External sources vs. Biblical sources

The following question was posed to Ken on internal vs. external evidence.

Question:

During your teaching time, you stated that the seeds of authenticity (of the bible) are found not outside, but inside (the bible). Also, I believe you stated to me that it is unnecessary and even destructive to attempt to validate scripture and God's truth using sources outside of the bible itself (such as apologetics). If you have time, do you mind clarifying for me the reasons for this?

Answer:

We could have a long discussion on this topic, but I believe Dr. Grier addresses it more thoroughly in some of his lectures.

In a nutshell, here is the threefold line of reasoning that I would appeal to.

First, the Bible says that God's word is truth. Also, God says in Isaiah that there is no other god to whom you can compare him. In other words, he is the source (author) of all truth, including the witness of creation itself; therefore, there is only ONE universal consistent body of truth, as there is only ONE God. The Bible says in Romans and Corinthians that the natural mind of man is not only unable to discern truth reliably but is also is predisposed to believe any lie. So how can a natural man correctly interpret any data in creation outside of God's self-revelation in his word and the Spirit who gives life and wisdom through it?

Second, if you have any external source that validates that the Bible is true (such as Josephus, scientific "evidence", or reason) then that source is more ultimate and reliable than the Bible itself. Jesus said that "My words will judge you," not vice versa. God himself validates his word; by what means do you validate that the "external source" is giving reliable truth and not deception?

Third, even for a believer, if you establish a pattern of using external sources to even give more confidence in the reliability of the written word of God, then later you will have problems when all of the observable evidence appears to contradict that word. For example, all of the external evidence says that there is no resurrection from the dead. Yet, the Bible claims that there is, and we accept its witness. How do you argue from "probability" and observable data when all of the contrary available evidence goes "beyond a reasonable doubt?" Frankly, I believe that's why there is so little confidence among believers today that the Bible is true and reliable in everything it says. We have been taught that it is "not a science textbook," yet if it is not, doesn't that remove God from his creation and make him accountable to man's reason?

Thank you.

Ken

Comments

Amen to that! What distinguishes the faith of the eglesia from that of all others is its accountability to God ultimately, without ever turning around to demand it of Him. I realize all things are subject to Him, and as Job so well portrays, His ways and Word are answerable to no one other than Himself. He owes creation nothing, being the uttermost source and owner of all things. In my experience, it is only when this perspective is strayed from that I ever begin to question what is appropriate for God to do to man. Yet if I trusted modern evangelical literature on a level with scripture itself, the purported motivation for saving souls from a context of man's universal potential to seek God would keep me from accepting His direct decree of all things that have been or will ever be. And if God is not supremely authoritative in all things, then there is more than one God and the two or more gods are in contention over creation.

Isn't reasoning an inescapable part of the process? If we have to appeal to "a threefold line of reasoning" for our understanding of the Bible's truth, and then in that, come to the conclusion that we must reject reason as a valid support for understanding that the Bible is true, your second point then seems contradictory to some degree. So, I'm not sure I'm following you. I guess I'll have to listen to the Dr. Grier talks.

Every investigation of truth will involve the application of some kind of method. What method are you advocating?
When LDS missionaries knock on our door and ask us read the book of Mormon, and then decide on its truthfulness based on the a feeling in our chest, without a shred or archeological evidence for the civilizations described within the book... I think it wise to go with the method that includes things like evidence and reason.

I agree, when it comes to the Jesus, we will all rebel and no one will come to the truth apart from God first intervening and carrying it through. That does not mean that God intervenes to help us believe something that goes against rationality or evidence.

Faith is more than knowledge, and it is more than intellectual accent, but it is not less than these things. The opposite of Faith is credulity and superstition.

1 Peter 3:15
Brad

Hi Brad,
if I may, consider that there is a difference between God's Word being inherently reasonable and believing in the Word because it is reasonable.

It's true that reason is inescapable. Whenever a believer proclaims the message of Christ, he is being reasonable because the Truth of God's Word in intrinsically reasonable. The sharing of the Gospel with someone is "reasoning" with them by the very nature of the content. The unbeliever, however, is intrinsically unreasonable even as they attempt to "reason" away your message of Christ. They are essentially insane in the midst of their belief of lies.

But the fact that God's Word is reasonable does not lay a proper foundation for producing belief in a person. Belief is an indicator of the 'life status' in a person. If they are believing God's word, they are in a state of 'eternal life'. If not, their state is death.

That said, a dead person is in a state of inability. Paul says in 1 Cor 2 that an unbeliever will assess the reasonableness of spiritual truths as foolishness.

When you're presenting the truth of God to someone, it isn't your ability to reason which eventually persuades them to believe (as though reasoning is an optional tactic you may use in a Gospel presentation). Instead, your presenting Truth to them is reasoning by it's very nature. What will eventually lay the foundation for belief in them is solely the work of the Spirit to produce the status of 'eternal life' in them [through giving them new birth having heard the Truth] .... at which point they will discover they believe God's word and will suddenly agree with you on how reasonable it is. And they may even wonder why they couldn't see how it all made sense before. The reason is, they had to be made spiritually alive first.

Russ

Thank you Russ for an excellent "reasoned" argument regarding the nature of the mind.

The problem is that God, his word and his revelation in nature are all reasonable, but the natural mind of man is not. If man's mind were truly reasonable and trustworthy to make logical decisions, then he would never "choose" unbelief because it is not reasonable, being only the result of aggressive rebellion of his dead spirit against the truth. Further, he would never sin, because sin is not reasonable either. He knows that all sin results in death, but he convinces himself against all reason that it is not so. Witness Adam and Eve, or even Congressman Anthony Weiner in his current distress. The problem, as Jeremiah so well said of Israel, is that "She did not consider her future."

The notion that a darkened mind can be "pursuaded" into believing the truth is a fiction of the Enlightenment, from which we are still suffering. The Bible says that God's Spirit has to supernaturally work new birth before the truth of his word can be appropriated by the mind.

There was an interesting political commentary recently that I heard that spoke truth very powerfully. The commentator said of a person in government that "He cannot concur with the logic of that position because his belief system does not accept it." In other words, what I believe (spirit) controls how I think about things (mind.) What a statement of truth!

That last reply was mine.

Ken

I can see the apparent problem created if we say that reason cannot produce belief alongside saying that faith and scripture are reasonable and through them God produces belief in a person. A passage comes to mind with regard to the subject:

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [t]man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

Russ pointed out in the following chapter that natural man sees scripture as foolishness, so that even the most knowledgeable scholars who consider themselves the most reasonable, the most intellectual, and the most open minded at the same time utterly disdain the Word of God. If His Word is reasonable, which we agree it is, then how can reasonable men reject it unless reason cannot be a deciding factor in whether scripture is believed? That is why I understand chapter 1 to be indicating that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; in order to prove this very point and show Himself to be the author of our belief from start to finish.

If two people hear the same gospel of Christ and one believes it while the other rejects it, why did the second reject it?
A scenario worth considering which I encountered recently:

If it is to be assumed that God's intervention was not the active determinant, the popular idea is that the decision originated internally. Yet if it is sinful to reject the gospel, does that mean the first hearer was more inherently righteous than the second to have made the right choice while the second did not? And if so, how far from heretical is it to suppose that anyone is inherently more righteous than another while yet apart from God?

Thank you Joshua. Another angle on this is prompted by Paul's statements on faith like Heb 11:6 "without faith it is impossible to please God" and Rom 14:23 "everything that does not come from faith is sin". Isn't an unbeliever inherently faithless? He afterall is an un-believer, being unsaved because he has no faith. What then would an un-believer use to generate a 'reasonable' choice to believe God and be saved? Whatever it might be would be sinful as Paul clarifies. Are we to believe God grants eternal life to unbelievers on the basis of a reasonable yet sinful choice? The Scripure does not bear this out. Instead it is clear (as you point out): The unbeliever is in a state of perennial faithlessness and thus, a bondage to sin. We further know he thinks all is well and loves the darkness in which he languishes. He is inherently unreasonable. The truth to him is foolishness. Eternal life must be founded in something other than his ability to reason to a right conclusion. Nevertheless, if he is ever to possess eternal life it must come through the hearing of the (reasonable) truth of Christ (Rom 10:17) as empowered by the Spirit (Jn 3:5) and decreed from eternity by the Father (Ja 1, Eph 1, etc).