John 10:38 "but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father."
Introduction: Why the History Channel's current series - "Bible Secrets Revealed" will end in failure, and the only fitting response
As I have now watched two episodes of the History Channel's "Bible Secrets Revealed", I got to thinking on Jesus' statements in the above two verses. The series aims to expose and explore the so-called hidden secrets of the Bible and behind the Bible. In the past two episodes thus far, an entire slate of critics from the fields of religion, Biblical studies and even different faiths outside of Christianity (Dr. Reza Aslan is a Muslim) are used to evaluate the truth claims of the Bible. The overall thrust of the series is that if only there was more evidence, or if the Biblical text was more clear, then maybe there would not be such widespread confusion and unbelief about the Bible. It is evident that the panel of scholars in the series and the show's producers have hostilities towards the truth claims of scripture and its ability to be clear. But even more so is the mistaken notion that with enough evidence, with enough miracles and with clear enough data, Christian faith can then be achieved and embraced. But is that true? Why is the History Channel's current series flawed and why will its objectives fail? What is the only fitting response? I will hold off on the fitting response part until the end of this post. For now we will explore the inherent flaw I see in the History Channel's current series. It lies in what I am calling in this post today: the paradox of Evidence and Faith.
On the one hand evidence is included by God in drawing conclusive proof about the claims of Biblical faith
Biblical faith can be understood under three headings: propositions, proof and persuasion. When we say propositions, we speak of the doctrinal statements and truth of scripture. Propositions such as "Jesus is God" or "The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God" or "God created the heavens and the earth" are propositions, truth statements that are drawn directly from scripture. As Dr. Francis Shaeffer said years ago, God is a talking God who speaks to us through words. The older theologians spoke of this element of Biblical faith by the Latin term notitia, meaning the contents of faith.
The second leg of Biblical faith has to do with the proof of the propositions brought to the mind. Proof, in the form of general revelation in nature (such as scientific information) and reason are included in the communication of the propositions or contents of faith. In this second leg of Biblical faith, recognition is made that such proofs are given by God to man to grant to man knowledge about Himself. Theologians of old used the Latin term ascensus (assensoos) to speak of the mind making its "ascent" or agreement to the propositions (notitia) of the Christian faith. By evidence drawn from such sources as science, reason or miracles - proofs of God's existence, general identity and Goodness are presented.
Thus the man born blind who was healed by Jesus makes the following appeal to the Jewish officials who were skeptical of Jesus in John 9:33 - "If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." The Apostle Peter preached these words in Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know." Paul writes concerning God's use of proof or evidence from general revelation to man in Romans 1:18-20 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." When Jesus makes His statement in John 10:38 that the miracles He performs give ample enough testimony about His identity and mission, He is speaking about the propositions (He being Messiah, God in Human flesh) and proof.
God utilizes the propositions of Christian faith from the special revelation of His word (the Bible) and gives proofs from the general revelation of nature and providential use of the miraculous (such as He did in Jesus' ministry) as part and parcel of the overall presentation of Biblical faith. Faith and reason are not foes, but friends. Yet reason by itself is insufficient to bring a person to a true, saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Propositions and agreement with the proofs of Christianity alone does not make one a believer. As James reminds us in James 2:19 "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."
The paradox of evidence and faith is that as much as the evidence of propositions and proof make for a conclusive case for the Christian faith, nevertheless unbelieving man will still conclude that the case is not compelling. It is one thing to say "I conclude with what you say is true". Yet it is quite another matter to say: "I not only conclude with what you say, I am compelled to trust and embrace your conclusions.
Unless the Holy Spirit persuades and brings the grace that includes faith and repentance to the unbelieving heart, mankind will willfully and knowingly suppress the propositions and proof of Christianity. What is needed? Persuasion. Which brings us to the second point about the paradox of evidence and faith....
On the other hand, only the Holy Spirit can persuade the unbelieving heart that the propositions and proofs of the Christian faith are not merely conclusive, but also compelling enough to believe.
In Luke 16 we see the account of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man dies and goes to hell, while Lazarus, the believer in the account, dies and goes to heaven (called Abraham's bosom by Jesus). As the rich man gets in a post-mortem discussion and really and argument with Abraham, he makes this statement in Luke 16:28-30 "for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!" The rich man makes the argument that if only there was enough evidence, surely then his brothers could avoid the same destiny as he. We don't see any words of repentance or regret in the rich man's statements. We see no humility or acknowledgement by the rich man that God's words were right and he was wrong. His heart is in a runaway rebellion against God, with the proverbial fist shaking itself in God's face.
What is father Abraham's response to the rich man in Luke 16:31 "But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” The issue is not over proof or proposition, but persuasion. In Biblical faith, whether we are talking about that initial work of the Spirit of God in salvation (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3-5, 23) or in His ongoing work of keeping the child of God in sanctification (Ephesians 1:18; 1 Peter 2:1), the means of persuasion is the Spirit working in and through the Word.
Older theologians used to call this third element of Biblical faith by the Latin term "vives fide" (vi-veis fi-day or "living faith"). Romans 10:17 states - "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." It is the gifting of faith from God that shows the Christian propositions and proofs to not only be conclusive, but compelling. Once the Spirit has done His work in my heart, I freely, willingly and knowingly embrace Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure. (John 16:8-11) The Apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:24-26 "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
God uses propositions and proof and persuasion to bring a man, woman or child to the point of trust and dependance upon He and His word. Faith by its very definition means "firm persuasion". Any embrace of Jesus and the Christian faith is to be credited to God's work of grace in the human heart. case in point in Lydia in Acts 16:14 "A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul."
Now what happens if a person fails to embrace the Gospel and the propositions and proofs of scripture, is that God's fault or that person's? It is that person's fault because as Romans 1:21-22 "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."
So why is the History Channel's current series flawed and why will its objectives fail? As we have seen through Jesus statements and other scriptures, there is a paradoxical relationship between evidence and faith:
1. On the one hand evidence is included by God in drawing conclusive proof about the claims of Biblical faith
2. On the other hand, only the Holy Spirit can persuade the unbelieving heart that the propositions and proofs of the Christian faith are not merely conclusive, but also compelling enough to believe.
When man fails to embrace what is conclusive concerning the propositions of Christianity (the notitia, doctrines or contents of the faith) and proofs (ascensus or elements to which the mind ascents and agrees with the propositions), the fault lies in man. Why? Because unbelieving man by nature freely and willingly suppresses the truth. So then who is to credit when a person is persuaded that what is conclusive about the propositions and proofs is actually compelling enough to trust? God through the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is the Agent who convicts, convinces and sheds light into an otherwise darkened human heart about the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4-6) Such a work of the Spirit is called the work of saving faith (vives fide).
So now what is to be the fitting response? What would be the fitting word to those skeptics who persist in their denials of God's Word and cry for more evidence? Let me close with the words of Acts 16:31 - "They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
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