to Jesus Christ, for Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) To avoid Christ in your thought at any point, then, is to be misled, untruthful, and spiritually dead. To put aside your Christian commitments when it comes to defending the faith or sending your children to school is willfully to steer away from the only path to wisdom and truth found in Christ. It is not the end or outcome of knowledge to fear the Lord; it is the beginning of knowledge to reverence Him (Prov. 1:7; 9:10).
“Beware lest any man rob you by means of philosophy and vain deceit.”
Paul declares that all knowledge must be related to Christ, then, according to Colossians 2. He says this for our protection; it is very dangerous to fail to see the necessity of Christ in all our thinking. So Paul draws to our attention the impossibility of neutrality “in order that no one delude you with crafty speech.” Instead we must, as Paul exhorts, be steadfast, confirmed, rooted, and established in the faith as we were taught (v. 7). One must be presuppositionally committed to Christ in the world of thought (rather than neutral) and firmly tied down to the faith which he has been taught, or else the persuasive argumentation of secular thought will delude him. Hence the Christian is obligated to presuppose the word of Christ in every area of knowledge; the alternative is delusion.
In verse 8 of Colossians 2 Paul says, “Beware lest any man rob you by means of philosophy and vain deceit.” By attempting to be neutral in your thought you are a prime target for being robbed—robbed by “vain philosophy” of all the treasures of “wisdom and knowledge” which are deposited in Christ alone (cf. v. 3). Paul explains that vain philosophy is that which follows the world and not Christ; it is thinking which submits to the world’s demand for neutrality rather than being presuppositionally committed to Christ in all of our thinking.
Are you rich in knowledge because of your commitment to Christ in, scholarship, apologetics, and schooling, or have you been robbed by the demands of neutrality?