If God is about Truth, how does that affect how you and I should live?
We consider several facets of this question.
The Feeler says ``Trust me,'' but we all know not to trust the person who says that. If they are trustworthy, they don't need to say it. The teen whines ``You don't trust me!'' That's right, I don't. You haven't earned it. President Reagan's famous line was ``Trust, but verify.'' That's not trust at all, but it sounds good. That's how somebody earns your trust. You verify. You check up on them. If they are reliable, you can see that.
We have a little problem when we try to apply this principle to God. God is God, He controls everything. He is outside the universe, how are we going to verify anything about God?
Some things we can check up on. If God makes a promise, we can see if it comes out that way. If God tells us something about our own world, something we can verify, we can check it out. Did God tell us the truth about that? There are potential problems here too. How do we know God said that? Maybe a liar told us something about God that is not true. That does not impugn God, but how can we know? It's a hard problem.
Christians have a starting place. We can do the Reagan thing, ``Trust, but verify.'' It's called the Bible. The Bible is given to us as the reliable source of all Truth. We can verify that. ``If anybody needs wisdom,'' it tells us, ``ask God, who gives to everybody generously.'' If you are not sure, ask God for help. Of course you need to act on the wisdom God gives you. Start by assuming that the Bible is (probably) true. That's the ``trust'' part of ``trust but verify.'' If you assume that it's full of human errors, then you will be inclined to find errors that don't even exist. If you assume God (probably) gave it to us and it's (probably) true, but you are checking anyway, then when you find things that don't make sense, you might be willing to suppose that God is smarter than I am, maybe this is something ``above my pay grade.'' These things happen. It's OK.
Did the miracles happen? We don't see violations of the laws of physics today, why should we believe they happened 2000 years ago? Why not? If God is God, then He can do anything He wants to, including violate the laws of physics, if He so chooses. Read up on the miracles of Jesus. He told his followers that the miracles are there to prove that he's different. That's why you don't see them today. We are not different, not in the same way he was. The skeptics say ``Miracles don't happen. That's why we know they didn't happen,'' but that's circular reasoning. It's invalid logic, and the skeptics know it. They are lying to you.
The skeptics (read: atheists) tell you that the gospels were written hundreds of years after Jesus lived. How do they know that? You can check it out. We have fragments and copies of copies dated to less than a hundred years after his life and the life of his immediate disciples -- and that from hundreds of miles away. Sure, we don't have the originals, but they wore out. If these are true records of what Jesus did and said, then people will want to read them carefully and often, and they will wear out. That's a positive. The people who try to tell you ``the church changed it,'' have no proof, no original texts that are different from the alleged changed versions we now have. They are just making that up. They are the liars.
There are numerous literary evidences that the gospels are eyewitness accounts, like the correct titles of minor politicians. These titles change over time, and the correct titles for a particular period of time get forgotten. Archaeology is now digging up references to some of those old politicians, and the titles in Luke are correct. Read a modern novel about the middle ages, and the people in the story think like moderns, with modern feminist and egalitarian ideals. Read a story from that time -- say Chaucer -- and you get very different ideals. Every time we find independent evidence dealing with a Biblical place or name or event, the Bible is supported as accurate. All of the alleged inaccuracies are always modern guesses, not yet informed by external evidence. That's what you would expect from a God of Truth. The trust is verified, but you need to do your homework. It takes effort.
There are parts of the Bible that deal with historical events before there were people to be eyewitnesses to those events, like the Creation account. There are scientists -- most of them atheists -- who tell a different story. Which story is true? It's a little harder to verify that part. The scientists are just guessing. They assume God didn't do it (because they are atheists, so they start with the assumption that there is no god), and then try to figure out how all this complexity might happen if there is no God doing it. There are some Christians who are persuaded by the atheists, but it isn't their ideas, they are just following the atheists who invented it. You can still check out the facts, but don't expect the atheists to help you do that.
Trust but verify. Maybe the Christians are the liars. Look for facts they agree on, such as (as one of them put it) ``billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth.'' Go look at those rock layers, like in Grand Canyon. How could time, chance, and natural causes lay down thousands of layers absolutely flat, over millions of years, with no indications of erosion between the layers? The Creationists don't have all the answers (they too are human, with human limitations and agendas), only God can know everything. It's a lot of work to find out even what can be known, but if you put the effort into it, you start to discover the Bible is not false.
Jesus said the Bible -- in particular the Old Testament -- is absolutely
reliable, the standard against which to measure all truth. Was he lying?
If (as he said) Jesus is God, and if he was lying, even in one tiny particular,
then we cannot know if anything he said is true. All we can do is make
up our own ``truth'' and hope it works. What we can verify today. The Bible
tells us that God cannot lie. Either it's all a lie, a hodge-podge of lies
and half-truths, or else it's all true. If it's a lie, then we know nothing
at all about salvation or Heaven or anything else, because we cannot verify
any of those things. We are, as the Apostle Paul put it, ``of all people
most to be pitied,'' because we believed a lie.
Of course we must be careful not to project our modern ideas of precision onto the Biblical writers. The bronze basin in front of Solomon's temple, we are told it was ten cubits across and thirty cubits around. That sounds like pi is wrong. No, it's imprecise, but not inaccurate. A cubit is the distance between a man's elbow and the tip of his fingers, about a foot and a half. Measure different men's cubits, and you will get variations of as much as three or four inches. They knew that, so they gave their measurements in round numbers, only precise to one significant digit. If I were to tell you ``pi is 3.14,'' that's precise to three digits, but not exact. I cannot give you an exact value for pi, because it's a never-ending decimal.
In the Genesis Creation account, the flying things and the swiming things
-- the Bible does not make the modern distinction between birds and bats
or between fish and whales -- were created on Day Five, and the land animals
were created on Day Six. The Darwinists and their followers want you to
believe that birds and whales evolved over millions of years after the
land animals evolved. One of them is wrong. The Darwinists say the rock
layers are consistently ordered by their dating scheme, and the Creationists
say they are not. One of them is lying, who? I don't have access to the
primaty data to know that, but it is curious that the Creationists argue
scientific data in public, but the Darwinists resort to name-calling and
political pressure, the same as the Ptolemaicists did to Galileo 400 years
ago. Facts usually win against politics eventually, so I'm betting on the
Creationists. The Darwinists would be more persuasive if they argued the
facts, but they don't. That suggests (to me) that they cannot. The jury
is still out on that one, but the Bible has not been disproved.
The ``gospel'' is defined by the Apostle Paul as ``Jesus died and rose again on the third day,'' and ``Christ died for our sins.'' There's nothing here about telling your story, what God did to or for any person other than Jesus. It's a gospel of repentance. Twenty times in the history of what the Apostles did, we are told what somebody said to one or more unbelievers with the expectation that they should repent and become Christians. In all 20 times, nobody ever ``gave their testimony'' or said ``God loves you.'' Four more times Paul was on trial, and those four times only he said what happened to himself, but it was in a formal trial situation, and he was defending himself in the manner required for judicial occasions, and not for the purpose of evangelizing unbelievers. Never in the whole book of Acts did anybody ever say ``God loves you.''
If God is about Truth, then the Bible is an accurate record of what Jesus taught his disciples, and of how they did what they were taught. Jesus did not lie to his disciples when he taught them how to evangelize. He did not fail to teach them everything they needed to know. The disciples did not forget what they were taught, but did it as instructed, and we are told what they did. The evangelists did not lie to us, nor leave anything important out of their Gospels. Luke did not lie nor leave anything important out of his history of the early church. The Apostle Paul did not lie to us, nor leave anything important out of his letters to the churches. Everything we need to know about evangelizing the atheists and the Thinkers (and the Feelers too) is in the Bible, without error, if God is about Truth.
Therefore we should be doing our evangelism the way Peter and Paul did it, as appropriate to their respective audiences, and not passing off other techniques as if they were commanded by God. In other words, we should be about truth also. And when we do, the Thinkers will come.
I was in one church on one Sunday morning, where there were more men than women. The pastor never talked about God's love, he talked about truth. They had a one-day conference the previous Saturday, and the auditorium was full, 3000 people, less than 20% women. It was not a ``men's'' conference, it was about truth, and it attracted Thinkers. If you do that, the Thinkers will come enthusiastically and sit in the front rows. Their Feeler wives will come with them, because that is the affirming thing to do, but the men will be there willingly. It would revolutionize the Christian church in America, and in not very many years, double the number of confessing Christians.
Or we can continue to lie to the people in the pews, telling them of
unconditional love, and the church will slowly shrink into irrelevance,
as it has already done in Europe. What would God wany you doing?
God is about truth.
Rev. 2014 January 28