“However, a man does not exist who does not fall short of total consistency. Each non-Christian holds to a mixed world view. It is impossible to live inside his system logically, so he borrows liberally from gospel capital, on his own terms, of course. He loves what the gospel can give him (rationality, significance, pardon, identity), but will not part with his autonomy and hence must steal from the Christian system to survive. The more consistent he is with himself, the closer he draws to the breaking point. Having first discarded God, he tends to jettison anything which smacks of association with God, which, as he finds in the end, is everything worth having. Therefore, he stalls his engine on the line of despair in the attempt to avoid either distasteful termination, salvation under God or despair in a naturalistic prison house” (Clark Pinnock, “Set Forth Your Case,” 50-51).
It would seem that there are many people whose engines are stalled “on the line of despair” these days. How many of us, after realizing that life lived under our own standards is empty, attempt to stall our engines to keep from crossing over the breaking point? Keith Emerson, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, Robin Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Plath, Junior Seau, Andre Waters – they all reached the breaking point after trying to keep their engines stalled. They determined that they could no longer avoid “distasteful termination,” a.k.a. suicide.
“The good news [the gospel] calls man back to the living God, the fountain of all rationality, love, significance, morality and freedom. It urges him to forsake his rebellion which only yields him irrationality, absurdity, silence and despair, and to accept the Christian set of presuppositions within which life is possible. There is a danger implicit here. If you take away man’s lie, you may be taking away his hope. So the Christian witness needs to act gently and in love, lest the person he seeks to win should bolt to the point of total breakdown. Unmasking the natural man is the dark side of apologetics, but a needful part. The mask must first come off if man is to see himself as he is” (Pinnock, “Set Forth Your Case, 52).
This begs the question: how is the natural person going to get their mask off? Is there an instruction manual, a “how to” guide to unmasking oneself or does the natural person need help from someone who is already unmasked? If they need help from an “unmasked” person, where are these “unmasked” people and what will it take to get them to proactively help in unmasking those in their circle of influence, i.e. their family, friends, and acquaintances?