Is Belief In God Irrational?

March 4th, 2014

Must one abandon reason to accept revelation?
Most modern concepts of faith are fideistic; tending to deny or minimize the role of reason inChristianity. Many contend that faith and reason are somehow contradictory. More and more,we see Christians ridiculed as foolish, ignorant, or fanatical in the national media and
elsewhere. Of course, this is nothing new (cf. Acts 26:24). Unfortunately, many who profess to follow Christ speak and behave in such a way as to support the proposition!

Many in Christendom have misunderstood Biblical faith. Faith has become “a leap in the dark” wherein one lives righteously, hoping (with fingers crossed, perhaps) that there really is a God. Some even allege that to use the reasoning faculties in pursuit of righteousness negates faith. Is this the case? Is that Biblical faith?

Let’s explore briefly the question—Is Christianity of human construction or based upon truth and verifiable facts? Putting it another way, are we irrational in believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16)? This is extremely important. As Antony Flew stated:
“For the committed Christian what is at issue is the rationality of the commitment”‘

The scriptures present faith as an act both of the intellect and the will. Notice the case in John chapter four:
“And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman, who testified, he told me all things that ever I did” (v. 39)

The Samaritan’s belief was based on the woman’s testimony. Her belief was a result of hearing Jesus’ very words regarding her history. As the story continues, the Samaritans further state: “Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is the Savior of the world” (v. 42). For both the woman and the Samaritans, there was the claim (Jesus is the Savior) and belief in evidence to support the claim, which produced a knowledge of the truth of the claim.

Similarly, our Lord openly confronted Thomas with his unbelief and offered him the opportunity to empirically test the validity of the other apostle’s resurrection claim, urging him to touch his hands and reach in and feel the wound made by the spear (John 20). Notice that as our Lord extended this invitation he was encouraging Thomas to “be not faithless, but believing”(John 20:27).

Analysis of the New Testament demonstrates the authors were aware of the need to offer verifiable and credible testimony regarding their message. Peter and John both state that they were witnesses to the resurrection. That they had seen, heard, and even handled the Son of God, and were not following “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16-18; 1 John 1:1-3).

Paul stated regarding the resurrection, that over 5oo people, many who were still alive, had seen Jesus after His resurrection (1 Cor.15:5,6).

An accepted, rational way of arriving at knowledge is through credible testimony (ie., a court of law). In fact, “faith” presupposes testimony. If nothing is said or reported, there can be nothing to believe or disbelieve. This is exactly the situation found in the Scriptures (Romans 10:14-17)! Wherever the gospel was proclaimed in the book of Acts, faith in the testimony of the messengers produced obedience to the gospel.

Is it rational to believe in God, have faith in His word, and submit to Jesus Christ? Yes!
Others may look at the evidence and choose not to believe, but they cannot honestly claim that it is irrational for those who do believe, to do so.

REFERENCES

Ashton, John & Michael Westacott (2006) The Big Argument:Does God Exist? (Green
Forest, AR: Master Books, Inc.)
Flew, Antony (1966) God & Philosophy (New York: Dell)
Geisler, Norman L. & Ronald M. Brooks (1990) Come, Let Us Reason-An Intro. to Logical
Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House)
Popkin, Richard H. & Avrum Stroll (1956) Philosophy Made Simple (Garden City,
NY:Garden City Books)
Sztanyo, Dick (1996) Faith and Reason (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press)
Woods, Guy N. (1991) 1 &2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, and Jude; New Testament Commentary
(Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co.)

The Theme of the Bible

December 19th, 2013

Many people consider the Bible to be a mysterious, incomprehensible book. Not reading it as diligently as they should and with this preconceived notion, when they confront a difficult passage, or stumble upon words and phrases they do not understand, they close the book in frustration. As a result there is an abundance of ignorance, misinformation, and misuse of the sacred volume. Consequintly, many people are deprived of the greatest blessing in this life!
To understand the Bible one must understand the basic theme of the book. When acquainted with the central thrust of this divine message, it is possible to understand the Bible at its most basic level. This framework, coupled with basic study habits, will give anyone an understanding of the book.

The central theme of scripture is focused on one individual—Jesus Christ. He is the promised seed of Genesis 3:15, as well as that promised to Abraham in Gen. 13:16 (cf. Gal. 3:16). We learn that He will descend from Jacob (Israel) in Gen. 35:12. Furthermore, we learn that Jesus will be of the tribe of Judah in Genesis 49:10. The history contained in the Old Testament is the history of God preparing the world & Israel for the coming Messiah. The gospel accounts in the New Testament are the history of Jesus’ ministry and teaching. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul states, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Truly, Jesus Christ is the theme of the Bible.
But that’s not the whole story! This theme focuses on one historical event, His death on the cross. It was the apostle Paul that proclaimed, “Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14).
Furthermore, through His death, Jesus created one institution, His church (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:32-36; Eph.4:4; Col. 1:18). The book of Ephesians teaches that the church of Christ is a product of God’s eternal purpose. Therefore, it is to be held in high esteem by her members, and not to be treated lightly or contemptuously.
We see this central theme, with all its elements revealed in one doctrine—the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is this gospel that is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16,17). And one’s obedience to this gospel will save from eternal hellfire (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
We see then, the central theme of the Bible in Jesus Christ, crucified, building one church, proclaimed through the gospel, for one grand purpose: salvation (Luke 19:10)!

Thomas R. West

Abraham Believed God

December 19th, 2013

Three times in the Bible it is said that Abraham believed God.

“And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.”

Genesis 15:6 (ASV)

“For what saith the scripture? And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for

righteousness.”

Romans 4:3 (ASV)

“Even as Abraham believed God,and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.”

Galatians 3:6 (ASV)

The fact that Abraham believed God must be important to be emphasized in this manner. Notice that each time it is mentioned that he believed God, it is also stated that God reckoned (an accounting term meaning, ‘credited to his account’) his faith as righteousness.

Just what did Moses and Paul mean by this statement? That faith alone saved Abraham? Surely not (cf. James 2:21). For the Hebrews writer says regarding Abraham’s faith, that he “obeyed and went out” as well as “offered up Isaac” when commanded (Hebrews 11:8-10; 17-19). His faith was counted as righteousness because it led him to obey as God commanded him.

Consider also, a faith counted as righteousness suggests that there may be a faith that is NOT counted as righteousness. Can such be found is scripture? Yes! In John 12:42,43 we read of many of the chief rulers that believed on Jesus, yet did not confess due to fear. King Agrippa believed but was unpersuaded (Acts 26:27). Even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19) Many today are afraid to take a stand before men. They believe, but their faith is not a faith that will stand. It will not save.

If one carefully considers the characteristics of Abraham’s faith he will understand what kind of faith is “counted as righteousness”. Let’s briefly consider these characteristics.

We have already noticed that it was an obedient faith. Abraham could not see the wisdom in some things that God had commanded. Nor could he see how God would fulfill His promises. But he trusted God to keep them.

Abraham’s faith was also active. He left the land of his birth and followed God’s leading (Genesis 12:1). In Romans 4:12 Paul encourages us to “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham…” He took “steps” or measures, to leave Ur of Chaldea, following his course to Haran, and then into Canaan. Later, he took the ultimate step in offering up Isaac on the alter.

His faith was steadfast. Read Paul’s commentary on the faith of Abraham in Romans 4:19,20.

Himself and Sarah both aged and childless did not stagger at God’s promise. Though they both made mistakes, they remained faithful to God throughout their lives.

One final point must be made. Abraham’s faith influenced his household and children greatly (cf. Genesis 18:19). What a tremendous legacy; that he would command his children after him, so that God could accomplish His will. Truly, God can and will work through His faithful children.

Thomas R. West