Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The God of Revealed Scripture

Malachi 3:6 “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed."

James 1:17 "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the confessional statement of the Southern Baptist Convention. In its attempt to express what Southern Baptist's teach on matters of doctrine, the Christian life and social issues, the very first article deals with the doctrine of the Bible. In outlining the character of the Bible as being without error (i.e "inerrant") and incapable of leading one astray in matters of life and practice (i.e "infallible") among other traits with respect to its binding authority, the Bible is described as a product of Divine revelation.

The very first sentence of the BFM 2000 article on scripture reads as follows: "The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man." This first sentence is crucial, since it expresses the Bible being the product of not just any deity, but One True and Living God. 

In our 21st century world we are more aware of other competing worldviews and religions than ever before. In our culture today, and even among Christians, when one says "God", such a term may not be taken to mean the same thing to different people. Furthermore, movements such as Wicca, Buddhism and the New Atheism are very popular among younger North Americans seeking to have a form of spirituality apart from organized religion. In order to communicate why we as Christians believe the Bible to be a Divinely revealed book, we need to first express the Divine source and His identity. In other words, it is crucial in establishing our view of scripture that we first identify the Divine author Himself. What kind of God is this God? 

What kind of God is the God of revealed scripture?
In the second article of the BFM 2000, the nature of the God of revealed scripture, and His identity, is explained. The God of revealed scripture is not some pervasive, impersonal force permeating our universe - as believed by Eastern religions and popularly expressed in the Star Wars franchise (called pantheism). Neither is the God of revealed scripture the immaterial soul of our world, equal to it and thus an impersonal force animating every rock, tree and person - as espoused by such groups as Wicca. The God of revealed scripture is not a collection of deities that extend back into eternity past, with Yahweh and Jesus being but the latest development in that long chain of beings (as in Mormonism). Such definitions are foreign to scripture and such deities are illusions and idols.

Rather, the BFM 2000 offers this following description of what kind of Being God is:

"There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience."

Identifying the God of revealed scripture
In defining the kind of God the God of revealed scripture is, the BFM 2000 goes onto identify this God in its second article:

"The eternal Triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being."

Now we won't go any further into the specific details of how we can reasonably justify our belief in this particular God's existence - but we will make some general remarks. God's existence is revealed through His general revelation in creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-31) and the moral laws written into the conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Moreover, God's existence and nature can be inferred through apologetical arguments such as the argument from observations of the universe, the universe's fine-tuning for the existence of life and the reality of objective moral values and duties. Then to specifically demonstrate the reality of the God expressed in the above statements, one can appeal to the resurrection of Jesus as the historical demonstration of the fact that the God of revealed scripture alone exists. 

Reasonable considerations affirm that Christians have justified reasons for believing in the God of revealed scripture. Such considerations bow of course to the Bible, and thankfully, are confirmed and further specified by it. 

Why does this matter to you?
Children, students and adults are called to the Christian life for one purpose: to know and love God. The second, closely related reason is to love other people with this love (see Matthew 22:37-39). The Christian life is not only a conversion of the soul to Jesus (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23) but also is to be a transformation of one's mind (Romans 12:2). To know why we believe why we believe is as important as communicating what we believe. Only when we progressively grasp why we believe what we believe will we then be equipped to answer: "How then shall we live?"  

The Divine authority of the Bible as God's inerrant and infallible revelation of Himself is built upon the premise that God never lies (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18); never fails (Hebrews 13:5) and doesn't change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). All of scripture is predicated and based upon God's character as God. Furthermore, as Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Decisive revelation of God in history, as demonstrated by His resurrection from the dead, then we can consider His remarkable life and death as further demonstration of the Bible's character as revealed written revelation. Jesus Himself taught as much (see Matthew 5:18; Luke 24:44; John 10:35). 

This is an important point, since our view of God drives our view of scripture. Such a foundation can greatly guard our faith in times of doubt, fear and struggle. If we believe that God created our world, and that this God reveals Himself in and through this world, and that the resurrection did indeed occur, then the concept of Divine revelation in written form won't be near as hard to accept. If anything, this God, the Triune God, with the Person of the Son demonstrating such truth by His incarnation, death and resurrection, has inseparably revealed Himself in words. Such words only exist and are codified in one book: the Bible. 

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