How a Pagan Philosopher Came to Believe the Scriptures Are from God
Written by Michael J. Kruger |
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
The Reformers…believed the truth of Scripture could be ascertained, by the help of the Holy Spirit, from the Scriptures themselves. This is what they meant when they said the Scriptures were self-authenticating. Such a reality should come as no surprise. After all Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
It probably comes as no surprise that the most common question I receive from both Christians and non-Christians is “How do I know the Bible is the Word of God?” And the reason this question is at the top of the list is not hard to determine. The authority of the Bible is the foundation for everything that we believe as Christians. It is the source of our doctrine and our ethics. Thus, we need to be able to answer this question when asked.
Let me say from the outset that there is not just one answer to this question. I think there are many ways that Christians can come to know the Scriptures are from God. God can certainly use historical evidences to convince us of the truth of his Word (though it is important to understand the limitations of evidence). And God can use the testimony of the church to convince us of the truth of his Word (I cover the details of this in my book Canon Revisited).
But, it is noteworthy that throughout the history of the church many Christians have ascertained the divine origins of the Bible in yet another way: they read it. Rather than being persuaded through a deep dive into the historical evidences, many have come to believe the Bible is from God by observing its distinctive character and power.
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The Second “Coming” Already Happened…but Not in the Way You’re Thinking (Part 2)By Kendall Lankford — 5 months ago
Jesus promised a sign would occur in the heavens, when He ascended there, sat on the throne to reign, and began the work of putting all His enemies under His feet. His Kingship is the sign!
Nickel Therapy Sessions and Judgment Comings
The melancholy boy walked timidly away from the five-cent therapy booth, questioning the psychological advice Lucy had given him again. “There is no better emotional outlet than kicking a football”, she mused with an air of clinical sensitivity. “If you cannot trust your therapist”, Charlie Brown muttered to himself as he was walking away, “then who can you trust?” That thought seemed to push him over the edge, propelling his lumpy little body awkwardly toward the prize, activating his casserole abs and cupcake quads into the locked and loaded position and ready to fire. With the safety off and the trigger pulled, his foot swept briskly through the air, missing the ball entirely that had now been pulled out from under him, yanking his husky little body up toward the sky like Darius on a warm summer day, only to crash under the weight of his unmet expectations.
When scenes like this play out over comic books or airwaves, we chuckle at the silly dolt who fell for it once again. We laugh, even while detesting all of the modern-day Lucy’s over at Buzzfeed and the ad approval division at Twitter who treat us in much the same way. Yet, as much as I personally detest clickbait and rug pulls, I found myself almost giving in to my inner Lucy on the blog last week. Almost.
For a split second, I almost went with the title, “Ten Reasons Why The Second Coming Has Already Happened”. And of course, if you read the article, that is perfectly true so long as you let me define the word “coming”. But after some prayer and counsel from an older brother in the faith, I added the clarity that was needed to the title, and all was well. But, I am sure you are wondering, why is all of this important?
Because I do not want to be a Lucy in your life when it comes to this topic. I want you to kick the eschatological ball down the field and through the uprights. I want you to understand what the Bible is saying about these things and not be left lying on your back in eschatological grief and confusion.
Spiritual v. Physical “Comings”
To do that, we have been introducing the concept that there are two kinds of divine “comings” in the Bible. There are times when God “comes” against a people for their sins. When this occurs, the coming is always spiritual, covenantal, always in the apocalyptic genre, and always in the context of divine judgment. There is also another kind of “coming” where God pursues a people in order to rescue them. When this happens, the coming is always physical, incarnational, and personal.
For instance, when God comes bodily in the garden, it is to rescue Adam and Eve from their sins. When God comes bodily to Abraham it reveals God’s promises to Abraham and to cut him into the covenant. When God comes physically to the people of Israel, it is to rescue them from Egyptian slavery. When God comes physically and incarnationally in the first century, it is to rescue all of God’s elect who were in slavery to Satan, sin, and death. And, when Christ comes physically at the end of human history, it is to rescue God’s people, finally and forever from the curse and death, and to deliver them imperishable and incorruptible into eternity with Him (See 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4).
And yet, this bodily, salvific, and incarnational coming does not account for all of the kinds of “comings” that we see God engaging in within the Bible. For instance, look at Isaiah 19:1
Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt;The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence,And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.—Isaiah 19:1
In a passage where lifeless idols, made of wood and stone, take on personified attributes of trembling, and where human hearts are melting faster than a Yankee candle under a flamethrower, then is it any wonder that the language of “coming” is not describing a physical and bodily event but a spiritual judgment coming of God against a wicked nation. When you also understand that “clouds”, “suns”, “moons”, “stars”, and “heavenly shakings” show up in every single passage where a major nation or city comes under the judgment of God (such as Babylon In Isaiah 13, Egypt in Isaiah 19 and Ezekiel 32, Tyre in Isaiah 23 & 24, Edom in Isaiah 34, Judah in Jeremiah 4, and against Jerusalem in Joel 2 and 3, Amos 5 and 8, as well as various other passages) then you realize that there is a tremendous amount of passages where God truly and actually “comes” against a nation in judgment, without it being bodily and incarnational.
As we have been proving over the last several episodes, the “coming” passages described in Matthew 24, especially in verses 29-31, do not represent the end of human history and the bodily final coming of Jesus but are the fulfillment of prophecies in the Old Testament, where God promises His day of wrath will eventually fall on Judah. When Jesus answered His disciples’ questions in Matthew 24, a forty-year countdown clock began, that would end in God “coming” against the Jews and their city being leveled to dust.
In that spiritual, covenantal, and apocalyptic sense, I can say that the second coming has already come. And I intend to share more evidence with you this week that this reading of Matthew 24 is the Biblical reading. But, for the sake of clarity please let me repeat my aforementioned qualification. I am not a full preterist. I believe in a bodily end of world history coming. And I believe that this coming is still in our future. I contend that this is not what Matthew 24 is speaking about, and to that end, let us continue where we left off last week.
Evidence 4: The Sign in the Sky?
When Jesus says:
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky…—Matthew 24:30a
We have several issues that need to be understood. First, the time frame has not changed. “And then” signals a logical and chronological sequence of events that ties this entire prophecy together. After forty years of signs and evidence that will increase in magnitude and intensity over a single first-century generation (Mt. 24:3-28, 34), one of the final signs will be shown in the heavens that will signal Christ’s Kingdom has come and that the old Kingdom is passing away.
Second, there are a few linguistic challenges in this passage that need to be worked out if we are going to understand what it means. For now, we will only deal with the first one, which is the translation of the word “sky”.
In our modern English translations, it appears as if the Son of Man will make an appearance in the sky. If you read further down, it seems like all the world will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds and the people of the earth will mourn over what they have done. This is what the dispensational types would have you to believe, but it is not a faithful translation of the text.
More will be said below, but the word that is being translated as “sky” here, which exists in the material realm, is actually the common word for heaven, which is in the spiritual dimension. To illustrate my point, you and I cannot build a rocket that will fly to the heavenly throne room where God dwells, because heaven does not have a physical address at some interstellar crossroads in the cosmos. Heaven exists in an entirely different plane of existence that we cannot travel to with material ends. One might say that heaven is skyward, but that is only until you start accounting for the rotation of the earth, our location in orbit with the sun, and various other issues like this.
Whenever God appears in bodily form, or divine form, or also when He disappears in bodily form, He does not go up or down or take a specific direction of flight. He simply shows up at a location, or leaves a location, almost out of thin air. For instance, when the crowds are looking to kill Him, He vanishes. When He transfigured before His disciples, He does not go anywhere but merely pulls back the material curtain so that they can see the spiritual realm. In this sense, heaven is not a location that one needs to travel to but an overlapping sphere of reality that God may step in and out of effortlessly without even moving.
The only exception to that rule is Christ’s ascension UPWARD into heaven, which has massive theological implications that we will look at in a moment. For now, suffice it to say that heaven is not a physical or material space where God travels to and from. It is an immaterial and real plane of existence that God may step in and out of at His pleasure.
This is incredibly important because we need to know where the sign occurs. If it occurs in a material sky, and if Jesus will be riding a material cloud, and if all the material world will see it happen, then we have a problem. Because there is no record that an event like this ever occurred. In that case, this would be good evidence to support a futurist conclusion.
But, this interpretation ignores the fact that a switch in genres has occurred and that we can no longer interpret these verses with the same rigid wooden literalism we employed before. Usually, most people (not including dispensational futurists) understand this kind of linguistic switch intuitively when it happens.
Cries from the PitBy Stefan Nitzschke — 2 years ago
Jesus voluntarily plummeted into the chasm we had created so that we would not need to. In bearing the wrath due our sin on the cross, He gave us access to Himself; not just for the sake of eternal life with Him, but also access to Him from the deepest of life’s pits.
It has happened to the best of us. You’re walking along, mentally distracted by the task at-hand, when your foot lands on unsteady ground. You shuffle a bit to catch your balance or even trip altogether. Most of us get a bit red in the face, subtly look around to assure ourselves that no one saw what just happened, and go on our way with a bit of a lighter step.
Life can feel the same way: going about our routine and encountering circumstances that shake us or trip us up. Then, ever so often, there are life events where describing it as a slip does not seem to do it justice. It’s more like the earth opens up and we fall headlong into a circumstantial pit, out of which there is no easy escape…
The pit is a place all-too familiar in this broken world and it goes by many names. David called it “the valley of the shadow of death,” (Psalm 23:4) Jonah called it “the deep,” (Jonah 2:3) and Peter called it “the fire” (1 Peter 1:7). The pit is a place of suffering, longing, and hurt—it is dug by the shovel of fallen creation, sin, or Satan.
Scholars are not settled on what sort of pit Heman the Ezrahite had fallen into to produce a psalm like the one we read in chapter 88. It is one of the only psalms that does not seem to have a shred of hope in all its lines. Commentator Derek Kidner opens his insight regarding Psalm 88 with, “there is no sadder prayer in the Psalter…” Yet from its raw depths, we are able to mine five nuggets of pure gold that help us understand how to respond in a pit of our own.
The psalm begins with the line, “Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me.” From the midst of the pit, Heman looks to the Lord. He realized that when someone is in a pit, help does not come from within, help does not come from around; help comes from above.
Too often, our initial reaction from the pit is to rely on our own strength to claw our way out. We may also try to look around and elicit the help of those in the pit with us. Make no mistake: God calls us to be people of action and to bear one another’s burdens. However, the direction Heman exemplifies is that we are to first look up and cry out to the One who can help.
Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Hidden and RevealedBy Ty Gregory — 6 months ago
God is a stranger because he’s a divine being who’s always beyond our grasp. He can also be even more distant because we’re the kind of beings who embrace the darkness and resist his light. Together, these things make God feel impossibly hidden. At the same time, God has done everything possible to turn himself into a friend. He sent Jesus to speak, act, and even embody the Father’s will. All of this proves God wants to be known through Jesus.
Biographies are one of my favorite genres to read. You not only get to witness the transformation of someone who will one day change the world, but their experiences also help you reimagine what is possible. You might even feel like you’ve made a new friend along the way because their story has shaped you. And yet, this person will always be a stranger to you. Since you’ve never actually met them, there’s still so much about them you just won’t know.
There’s a similar kind of suspense in knowing God—he’s both a stranger and a friend. Though you feel his presence listening to the Scriptures, deep in prayer, or in the friendships of your faith community, he can feel distant when you need him the most. You can’t always find him, but he always seems to find you.
In theology, this is known as the hidden and revealed God. If you ever feel like God is a stranger, then this article is for you. God is hidden, but that’s only because he wants to be found in the right places. His identity is first fully revealed in his autobiography, the Scriptures. Then he shows up in the incarnation of his Son, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, to confirm what that story says about him. In the end, encountering Jesus means being found by the hidden God.
God is hidden in at least three ways. First, he’s hidden because some aspects of his character are simply beyond our grasp. The poet of Psalm 145 reminds us of this when he says God’s greatness is to be praised, and that his greatness is unsearchable (Ps. 145:3). It’s as if God exists in a different yet overlapping dimension than us. We simultaneously worship his greatness while lacking the ability to appreciate all of its depth. Though his knowledge and power break into our world and change it, the evidence he leaves behind isn’t always easy to decipher (Isa. 40:28; Ps. 147:5). This is why the prophet Isaiah concludes God’s ways are simply higher than human ways (Isa. 55:8-9).
We can’t find God because he exists on a different level than we do, but our moral failures also push God even farther away. Again, the prophet Isaiah makes this clear. He says our “iniquities” separate us from God, stop him from listening to our prayers, and even cause him to turn his face away from our cares and concerns (Isa. 59:2). It’s not just that we’re unable to know God, it’s that sin actively disrupts the divine connection between us.