Spencer D Gear
Time Australia magazine, 10 January 2005, published this letter: As a “Sunday-School teacher, I tell my students what most of us here in the Bible Belt [USA] believe: the Scripture is the inerrant word of God, given by inspiration to the writers of the Bible. That Matthew and Luke record different details makes neither of them inaccurate. Nor does the fact that some of this cannot be corroborated by other sources. That’s why we call it faith.”[1a]
This was a response to a liberal theological view in Time that debunked the Christmas story.Is this teacher’s response the way to go with Aussies who don’t care about God and the Bible?This view seems to be a blind leap of Bible-Belt faith that accepts the inspired, infallible word of God.
When the apostle Paul was dealing with those in the synagogue, the marketplace and with the pagan philosophers at Mars Hill (the Areopagus), Athens, he took a different line (see Acts 17:16-34).
If they didn’t care about God, he started where they were with their issues.He got to know his audience: “He was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (v. 16). If God was not at the forefront of their views, he reasoned daily with them – even in the marketplace (v. 17).This was no one-way communication.It was a vigorous question and answer dialogue.
On Mars Hill, the apostle showed us how to do it:
Know people and their “idols” (vv. 16-22);
Nature of God and human beings (vv. 23-27);
Ordinary quotes from life (vv. 28-29);
Word of God (repent, judgement, resurrection, vv. 30-31).
This is hardly a politically correct method in these days of so-called tolerance toward many things – except tolerance toward born-again Christianity.
One contemporary apologist says that we need to unmask the “intellectual bluff” of people and “follow-through” with an exposé of their ways.[1b]What are some of these Aussie idols that need to be unmasked?
Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the tsunami in Dec. 2004, I received comments such as: “What a monster of a God you have who would allow such slaughter!””Did your God cause this?He’s a cosmic Saddam Hussein.”We need solid answers to the problem of evil.
J. B. Phillips wrote: “Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will. . .Exercise of free choice in the direction of evil is what we call the ‘fall’ of man, is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world.It is man’s responsibility, not God’s.He could stop it, but in so doing would destroy us all.” So, do you want God to wipe out all evil?Also take a read of Genesis ch. 3 to understand the origin of evil. Check out Ron Rhodes, Why Do Bad Things Happen If God Is Good?
Around Christmas & Easter times, trusty old chestnuts are trotted out.
Recently, flack against the Bible has been fuelled by the mass media coverage given to the Jesus Seminar Fellows and others of their kind.These Fellows concluded that “eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him.”
Dr. John K. Williams, retired Uniting Church minister, wrote in The Age, January 19 2004: “An evangelist who preaches the ‘old time religion’ is asking hearers to stake the living of their lives upon beliefs for which there is no evidence whatsoever and that fly against humankind’s painfully acquired knowledge of the world and of themselves. That is not simply, as we today are taught to say, a ‘big ask’ but an outrageous ask.”
In responding, we could examine: (a) What are a writer’s presuppositions about the nature of God and the supernatural?Has he/she reached conclusions before considering the evidence? (b) What is the evidence in support of the reliability of any document from history, including Julius Caesar, Captain James Cook, the Old & New Testaments?
F. F. Bruce, formerly of the University of Manchester, investigated the accuracy of the New Testament and concluded: “The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of this first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again.’We are witnesses of these things,’ was their constant and confident assertion.And it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened… The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies.”
All of us can be guilty of assuming the truth or otherwise before we deal with the evidence.Check out these resources: F. F. Bruce, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? and K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Kitchen concludes: “In terms of general reliability . . . the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly.”
Biblical Christianity does not say, “Just believe!”It provides evidence for faith: “After his suffering, [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Unthinking Christianity is sick Christianity.
To God Be the Glory!
[1a] Available from: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1013262,00.html [cited 18 June 2009].