Monday, January 23, 2017


For one thing, apologetics, the defense of the faith, is not an option. Instead, we are commanded to make a defense for the faith:

  • But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [“apologia” in the Greek] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Moses knew that he had to make a defense for the faith once he’d return to the Israelites, claiming that God had sent him to lead the His people out of bondage in Egypt:

·       Then Moses answered, “But behold, they [the Israelites] will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.  But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Exodus 4:1-9)

The LORD (“Yahweh”) did not tell Moses, “Just tell those Israelites to believe!” In fact, the Bible never asks us to believe without evidence, without reasons to believe. The Bible never tells us to close our minds in order to experience God. Instead, it tells us to love the Lord with all of our minds.

The Pharisees had tested Jesus by asking Him, “Which is the greatest commandment?”

·       And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

We are not to turn off our minds in order to get close to God or to experience Him. Instead, we are to turn our God-given minds up to their highest setting possible to receive everything that God wants to give us. He wants to give us understanding and reasons to believe – evidences. This is what He had given to Moses so that the people would believe.

It is these reasons that had become the basis for their faith. Forty years later, Moses reminded Israel of what they had seen:

·       “Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power.” (Deuteronomy 4:33-37)

Faith is not a leap into the darkness but an embrace of the light of truth. Is it different now in New Testament times? Does God no longer give us a rational basis for our faith?

Certainly not! Jesus performed miracles and prophesied about what would soon happen so that His disciples would believe:

·       “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” (John 14:28-29)

Jesus didn’t tell them, “Just believe,” but He provided them with an evidential foundation for their faith. We need an evidential foundation, especially as we go through trials. John the Baptist experienced as crisis of faith after he was thrown into jail. He therefore sent his disciples to Jesus to find out if He is really the Messiah.

This might seem surprising to us. John had been Israel’s greatest prophet. He had even seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove. He had proclaimed about Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” How could he now doubt? Wasn’t he above doubt? No! He too needed evidential reasurances.

And what did Jesus tell John’s disciples? Did He tell them:

·       Go tell John, “Just believe. He already has enough reasons to believe?”

No! Instead, He provided more reasons to believe:

·       And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matthew 11:4-5)

Above all, we need to have confidence that the Bible is the very Words of God,
How can we face the world with the confidence and the boldness we need if we can’t be confident about the basis of our faith! We can’t! Before I went to seminary, I had subscribed to “Biblical Archeology Review” (BAR).  Many of the authors wrote approvingly of the “Wellhausen Hypothesis”– a radical theory of how the Hebrew Scriptures were humanly assembled by cutting-and-pasting from pre-existing manuscripts. The contributors to BAR seemed to be so confident about their working theory that they didn’t even bother to provide any evidence for it.

I was troubled but decided that I would lock my doubts away, pushing them back into a crevice of my mind until, perhaps, I might have the tools to critically examine them. However, this strategy didn’t work. The doubts that this theory had provoked interfered with both my reading of Scripture and my faith. Consequently, I read the Bible less and with less excitement. The doubt that the Bible might merely be a human creation festered in the back of my mind.

Fortunately, I was struck down with a bad back for several months. Meanwhile, someone gave me a copy of Gleason Archer’s “Survey of Old Testament Introductions.” Although it was one of the driest texts I’ve ever read, I cried my way through it. Archer dealt conclusively with the “Wellhausen Hypothesis” and restored my Bible back to me, as if Jesus Himself had been restored.

I think that it is inevitable that without understanding the rational foundations of the faith and without knowing how to critique the challenges, our faith and life will suffer.

We all experience challenges that come against our faith. The Apostle Peter warned:

·       Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Our Lord allows these trials for a reason. For one thing, they prepare us for His return by creating within us a deep longing for His return.

No comments:

Post a Comment