The Great Divide

I grew up during the Cold War and quite aware of it.  In fact, in St. Albert, the Alberta city where I spent most of my youth, we had an air raid siren in a central location.  A Canadian air force base was right next to our city, so we would’ve been an attractive target for the Soviet Union.  During those Cold War years, we often heard stories of defectors.  Many brave people risked their lives to come to the West from communist countries.  You’d hear stories, for example, of people who tried to tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall to find freedom.

What few people know is that there were also Westerners who defected to communist countries.  One of the most famous of these was James Dresnok.  He was an American soldier in South Korea, but in 1962 he defected to North Korea.  He traded freedom for life under a totalitarian regime.  Dresnok went on to become somewhat of a celebrity in North Korea, often appearing in films as the requisite evil American.  He died in 2016, still behind communist lines.  We can understand defecting from a communist country to the free West.  But the other way around?  Why would anyone ever do that?  It seems completely irrational.

There’s another major defection in world history that’s equally irrational.  It made zero sense for Adam to defect from God to Satan in Genesis 3.  He traded freedom, joy and peace for slavery, misery, and war.  That was a completely insane defection.  Following this defection, there’s been a great divide in the human race.  Human beings are now divided on the basis of their attitude towards the King of kings.  In principle a line has been drawn between traitorous defectors and loyal citizens.  On each side of this line, there’s movement, but it’s in opposite directions.  By God’s grace, the loyal citizens are heading for the New Jerusalem.  The traitorous defectors are on their way to the lake of fire.  In Reformed theology, we have a special name for this great divide:  the antithesis.

This is a concept found throughout Scripture.  It’s quite evident in places like Ephesians 5.  The Holy Spirit mentions those who are “sons of disobedience” (v.6).  The storm of God’s wrath is forecast to hit them.  But on the other hand, there are those who once were darkness, but are now light in the Lord (v.7).  Since that’s what they are in principle, Paul calls them to “walk as children of light.”  What’s true in principle has to become increasingly true in practice.  The key thing to recognize is that Scripture speaks in terms of these two categories of human beings.  They’re radically opposite to one another in terms of who guides their lives (God/self), the purpose for their lives (God’s glory/something worldly), and the destination of their lives (heaven/hell).

Christians recognize this reality.  True, at times it may seem counter-intuitive.  After all, there are inconsistencies on both sides of this great divide.  For examples, Christians sometimes think, act, and speak selfishly and non-Christians selflessly.  However, this doesn’t detract from the general principle of the antithesis God has described in Scripture as reality.  The way we limited creatures see things doesn’t always line up with the way the omniscient God sees things.  But if you’re omniscient, surely you have the best possible grasp on reality, and then you’re worthy to be trusted by those who aren’t omniscient.

The antithesis has applications across a range of areas, but one of the most important is apologetics.  When it comes to defending and promoting the Christian faith, we need to recognize that there’s no neutrality amongst human beings.  The unbeliever is hostile to God.  He or she is on the wrong side of the antithesis, a hateful covenant-breaker, rebel, and traitor.  An unbeliever might vigorously claim neutrality, but we take God’s Word over the unbeliever’s word.  This person is lined up against God.

By God’s grace, Christians are on the other side of this great divide.  They didn’t place themselves there; God put them there.  Through Christ they’ve been reconciled to God, placed in a friendly relationship of fellowship with him.  We call that relationship the covenant of grace.  As I said above, in practice, Christians are still sinners.  There’s something of the antithesis that even runs in our own hearts.  But the difference is in how we hate it and don’t want it to be this way.  We pray for God’s grace to help us battle daily against our remaining sinfulness.

Scripture calls us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).  As we do that, we can never pretend our unbelieving friends are neutral or indifferent about God and the biblical worldview.  There’s a baked-in hostility we need to take seriously.  This is essential to a Reformed method of apologetics.  It’s certainly not the only ingredient, but it’s an important one.  Here’s why.  Apologetics is like a battle.  If you don’t have realistic and accurate intelligence on the other side and on the battlefield, success becomes more remote.  With Scripture, we literally have a “God’s-eye-view” of the situation.  Why wouldn’t we take that seriously?  Only if we have an accurate grasp of what’s really going on can we properly employ the spiritual weapons God has given, particularly the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.