Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Basic Ideas, Post 2

In A Guide to Basic Ideas post 1, I advocated the notion that God is the foundation of all truth and that in order to truly know, one must accept Him. I quoted Augustine and Anselm who said we must believe in order to understand. But, while significant, our natural knowledge of God is not really enough considering how dimmed by sin our will and faculties have become. In order to know not only that there is a God, but to confirm to our dim understanding what we should already be able to deduce about his nature and plans but usually do not, we need his written revelation: the Bible. I don’t doubt that the acceptance of a postulate that is over 1000 pages long and many printings will be a difficult pill to swallow for many people. But if we are trying to establish truth and create a system of ideas that will last, we must believe the scriptures in order to understand the universe. Once again, this cannot be an instrumentalist relationship either. The scriptures must be accepted for the sake of God not merely for the sake of human knowledge.
The Bible is a self authenticating divine message. The Bible itself claims to be inspired by God and to have authority as a communication from God that is full of specific communications from God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” 2 Peter 1:21 says that the prophecies of the Old Testament did not come “by the impulse of man” but “men knew by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” There are also the times when Jesus attributes words in the Old Testament scripture written by the authors of the Old Testament to God himself such as Matthew 1:21 and Matthew 19:5. The same thing is done in the book of Acts in Acts 1:16, and by implication, in Acts 2:16-17. There are also the many passages in the Old Testament and the New where it describes God himself as speaking or says Thus sayeth the LORD. I could go on and on. If you’re interested in the details, you should consult a good systematic theology treatise like Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology or Gordon Clark’s book God’s Hammer: the Bible and its critics. So the Bible claims for itself to be a divinely inspired communication. When we read the Bible we are also convinced of its claims and convinced that its words are a communication from God. Just as God cannot be proved, neither can his words be proved in an ultimate objective sense of being forced to receive them. But when we are confronted with the truths in the scriptures, if we seek the truth with an open mind we will be convinced by the Holy Spirit that the Bible’s claims to be God’s words are accurate. The Bible is systematically consistent and fits the facts. It meets the needs of the human condition. The apologist Carnel made these points in a very persuasive way. We can also see, in looking at the scriptures, that it claims to be a set of eye witness accounts. It is not written in the once-upon-a-time manner of fairy stories or myths. The Bible claims to be set of descriptions of events in time and space as well as poetry and prophetic literature. The Bible is full of fulfilled prophecies, eyewitness testimony to divine intervention in everyday life. The greatest and most important eyewitness testimony of divine intervention is the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We also have the evidence of lives transformed by the Bible’s message today and throughout history. The Bible is also extraordinary in that it is the only book of its kind and the only book to have survived the many attacks, persecutions, hostilities, and attempts at refutation that the Bible has survived. While many religions have experienced persecution, no religion or religious message has been so besieged as first Judaism and then Christianity. The message of their scriptures has been resented by the world since it was spoken and then put in written form. Yet despite all of the attempts to destroy it and refute it and to kill and torture its people into recanting, the Bible has survived as have God’s believers. To sum up, the Bible is self authenticating. While it cannot be proved by putting you in an intellectual situation where you are forced to accept it, God has not left himself or his word without evidence. From here, we will go on to see what the Bible and God’s general revelation tell us about God himself.


Jordan said...

Great post.

I've got a couple questions. You start out by saying the Bible is needed because humanity's intellectual faculties are "dim", but then say the Bible is "systematically consistent and fits the facts". My question is if we're going to say reason is not reliable, then why do we appeal to evidences for the Bible's reliability at all? It seems almost circular to use reasoned arguments to assert the reliability of the Bible, so that we can the correct our unreliable reason.

My second question is, do you think the coherence and consistency with "reality" that Christianity provides is perhaps the strongest intellectual apologetic?

Dean McConnell said...

Thanks Jordan. Humans are affected by sin so that they tend to rebel against truth, among other things. But, reason is still present and useable despite the damage. We use reason for all thought so there is not really an alternative to the use of reason. God himself appeals to our reason in the scriptures. When God draws someone to Himself and opens their mind to have faith in Him he uses the human's reason as well as other faculties.

I think coherence is one appologetic approach. The "best" apologetic approach is the one God uses to touch the individual you are sharing with at the time. The weakness of the coherance approach is that God, not something else, is the measure of all things. SO when we evaluate the coherence of the Chrisitan system we are really comparing what we glean from special revelation (the Bible) with what we know because of general revelation (being made in the image of God, the divine light, etc.) which is present, but is, in a sence, less specific and more subject to distortion.

Jordan said...

Thanks for the response, it was quite useful.

So would you say then that it is not so much that our faculties are dimmed (thought we are finite, etc.) but that as we wander down a road of reason, experience, and discovery through life, sin desperately wants us to find an off-ramp every time we see a big "Gospel ahead" sign?

The reason I'm asking about the dimmed will vs dimmed faculties ratio is that quite often academics and scientists don't resonate well with the idea that reason and experimentation are sub-par methods of gaining knowledge. I wonder if we should insist more on the fallibility of reason and focus more on the fallibility of the heart.

Dean McConnell said...

Yes. It isn't reason in the abstract or the validity of repeated experiments that is the problem so much as how sin affects what we are thinking and the choices we make. I think bad scientific technique and inference is also an example of the affects of sin too. For example, the insistence with which some scientists in history have hung on to improbable hypotheses for reasons unrelated to science - like faith in Aristotle or belief in that time could not be relative.

I think you are right that "the heart" is fallible and we do well to emphasize that fallibility.