Posts Tagged With: epistemology

Why Our World Cannot Be Explained Without the Trinity

Human philosophy is at a loss when it comes to explaining the world we live in.  As human beings, we experience both unity and diversity in our world.  Unity is observed in what we all have in common as humans: in common dreams, hopes, fears, struggles.  Our brains tend to follow similar patterns of logic.  We can read a news report about a person from an entirely different culture, who speaks a different language, and sense a commonality with that person.  We can even empathize with her if her parents have been ruthlessly murdered in cold blood, or be happy for her if she wins a prize.  This commonality bespeaks an underlying unity to mankind.  There is an underlying unity between human beings, and this also allows for communication from one person to another.  The English language, for example, works as a way for me to convey the ideas I am now expressing because there is enough unity among human beings that we can assign common definitions to words and convey meaning to one another.  I can type in a way that the reader can understand, and this points to an essential unity in human existence.  Although English is only one of many human languages, any human can learn English with enough practice. This unity between human beings is also seen in many ways in the world around us, like when a bird helps pick insects from a rhino, an act of mutual cooperation which benefits both, and when ants communicate with each other to alert the colony of an approaching green lizard.  Diversity is seen in the multiplicity of all that exists in our world.  The many stars in their own different solar systems, the diversity of lifeforms on earth from infectious bacteria to wrinkled Grey Elephants, and the diversity of human races, languages, and individual opinions are all manifestations of diversity in our world.  What are we to make of the fact that the world is unified and that it is diverse at the same time?

Human philosophy, which tries to make sense of the universe around us, has attempted to explain, account for, or understand how our world can be both unified and diverse, as shown in the examples described.  After all, if the world were only unity, how could we have so many different dog species, or flavors of barbecue sauce?  If it were only diversity, we could not even have a discussion because there would be no common understandings of words or their meanings.  How are we to make sense of all this?  As human beings we see diversity all around us in the world we inhabit, but we have an intuitive sense of an underlying unity which is behind it all. The great Greek philosopher of the ancient world, Plato, tried different methods of thinking in attempts to explain the unity and diversity in the world. But each time he failed, because the diversity that we experience in the world around us would not give him any clues as to where the perceived unity has its foundation. Modern thinking has not been able to get any farther in solving the problem of the unity and diversity in the universe than Plato did. If only the material world exists, and the supernatural is a fiction, as some today would say, then where does the underlying unity, that we perceive intuitively, come from? Universal laws of human behavior, the laws of physics, laws of grammar, etc. point to a unity underlying them all. The modern thinker just can’t explain this other than just to shrug and say it must exist somehowi.

The riddle of the unity and diversity in our world is only solvable by the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Since the Creator of the Universe is a Trinity, that is, one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from all eternity, He is the root of the unity and diversity that exists in our world. Since our world is a reflection of Him, and He is one God in three Persons, therefore it is easy to see how our world can exhibit such unity and diversity at the same time. Conceptions of God like that of Islam, which teaches that God is only one person, not three, cannot account for the wide diversity in the world that we experience. How could such a diverse world be created by a monolithic god? Materialism, which takes all its cues from the physical world around us, cannot explain the unity which under-girds us. Only the Bible with its teaching of a God who is One in Three can make sense of the world that we live in. And although we cannot fully understand the Trinity, yet we can see that the unity of essence and diversity of persons in God is the root of the unity and diversity that we experience here below.

i  I am indebted in my thinking on this topic to the published works of Conelius Van Til, 1885-1987.

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The Bible Proven to Be God’s Word by Its Own Evidence

The Bible Proven to Be God’s Word by Its Own Evidence

Christians believe the truths presented in Holy Scripture.  When asked to provide evidence of the truths we believe, we point to Scripture.  This is correct and natural for those who are convinced that the Bible is the very Word of God.  But for those who remain unconvinced, it’s not very convincing.  A question remains: Can it be known, or even proven, that the Bible is God’s Word?  Certainly if someone were to hand me a medical prescription for me to fill and take, I’d want to know that it actually came from the doctor who supposedly gave it.  So likewise it is normal for someone unfamiliar or unconvinced of the Bible’s truth claims to ask whether it can be proven that God is its Author. Some Christians would respond by pointing to statements and quotations from the Bible that it is God’s fully-inspired word, such as that found in 2 Timothy 3:16a, All scripture is given by inspiration of God,”  There’s nothing wrong with this method of reasoning for those who are already convinced that the Bible is God’s word; but to the unbeliever, it smacks of circular reasoning.  The Bible whose divine authorship is to be proven makes claims that are not unique.  Other books also claim to be from God (i. e. the Hindu Vedas, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, etc.)  In this case the disputant is using the Bible’s own claim to prove the truth of its claim.  Since there are other books which claim to be from God, the claim that the Bible is from God may not simply be taken at face value.  (Plus, it is quite a high claim for any book to make, isn’t it?)  While it’s important to the question at hand for us to understand that the Bible claims to be God’s Word, more evidence is required to add credibility to that claim beyond just the bare claim itself.  We don’t believe that a book is from God just because it says so. Another approach is to seek to prove the truth of the Bible through evidence from external sources such as history or empirical science.  Can we use other disciplines to prove that the Bible is true?  While there is much in this world that corroborates the truths of Scripture, the person who looks for positive certainty that the Bible is from God based on sources of evidence outside the Bible itself will be searching in vain, (and quite possibly for a long time.)  You cannot prove without a doubt that the Bible is God’s Word by historic testimonies or by scientific observation of nature.  The Church has historically held that the Bible is God’s word, and this is a weighty testimony.  There are remarkable prophecies in Scripture whose fulfillment is recorded in secular history.  There are also insights on nature found in Scripture which scientists did not discover in their fields until many centuries later.  Yet these things alone are not able to prove that every word of the Bible comes from God.  Although these points may support the Bible’s claims, and they are quite impressive, they do not in themselves rise to the level of positive evidence that God gave the Bible in every word and detail.  Without more evidence, these points amount to little more than inexplicable phenomena.  The objective enquirer who takes note of these proofs will simply not have an explanation for them. What we need is the actual stamp or signature of God in the Scriptures themselves to prove that He authored them.  It’s not enough for a book to claim to be from God.  His signature must be verifiable.  Like a raised seal on a birth certificate, or a doctor’s signature on a prescription slip, the features of the Bible itself hold the key to proving the authenticity of its claim to be God’s word.  If you are reading this and you would like to examine the evidence I will point to, you will have to pick up the Bible and read it.  I will not be adding a lot of specific Scripture citations because I would like to discourage the reader from simply picking out the verses I might cite and then leaving it at that.  If I gave a lot of proof texts, the reader might be tempted to just look them up, which is exactly what I would like to avoid.  Think of me as a tour guide in a great botanical garden.  I will point out the things to look at, but I won’t lift them up for you or touch them.  You have to look carefully for yourself.  The evidence that God wrote the Bible, and not merely humans, is in there for you to see, in the Bible.  The more you read of it, the more clearly you will be able to see the marks or features that I will describe which point to divine and not human authorship.  An investigator who is looking for clues must carefully examine all the available evidence to fully appreciate their direction, weight, and import.  Just so, the more one reads and understands the Bible, the more clear the evidences of divine authorship will appear.  I would recommend reading through all sixty-six books of the Bible at least once, and preferably more, in one or more of the popularly accepted English translations (KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB) for the skeptical reader of this article who would like to examine the Bible’s claim to be God’s word.

Argument: The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (66 received books known as the Holy Bible) are the Word of the Creator to mankind, the special way that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  Although penned by many human authors, and bearing the particular marks, genius, style, and language of each individual author, who sometimes may have made use of preexisting sources, these men of God were so directed by the Spirit of God that every word of the final product is His true word.  These books have been kept pure and preserved entire throughout all ages by God’s particular providence.

Disclaimer: There is evidence that the Bible is God’s infallible word.  This evidence is in the Bible and nowhere else.  I am not presenting the evidence that the Bible is God’s Word, but merely pointing to it.  In order to see the evidence, the reader will have to pick up the Bible and read for himself.  For the purpose of seeing the objective evidence of the Bible’s divine authorship, many of the bestselling Bible versions in the English language today are sufficiently accurate.  This does not mean that everyone who reads this will be convinced.  In order for someone to be convinced that the Bible is God’s word and what it teaches is true, it is absolutely required that the Spirit of God witness to his heart to persuade him that it is the very word of God.  I do not hope to persuade anyone who reads this post, if the Spirit of God does not intervene in that person’s heart.  The objective evidence is there, but because man is by nature committed to deny and oppose it, he will subjectively disbelieve it every time unless God opens the eyes and heart. The Bible’s marks, signs, signatures, and evidences of authorship by God are the following:

1.    The simple majesty and sublimity of the Bible is unmatched in merely human literature. The wisdom, profundity, brevity, natural eloquence, pointedness, clarity, freshness, boldness, and wonder of the Scriptures, given for the most part in everyday human language, is far beyond what any human author could achieve without divine inspiration.  Other books may claim to be what the Bible is in this regard, but they fall far short upon impartial examination.

2.    The Bible is free from error and taint of evil. The Bible is free from error and contradiction in every point and statement that it makes.  No one has ever proven that a contradiction exists in the Scriptures, or successfully disproven any statement of historical or scientific fact found in the Bible. The Bible has had a profound impact on western civilization and literature: not just among Christians.  Other books are full of monstrous immorality and injustice, especially those published in nations where the Bible has never been a widespread influence.  In contrast, the Bible presents a pure morality from God Himself.  The morality of the Bible resonates deep inside the reader, because it comes from his Creator.  The purity of the ethics or morals of the Scriptures and those of the Christians who believed their truths have historically been one of the great draws to Christianity, especially when pagan cultures have first come in contact with them.

3.    Every part of the Bible penned by dozens of authors over a period greater than 2400 years reveals the same God, the same human condition, and the same plan of salvation. The Bible is not one book.  It is one collection of books.  It is truly remarkable that around 40 human authors writing the sixty-six books of the Bible in three languages over a period of at least 2400 years could find such agreement on doctrines such as God, Sin, and salvation through the Messiah.  The congruence or overall development of the central themes of the Bible over this period of time and this range of authors and dates of writing is something that would be humanly impossible.  There is in fact no other collection of books approaching anything close to this remarkable, miraculous feat.  No such extensive body of human literature has such agreement, or even has central themes that can be clearly discerned.  And that’s if we ignore the diversity of the centuries and locations in which it was written, to which there is no other match in known literature.

4.    The whole Bible glorifies God and humbles man in ways that no other literature does.  This is not the way people choose to write.  It is a mark of its divine authorship.  There is a saying that history is written by the victors.  No people writes a history the way the Bible is written.  The Scriptures, penned by exclusively Hebrew authors, present a strikingly unfavorable view of the Hebrew people.  They are portrayed as stubborn, disobedient, ungrateful, and foolish.  Other literature before the age of academic criticism is what amounts to hagiography, or hero-worship.  Even modern histories, though making an effort to appear critical and avoid hagiography, are slanted toward the bias of their author.  But in the Bible, even those who may be viewed as the Heroes of Scripture are portrayed with glaring flaws, like the patriarch Judah who unknowingly committed incest when he intended to hire a prostitute, King David who committed adultery and murdered to cover it up, or Solomon whose many foreign wives enticed him to commit rank idol-worship.  God gets all of the glory and the Hebrew people, Kings, or prominent figures get none.  The idea that the Hebrews wrote these books without God’s inspiration is preposterous. No one writes about the human race the way the Bible does.  The Bible presents man as completely unable to do any good thing apart from a sovereign change of his heart wrought by the power of God as a miracle upon the soul.  The Bible is utterly unflattering to all humankind and exalts God alone.  Its revealed way of salvation by God’s grace alone through Christ for the very people who have earned eternal punishment for themselves by their hatred of Him and their evil deeds, is something that no human being ever could or would dream of.  Human literature is flattering to the human nature and character.  But in the Bible, God gets all of the credit for everything that is truly good, and man gets absolutely none, which proves that God is the Author and not merely man.

5.    The Bible alone describes the true condition of man, and prescribes a remedy suitable to him.  No other book of philosophy, religion, or science accurately describes the state of man.  Human beings have a natural knowledge of what is right and wrong.  They show this every day in many ways, especially by judging the actions of others.  But why is it that they can’t live up to the same standard that they think of as normative?  How do we explain the depths of evil that man is capable of, evidenced by countless examples in history and from everyday life, while man at the same time is capable of such beauty and sparks of goodness that occasionally flicker?  Why is death so painful, even though it is so universal?  We all know these things to be true from our experience of ourselves, others around us, and society as a whole.  But how to account for them, we know not.  The Bible gives the answer to the human problem.  It explains why man has such good potential, but at the same time fails so miserably to live up to it.  It explains why man has a sense of what is right, and loves to judge others, but cannot live up to his own standard.  It explains why death still hurts so much, even though it is a fact of nature as we now experience it. No other book so accurately explains the human condition and then gives a remedy so suitable to it.  It explains that God created man good, but that he fell by his own choice, and received death as punishment for his disobedience to his Creator.  It explains, furthermore, that the Creator became man, and lived a perfect life, to take the punishment that man deserves for his disobedience.  Every human religion, book, philosophy, or way of life describes how humans may make efforts to better themselves to escape or at least lessen the effects of injustice and/or death.  But the Bible reveals a plan whereby the God and Maker of the Universe became man to reconcile man with his Creator.  This describes the only remedy suitable to the human condition.  Such a description of the human condition, with a perfectly suitable remedy, can only come by divine revelation.

6.    Those who believe the Holy Scriptures find comfort and support to faith unmatched by any other book. For those who believe, the Scriptures provide such supreme joy and comfort that it is unequalled by any other book.  Now, admittedly, this evidence will not be of much use to those who do not yet believe the Scriptures.  For them, they will have the opposite effect.  A gracious prince offers clemency to those who are his sworn enemies, who would not lift a finger in submission to him even to save their lives.  To these enemies, his offer does not have a sweet smell of life.  It stinks of the death they know they will earn by their obstinacy, because they are dead set against accepting his kind offer.  They will frown at the gracious offer of clemency instead of smiling, because it only increases their guilt for remaining in their rebellion.  The same is true with those who read the Scriptures.  Those who are able and willing by grace to submit to God and believe in His Son Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures will find solace for their souls and peace that passes understanding in its sublime truths and blessed promises.  Those whose hearts are yet hardened against God will find in the pages of the Bible only more promises that they will reject, more evidence to support God’s just sentence against them.  For them it is not comforting, but frightening. Like I said in the disclaimer above, you won’t believe anything I’ve written above unless the Spirit has opened your eyes to see clearly.  The objective evidence is there, but the average human reader is looking at it through glasses tinted by his own commitment to rebellion against the God of the Bible.  That’s where the subjective element comes in.  In order to overcome this rebellion, a sovereign work to change the human nature is required.  My hope is that some reading this will experience this change of heart and mind. Now, if you’re reading this telling yourself, “I’m not convinced,” then I’m not surprised!  That’s why I said it would take a work of the Spirit in order for you to acknowledge the evidence.  That doesn’t mean it’s not there, it just means that the average reader is not willing to receive it.

In conclusion, I would like to cite the magisterial Westminster Larger Catechism as a clear and concise statement of the evidence I have tried to explain above: Q. 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are of the Word of God? A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God1. 1The Westminster Larger Catechism (1647) is the longer and more expansive of the two catechisms produced by the Westminster Assembly of divines (or theologians), a Church body meeting at Westminster Abbey, London, over the course of six years, made up of over 150 men chosen from among the most godly ministers and elders from both the Presbyterian and Congregational churches in England, with eminent representatives from Scotland and the French churches.  This catechism is one of the most scripturally-accurate and detailed teaching formulas from the history of the Christian Church,–still held in high regard today by the Presbyterian and Congregational churches among others.–RF

Categories: Apologetics, Bible | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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