Christ and the Scriptures, Part I: the Basis of Knowledge

biblecross2

“Because God told me so!” 

In contrast to a contemplative analysis of philosophical systems and the epistemic weighing of evidence, the above statement seems way too elementary to provide a basis for knowledge. However, I think it’s more accurate.

God is Truth. Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is Truth. All Truth comes from Him. The basis of knowledge is God. That means truth exists outside of ourselves. It is not something we can conjure up from within, nor is it something we can attain by taking matters into our own hands. Only God can reveal truth to us.

Since man by nature is alienated from God, it is impossible that he can find truth apart from God. I think that’s pretty much Theology 101, yet sometimes we forget that when it comes to apologetics and our approach to doctrine in general.

In this next series of posts, I will attempt to highlight the relationship between Christology and Bibliology and how that relationship pertains to all other doctrine. I do not expect it to be a perfect foundation that provides the solution to every doctrinal problem. I do, however, think that having the right order in this regard will be pivotal in understanding some current issues. In particular, this will play out significantly in how I approach the Bible version issue.

I want to be very clear at the onset: this is my thinking. That should be obvious seeing how this is my personal blog. But I know the tendency for some is to look at what’s being said and declare, “well, that doesn’t represent  my perspective.” I know that. I’m using this to explain what constituted a shift in my thinking. I do believe that some out there can relate. I hope it is a benefit.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. (ESV)

It is evident from this proverb and a host of other verses of scripture that true knowledge can only start with God. This is not to say that those without God cannot know anything. The laws of universe are governed by God, and upon discovery of said laws, anyone can know some truth. But as we think about how this pertains to Christian doctrine, it must be said that one cannot arrive at Truth on his own. It must be revealed. Al Mohler writes,

“We confess that knowledge is possible, but knowledge of spiritual things is revealed. Without the Word of God we would know nothing of redemption, of Christ, of God’s sovereign provision for us. We would have no true knowledge of ourselves, of our sin, of our hopelessness but for the mercy of Christ. As Professor R. B. Kuiper reminded his students, the most direct, the simplest, and most honest answer to the question, ‘How do you know?’ is this: ‘The Bible tells us so.'” (Dr. Albert R. Mohler, Jr., “Compromise and Confusion in the Churches”)

The article from which the above quote is taken is very in sync with what I am attempting to point out here. Epistemology is important, but humility is taking God at His word whether or not it can be logically proved. Evidence, philosophy, logic, and apologetics all have their place in Christianity. But none form a basis of truth. They can only substantiate that truth.

So for the Christian, it is enough to answer the “how do you know?” question with a simple, “the Bible tells me so.” But I want to take that a step back for a moment. How do you know the Bible is the Word of God?

If we take the evidentialist approach, we end up contradicting Mohler’s “epistemic humility.” In other words, we denied the use of evidential analysis to arrive at our conclusions about Christian doctrine, but we used that very evidential process to arrive at the basis of Christian doctrine. I believe this is inconsistent.

Since this series will eventually enter the realm of the Bible version debate, let me illustrate with an example from Dr. Sam Gipp. Now I know full well that Dr. Gipp is a Ruckmanite. As such, the majority of King James Only advocates who might read this will undoubtedly dismiss this because he represents a version of KJVO that is different than its moderate counterpart. I understand their desire to do so, believe me. But I think Dr. Gipp points out a process that many of us have, at least at one time, held. I know I have.

On The John Ankerberg Show on the Bible version issue, Dr. Gipp articulated his reason for believing the Bible is inspired and  preserved:

1. “picking the Bible above all other books that are called holy books, I accept the Bible academically because of fulfilled prophecy.”

2. “when I give the Bible that inspiration from God, then I take its statements on itself as far as inspiration and preservation.”

3. “now at that point, it’s got to become an argument of faith, not academics. In other words, you’re gonna find places where the King James Bible doesn’t even agree with the Textus Receptus or something like that. So I believe the King James Bible is the preserved Word of God – I don’t call it the inspired Word of God, I call it the preserved Word of God.”

While I admire Dr. Gipp’s zeal, as well as his caution not to call a copy “inspired”, I believe that his logic is backwards. Moreover, this was basically my logic for a while as well. The problem that I see is that he is willing to admit it takes reason and evidence (“academics” as he calls it) to conclude that the Bible is from God. Yet, once he establishes that point, it becomes a matter of faith. In his view, then, academics precedes faith. I argue that faith must precede academics.

The trouble with the above argumentation is that it is man-centered. Man has figured it out on his own. He looked at the evidence – and believe me, it’s amazing evidence! After all, Dr. Gipp singles out just one of the Bible’s amazing qualities: fulfilled prophecy. And looking at such prophecy, he has concluded that the Bible is the Word of God. How can that be? Untold numbers of people have looked at the same evidence to which Dr. Gipp refers. Yet, they didn’t believe. So, what’s the difference? Is Sam Gipp just smarter? Are Christians, in general, just higher intellectuals when it comes to figuring stuff out?

Take a look at this pivotal example:

Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 
14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 
17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

When Jesus took His disciples away to ask them this all-important question, He provides for us the basis of truth. He asked who men are saying He is. The answers are significant. They are not just guesses by the people. They each indicate that thinking and reasoning, arguing and comparing scriptures all went into them.

Why would some say that Christ was John the Baptist? Could it be that, as they looked at the evidence of Jesus preaching repentance and gathering disciples, they were led to believe it? Why would some say that Christ was Elijah? Could is be that, as they looked at the evidence of Christ’s ministry as a possible fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies applied to Elijah, they were led to believe it? Why would some say Christ was Jeremiah? Could it be that, as they looked at the evidence of the Man of Sorrows that they thought He was the Weeping Prophet? They all looked at the same evidence. They all used their minds. They all compared it with scripture. But only one group got it right.

Peter, answering on behalf of the disciples, said it correctly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” What was Jesus’ response? “Well said, Pete. You figured it out. You compared the right Old Testament prophecies to the right evidence in my ministry and that’s why you stand here a Christian. Job well done.” Of course not. He declares that the only reason Peter and the disciples knew the truth was because the revelation of the Father in heaven. In other words, “God told them so!”

And so it should be with us. Admittedly, this thinking works best with a Reformed soteriology. I am willing to dialogue about the “5 points” and such. I still struggle with Limited Atonement. I welcome debate about the true nature of Total Depravity. But the one thing that I will not let slide is the truth that God is the Great Initiator. God acted upon me before I acted upon Him. Say what you will about the system of Calvinism, but this is the one great truth that changes everything. Salvation isn’t truly “of the Lord” until you understand this. God opens hearts. God opens eyes. God raises the dead. God imparts knowledge. It’s all over the scriptures.

Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. (ESV)

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 
45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me (ESV)

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

I John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. (ESV)

We can argue until the cows come home about the details of predestination and things like that, but it is absolutely clear that God initiates salvation, not us. He is not standing in heaven, waiting for someone to be convinced by reason and evidence so that He can do a work. He does a work, period. He is that powerful. Paul spoke about how this relates to evangelism and preaching:

I Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 
19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 
28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 
29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 
30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 
31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The Christian message is, to many today, indeed a stumblingblock and folly. The problem for us is that sometimes we convince ourselves that we can remove that stumblingblock! Only He can do that! Yes, preaching is a means through which the Holy Spirit works. But the determining factor in all of this is completely, totally, and absolutely God. That is why there is no reason to boast in ourselves, but in God only. Greg Bahnsen said, 

“the scripture tells us there were instances of people who witnessed miracles who all the more hardened their heart and eventually crucified the Lord of glory. They saw His miracles. That didn’t change their mind. People are not made theists by miracles. People must change their world-view. Their hearts must be changed; they need to be converted.” Greg Bahnsen, in the Great Debate vs. Gordon Stein

If I spent three hours locked away in a room with Richard Dawkins and refuted every one of his arguments, and convincingly showed him how awesome the Bible really is, would he be saved? Even if he said, at the end of our conversation, “I have no more arguments”, would he be saved? Obviously not. Pontius Pilate found no fault in Christ. King Agrippa found no fault in Paul. Yet, despite the evidence, neither of these men were converted.

I do not believe that Christianity can be proved right. I believe it can be proved not wrong. But not being wrong doesn’t make someone believe. My point is I cannot produce faith in someone else. I cannot produce faith in myself. Faith comes from God alone. When I think about it, it sounds silly to conjure up belief.

However, I believe Christianity can be substantiated. I think that’s the whole point of evidence, reason, philosophy, logic, and apologetics. As I’ve argued before, apologetics is primarily for our benefit. The Bible defies logic at times (raising the dead). The Bible defies science sometimes (the sun standing still). Yet, the supernatural character of the Bible demands that it obeys the laws governed by the One who authored it, that is, the Bible’s defiance of logic and science do not necessitate that either logic or science prove it wrong. In fact, they cannot prove it wrong. Christianity meets all the demands of the disciplines. But again, it stands alone on faith in God.

 “It is impossible and useless to seek to vindicate Christianity as a historical religion by facts only.” (Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics)

“The gospel. . does not cater to rebellious man’s demand for factual signs and logical argumentation that will pass the test of autonomous scrutiny.” (Greg Bahnsen, “Apologetics”, Foundations of Christian Scholarship)

Yet Van Til even quotes B.B. Warfield in saying,  “the Christian faith is not a blind faith but a faith based on evidence.” And he agrees with both Warfield and Charles Hodge: “Christianity meets every legitimate demand of reason” and “is not irrational” but “is capable of rational defense.” (Quotes from Van Til and the Use of Evidence, Thom Notaro.)

Epistemology certainly has its role in substantiating our claims of truth. But the basis of knowledge is and will always be God alone. He can reveal the same truth to you and I who are blessed to have the information superhighway right in front of us as well as to the villager living in a hut disconnected from society. No matter who we are, then, our glory is in the Lord. God truly has “told us so.”

In my next post, I hope to relate this foundation to the relationship between Christology and Bibliology.
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7 comments so far

  1. fundyreformed on

    Good stuff here. I’m eager for the next post.

  2. Dr. Johnson C. Philip on

    You have started a discussion on a very important subject. I hope you will cover it in depth.

    It has been good visiting your blog!

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD
    India

  3. […] Bibliology, Christianity, Christology, Fundamentalism, Jesus, KJVO, Religion, Theology | In my initial post on this subject, I took a step back from the answer, “The Bible tells me so” to […]

  4. […] King James Version of 1611. For more on this (and I do mean more) please check out my series, “Christ and the Scriptures” over at my blog. If a person believes that absolute inerrancy is essential to Christianity […]

  5. […] Christianity stands or falls on biblical inerrancy. For more on that, see what I’ve written here, here, and here. Jesus Christ is the foundation, center, and capstone of what we believe and why we […]

  6. […] Christianity stands or falls on biblical inerrancy. For more on that, see what I’ve written here, here, and here. Jesus Christ is the foundation, center, and capstone of what we believe and why we […]

  7. […] King James Version of 1611. For more on this (and I do mean more) please check out my series, “Christ and the Scriptures” over at my blog. If a person believes that absolute inerrancy is essential to Christianity […]


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