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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

 

Apr 26, 2018

In this episode, Brother Jonathan talks about "god" concepts, special revelation, has God revealed Himself, how are we to verify world religions, and the linchpin question on which it all hangs.

 

From “god” to God

S2EP8

Remnant Bible Fellowship

 

  1. Introduction
    1. In this episode, we’re building off what I had talked about in the episode “One Good Reason to Believe” a few episodes back. We took a couple of weeks off to go over the general resurrection, and now we’re returning back to our 3-part series. I will restate what that was going to consist of:
      1. From origins to God. By “origins” I meant the discussion of how we got here, and by “God” I simply meant a general understanding of a god concept. I argued this point in the last episode mainly using logical and philosophical arguments. I mainly argued from the Biblical Creationist worldview: that which belongs to a Christian.
      2. From “god” to the God of the Bible. In this episode I’m going to argue that it is the God of the Bible who distinguishes Himself apart from all other god concepts in the world in a way that makes belief in the God of the Bible justifiable. This is going to be pretty short because I believe the definitive point for deciding this issue will be in the third episode.
  • Defending the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, i.e. “the Gospel”. In the next episode I will argue for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a historical event, and therefore making it justifiable to believe it. I will plan to argue this point using the minimal facts. That is, I will mainly use the data/evidence that is accepted by critical scholars. By scholars, I mean those that have degrees in the appropriate field to speak about the subject matter. If someone has a degree in biology, then they don’t have the authority to be a source in the discussion of God. It’s outside their field unless they cite someone who has studied it. Using the minimal facts method I will take the evidence that is accepted even by atheistic and agnostic New Testament scholars and show that even with the limited evidence the resurrection of Jesus Christ should be considered a historical event.
  1. It’s important to emphasize that if you haven’t listened to the first episode I did—“One Good Reason to Believe—then you shouldn’t listen to this one yet. I’m going to be talking with the assumption that you have listened to that one. I’m going to be referring to terms and ideas that I first talked about there. We’re building off of that episode in this one, and it’s not really going to make sense independent of that one unless you are familiar with the subject matter already.
  2. Some people are not going to like how I deal with things in this episode. That’s inevitable. But you have no right to assert something to the contrary unless you can answer the problems that I point out and refute the reasons and data that I give in support my arguments. Sometimes people want to reject a conclusion without dealing with the evidence and arguments that support it. All this shows is that, contrary to what they may claim, they really don’t care about evidence at all. A lot of people have made an a priori commitment to something and there’s nothing that can dissuade them of it.
  3. In the preceding episode, I argued for the impossibility of the opposing worldviews. I’ll be using the same standards at some point in this episode.
  1. The Three Criteria from Last Episode
    1. Let me reiterate the three criteria that we used to examine worldviews last episode.
      1. Arbitrariness
        1. If a worldview is arbitrary, or it gives no reason to believe it, then you literally have no reason to believe it. It is just someone’s opinion and nothing more. The problem question for something that is arbitrarily stated is, “why?” Something that is arbitrary cannot give a justifiable reason to believe it.
      2. Internal Consistency
        1. If a system of thought, a worldview, which includes religions, is internally inconsistent, then it cannot be true. Now we’re not talking about apparent contradictions. I’m talking about actual contradictions. Reality bears witness to consistency and therefore if a system of thought doesn’t then it cannot be true.
  • The Preconditions of Intelligibility
    1. These are those things that are necessary for knowledge to exist. It is a great long list, but we only focused on a few things in the last episode. These are things like the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature and the inductive principle, the reliability of memory, the reliability of our senses, etc.
  1. These points were described and elaborated on in detail in the previous episode. That’s why you need to have listened to that one first.
  • God Concepts
    1. There are many different concepts of “god”. Some say that He is an impersonal force. Some say that He is a man who ascended to be enlightened. Others say that He is a she who is synonymous with nature. There are a whole bunch of ideas that people have about “god”. How is it that we break them down?
    2. I believe that we can ultimately break all concepts of “god” down into groups:
      1. Those that claim to be based on special revelation.
      2. Those not claiming to be based on special revelation.
    3. Special revelation is what it is referred to when God directly communicates with, or reveals Himself to, mankind. It could be a vision, or the communicating of scriptures. Any of that falls under the category of special revelation.
    4. There is a question that comes up about this issue though. Can we count on God having revealed Himself? Some try to make this a big, long, drawn-out issue, but I think that that is a needless discussion. The fact of the matter is this: If God hadn’t revealed Himself then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. If God had not intentionally put something of Himself in the created universe to be discovered, then it never would’ve occurred to us that He existed. Since there are so many different “god” concepts in the world, it stands to reason that God has put plenty of stuff out there for people to find Him. You really don’t have to think too hard about it to come to that conclusion. I basically pass over this issue and leave you one challenge: when you absolutely refute all already established “god” concepts, while meeting the three criteria of being non-arbitrary, internally consistent, and providing the preconditions of intelligibility, then we can have that discussion. Unless someone has disproven all world religions they have no basis to even ask the question.
  1. Those not based on Special Revelation
    1. So let’s discuss the first group of “god” concepts. There are those that are not based on a special revelation. In these there is no founder who had “god” reveal himself in some special way to them. There is no beginning vision or inspired writing to base them on.
    2. What you should immediately realize about this group is that they are purely arbitrary. If a concept of “god” is not based on some form of evidence, or objectively verifiable argument of some kind, then it is by definition arbitrary. It then gives you no reason to believe it.
    3. Deism falls under this category. Deism is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as, “the belief or system of religious opinions of those who acknowledge the existence of one God, but deny revelation: or deism is the belief in natural religion only, or those truths, in doctrine and practice, which man is to discover by the light of reason, independent and exclusive of any revelation from God. Hence deism implies infidelity or a disbelief in the divine origin of the scriptures.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) Pretty much, deism is saying, “Yeah, I believe in God. I just don’t believe in organized religion.” Or, it could also be stated, “I believe in a god, but I don’t believe that we can know him or that he has revealed himself to us in any way.”
    4. The question that naturally follows that statement is, how do you know that? Deism is purely arbitrary. How is it that you can assert what “god” has or has not done unless he has revealed himself to man? It is conjecture, speculation, and opinion: and nothing else. What most people don’t realize is that deists are usually naturalists or empiricists. Neither of which concept is logically defensible. In my experience, deists are practical atheists or agnostics who don’t want to have to defend their beliefs. They side-step the issue of higher accountability by denying that it is knowable for no reason at all. The same people cannot usually accurately describe Christianity at all. When they do, it usually comes with the same arguments that you get from atheists: which shows where their belief system is actually rooted.
    5. Deism is sometimes touted as an argument against the presuppositional argument from our last episode. The argument goes like this, “You don’t need the Bible to describe God to you in order to meet the logical needs of internal consistency, non-arbitrariness, and providing the preconditions of intelligibility. All you have to do is fill in the gaps with a “god” concept.” This “god of the gaps” mindset, and this whole rebuttal to the presuppositional argument, is completely arbitrary. In essence it says, “Make up what you need to in order to account for things.” That’s the definition of arbitrariness. In reality, it’s actually idolatry. You make up a god to suit your own needs. That’s the same mindset of evolutionists who use the blind watchmaker analogy. If they have a need to explain something, they say evolution did it. It’s actually a fallacy also. It’s the fallacy of reification. Evolution can’t “do” anything because it is a concept. They apply a concrete to an abstraction. That’s a separate matter though.
  2. Those based on Special Revelation
    1. When we begin to look at the second group—those based on a claim of special revelation—it’s important to realize that we don’t have to exhaustively discuss them here. We’ll go over a couple of examples, some of the more prominent ones, and you will get the idea of how to start breaking them down yourself. Though, to be honest, you’ll come to find that it’s not necessary to do so.
    2. I want to emphasize also that these are only those that claim a special revelation. It doesn’t mean that there actually is one. People can spout all sorts of stuff and claim anything, but that doesn’t make it true. Saying something without justifying the claim in some way is arbitrary, remember?
    3. It’s important to remember though that we can’t just throw out evidence. Evidence is interpreted—we talked about this last episode. It absolutely has its place and is very important. But we have to establish the presuppositions first. That’s what we did last time, but it’s by those standards that we can step inside of worldview or religious systems and examine them. Some people make the mistake of using the argument that because some of the Bible is true the whole thing must be true. The same argument can be used for other religious texts. Islam references some things externally correctly, but does that verify ALL of its content? Do you see why that line of argumentation is not very wise for people to use? We’re going to just use our three criteria from last episode here.
    4. Let’s very briefly look at some examples of major world religions and apply our 3 criteria (non-arbitrary, internally consistent, provides the preconditions of intelligibility) to see if they measure up.
    5. Islam
      1. Islam, regardless of what is claimed by its apologists sometimes, is based on the Bible. Islam claims the writings of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the writings of David, and the gospel of Jesus. They redefine the gospel of Jesus, but they claim those themselves. Now, pay attention to this, there is no major world religion that predates Christianity that was founded on special revelation. Christianity is unique in this respect. Islam was 500 years after the completion of the canon of the Bible. It relies on the person of Moses, it calls Jesus a prophet, it mentions Mary, Miriam, and other Biblical personages and events. The problem for them comes when they simultaneously deny it. That’s internal inconsistency. They claim to be based on the Law of Moses, which is filled with redemptive analogies and blood sacrifices for the atoning of sins. Islam though does not allow for that type of forgiveness. There is no such thing as blood sacrifices for sin in Islam. This is a complete contradiction for Islam. They claim the writings of Moses, but then say that they have been changed. When asked for objective proof, they can’t give it. There is an a priori commitment to their philosophy. There is a lot that can be said about Islam, but we’ll confine ourselves to this simple point for now. It is internally inconsistent. It cannot be true. The apologetics that are used to defend Islam are ad hoc at best. They have a “plug the leaks” mentality.
    6. Mormonism
      1. Mormonism, like Islam, would not exist if the Bible didn’t exist first. Both Islam and Mormonism claim to be third testaments of the God of the Bible: but both completely contradict the first two. In the Bible, the first testament (the OT) spoke of the coming second testament (the NT). Neither the first nor the second speak of a coming third testament. This is inconsistency with both Islam and Mormonism.
      2. The major problem with Mormonism is that it is polytheistic. Polytheism is indefensible. Which god is the absolute? Which god’s standards is the rule of law? It’s relativism really. You cannot have a different god on every planet that has its own rules. Also, the Mormon gods change with time. They teach that God the Father is flesh, and that He ascended to deity over time. If God’s nature changes, then the laws of logic, which reflect the way God thinks, could change too. This undoes the preconditions of intelligibility. The polytheism and relativism negates any absolute morality. There is a whole host of problems with Mormonism.
    7. Catholicism
      1. Catholicism is a system that develops and changes over time. It is not based on a fixed standard, such as the Bible, because their doctrine changes any time the College of Cardinals votes on something or the Pope speaks. They have continuously changed their doctrine for 1500 years. They claim the Bible, and continuously contradict it. I really don’t need to say very much about Catholicism.
    8. Christianity
      1. For a detailed layout of how Christianity meets the criteria listen to our last episode, “One Good Reason to Believe”.
    9. What do religions set forth as the way to verify them?
      1. Islam
        1. In my copy of the Qur’an, the ‘Abdullah Yusef ‘Ali translation, tenth edition circa 1999 from Amana publications, we have certain verses in certain surahs (chapters) that tell us very specifically how to know if the claims of the Qur’an are true:
          1. “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, Then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your doubts are true.” (Surah 2:23)
            1. Pretty much, its words are so nice that it must be from god. It offers no objectively verifiable point. In case you accuse me of misinterpreting it, the commentary in my edition says this:
            2. “How do we know that there is revelation, and that it is from Allah? Here is a concrete test. The Teacher of Allah’s Truth has placed before you many Surahs. Can you produce one like it.” (footnote no. 42)
            3. The evidence is completely subjective. It’s based on whether or not you can write something prettier than it. The same thing is said again in Surah 10:37-38 and 11:13. Then, in Surah 17:88 it says that even if all the world banded together and helped each other it could not do so. Apparently simple poetry is enough to prove who is the real god. The whole thing is completely subjective.
          2. Mormonism
            1. The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church, does not fair any better than Islam.
              1. “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5)
                1. How do you know that they claims of the Mormon church are true? Just ask God and he’ll tell you by the spirit. This is completely subjective. In case you think that I’m twisting something then go ask a Mormon missionary yourself. I’ve had them come to my door before—they never seem to want to come back—and that’s where I got my copy of the Book of Mormon. They tell you to pray, just like this verse in their book says, and they say that they Holy Spirit will put a “burning in your bosom”. You’ll know because you’ll have a feeling that makes you all warm and tingly. Again, it’s completely subjective.
              2. Catholicism
                1. A lot of people think that Catholicism is the same as Christianity, and it’s not. If you just read the Bible and take it at face value then you will never come to Catholicism. But how can we tell if Catholicism is true? If you Google that question, you will find the website “Thecatholicthing.org”. There is an article entitled “Why Catholicism is the true religion” by David G. Bonagura jr. He teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. This is what he said:
                  1. “I recently met a man, about sixty-five years old, who, after I told him what I do, related this story: “When I was in Catholic high school, I asked one of the brothers, ‘How do we know that of all the religions in the world Catholicism is the right one?’ This question had been bugging me, and I was anxious to hear his answer. He replied, ‘We don’t know. We have to take it on faith.’ His response completely deflated me.”
                  2. After we parted, I wondered how I would have answered that question. Of course, there is no external, rational standard by which we can assess religions, or many other claims that are not empirically verifiable. But that does not mean that we cannot judge religions or determine their truth. What we need is a “first principle,” an agreed upon foundation and starting point, from which we can evaluate the truth of religions. This principle ought to be intrinsic to the nature and purpose of religions themselves.
                  3. For this first principle, I propose that we judge religions by how well – or not – they promote human flourishing. This approach does not exclude God nor reduce religion to a this-worldly, self-help modus operandi. Rather, if we can agree on the Judeo-Christian doctrine that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, then, as St. Irenaeus put it, we can say that “the glory of God is man fully alive” – and acting according to his true purpose.
                  4. On this foundation – one that people of all creeds can agree on – I state that Catholicism is the true religion because it most truly protects, nourishes, and develops the human being in his fullness. We can substantiate this claim by looking at Catholicism in three dimensions that are common to all religions: what it is, what it commands, and what it promises.”
                    1. So this seminary professor of Catholicism says literally “there is no external, rational standard by which we can assess religions”—which is completely false; and then proceeds to say that we need a “first principle” to judge all religions. The best thing he can think of is whether or not it promotes human flourishing. He then sums it up in one statement, and then follows this line of reasoning the rest of the article, “I state that Catholicism is the true religion because it most truly protects, nourishes, and develops the human being in his fullness.”
                    2. What you should notice is that it is an arbitrary standard. How do we define what is good for humans? To what objective standard do we run? In essence, what he says is, “By what we know to be good for humans, Catholicism is good for humans.” It ultimately makes man’s own thoughts the standard for whether or not it is true. This is completely arbitrary and subjective. What if I disagree with your standards of what is good to promote human flourishing? What if I disagree with your definition of the nature and purpose of religion? It’s not only arbitrary and subjective, it’s relative as well.
                  5. New Age Movement
                    1. Many would not count the New Age Movement in the group of claiming to have special revelation, but I do because at the heart of the movement is a core set of beliefs that unify the entire thing. I asked Warren Smith, who has been speaking on the New Age Movement for about 30 years now, I believe, what the “litmus test” is for verifying the claims of the NAM. This is what he said to me:
                      1. “The litmus test is simple. If you ‘awaken’ to the understanding and ‘get it’ that you are God you save yourself and then others with that understanding.”
                        1. Pretty much it becomes verified to you because you get it. There is nothing objective about it. Some have tried since the ‘70s I believe to verify the notion that god is “in everyone” by appealing to quantum physics. Today you have people like Rob Bell—who is a heretic—going around to colleges with the same message that “everything is spiritual”. Physicists who have critiqued these presentations have laughed them off as not knowing what they’re talking about. But the fact of the matter is that they are trying to appeal to it. Again though, it’s an inner light subjective scenario. “You’ll see it is true when you see it is true.” It’s completely subjective.
                      2. Christianity
                        1. Christianity is unique. It’s unique in its apologetics, it’s unique in its beliefs, and it’s unique in its proof. Jesus set forth an amazingly objective standard for how to verify it. Let me give you a couple of verses to show you:
                          1. “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:38-40)
                          2. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-21)
                        2. Michael Licona summed the issue up this way:
                          1. “When someone makes such a lofty claim, critics rightly ask for the evidence. Jesus’ critics asked him for a sign, and he said he would give them one—his resurrection. It is the test by which we could know that he was telling the truth. Such a historical test of truth is unique to Christianity. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, he was a false prophet and a charlatan whom no rational person should follow. Conversely, if he did rise from the dead, this event confirmed his radical claim.” (Licona and Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, (2004), p. 27)
  • This is the definition of objective and verifiable. A teacher says, “I’m going to die, and when I rise from the dead you’ll know that I’m correct.” What more could someone ask for to verify a religion? There isn’t any other religion that stakes so much on something so objective. Christianity is completely unique in this respect. If Jesus was raised from the dead, then Christianity—in its entirety—is absolutely true.
  • Legend Theory: Based on other religions
    1. Some people have asserted that the claims for Jesus’ resurrection developed over time and were based on other early resurrection claims from other religions. Commonly cited examples are Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, and Marduk. Here are some reasons why that is not true.
      1. The accounts in these other religions are often unclear and ambiguous.
        1. Today’s scholars actually don’t consider these parallels by today’s standards. They are also unlike Jesus’ resurrection accounts.
        2. Often, such as with Osiris, there are contradictory accounts of what happened to him, and it’s unclear if he rose from the dead at all.
        3. In addition to those points, the earliest clear parallel account is over 100 years after the time of Jesus death. This was the Greek mythological character Adonis in 150 AD.
      2. The accounts lack evidence and can easily be accounted for by opposing theories.
  • Finally, none of these can explain the evidence that exists for the resurrection of Jesus.
  • The Linchpin
    1. It’s been said that there is a one-two punch for defending Christianity on an apologetic level: First, you have fulfilled prophecy; second, it accurately describes the universe the way it is. We could talk about the Hittite empire being rediscovered after over 1,000 years or so and verifying the Bible when skeptics said it didn’t exist. We can talk about the science that verifies how the scriptures explain the universe’s operation. We can talk about all that, but we would just be insinuating that problematic line of reasoning I mentioned earlier if we say, “Because parts of the Bible are true, then all of it is true.” I don’t want to do that.
    2. The linchpin of the whole God thing comes down to one point essentially: Did Jesus of Nazareth rise from the dead? Jesus said that He was the only way to God the Father. He said that if He rose from the dead that it would verify His claims and teachings. The question then is, “Did He?” It really is the only question that matters when you get the discussion going about God. That’s why next episode that’s what we’re talking about. Defending the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event.
    3. That’s also why this episode is pretty short and succinct. The entire issue is cleared up with whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. If you have that, then you have all of Christianity as the Bible teaches it. You might not have any validation for what goes on at that church on your corner, but you will have every reason to follow Jesus Christ as the Bible teaches it. I encourage you to tune in for the next episode. I have really enjoyed getting it ready.
  1. Close
    1. I know this episode was brief compared to others, but hopefully I at least provoked some new thoughts about some things; and I hope that you are primed to think about the resurrection of Christ.