Have you ever had a debate with someone on Facebook or anywhere over the internet? I had one yesterday. It drives home the importance of having a great handle on what we believe and why and why we need to be well read as Christians so that we can defend and give great evidences and proofs for our faith. I will post the entire transcript here and you tell me if I was in line and how I handled myself. Did I do as 1 Peter 3:15 says to "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect."? I hope and pray so. Funny enough I started praying only half way through the exchange and the tone and response got better and better (maybe I should pray always instead of only sometimes). Toward the end you might be able to tell that they might even have been somewhat responsive. At first I was defending a parent of one of my students who had posted that she was really led to pray for her kids and the teachers and the administrators, etc. I was at first responding to the parent of some kids in my youth ministry and then I started to respond to this person who I call Facebook User. Here is the transcript. What do you think?...
Me: Parent's Name, You were right the Opposition is definitely there (She had asked me to have a look at her post about praying for her kids). Maybe it will not only drive us to our knees for our kids, but make us take a more deliberate action to rescue our kids from a Godless public school system. Proverbs 1:7 says The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 NASB). Education cannot happen without Christ at the center. Blessings on your Godly walk on behalf of your kids!
Facebook User: Richard, you may want to look up the difference between "education" and "indoctrination". The latter requires the absence of the former - which is why ideological extremists of all kinds work so hard to try to keep their children and followers from non-approved learning. In other words, you are threatened by the "godless public school system" because you are afraid that if your kids learn anything beyond what you teach them, they won't believe you.
Me: How did I guess you might not like my advice to Parent. And it's not indoctrination when it is truth. And I'm not running away from learning I would be running after true wisdom and understanding because Christ is the fountain head of all knowledge (Colossians 1:15-20). And those two things aren't mutually exclusive. I am also not threatened by anything because I have a great Savior. It would be my life's greatest joy to see my children make a decision to follow Christ with their lives. I don't expect you to understand until you have given your life to Jesus. And you can! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16, 17 NASB). I would pray that you might trust Jesus as I have. He saved me from my sins. Blessings!
Facebook User: Richard, what is the truth? How do you know it's the truth? How can others know it's the truth? Ultimately, Richard, religion is about faith. It only works if you don't ask too many questions, if you are OK with things not making sense, being contradictory. I have no problem with that, religion may be the opium of the masses but it's probably less harmful than opium.
Me: Well the Scriptures (The Bible), claim inherently, and extrinsically that they are true. We can know it is truth by the many infallible proofs within and without. It seems like no matter how many proofs I might give you though, you would not want to accept them? You are right religion is about faith. So are many things in this life for instance you take it on faith I guess that there are scientific laws in this world that you cannot see. You see the effects of for instance the laws of thermodynamics because really smart scientists held their theories to the test and they observed them over and over again. I take those things on faith even though I cannot see them. I do not agree with you though that religion (or for me faith in Christ) only works if I don't ask questions. I have asked over 30 years of questions and have found many helpful answers that strengthen my faith. What for instance do you consider contradictory? I might try to help offer answers. Blessings!
Facebook User: Richard, the argument that "it's true because it says is true", really only works on those who think it's true to begin with :-) And what part is true? How is it true? What does "truth" mean? I don't know what the answers to these questions are for you, I don't know how you, yourself, see the Bible, so I don't know what questions to pose to you - but here is one that applies to most Christians. How do you know that the books chosen to be in the Bible were the right ones to chose?
Me: Facebook User, I did not argue just that it says it's true, I argued that there is inherent (internal) and extant (external) evidence that they the scriptures the 66 books that we have now are true and accurate. I would have a hard time here giving you the full scope of evidence that those 66 books that make up the Bible are accurate, but I would submit to you some reading if you have the interest, "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell, "Many Infallible Proofs" by Henry M Morris, and maybe the "Case for Faith" and the "Case for Christ" both by Lee Strobel a man who set out to prove as a journalist that Christianity could not be true, and became a Christian as a result. I would submit to you that the whole 66 complete books of the Bible are true and accurate in all that they claim. As far as how is it true? That is an interesting question. I might ask then how is anything true? How is history true, science, math, any knowledge for that matter? How are those things true? I would argue that the scriptures are true again from what it claims about itself, no other writings from antiquity claims the things that the Bible claims. Also the solid archeological evidence that is being unearthed (a recent find validated that King David of Jerusalem actually existed) Also the extant copies are in so much more abundance as to leave the next ancient text in question as to its accuracy. There are so many copies of the ancient texts of the Bible that all other ancient texts could be called into question as to authorship and authenticity in comparison. According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary (By the way Noah Webster used the English Bible as a regular source when writing his 1806 Dictionary) truth is defined as "the body of real things, events, and facts: actuality: a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality". How do you define truth? I guess you can gather that I see the bible as accurate, authoritative, and inspired by God and without error in it's original manuscripts. I affirm that the scripture having been received by divine inspiration is infallible so that it is true and reliable in the matters it addresses. I also affirm that scripture is in its entirety inerrant (without error), being free from falsehood, fraud, or deceit. So I believe in Verbal, Plenary Inspiration of Scripture that the words as they appear are what God intended us to have and by plenary I mean the whole not part are inspired. Your question about why the books we have today are the right ones (66) is a good one. It also requires a lengthy answer if you would bear with me and read all of what I write without getting bored to tears :) The process is called Canonization. It is a process by which many men have held up a plethora of rigorous criterion to be able to say these 66 books are the authoritative word of God. To make a long story short the OT was accepted as the Canon ("rule" or "standard") around the 2nd century B.C. and the NT Canon was widespread accepted by the early church. The 27 Books of the NT were then ratified at the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) in the west, and in the east by the thirty ninth Paschal letter of Athanasius (367 A.D.). The test these many men held up to scripture to confirm their authenticity was 1.Conformity: to the rule of faith in the Christian churches (i.e. were they recognized and practiced) 2. Apostolicity was the writer a person who had known Jesus or was the writer in direct contact with an Apostle (one who knew Jesus and followed Him), and thirdly Catholocity (Universality): did the book adopted have widespread use and continuous acceptance by churches everywhere. Are you still with me? This is quite simplifying the history and movement of Canonization, but that's how it happened. Through History and verification I can know that these 66 books (39 OT and 27 NT) are the right ones. There are a couple books that I would give for your perusal "Doctrine" by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, and a really hefty read "The Canon of the NT" by Bruce Metzger was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. So there you have it. Hope it helps. Blessings!
Facebook User: Ah, Richard, you are a literalist. I am really puzzled on how people can be literalist, however. Leaving the issue of historical evidence aside (which I'd argue does not support the overall Biblical message most modern Christians extract from it), there are many factual as well as doctrinal contradictions, in particular when you compare John with the synoptic gospels. You can argue the factual differences are minor (when did the Passover meal took place? who carried the cross? who went to the tomb? who they she/they found there), but they are there and I'm curious how someone who understands the Bible literally deals with them. Some of the doctrinal differences, however, are pretty major - and have divided christendom to this day. The Jesus of Matthew requires good works for salvation, the Jesus of John only requires faith. Which one is it?
Me: Facebook User, Yes I am a literalist and by that I guess you mean that I take things literally as written. I guess you are a literalist as well. You have to be to understand language. For instance you understood that I am a literalist because you interpreted my language literally :) As far as the historical evidence that validates the Bible you just have chosen to reject it (or not review it). That's fine so in a sense we don't have much more to talk about, but you cannot say that evidence is not there for validation of the biblical record (I have submitted many books to review). As far as doctrine/theology it is man's attempt to codify, and systematize the teachings of the Bible (Thus 'systematic theology'). Theology is not inerrant the Bible is. I do as you do find it sad that Christians divide over doctrine this shows how flawed man is. As far as the objection that Jesus of Matthew requires good works for salvation. I am not sure how one can conclude that. But to answer the objections that scripture contradict themselves there are explanations and conclusions out there that one can draw in most instances to understand and make sense of suspected contradictions as is with any literature (many History, fiction, science, books etc also have seeming contradictions). I think this will be my last post :-) unless you would still like to discuss faith. I have given lots for you and the rest of the people on this post to think about hopefully. My prayer is that your honest pursuit of truth would lead you to find Christ. Blessings!
Facebook User: Hi Richard! I have enjoyed this exchange. I am sure that doing a piecemeal approach you can find the confirmation you seek about many points in the Bible. For me history, however, is both deeper and broader. I can tell you, for example, that my first doubts about Christianity came about because I also took the Bible literally, including the story of the creation of man. Once I started learning about Sumerian/Akadian/Babylonian religion, however, it became clear that the Hebrew creation story was based on the Sumerian story - they were too similar to not be related, but they weren't identical. The Sumerian creation myth is older, however, so it would be logical to assume that it was closer to the truth. But that meant that the Adam & Eve story was not true. And that's where I started. I majored in Ancient and Near Eastern History and Archaeology, so I studied closely the context both of the events described in the Bible and the actual writing of the Bible. Lately, I've been doing quite a bit of reading on early Christianity - and it's amazing just how diverse beliefs were. In any case, let me finish with your question about Mathew and good works - it's Matt 19:16-22 and also 24:45-51, though not as clear cut.
Me: Ah yes let me just in closing answer those questions about Matthew 19:16-22. I know I said It was my last post :) but I cannot resist. In interpreting scripture we have a rule 'context is king'. And so to answer this we have to look at the context a few verses later Jesus says "with people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible". Thus answering the salvific question. Jesus is demonstrating how it is impossible to attain or work for our salvation, but it is possible with God. Thus he shows how foolish the rich man is for thinking he could keep the law of Moses (because he had not really kept it as shown in his attitude of holding on to his wealth). As far as Matt 24:45-51 again in interpretation as with any literature you must look at the style of literature that you are dealing with. Jesus is using parable as he did regularly here. He is telling a story to people who already call Jesus 'Lord' if you look at verse 42 you will see the point of the parable. And his point is "be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming". and as I like to say, "I do not work for my salvation, I work as a result of my salvation". Working to please Christ is just an honest and loving response to my Savior not so that He will be my Savior. Anyways the point of this parable is not about earning salvation. He is telling those who already call him 'Lord' to be ready for his return. It is great to hear about your educational background. I would like to hear more about the "Creation Myths". But alas I have to work! I have also enjoyed the exchange. God Bless you!