A Letter Defending the Christian Worldview

For those of you who are still checking out my blog I appreciate your patience.  I’ve been very busy teaching classes, pastoring the church, leading the worship, and trying to be a god honoring husband and father.  I also have not had much time to write, nor have I had much about which to right.  I guess I’ve experienced a kind of brain drain.  What I have today grew out of past  online conversations, many that I can recall from years gone by , and others that I’ve only read.  I hope you find this useful.4.3.ArticulateChristianWorldview_316358693

My Dearest Friend,

It is encouraging to me that you have chosen to engage me in this conversation concerning my beliefs as a Christian.  The reason being is that I believe it simply reaffirms what God has revealed in Scripture; that it is He who has placed a desire to understand life and seek out our purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and also He who moves in a person to cause him to seek Him (John 6:44).  I realize that you are not to the point where you can accept this point of view, yet.  But I am hopeful.

I have thought much about our last discussion, and would like to address a theme or two with you based on it.  First, I’d like to return to your view of what constitutes what is right, and what is wrong.  If, as you say, there is no God, what, then, is your basis for even attempting to differentiate between right and wrong?  If there is no one higher than man himself, then wouldn’t that mean that man is the final arbiter of right and wrong?  If that is the case, then which man is the final final arbiter of right and wrong?  It seems to me that the buck must stop somewhere, and if it were left up to a single individual wouldn’t that mean that somewhere there is a worldwide dictator?  By the way, God has warned that a final world dictator will come on the scene eventually, and it is not going to be pretty (see the book of Revelation for an explanation of that). We actually have a historical illustration of the harm that comes when a nation allows one man to be the final arbiter of right and wrong.  Germany bought into Hitler’s ideals, which not only led to World War II and the deaths of many millions of soldiers from multiple nations, but also to the deaths of six million Jews, and many millions of civilians from various countries. The reason for this is that a man is not a reliable source of absolute authority.  As in the case of Hitler, he was a man whose ideals were based not on facts, but on his own biases, misunderstandings, and hate.  Reality demonstrates time and time again that, when allowed, men will manipulate circumstances in such a way as to suit their own personal likes and dislikes.  And what happens when those personal preferences change?  Once again Hitler’s treatment of his own right hand man, Ernst Roehm, the founder and original leader of Hitler’s Storm Troopers, gives a great illustration of the, shall we say evil, things that can result.  My point is that if you believe that man in general makes the decisions concerning right and wrong, then the definition is left to a finite being incapable of infinite knowledge and thus incapable of establishing a universal ethical code.  You would also be subject to the changing ethical “tastes” of a finite being whose own requirements, or standards for determining right and wrong may change. The resultant consequences would be devastating.  God has warned us that the human heart (the innermost part of man) is sick, and desperately wicked; it cannot be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9).  In truth, in His grace, God has built-in some protection against this sort of situation in that He has created each of us with an innate knowledge of right and wrong.  But I’ll come back to that.

If, then, there is no one man who is the final authority, does that mean that there is a group, or conglomeration of men and woman who make that decision?  That would ultimately end in a totalitarian government of sorts, would it not?  Once again history has provide for us multiple accounts of what happens when such a situation occurs.  The communist regimes of Russia, and China have killed, and imprisoned untold millions of their own people based upon the government’s idea of what constitutes right and wrong; right being whatever they said at the moment, and wrong being whatever they decide on the basis of what is best for the collective.  Any dissenting view is met with harsh retribution.  Is that the solution for determining ethical standards?  Can an authoritarian government establish universal ethical standards?  The answer is no.

Another alternative, if there is no God, is to allow each individual to establish his or her own standards of ethical behavior.  However, this is not realistic.  If I determine my own ethical standards, and the next guy establishes his own ethical standards, and we each have differing views of what constitutes theft, then how can I keep him from taking my stuff if he believes its okay to do so?  At that point we must turn to the courts, which have established their own standards that go against both of ours and determine that everything that was taken from me is actually theirs.  You can see the predicament that such a situation would put the world in; there would be mass chaos.

Behind all of this discussion is another question.  Perhaps it is where we should have begun our discussion.  That question is, why should anyone be concerned about right and wrong to begin with?  I mean, if there is no God, and we are simply the product of random chance and time, evolution, then what difference does it make what one bag of protoplasm does to another anyway?  If I answer only to myself, why should I be concerned about anyone but myself, and maybe my immediate family?  Why would anyone care about anyone else at all?

Yet that is not what we see around us is it?  No.  We see that people and societies in one part of the world have ethical standards that are identical to people, and societies in every other part of the world.  We know that people in Thailand, or China, or England do not want anyone stealing their possessions, committing adultery with their spouses, killing them or their families, etc. in the same way that we don’t want any of those things to happen in our own lives here in the United States.  My point is very simply that there are universal standards of right and wrong behavior that transcend the boundaries of countries, ethnic groups, communities, and even religious sects.  How does a worldview (remember a worldview is, in the simplest of terms, the entire system, no matter how loosely organized, that every individual uses to understand, and interpret the world around them) that believes that the God of the Bible does not exist account for such universal ethical standards?  If you will allow me to answer, such a worldview cannot account for such ethical standards, nor can it justify their existence at all.  I will restate the question I asked earlier in the form of a statement: It doesn’t matter what one bag of evolved/evolving protoplasm does to another, whether good or bad, assuming there really is such things as good and bad.  In a world that is the product of random chance evolution there is no room for right or wrong.  There just IS.  Survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.

Now, within the Christian worldview we have answers for the questions that surround the concept of ethics.  We believe in the One God of Christian Scriptures who has revealed Himself in His creation, His Son, who has explained the unseen God to us (John 1:18), and through the Christian Scriptures, which He superintended in such a way that all that was written is correct, without error, and exactly what He wanted us to know.  He revealed that in the beginning He created all that exists out of nothing (Genesis 1 & 2).  He explained that He created man in His image, thus insuring that mankind both knows Him, and right and wrong (Genesis 1:26-31).  His creation was without flaw, but Adam rebelled against God by refusing to abstain from eating from the only tree that God forbade him from eating (Genesis 3), and at that point, sin entered the world that God had created.  For our purposes we can say that at that point in history the contrast between right and wrong was presented to the created order.

Adam’s sin, or rebellion, brought devastation upon the created universe to the extent that all of creation was placed under the curse of God’s impending judgment.  However, God was not content to leave things in such a state, but put in motion His plan to repair the breach culminating in the entrance of His own Son into the world.  He took on humanity, lived a sinless, perfect life among His creation, died to pay the penalty of man’s rebellion, rose again on the third day to be seated at His Father’s right hand where He now awaits His return to judge the world.  I tell you all of this to demonstrate first that the God of the Bible created all things.  Therefore, as the Creator He has the absolute authority, right, and responsibility to establish the universal ethical standards, which He has done.  These standards reflect His character and reflect who He is.  He has revealed His standards in the Scriptures, and He has put those same standards within the operating system of every man.  The apostle Paul explained this in his letter to the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-19, 32).  Mankind, on the basis of being created in the image of their Creator, knows right from wrong because they know Him.  They cannot escape the testimony within themselves, nor can they escape the testimony found in the rest of creation.

My friend, the Christian worldview is the only worldview that can explain both the existence of the universal ethical standards, and their origin.  Only the Christian worldview, with its belief in and dependence upon the God of Christian Scriptures, offers the truthful explanation of the universal ethical standards that actually exist in reality.  Only the Christian worldview can explain the existence of evil, and why certain things are right, and why certain things are wrong.  Only the Christian worldview has a remedy for the evil that exists in the world.  In the end God will reconcile with evil, and all who have not turned to Him for forgiveness will endure His judgment.

The good news is that He has provided a way for our bad to be erased.  His own Son, Jesus Christ, became a man and lived among His creation.  His death on a cross paid the penalty of our sin, and made it possible for us to be forgiven for our wrong.  God will judge the wrong, or evil of the world, but those who have accepted the forgiveness purchased by the death of Christ will escape that judgment.  It is my prayer for you that you will come to know the God that you know by faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

I pray that you will find His saving grace.

Forever your friend,

 

Steve

The Sufficiency of Scripture: Is God’s Word Enough? Part 1

ImageWhat follows is a portion of a presentation that I made several years ago.  The topic is a “life and death” issue, figuratively speaking, for the Church today.  Unfortunately, some of my documentation has been lost and some quotes are not attributed to the original authors.  Some may criticize for moving forward with publishing it for that reason, but I believe that what I wrote years ago is still fresh for today and needs to be reviewed by others.  For those whom I quote and have lost the proper notations, please forgive me.

I have played the great game of basketball from the time I was in the fifth grade all the way through my college years. One thing that all teams, leagues, conferences and divisions had in common was a single book; the official rulebook of basketball. During any game the rules written in that book governed the competition and were binding for everyone involved whether it is the coaches, players, scorekeepers, or referees. No one involved would dare question that book for it is the final authority for all things basketball. It is also sufficient to answer any question, settle any dispute, and completely govern the game.

In each game there were at least two men, sometimes three, who were to oversee each contest to make sure the rules of the rulebook, were understood and obeyed. These were the referees. Anytime there was any question concerning error or infraction concerning the rulebook these men would have the final say in deciding the answer, because these men had the rulebook memorized (theoretically and ideally). In my recollection of the years I spent playing basketball there is not one time that I can point to when my opinion was allowed to make the final decision when there was a violation of the rulebook. That is because the rulebook had already decided the outcome, and the referees would simple make a declaration of the rules already established. Even some 20 years after I played my last college game it is still that rulebook that governs the game of basketball. Not much has changed.

For thousands of years there has been one thing that was the final authority on all things, period; “Then God said…” (Gen. 1:3). Yet, seemingly no sooner had those words been uttered that another voice was heard casting doubt on the authority of the word of God; “Indeed, has God said?”(Gen. 3:1) Or in other words, “Is what He said really accurate?” And so the battle over the authority of God’s word began.

Such a battle has raged since that first question in the Garden with various waves of victory and loss of ground for those who would hold to the authority of Scripture. Along with that battle over authority must necessarily be included the question of sufficiency, for sufficiency is inextricably linked to authority. If the word of God is THE authority, then it must also be sufficient. This has been the orthodox understanding of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments as well as in both the religion of the Jews and of the Christian Church. It is the purpose of this paper to discuss various aspects of the sufficiency of Scripture, and will do so with the presupposition that Scripture is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word spoken by God to man.

I will attempt to offer a simple definition of sufficiency, a brief description of the millennia long battle over the authority and sufficiency of the word of God, the recent developments in the battle and its effects upon the Church, and will close with an overview of what Scripture has to say concerning its status as sufficient providing the answer to the question; “Is God’s Word enough?” It is not within the scope of this article to delve into every deep crevasse that such a battle creates. However, it is my desire to discuss the issue as thoroughly as time and space allow.

Definition and Description of Sufficiency

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) defines the word “sufficient” by the following: “1.a: enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end…b: being a sufficient condition.  2….being what is necessary or desirable.”  Thus, we may picture the word “sufficient” with the following simple illustration: the two-inch round peg is sufficient to fill the two-inch round hole.  To use another phrase, the round peg is just what the doctor ordered; it is exactly what is needed to meet the need at hand.  Some synonyms given are, “enough, adequate, competent.”

Dr. James T. Draper has offered a simple, yet adequate definition and description of the sufficiency as it relates to Scripture. He states:

“The ability of the Word of God to address every area of human existence is called the sufficiency of the Scriptures…An inerrant Bible is an authoritative Bible. Just as the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture logically leads to belief in its authority, even so the doctrine of the authority of the Bible necessitates the confidence that the Scriptures are sufficient. Christians did not arrive at the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Bible simply by way of logical reasoning; we believe that the Bible is the road map for living because it is what the Bible claims about itself.”  Added to this, another definition offered by John MacArthur; “the Bible is an adequate guide for all matters of faith and conduct. Scripture gives us every truth we need for life and godliness.”

Based on the preceding discussion I will begin this study by stating that it is my belief, as well as that of orthodox Christianity at least since the Reformation, that Scripture is sufficient, totally adequate, and competent to meet the needs of every individual Christian in every circumstance of life (see 2 Peter 1:2-3).  Nothing else is needed to guide us in our everyday living.  These definitions along with their corresponding descriptions will serve as our standard for the understanding and study of this most important subject.

To be continued.

Diversity, Biblical Interpretation, and Sunrise over the Atlantic | drcone.com

My good friend Dr. Chris Cone has written some excellent observations concerning how we interpret and apply Scripture in our lives.  Its worth some time and consideration.

Diversity, Biblical Interpretation, and Sunrise over the Atlantic | drcone.com.

Concerning Presuppositional Epistemology and Apologetics

I had this questioned posed by one who had read the interview with Dr. Cone: “Just read your blog…could you please define presuppostitional as it relates to epistemology and apologetics ??  This is a new term for me.”  What follows is my attempt to answer this question.  Since I am still relatively new to this subject, presuppositionalism, any correction will be welcomed, especially as it relates to my attempt to explain circular reasoning.

The term “presuppositional” refers to the idea that all belief systems begin with circular reasoning based on self-authenticating (unprovable) truths or statements of “truth.”  In apologetics it refers to the position that believers must begin with the belief in the biblical God. This is how the Bible approaches the entirety of its contents…”In the beginning God…”  There is no attempt to prove His existence, etc.  The same can be seen in the book of Ecclesiastes.  The other various approaches to apologetics depend on logic and the ability to “prove” that the biblical God exists.  There are at least two problems with this approach.  First, logic, reason, and proof or evidence clearly demonstrate that the earth and all reality has been created by an intelligent mind.  That’s as far as it goes.  It cannot bring one to the conclusion that THE Creator is the biblical God.  That takes faith and that faith is found in hearing the word of God.  Second, if God can be absolutely proven by human reason and evidence, then God Himself is subject to that evidence making Him subservient to that evidence (the evidence is greater than God) and thus He is not the God of the Bible.  Along with that, the evidence, no matter how demonstrative, has to be believed by faith.  There is no way around faith in any belief system.

The rationalist begins with the presupposition that there is such a thing as logic and reason and that they are commodities that are attainable by humanity.  Therefore, the rationalist believes that he can understand everything based on his ability to reason logically, and his ability to reason is proven by the fact that he can understand the nature of reality because logic exists.  Also, the Christian believes in the biblical God because the Bible tells me so, and believes the Bible because it is the word of God.  Both of these exhibit circular reasoning based upon presuppositions that are held.

Epistemology is a somewhat more difficult thing for me to explain, but I believe that it is something like the following: Epistemology is the study of knowledge, where does it originate, how do we have or obtain it, how do we know what we know?  A presuppositionalist believes that knowledge is from God; that truth is from God as the source of all Truth.  Or as Francis Schaeffer would say, true truth is from God.  I don’t really know how the non-believer approaches epistemology other than it is a product of evolution, environment and culture.  This idea is absolutely full of problems one of which would be the development of the first language and every subsequent language – no communication would be possible if evolution is true.

I pray this helps.

The Object of Our Trust

Well, SCOTUS, or should I say Chief Justice Roberts handed down the so-called Obamacare decision today.  Despite what the court has decided, the truth remains as stated by the four dissenting justices that there is nothing constitutional about the bill.  It is a travesty of justice and has put the final stake into the heart of the Constitution.

I believe that most of us have really missed the point, that being that this argument was never about health care for the few or for the many.  This argument has always been and will continue to be about freedom and liberty.  Freedom and liberty have been stripped under the guise of caring for people without healthcare.  Yet anyone who has the ability  and manages to take two seconds to think this through will come to the conclusion that not only will those with the most need not have access to the best healthcare.  Out of all of the reasons why this is true naming one will suffice.  We already have the best healthcare in the world, but very soon that healthcare will become so expensive that rationing will of necessity take place.  One need only look to England and every other socialized-medicine nation.  Beyond that, freedom will be stripped because now the government can regulate EVERYTHING you do; from what you eat to how many times a week you must work out to how much you are allowed to weigh.

Now to the point of this blog: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God” (Prov. 20:7, NASB).  How many of you, like I, placed his/her trust in the Supreme Court’s ability and faithfulness to uphold the rule of the Constitution.  Well, WAKE UP CALL!  That’s what I heard.  God is in control.  We may have to go through some very hard times in the very near future, but the Lord has promised that He would supply all of our needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).  He has promised that because of Christ’s sacrifice and current priestly ministry, we are able to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

As Christians we have no need to trust in chariots (insert government) or horses (SCOTUS), but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God (Psalm 20:7).

God bless and keep your minds set on things above where your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-4).

I pray this helps.

Want to Know the Will of God?

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

Image via Wikipedia

In our society it is a common thing to hear a believer say that he/she wants to know the will of God for his/her life.  I believe the premise is flawed and therefore will lead to a wrong answer and a life of constant doubt and frustration.  God’s will for every believer is clearly presented in Scripture.  The problem is that in our fast-food, microwave, want everything handed to us wrapped with a neat ribbon society Christians are too lazy to search the Scriptures to find the will of God. It is not found in a single verse, but throughout the word of God.  However, the promise is that we have available to us the ability to “prove what the will of God is” (Rom. 12:2) an ability made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the renewing of our minds by God’s word.

The Greek word translated “prove” means “to put to the test, examine” (BDAG) the idea meaning to “put to the test for the purpose of approving, and finding that the thing tested meets the specifications laid down, to put one’s approval upon it” (Wuest Word Studies in the Greek New Testament).  This is not to say that the process of proving God’s will puts the Christian interpreter above the Word, but that when one actually begins to live in obedience, a.k.a. put the word to the test by living in obedience to it, he finds that God’s will and word are perfect, and reality is the way that He describes it.  The major point is that God has revealed everything that we need to know to live life the way that He wants us to (see 2 Peter 1:2-3).  Along with that He has given us the power, through His indwelling Spirit, to carry out His will.  Look at it in this light; there are enough passages in Scripture that explicitly state that such-and-such is God’s will for you that it would occupy every moment of every day to actually live in obedience to them.  If we did that then we wouldn’t have time to sit around questioning what God wants us to do with our lives.

The following may help us understand why we have such difficulty knowing God’s will:  1.) Christians, for the most part, don’t know God’s word well enough to live in obedience to Him and therefore we live life questioning what His will for us is.  2.) Christians, for the most part, aren’t willing to spend the time studying God’s word to know it and therefore they don’t know their God like they think they do.  3.) Coinciding with that, Christians, for the most part, want some “spiritual giant” to hand deliver the answers so they don’t have to get off their duffs to search for it.  4.) Most Christians are more interested in hearing feel-good, 12-step, how-to messages instead of careful verse-by-verse exegetical teaching of God’s word.  5.) Most Christians don’t live in obedience to what little they do know about God’s word.  

In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers offers some pertinent insight to this last point.  In my copy the date is July 27th where Chambers states,

The golden rule for understanding spirituality is not intellect, but obedience.  If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus Christ teaches, he can only get it by obedience.  If things are dark to me, then I may be sure there is something I will not do.  Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance; spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey.

No man ever receives a word from God without instantly being put to the test over it.  We disobey and then wonder why we don’t go on spiritually.

Allow me to state the bottom line.  If you want to know what God’s will is then study His word.  I don’t mean a ten minute read in the morning, but an in-depth study of His word.  It takes a lot of time and effort, but that is the only way to come to know Him and His will.  After studying His word ask Him for wisdom to apply it to your life and then live in obedience to what you know.  When you live in obedience to what you know He will begin to illuminate more of His word/will to you.  As you live in obedience to all that you are learning (none of us do it 100%) you will be living His will for you.  Then questions as to what type of work you should do or what school you should attend, etc., will simply depend on what you want to do, not receiving a special message from God.  I base this on reading Psalm 37:4-5; “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.”  Here’s a hint to help you understand verse 4; the desires of your heart are not referring to giving you the car you want.  It is speaking of the desire that you have will be from Him.

In this day and time Christians better study God’s word and learn to live in obedience to it.  The day is coming when all the other stuff that we try to stuff into the modern concept of God’s will aren’t going to matter.  I doubt that our brothers and sisters in China sit around wondering about what career God wants them to engage in.  Their concerns are bigger than that.

I pray this helps.

P.S. If you are interested in a great education in how to really study your Bible Tyndale Theological Seminary’s class Advanced Hermeneutics is it.  You can get information on this at http://www.tyndale.edu.  Classes are inexpensive, but very profitable.  I highly recommend this course.  I teach it at Cornerstone Bible Church in Lubbock, TX, which is an official Tyndale Learning Center.