What I Believe: Begin with the Basics

As a father and grandfather, I am intrigued as I watch my children and grandchildren grow. However, I am troubled by certain things I see in them, particularly in matters of faith and belief. Granted, my kids have grown up in an era of situational morality, multiculturalism, political correctness and “tolerance” for all viewpoints except the one that holds there are absolute standards against which all human behavior is to be judged. My fear is my children have absorbed so much of this cultural mindset that they have lost their way. But my concern is also for my neighbors, the citizens of this nation and indeed, those who are searching for light in a world of darkness.

As the patriarch of my clan (it’s true: as the eldest male in my immediate family, I can legitimately make that claim), I still hold a certain amount of responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of those who belong to it. As one who claims Jesus Christ as my Lord, I am obligated to the world, but most particularly to those whose lives I may touch on a day-to-day basis. I seek to persuade my family who come after me, and I can make sure they have no misunderstanding about what I believe. I choose to share my thoughts in this public venue in the hope that I can encourage others to examine their beliefs and arrive at the truth. Intellectual and spiritual laziness and cowardice spell doom; know what you believe, make sure it’s true, be bold in proclaiming it, and do not be afraid to subject it to honest examination and debate. If it is true, it will withstand questions; if it is not, be honest and humble enough to learn the truth and change your thinking. It’s what I have to keep reminding myself every day.

BASIC BELIEF #1: THE BIBLE IS ACCURATE AND COMPLETE, AND IS THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD

I have heard arguments over the years by people who want to “cherry pick” the Bible. The arguments usually go something like this: “Well, I’m not sure I believe everything the Bible says. All those stories in the Old Testament can’t really be true; they’re just legends and stories. And I don’t accept everything that Paul says; a lot of what he wrote only applied to the culture at that time, and besides, he was a patriarchal chauvinist. Really, as long as we love one another and treat each other well, that’s all that’s important. I mean, God is love, and he’s not going to condemn anybody. There’s really no such thing as Hell, is there?”

Most of that may be overstatement, and I apologize if it seems intellectually dishonest. I don’t want to create straw men just to win an argument. But the fact is that people question parts of the Bible as not being 100% mean-what-it-says-and says-what-it-means true. They question the 24 hour “days” of Genesis, or whether there was actually a world-wide flood, among other things. They search for inconsistencies, exceptions and loopholes to prove that the Bible can’t possibly be true. Yet, at the same time, they take the parts that seem to support their particular belief system and hold them up as absolutely unassailable.

There are two fundamental beliefs that must form the foundation of a Christian worldview. First, there exists an absolute standard by which all human standards are to be judged. Second, the Bible is complete, accurate and consistent, and is God’s revealed truth about Himself and His expectations of us. If both of these statements are not true, then Christianity becomes just another fruitless exercise in human philosophy.

C.S. Lewis, in his work Mere Christianity, begins by building the case for an external standard of behavior and morality. His contention is that even among those who do not profess to be Christian there is an understanding that evaluation of any belief must be based upon some standard that exists outside of the belief itself in order to prove its truth or falsity.

Even those who claim that all beliefs are equally valid inadvertently refute their own argument. By rejecting belief in absolute truth because it is somehow “wrong”, “intolerant” or “evil”, they imply the existence of some standard of “good” and “evil” as a basis of comparison. If there is no external standard of morality, the  situational ethics proponent is simply making his own value judgment, and by his own argument, it is no more valid than belief in an absolute standard. However, if belief in an absolute standard has validity, it negates any possibility of situational morality. If there is no agreement on the existence of an absolute standard, further discussion is simply an argument of opinions, neither of which carries any more weight than the other.

The second foundational point is that the Bible is complete, consistent, accurate and is the literal word of God. Among people who don’t outright reject the Bible, many consider it to be a nonbinding guide to getting along in life, or a book full of entertaining stories, or God telling us that he just wants us to always be happy. Even among those claiming to be followers of Christ there is a questioning, or sometimes outright rejection, of the Bible as the literal word of God. They take as much of the Bible as conveniently fits into the way they want to live their lives; just enough to justify their choices or validate their beliefs, but not enough to place any demands on them.

However, the Bible disallows intellectual dishonesty of this sort. The Bible make demands upon its reader, and allows very little in the way of interpretation. It claims to be the inerrant revealed word of God, the exclusive portrait of God and a very explicit outlining of the way of life necessary to be pleasing to Him. The Bible demands we accept it at face value or not at all. Dr. Brad Harrub, Ph.D, co-founder of Focus Press and co-editor of Think magazine, made this statement: if a person is unwilling to accept the accuracy of the Genesis creation account, then there is no need for further discussion. Either every part of the Bible is consistent, accurate, truthful and reliable, or none of it is. If you reject any part of it, like the creation account, for example,  how can you honestly claim consistency, accuracy, truthfulness and reliability for the parts you do accept? The Bible must be taken in its entirety, or rejected completely.

The argument has been made that because the Bible was written by fallible human writers over several centuries and in several different locales, there must be some errors in the Scriptures. Critics have claimed to have found inconsistencies which prove that the Bible cannot be inspired. However, a careful study of the Bible shows a remarkable consistency of message in spite of having a multitude of authors, and having been written over hundreds of  years and miles. It stands to reason that a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful would have the ability to assure that a written testimony about Himself would be completely accurate and consistent.

There is the question of certain writings which were rejected when the canon (the accepted books which make up the Bible) was established. Even now, there are a myriad of books about “lost gospels” which brings into question the completeness and accuracy of the Bible. When read in its entirety, the Bible does not contradict itself. So my question would be this: if these so-called “lost gospels” agree with the accepted writings of the Bible, what is lost by their not being included? However, if they present something different, the Bible itself answers: “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal. 1:9, NIV)

I fear my defense is poorly made, but I hope is nonetheless understood. The basis of  Christian belief begins with the acknowledgement that there is a God who exists, who in His very being is the living standard of goodness, holiness and love. Because he is righteous, good and holy, he has the authority and right to establish strict requirements for being in relationship with him.  He has chosen to communicate information about Himself and what He wants from us through the written word produced by human writers under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This written message remained consistent through the centuries it took to produce the written Word we have today. Because of the consistency and inerrancy of its message, the Bible allows only two alternatives: take it whole or reject it completely. The message of the Bible is meant to be taken literally and completely, because it is just as applicable today as when it was written.

 

About cjsrn

A native born Michigander who is merely passing through on the way Home.
This entry was posted in Christianity. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s