[Seems I’ve found a way to get into my blog while at work…instead of going directly to my site, I need to go through WordPress.com first. Hopefully, this will lead to more frequent updating. Previously, I could no longer access my blog because websites that are “uncategorized” (or in forbidden categories) would get blocked.]
Finally, another update! I think this will be the end of this topic for now, but I just wanted to address a couple more areas. Some of it overlaps with what I’ve already said, but I think more emphasis couldn’t hurt.
Worked-Based Salvation vs. “Grace”
This is a biggie. Often in churches, you will find Christians on both extremes of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning believers exhorting you to read your Bible every day, diligently attend bible study, pray x number of times per day, pay some percentage of your income as offering, smile, do charity work…etc. The list goes on and on. Without these things, you cannot be a true Christian.
On the other end, you’ll find people emphasizing God’s grace—as if that is His only predominant trait—and living however they want. They look like the world, act like the world, but because they “accepted Christ into their hearts” at some point in their lives, they think they’re set. In their minds, they have been vaccinated from the virus of damnation, and they’re free to wallow in whatever filth they please. Of course, not everyone is this blatant in their abuse, but the general sense is that absolute freedom has been attained. There’s no need to strive and give your full effort anymore. “It is finished,” right? Lukewarm living, while not ideal, is “OK”…except it’s really not.
So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than either of these extreme views. People love easy-to-digest absolutes, so some don’t like learning the finer points. But you could say it falls somewhere in between.
Is God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross sufficient for any person, any circumstance? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It can save and sanctify the serial felon just as much as the nice, “wholesome” American person you work with. Christ’s blood covers anything.
But can a person be saved and live however he wants? Not really. The Bible tells us that true believers in Christ “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Colossians 3:10 tells us that as believers, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In other words, when we become Christians, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who begins a new work in us, transforming us from the inside-out. We are on a new path toward sanctification, and while we will never quite get there in the sinful flesh, we will continually progress in our walk.
Bottom line: If we are truly saved as Christians, our lives will begin to resemble Christ more and more. We will not read the Bible simply out of duty, but with genuine eagerness to draw closer to our Lord and learn more about Him. Just as we want to learn about people we love, we want to understand God and His character on a deeper level, so we are drawn toward Scripture. We will want to fellowship with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, eager to edify each other and grow together. We will grow in diligence with prayer—again, out of a closeness and reliance we’re developing with God—while also becoming more compassionate and kind toward others.
The first step is becoming truly saved and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Let’s call that Step A. The next step that will continue to happen until we die is growing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. That’s Step B. Of course, there will be setbacks along the way and slips, but the general momentum is forward and upward.
A –> B. Simple, ain’t it?
The problem with works-based salvation is that it can be misconstrued as this: B –> A. This is impossible. We as humans cannot attain salvation through works any more than a dog can clip its own toenails and brush its own teeth. Stupid analogy, but we just got a puppy, OK? 😉
On the flip side, a person cannot be a true Christian and live, look, and think just like the rest of the world (see Romans 12:2). If a person is living like this, then you have to wonder if “Step A” ever really took place. Do we see “B” happening? If not, then chances are the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in that person. “A” must ALWAYS lead to B at some point (though admittedly, in varying degrees). So we all need to test ourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to do.
Now, here comes a BIG disclaimer. A lot of what I’ve said is pretty common knowledge, at least in good churches. But what often gets overlooked is that diligence and acts can increase our chances of having an encounter with God. We are not always going to “feel like” talking to God, reading the Word, or loving our neighbor. Sometimes, it takes conscious effort and discipline. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes, people are pumped and excited to go to the gym. Other times, they have to drag themselves to go. Either way, it’s better than not going.
How do you expect to encounter God or have a spiritual epiphany if you are never learning anything new from the Bible? How do you expect to hear God’s voice leading you in a beneficial way if you never pray? When are you ever going to feel compelled to open up your wallet and give to the Lord or help the needy if you don’t ever make the plunge? It has to become less of a leap for you. Churches would all go under if offering came only from those who were completely “on fire” each week. If you never learn how to give, don’t expect to become generous miraculously without any conscious effort on your part. (Sure, it can happen if God bestows you with that gift, but don’t count on it.)
Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Don’t sit on your couch and make God drag you everywhere.
Uninformed and Extreme Bible Interpretation: Finding the Fine Lines
Throughout our history, numerous Christians—genuine or not—have embarrassed the faith through immoral behavior that they supposedly learned from the Bible.
You’ve heard the stories. A father physically assaults his child and blames Proverbs for telling him not to “spare the rod.” Men read that wives should submit to their husbands, so they go on a chauvinistic power trip. A friend points out the wrong behavior of a fellow believer, and someone will instinctively recite: “Do not judge!”
One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to blur the fine lines between good truth and destructive evil. To our human minds, it may be hard to distinguish the real differences. Spanking and disciplining a child in love can correct behavior and lead them toward a better future with moral character. Striking a child in a temper-induced rage can escalate very quickly to abuse, which is sinful and repulsive. Discipline builds up; abuse tears down.
Wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean she is less valuable or some kind of servant. In fact, if people would go beyond biblical sound bites and actually learn something, they would also come across the next few verses in Ephesians 5 where it tells husbands to love their wives as themselves—that alone should get rid of any selfish expectations from a marriage relationship. But just in case we didn’t get the message, Paul further states to care for her and give oneself up for her protection, just as Christ did. We’re talking about a savior who washed his disciples’ feet and ultimately suffered and died for us. Does this sound chauvinistic to you? If wives would respect their husbands and husbands cherished their wives, we wouldn’t be seeing the rampant unhappiness and divorce we see today.
And yes, we are not to judge others insofar as we puff ourselves up with pride and look down on them. We are also not to judge hypocritically. As Jesus humorously illustrated, it’s ridiculous to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own eyes.
But this is different from faithfully rebuking someone in love. People in the church today seem to think that fellowship is all about hanging out, eating together, sharing some laughs…but it’s really not. It’s supposed to be about building each other up in faith, and sometimes that means pointing out potential pitfalls for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it “loving” to not point out that someone is developing a drinking problem? Or that their moral compass seems to be getting off kilter, possibly because of surrounding worldly influences?
Again, there’s a fine line, and as flawed prideful humans, we are prone to step over that line. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.
Rebuking out of love is good. Judging and looking down on another person is wrong and pride-building.
Follow the Spirit’s Lead
There sure seem to be a lot of “fine lines” to walk in the Christian faith, huh? How are we ever supposed to get it all right? Well, as mentioned before, we can’t. We are destined to fail over and over again—hopefully less and less as we grow, though. In our own wisdom and flesh, it’s very hit-or-miss.
God knew this, and that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to indwell true believers and guide them. Without relying on the Holy Spirit every single day, what eventually happens is that we start slipping. In my own life, I’ve seen complacency set in alarmingly fast! Whereas we might have once stood firm on some moral issue, without leaning on the Holy Spirit for long enough, we might become lax. “Maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad after all. Who are they hurting really?” “Maybe it is a woman’s ‘choice’ to abort her baby. After all, doesn’t it statistically lead to less crime?”
Human wisdom and rationalizing can get out of hand very, very quickly. We cannot trust ourselves. Left unchecked, we may look back in a few years (or even months) and find we’re so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on. That’s why it is important to keep equipping ourselves for spiritual battle. If people would read their Bibles more, there wouldn’t be such mass confusion over simple issues. If they would pray more, they would stay more in tune with God’s wishes for their lives, rather than getting engulfed in the tides of the world.
Christianity isn’t supposed to be “easy.” The Bible tells us we are foreigners in this world, and as such, we are never going to feel completely at ease here. If we do, then something is wrong. Our citizenship is in heaven, you guys, so inform yourselves and don’t let Satan fool you. It’s so much easier for him to trick the ignorant believer than it is someone whose mind is filled with scripture. It might start out with little things, small deviations, and before you know it, you’re far gone. And I guarantee, when we see God one day, we’re going to wish with all of our might that we tried a lot harder in this life. We’re going to wish so badly that He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Keep up your guard, and don’t let Satan fool you so easily. May God help us all to be good soldiers in the fight!
Just wanted to share some stuff that I found/learned/thought of.
First off, an interesting quote from Mark Twain about the Jewish people from 1898:
"The Greeks and the Romans...are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out...the Jews saw them all, survived them all...all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces passed, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"
The secret, Mr. Twain, is that they are God’s chosen race of people. They will never be wiped out—all the Holocausts and persecution in the world won’t overcome God’s ultimate plan for them. That’s why.
Anyhow, I learned some cool things about end times prophecy again. In Daniel 7, I always wondered what the four beasts could mean or represent. They include the lion with eagles’ wings, a bear, a four-headed leopard, and a beast with 10 horns.
Some people interpret these symbols in light of other scripture, but I tend to believe it cannot be done this way because in Daniel 12:9, God clearly tells him that the meaning of these visions cannot be known until the time of the end. Well, many people think we’re now in the time of the end (or approaching it), which means we should have a better understanding of the vision than was possible thousands of years ago.
One interpretation is that the lion represents England. Why? Because their national symbol is a lion, which represents royalty/monarchy. But why the eagle’s wings? Well, perhaps they represent another country whose symbol is an eagle. That would be, of course, the United States. Notice that in verse 4, the wings of the eagle are torn off and lifted off the ground, given an independent mind of its own. This could represent America breaking off from England and declaring its independence as a country. Another cool thing? This is in Daniel chapter 7 verse 4. It just happens to coincide with our U.S. Independence Day, 7/4.
The bear represents Russia, while the four-headed leopard represents Germany (which is in its Fourth Reich…also notice how it too has wings, but Daniel deliberately doesn’t mention an eagle or specific bird). The beast with 10 horns? Tough to say, but perhaps it’s something like the EU or UN. Tellingly, the little horn that speaks from it represents the Antichrist, which means that he will come from this symbolic beast. At least the other countries mentioned are in the clear somewhat.
Also, I thought it was fascinating how almost 2,000 years ago, John foresaw the Jewish temple being shared with foreigners to the land, or Gentiles. In Revelation 11, God instructs him to measure the temple of God and the altar, but he’s told to exclude the outer court. Why? Because “it has been given over to the Gentiles” (non-Jew) or “the nations.” In modern terms, we know that the Jewish people will eventually be able to rebuild their temple during the end times, but they will have to share the holy land with Gentiles; that is, the Muslims/Palestinians. Bill Clinton, during his presidency, worked to make peace in the Middle East by having them agree to share the land rather than fight over it. It has been an urgent, ongoing process ever since. I thought it was pretty cool how John saw it around 95 AD!
Finally, I was thinking in the shower (the best place to think) about a picture of salvation, and it’s kind of like this.
We’ve been falling in a bottomless pit since we were born into this world of sin. We just keep falling and falling. But next to us in this pit is a rope for us to grab. If we grab hold of it, we can start climbing upward and be saved from whatever lies at the bottom of the pit (if there even is an end to it…probably just a pit of fire). The problem is, there is a limited amount of time to grab the rope. Eventually, it will run out and the chance to grab it will be no more.
But why doesn’t everyone grab hold of it? Because many would rather fall. They reason to themselves, “I don’t even know where the rope leads. Who knows if it can even save me? So I might as well just enjoy the fall.” Others think, “I DO want to be saved! But grabbing that rope is going to hurt my hands…it’s going to burn for a while. And I don’t want to spend my life climbing and struggling. Maybe it’s just easier and more pleasant to just free fall and hope for the best.” Some people who are falling try to grab onto other things to save them or to bring them “meaning in life,” but they don’t realize right away that those things are falling right alongside them. They are not secure.
Now true, grabbing onto the rope might mean some initial pain and adjustment. Fighting gravity isn’t easy, and it might require you to give up some of the ease of life. But eventually, you’ll be glad you did, and what’s better is that the Holy Spirit is like a floating platform for your feet; He never allows you to fall, and He actually assists you in climbing upward, so it’s not nearly as hard as you once thought it would be.
One day, Jesus is going to come for us. He’s going to come on a helicopter (haha) and attach the rope to it from the top, then take us off to heaven. Whether you just grabbed on recently or if you’ve been climbing for years, we will all be saved. The people left falling in the pit will regret not grabbing on when they had the chance.
Once we get to heaven, God will hand out eternal rewards and mansions. The best selections will go to those who had climbed the highest and earned the greatest reward, while those who barely got in will wait patiently at the back of the line. But everyone will be glad and rejoice in the end, for all eternity.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like I was brought up believing in the wrong kind of Christianity. My bible study friends know that I can sometimes turn a little bitter about this. Why has it been so hard to find the true word of God in men, even those who have devoted their lives to teaching others about it?
The following is what I used to believe, having grown up in the church.
We once were doomed to eternity in hell because of our sin. Then, because of Jesus shedding his blood on the cross, all of our sins—past, present, and future—have been wiped clean forever. Because we are clean in God’s sight now, we are guaranteed passage to heaven when we die. Our sins ultimately don’t matter anymore.
While this is technically true (more or less) in the most basic sense, there is the danger of misunderstanding. The basic foundation of our salvation is on the line here, so we can’t afford to brush past it casually. We need to take off our blinders and earplugs and see what the Bible REALLY says. For me, I had to get rid of this instinctual habit—unknown to even me—of dumping certain truths out of my mind if they didn’t fit neatly into my own picture of God. Even if the Bible’s words were clear, my eyes and mind were selective. Instead of consuming it whole, I’d pick and choose only the parts I found to my liking.
(OK, blah blah blah, what are you getting at, Joe?)
Here’s my point. The Bible does NOT say that we are all saved simply with our mouths or intellectual assent. Sin is not just a matter of making God a little happy or very happy. Instead, the Bible tells us that we have to make a choice. We need to either choose the world and its sin, or decide to follow God. One path leads to destruction, the other leads to eternal life. Simple as that.
What people don’t seem to realize is that it’s an either-or choice. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’m not talking about a works-based salvation, I’m talking about two choices and we have to pick one. There is no third option that reads: “I choose God and also want to keep my sinful life, thx!”
Let’s use a few illustrations, which came up in discussions with my bible study friends.
The sinking ship
After the fall of man, we’ve been on a sinking ship ever since. We’re in the middle of the ocean and doom is certain, though we don’t know exactly when it will befall us.
But suddenly, Jesus comes from a distance in a small boat to rescue us. We hear about him, we see him, and rejoice! (This is the point at which most Christians mistakenly believe themselves to already be saved.) Then we happily grab all of our belongings and rush toward the boat. Before we can get in, however, he stops us.
“You have to leave all that luggage behind. There’s no way to fit that on the boat and still get to shore,” Jesus tells us.
“But Jesus,” we resist. “I can’t leave this behind, it’s too valuable to me!”
“What’s more valuable? Those material possessions or your life? Whichever choice you make, those bags are going to end up at the bottom of the ocean anyway.”
In this scenario, would any of us really say “no thanks” to Jesus and cling onto our worldly belongings instead? Of course not. But why is it that we’re so unable to let go of this world to take Jesus into our lives? Is it because deep within us, we secretly doubt that Jesus would be able to save us anyway? That perhaps he’s a mirage? You either believe or you don’t, and many people still need to resolve their doubts (and do it ASAP).
If our doubt is strong enough, we might be unwilling to let go of this world and instead try to eke out a short time of pleasure before our time is up. Many people hedge, just in case, and don’t even realize they’re doing it. In reality, we could have had eternity ahead of us. Not only that, but Jesus promises to reward us richly once we get to “shore” anyway. Yet we still refuse.
Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
1 Kings 18:21: “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”
Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Proverbs 11:19: “The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.”
The Bible tells us clearly that it’s an either-or situation. Sin, in the colloquial sense, is thought of as a “bad” or evil act. But in reality, it is choosing anything apart from God’s way. Of course, even true believers who have chosen to follow Jesus will falter time to time. Their eyes will wander and their minds will get distracted. What we’re talking about here is a lifestyle of sanctification, walking the narrow path.
Keep in mind that the narrow path and the wide path are not right next to each other. You can’t hop around from one to the other on a moment’s notice. They are far apart and going in opposite directions; one to heaven, one to hell. Pick one and stick with it; the choice is yours.
My wife and I have watched this show on TV called “Hoarders,” and you can’t help but be puzzled and disgusted by what you see.
The people on the show have this illness where they grow emotionally attached to everything they own, to the point where they can’t get rid of anything. It doesn’t even matter what it is; it could be an empty plastic bottle or an empty bag of chips. Eventually, over time, their entire house gets filled up by this junk and their lives start to completely fall apart.
Social services threatens to take away the children from these hazardous environments. Marriages are strained, and family members become resentful and embarrassed. In some episodes, it literally comes down to a choice between a loved one and the junk, and the hoarder has difficulty choosing. Often, they promise to get rid of everything for the loved one’s sake, but waver halfway through. It’s unbelievable.
My wife saw the lesson for our lives.
Are we really so different? Is it any less stupid to live for this world when it is literally less than a speck compared to the eternity in heaven that could await us? Again, I think the problem is that people don’t realize it’s an either-or situation. You have to be willing to give up your wealth, comfort, safety…even family. Only when you make God the Lord of your life can you really be saved.
Matthew 6:19, 20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”
While we should be fully willing to do whatever God asks, know that He may not ask his followers to become poor. I hesitate sometimes to tell people this because they might cling to this hope of relative comfort.
In Proverbs, there is the suggestion that neither wealth nor poverty are desirable. Great wealth might keep you from seeking dependence on God fully, whereas poverty could lead to other kinds of sin.
Proverbs 30:8-10: “Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
The idea is to depend on Him and to choose the way to eternal life rather than the fleeting pleasures of this world.
So how can we stop sinning anyway?
Isn’t it impossible to stop sinning? Why even bother?
Well yes, it is impossible by our own human effort. Even if we consciously try to live without sin, we will fail. Our flesh is too weak. If we succeed at it for a while, we will grow prideful; we will look down at ourselves and see that we have become Mr. Hyde with our self-satisfaction, as Tim Keller illustrates in his book.
But a true born-again believer has the Holy Spirit living inside of them. The Holy Spirit cannot sin, he cannot fail, so the trick is to allow him total control over our lives. There is always an element of sin that wants to wrest back control of the wheel, but the more we overcome, the more sanctified we become. The Holy Spirit grows louder and more powerful in our lives to the point where it’s harder to ignore him. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a process. Our lives are in a continual process where we become more Christ-like, and if the general trajectory doesn’t seem that way for you, it’s time to check yourself against the Bible.
Make sure the following verse doesn’t apply to you:
Romans 1:32: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
The inexperienced quarterback
Developing a lifestyle of sanctification is like a young quarterback being coached. As my friend put it, inexperienced quarterbacks (QBs) start out with a lot of bad habits. In controlled practice environments, he might throw passes with pinpoint accuracy, but the true test comes in a game against a real-life opponent.
When an opposing defensive player gets through the line and charges toward the quarterback, the QB instinctively backpedals and wants to throw the ball immediately. Now, any fan of football will know that you can’t backpedal and get enough forward velocity to throw an accurate pass. But with inexperience, instincts trump the QB’s learning and he chucks it up for grabs. What will often happen then is that the pass will fall short and a player from the other team will get an interception. He may even run it back for a touchdown, resulting in a costly swing and momentum shift.
Why does the QB do this? Doesn’t he know just as well as us couch-potato spectators that throwing a pass while backpedaling is ill-advised? Of course he does. But he needs to develop the tendency of making the right decision. He needs to break his bad habits and replace them with good ones. How does he do this?
First, he needs good coaching. The QB needs a coach to yell in his ear every time he makes this kind of stupid decision, even if it seems to succeed momentarily against the odds. That way, he can be conditioned to do the right thing even when a high-pressure game is on the line.
Second, he needs to continually practice. No one is born with good football mechanics, so the QB needs to diligently make sure that his body and mind learn to perform correctly naturally, almost without thinking. If the mechanics haven’t become natural for him, by the time intense pressure comes, you can bet everything is going to break down and go wrong.
Third, he needs to build up a record of right decisions. That is, he needs to perform correctly over and over again. He needs to learn to take the sack or even get outside the pocket and throw the ball away. He needs to carry out the smart choice enough times until it develops into a good habit. On the flip side, every time he falters and goes back to his flawed instincts—what he naturally wants to do so badly—he makes it that much harder to do the right thing the next time the situation arises. He cements the “sin” so that it becomes more difficult to break.
Obviously, these principles apply to us in our Christian walks. We need to listen intently to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We need good teachers and accountability partners in our lives. We need to deeply immerse ourselves in God’s word and memorize scripture to equip ourselves for battle. Then, when temptation comes—as it inevitably will—we need to show God that we can overcome, that we choose Him instead of the fleeting pleasure of this world. We need to prove to ourselves that the shackles of sin have been broken. The next time temptation comes around, we’ll be ready and battle-tested. We’ll say, “I’ve seen this one before, and I remember how I got through it the last time. And I remember being glad I made the right choice.”
Sometimes, we need to see for ourselves how good it is to be victorious. For some people, simply hearing about it won’t do. Once we’ve seen first-hand that holiness is the way to go, we’ll be that much more convinced to keep up the good fight.
***For an excellent video sermon on this subject, check out Francis Chan’s “When Sin Looks More Enjoyable Than God”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iszVTWUGQQM.
In the last 100 years, archaeology has uncovered a multitude of artifacts and writings, verifying the truth of what the Bible says. Science itself, with the Big Bang theory showing a definite starting point for our universe, has strengthened the argument for God.
This isn’t enough to necessarily lead people to faith, but it certainly helps to have some support for the Bible’s claims. In fact, many former skeptics (such as Sir William Ramsey, or more recently, Lee Strobel) have made it their mission in the past to disprove or scrutinize the Bible, only to become more convinced of its veracity. To them, the world’s evidence pushed them strongly in the direction of Christian faith. These stories are numerous and uplifting.
However, we must be careful not to place evidence and arguments as central pillars of our faith. Once we receive the Holy Spirit—in a genuine conversion experience—he is stand-alone, sufficient evidence to convict us of the Bible’s truth. The rest is extra support for something that is sturdy enough to stand the test of time anyway. For the true believer, additional worldly evidence can cause us to rejoice, possibly increase our zeal, and allow us to more effectively share with nonbelievers. But for our own faith, it is ultimately extraneous.
This is why William Lane Craig states in his book, Reasonable Faith, that even if arguments and evidence would fail to support Christianity (which they certainly do not), he would still wholeheartedly be a believer. This statement, found early in his book, has brought mockery and condescension upon him from his atheist opponents. I can see why, as it seems to demonstrate that yet another Christian seems to be wholly irrational in his beliefs and immune to reason and persuasion—even a top-flight philosopher, debater, and logical thinker such as Dr. Craig. But as Dr. Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame has written in his work, belief in Christ can be just as “properly basic” as our belief in the external world, which we experience with the five senses. The Holy Spirit is that compelling.
I am not trying to say that we should all stop trying to seek the truth or welcome new evidence into the arena of debate. This post is more for the already-converted believers out there. The world’s evidence is subject to the truth of the Bible, not the other way around. The main point of this post is this: Evidence can help lead us to faith, but it shouldn’t be what’s keeping us in it.
What happens when the evidence turns against us?
This is really the heart of the issue. Ask yourself, as a believer, what you would do if there were some discovery tomorrow that seemed to directly disprove some part of the Bible. What if there were a dry spell where no able and well-informed apologists could successfully hold the skeptics at bay? Would you cease to follow Christ? Would you exalt human reasoning and deem Christianity as fool’s gold?
While this would seem the “rational” response to such developments, consider the following thoughts.
– The scientific community as a whole believed that the world was eternal, with no beginning, until the Big Bang theory became widely accepted.
– People have doubted the age of biblical books for centuries, which cast doubt on chronology and fulfilled prophecies. Only in 1947 (until 1956) were the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered, putting to rest many of those doubts.
– Most of ancient history—whether religious or not—is lost forever, and early Christianity was only a small movement at that time within the world. The fact that we have as much as we do today is purely by the grace of God.
Depending on when people lived and died, there is a chance they may have had insufficient worldly evidence to buttress their faith in Christ. I pity the man—if he existed—who read Isaiah or Daniel and thought the proof of prophecy of Jesus’ life and death was strong, but then was dissuaded in 1946 by some scholar who claimed, “No one knows for sure when those books were written anyway. The Christians probably went back and altered the text of those OT books to fit the details of Jesus’ life.”
I believe much has been discovered so recently because God saw our dwindling faith, our “enlightened” minds refusing to believe apart from evidence, and he graciously offered us some. There is no guarantee He will continue to do so. (It is also a theory of mine that in His divine foreknowledge, He might withhold some evidence from those that would reject him regardless of the circumstances. This is done in order to spare these people some of his wrath. Ignorance may mitigate the severity of punishment, according to Luke 12:47-48.)
Right now, in 2011, I believe the arguments and evidence favor Christianity. But my advice is to not get too cozy in this, and to strengthen your faith with the Holy Spirit as your foundation. My guess is, if this world goes for another 100+ years, people will seriously start to question the human existence of Jesus Christ altogether. Science will come up with some novel, clever way of describing the beginning of the universe apart from God…until a better theory arises later.
Timothy Keller, in Reason for God, offers up strong arguments for God and some deep insights. I highly recommend his book for people of all spiritual walks. But in an honest way that I respect, he also admits that it is possible to reason your way out of any argument. There is no airtight proof.
Attending law school and completing the moot court requirement taught me that this is true. I remember, for the first go-around, we had to take either the side of the prosecution or that of the defense. We not only found ways to support our position, but we grew invested in it, fully convinced we were on the right side. The next semester/round, we swapped. It was amazing (and alarming) to me how easy it was to switch and find convincing evidence to support whatever we put our minds to.
Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Job 5:13: “He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.”
We simply cannot rely on such fickle things when it comes to our eternal destiny. The world’s knowledge is subject to constant change and revision. If there is an absolute, unchanging truth out there—such as the Bible—there are going to be periods of history where the world and the word of God butt heads. It’s up to you to place your faith in the unchanging truth of God.
I really like this candid interview with Dr. Craig. He says it better than I can: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-fDyPU3wlQ.
This video with Francis Chan, while not entirely on topic with this post, is also helpful (especially the first couple of minutes where he talks about the potter and the clay): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnrJVTSYLr8.
I leave you with some more scripture to mull over:
1 Corinthians 3:19: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.'”
Psalms 81:11-12: ““But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”
Proverbs 21:30: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.”
Isaiah 44:18: “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.”
Isaiah 65:2: “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations–”
1 Corinthians 1:20: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher (NASB: “debater”) of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”