Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Scripture Answers the Primary Question

One of the bonuses of living so long after the written revelation of God has ceased (c. AD70) is that we have the benefit of almost two thousand years theological distillation through great minds and massive intellects of men seeking to formulate creeds and confessions to counter, from Scripture alone, false philosophies of fallen men.

To be sure the Church (as seen over and over in Scripture itself) does not always follow the clear teaching of Scripture! E.g., Galileo got into trouble for teaching a view of our solar system that was contrary to the geocentric Ptolemaic model of creation and the Aristotelian sciences of physics and biology etc. that many adhered to in those days. Galileo, perfectly in line with Scripture, wanted to publish that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around! Regarding the Galileo issue Thomas Schirrmacher says,

"Galileo was a scientist who believed in the trustworthiness of the Bible and sought to show that the Copernican (heliocentric) system was compatible with it. He was fighting against the contemporary principles of Bible interpretation which, blinded by Aristotelian philosophy, did not do justice to the biblical text. Galileo was not blamed for criticising the Bible but for disobeying papal orders."

Whether some church leaders wanted to stifle his views or whether they merely wanted to temporarily delay his publication is for the historians to sort out. However, this example ought to alert us to the danger of adhering to philosophies and cosmologies that ignore the clear teaching of the revelation of God in Scripture!

For the Christian the primary question itself, the answer to this question (and all divisions of the answer) must be tested against God speaking in the whole of Scripture. Thus, for the Christian, it is as the Lord says through His prophet Isaiah, ‘To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20.

The Christian doesn’t pick and choose which bits of the Bible are true, but holds fast to the doctrine of inspiration, which is to say that the whole Bible is the inspired Word of God. As one exhales as one speaks, so Scripture is the out-breathed revelation of God inscripturated. With EJ Young we believe that the word ‘inspired’ – with its idea of breathing-in – creates an inaccurate picture of that given in the original Greek of the following verse of Scripture: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.’ 2 Timothy 3:16. Says EJ Young,

"If then the Scriptures are breathed out by God, it is clear that they find their origin in Him. Indeed, the language of the Apostle is but a vigorous way of stating and asserting the Divine origin of these Scriptures. They did not come into existence because men of genius in moments of inspiration composed them. They did not arise because God chose the best that men had written and then imparted to this best somewhat of the Divine. They did not come into being because the ideas which they contained were somehow ideas of which God approved. Not in any of the above-mentioned ways did the Bible have its origin. The Scriptures came into existence in an utterly unique way. They, and they alone of all writings, were breathed out of the mouth of God. Could words be found to make clearer the Divine origin of the Bible?

"What Paul has written to Timothy must be set in sharp contrast with what is often said today about the origin of the Scripture. Modern theories of inspiration wish more and more to give a larger place to the activity of man and a lesser place to that of God. In many modern theories, the role which God plays is comparatively minor. One sometimes receives the impression that God is really not at all necessary to inspiration. How different is the language of Paul! And if Paul is correct, how different are the Scriptures! First and foremost in our study of the Scriptural doctrine of inspiration we must vigorously assert the fact that Scripture regards itself as God-breathed." Thus EJ Young.

Don’t miss the important point made by EJ Young in his final sentence that ‘Scripture regards itself as God-breathed.’ Indeed, just as the Christian listens to what Scripture has to say about itself, so he listens to what it has to say about everything else. Because Scripture is truth it is truth’s interpreter.

At this juncture let us note that interpreting truth or facts or evidence directly relates with how we interpret Scripture. For example, the Materialist who denies the supernatural denies God. Therefore the Naturalist – operating with his Materialistic prior assumptions – denies that the Bible is God’s Word, i.e., that it is God’s revelation of Himself to man. Needless to say, this directly affects how the Materialist interprets Scripture itself, the world, and the things in it. To the Atheist Scripture answers nothing because, based upon his presuppositions, God does not exist.

Rejecting all revelation of God because God and revelation do not fit with his worldview, the Atheist refuses to let Scripture answer the primary question. He rejects God and His revelation because he doesn’t want his supposed autonomy from God to be restricted in any way. He alone wants to be the measure of reality. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden when they rebelled against God, he wants to interpret reality according to his own terms, i.e., without God. He wants to make his own reality. Thus the Atheist suppresses the truth of God whether written or through the things God has made. The Atheist will be his own interpreter thank you! However, interpretation has to do with meaning. Says John Blanchard,

"The meaning, or meaninglessness, of life is closely tied in with the question of the existence or non-existence of God. Ludwig Wittgenstein declared, ‘To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning,’ while atheism and meaninglessness are a perfect fit. This explains why there are many for whom denying that life has any ultimate meaning or purpose is not an intellectual conviction based on credible evidence, but a convenient way of dispensing with a God whose demands clash with their chosen lifestyle.

"Nobody has made a clearer admission of this than Aldous Huxley. Looking back on his early days, he wrote, ‘I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know... Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless ... For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.’

"His honest confession of intellectual dishonesty is very significant. It shows that in order to embrace the idea of meaninglessness he had to stifle his natural intuition; he realized that meaning implied morality and that as he preferred immorality, meaning must go." Thus Blanchard.

Scripture satisfactorily answers the primary question. However, it does so on the following proviso and set of conditions: ‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ Hebrews 11:6. Because the believer is diligently seeking God he sees the evidence of God in everything He has made. But the unbeliever interprets the same evidence in a different way simply because he is attempting to keep God out of the picture. The opposite of seeking God is fleeing Him.

With God in mind, were the believer and the unbeliever to attempt a little ‘what if?’ experiment by standing in each other’s shoes while looking at the stars in the night sky and asking, ‘How did it all get here? How did I get here?’ then the unbeliever would have his questions answered and the believer would be left trying to deny that anything came into being by supernatural means – against what he knows in his heart to be true.

The Hubble Telescope is very useful, but Scripture is invaluable for discovering our origins. Thus Scripture answers the primary question because it is the tool of interpretation given us by the One who made the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them, including you and me. All we have to do is to let Scripture speak for itself – and listen.

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