3/26/2008

Can We Trust What Our Hearts Tell Us About the Bible?

Do we always need complicated historical arguments for the Bible? Do we have to prove that the Bible is God’s Word to everyone?

While I do think there are good reasons why we can trust our Bibles (see here), I do not think all people need this kind of persuasion.

The gospels are the Word of God written by men empowered by the Holy Spirit to write directly and forcefully. In John 14:26 and 16:13-14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit’s presence to help the Apostles remember His teaching. This power is evident in the writings themselves. One church historian puts it like this:
"They carry about them a self-evidencing quality. They carry their
uniqueness on their face. They have always exercised, and still exercise,
an unparalleled power upon the lives of men." (Bruce L. Shelley. 1995. Church history in plain language, Second edition. Dallas, Texas: Word
Publishing. p. 61)
This self-evidencing quality lead Charles Spurgeon to say that we do not defend the Bible in the same way we do not defend a roaring lion, the lion can fend for itself.

Another perspective, given by a modern theologian, is also instructive. Wayne Grudem says, “It has been the testimony of Christians throughout the ages that as they read the books of the Bible, the words of Scripture speak to their hearts as no other books do” (Wayne Grudem. 1994, 2000. Systematic theology. Joint Published by Great Britan: InterVarsity Press and Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishering House, p. 66).

This is important to recognize because many Christians accept the Bible on this basis alone. They never seek to understand the evidence from history. This is not the best approach to understanding the gospels, but it would be wrong to say that these Christians accept the gospels without evidence. They find their evidence in the words themselves.

5 comments:

Steve Newell said...

We cannot trust our hearts since our hearts are naturally evil. The historic nature of the Bible provides are a means that we can place trust in the Bible since Christianity is based on specific historic events. The Gospel writers were very careful in placing the historic context to the story of Christ.

I believe the Bible because Christ said that I could. Many believe in Christ because they first believe in the Bible. This is incorrect order since if one's "faith" in the bible is effected when they learn how we have the bible, will it affect their faith in Christ. Bart Ehrman is an example of this. Mr. Erhman has a simplistic understanding of the Bible as a young man. When he learned how get got our Bible, his faith the Christ was adversely affected where he rejected the Faith.

The lack of knowledge of the Bible including how we got our modern translations is a black mark on many Churches that refuse to properly instruct those in their care.

At my church, our pastor,who has been there only 1 1/2 years realized that many of the new members that are joining don't have a properly biblical foundation. The church has started a three year Adult education program. Year One is the people, places and words of the Bible. Year Two is doctrine (Study of Romans). Year Three is the practice and mission of the Church.

J. K. Jones said...

Steven,

Good to have you leave another comment! Hope you are doing well.

Please note that I said in the post that the feelings of the heart are not the best approach. The best approach is a sound apologetic with sound historical reasons which moves from the Bible as good history, to the message and miracles of Christ as told in the Bible, to faith in Christ, and then trust in what He taught about the Bible.

Please read my post here:

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/2007/05/linear-argument-showing-bible-to-be.html

I am glad to hear of the efforts your church is making.

One little bone to pick:

“We cannot trust our hearts since our hearts are naturally evil.”

A person who has been given a new heart by God has a heart that is inclined to Christ. In a certain sense he is longer totally depraved.

He will be convinced of the truths of the Bible, the doctrines of Christianity. Some people are convinced by intuition and the majesty and power of the Bible’s words. They are convinced because they are given a new heart, but they are convinced. They exercise their intellect and will to accept Christ and His gospel.

J. K.

L P Cruz said...

Thanks for the reminder on the historic nature of the Bible, in fact I have a friend who is witnessing to a friend who happens to be skeptical about the contents of the Bible, that it was just written by men. So she does not trust it.

I guess there is another angle here and that is first and foremost, in order to trust a report, does it reflect eye witness accounts.

I could use that and tell my friend about that.

LPC

Steve Newell said...

JK,

We still remain sinful people. Our heart is still corrupted by sin. If we really on our heart, we are using a subjective basis for our belief.

The use of the subjective over the objective as a basis of belief places the focus on the individual not on Christ.

J. K. Jones said...

Steven,

I think you are miss-understanding the what I am saying. Of course there are objective reasons for faith. I hope you have been reading my blog enough to know I believe that.

Of course a person must be born again from above to believe in Christ. That is what produces saving faith.

No one can know any truth about God apart from either natural revelation (what we see in nature) or special revelation (what we see in the Bible). But not everyone can articulate the logical and consistent arguments. We should express those arguments as effectively and persuasively as possible. We should educate others in them to strengthen the faith of Christians and to “shut the mouths of the obstreperous” (John Calvin).

[And I think the traditional arguments for God’s existence are conclusive. They really prove what we are trying to prove.]

I had a student in my Sunday School class one time express the reason why he believed in God. He is a deer hunter, and he says he believes in God because of what he sees each morning while sitting in a deer stand. He watches the sun come up, he hears the birds sing, he sees the detail in the leaves of the trees, he watches the squirrels easily jump from limb to limb in the trees. He said, “How can anyone see all that and not believe in God.” Could he express the teleological argument clearly? Could he express the ontological / cosmological argument? No. Did he have clear intellectual reasons to believe? Yes!

[By the way, he can now express the arguments listed above. I taught them to him and the others in the class. Does he use the “five dollar words?” No, but he can cover the bases of the kalam cosmological argument.]

Another student in my class began to read through the Bible after I challenged him to. He skipped a few of the books because I had given him an outline from R. C. Sproul’s book “Knowing Scripture” that gave him the “big picture overview.”

He came to the Youth Minister after doing that. He said to him, “I had always been taught that the Bible was the Word of God, now I believe it for myself. When I read the words, I just know.” Was he able to clearly articulate a linear argument for the Bible as God’s Word? No. He had heard me give it, but he just didn’t follow. [I tried to make it simpler the next time, but he was already in another class.]

Did he have reasons to believe? Yes. I talked to him soon after he talked to our youth minister. He knew that he was reading a true story told by real people. He had read many made-up stories and fairy tails, and he could tell the difference. Christ’s teaching spoke to his heart in a unique way. He had reasons to believe.

This is what I mean by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. The Word of God carries it’s own authority that is recognized by a regenerate person, a person with a new heart.

This really is a form of objective evidence in the technical sense. It is something outside the person that is recognized. This evidence would be recognized by anyone who read the book if they did not “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1).

I think you will find this expressed in the writings of Luther, Calvin, and others. I’ll leave you with this:

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1:

"IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. [This is where the argument comes in, by the way. – JK] And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."

For the record, I follow the school of classical apologetics, and I am a product of John H. Gerstner and R. C. Sproul. What I am talking about is not opposed to what they teach.

See you,

JK

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