Theological Order of Operations

One of the many advantages to a blog post is the ability to momentarily focus on the minor points and applications of particular texts of Scripture. While the overall message, purpose, meaning, and application belong behind the pulpit, blogs are a safe place to run down rabbit trails. 

Thus, follow me along a trail found in Matthew 11. 

Matthew 11: 16-20,

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.

Here Jesus teaches something interesting in the emphasized portion of the text; He gives a kind of theological order of operations. And this order of operations is very important for evangelism, and especially for apologetics. 

The focus of the text is rebuking an unrepentant generation made clear by the first and last verses of the text. The generation at hand is unrepentant, and they don’t like Jesus or John the Baptist. 

However, our question is why? Why don’t they like them? 

If we could ask one of them, the text tells us how they would respond, and it would sound something like this: 

“John has a demon and Jesus is a drunken glutton!”

Jesus however exposes the inconsistency of these claims. 

The text says Jesus came drinking and eating, and thus sinners called Him a drunkard and a glutton. Apparently they have a problem with drinking and eating. So that means they would have no problem with John, right? For “John came neither eating nor drinking.” 

John the Baptist’s head on a platter for exposing sin. 


Oh wait… “He has a demon”. 

Whether the men of God ate or drank, either way, they were hated. Thus, this exposes something, 
the reasons given are not why they hate these men, their hatred for these men is why they have found these reasons. 

This reminds me of a breakout session I attended in Phoenix at a church conference. The session was about reaching the millennial generation with the Gospel. The speaker, who recently had written a book on the topic, presented some of the research from his writing. 

I lost my notes and can’t remember the exact numbers, but I remember in irregularity in the presented research. 

He polled a large group of millennials on why they don’t like Christianity, and their answers boiled down to 4 different reasons:

1) Christians are not informed on modern understandings of Science.
2) Christians can’t answer important questions.
3) Christians are know-it-alls; thinking they have the answer to everything
4) Christians oversimplify life’s toughest questions and issues. 

As I said, I don’t remember the percentages that go along with each, but here’s what I do remember: the numbers added up to much more than 100%. This means that most of the people polled believed all of these things (or most of them) to be simultaneously true. 

Notice the contradiction in that? Apparently, Christians can be know-it-alls while also knowing nothing about Science. 

Apparently Christians just cannot give answers to life’s tough questions, but also give simple answers to life’s tough questions. 

The clear contradictory nature of these four propositions reveal they are not why millennials disbelieve, rather, their disbelief is why they say these things. Clearly, they don’t want Christianity, and they will give any excuse they can to justify that; even if the first excuse contradicts the rest of the list. 

The unbelieving world wants to convince the Church that the evidence is why they believe what they believe, but the Bible rings true. Rather, they find the evidence that matches their unbelieving presuppositions. 

If Jesus eats, He is a glutton. If Jesus drinks, He is a drunkard. If Jesus does none of these things, He has a demon. 
If Jesus eats with sinners, He is guilty by association. If He doesn’t eat with sinners, He is a Pharisee. 

The unbelief of the generation in Matthew 11 drove how they viewed John and Jesus. They went into the text hating them; and then found any reason they could to justify it. They did not have on clear, unchanging standard they held Jesus and John both accountable to. 

Unbelief then provides the reason for evidence; evidence does not provide the reasons for unbelief. 

Thus, the lesson we learn from this is that our evangelistic and apologetic methods need to meet these facts. It is not evidence the world needs; it is a new heart. 

They need to be exposed to the inconsistency of their worldview, and have the Gospel preached to them. For it is the Gospel which is the power of God to change their ultimate presuppositions about God (Romans 1:16); it is the Gospel that saves.  

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