IPS-Eye-White

Section 1 .. Choose Life

 

003white Index to Choose Life         >       Part 3: Faith and The Bible

IPS-Header
Provision-Bg
 

Choose Life That You Might Live

Part 3: Faith and The Bible
Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition. Unfortunately, most people prefer to believe that their 'spiritual experiences' validate the religion, or spiritual path, they are connected with.

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

List of Chapters
For a slightly longer description of each chapter, please go to the Main Index

YOU ARE HERE 001orange Part 1: Spiritual not Religious. The question is how do you know that the spiritual path you are on will lead somewhere you want to be? What does it offer you in the long run... beyond this life?
Part 2: Religious Pluralism. It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.
Part 3: Faith and The Bible. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.
Part 4: God And His Bible. There is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books which usually consist of endless streams of often mind numbing philosophy, with little or no framework or context. The evidence includes the Bible’s humanly impossible authorship, its archaeological and scientific accuracy and  fulfilled prophecy.
Part 5: Alleged Old Testament Discrepancies. The charges are usually careless, overconfident and unsubstantiated.
Part 6: Why Jesus Is Without Equal.  Many so called holy men claim to to be divine or divinely inspired - to have had mystical visions or experiences. So what?
Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament. If we applied whatever criteria liberal scholars use to dismiss the Gospels, to the evidence for other historical people and events, we would have to dismiss as myth everything we think we think we know about the ancient past.
Part 8: New Testament Differences and Discrepancies  Most alleged 'mistakes' arise from understanding too little about the Bible.
Part 8 b:The Resurrection Accounts The so-called contradictions are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them.
Part 9: The Bible, Then And Now. People commonly reject the Bible because they believe the original text has been changed significantly since it was first written, and therefore, it is a corrupted book. But is there any truth to the charge?
Part 10: Historical Corroboration. Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources?
Part 11: Archaeology and The Bible. Does archaeology confirm, or undermine, the New Testament accounts?
Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure? A far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the fewer risks we should take.
Part 13: The Message of The Bible. The Heaven Jesus was sent to tell us about is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far more practical than that of our theologians. '
Part 14: The Warning of The Bible. We are all under the death penalty. If dying once sounds terrible to you, how does doing it twice sound? -  which is exactly what the Bible says will happen if...
Part 15: Who Is and Isn't a Christian. Since the word originated with the Bible, only the Bible has the right to define what a "Christian" is.
Part 16: Myths and Misconceptions that stem from knowing too little about Biblical Christianity.

Bible1-Bar

ON THIS PAGE

Introduction... A Brief Recap
Many faiths today ask seekers to discover the truth of their religion or belief by experiencing it, rather than by theory... the try-it-you'll-like-it approach.  However, what most people do not seem to realize is that Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.

Faith
Whether you are aware of it or not, faith plays a huge part in many, if not most religions of the world. However, faith can mean two different things. It can mean reasonable trust based on evidence. On the other hand, faith can also mean trust or belief without evidence, or contrary to evidence.

The Choice... Faith Without Evidence Or Faith Based on Evidence
Anyone can claim to be divine, or divinely inspired. What we need to do is stop checking our brains in at the door and ask the million dollar question, i.e. what evidence supports the many claims made by various religions, whether it comes from the founder of the religion, their holy book, or one of the leaders/teachers of that religion? So what's different about Christianity? It is also often thought that the entire Christian faith is nothing more than 'religious wishful thinking' but, much to the contrary, the Christian faith is a commitment based on evidence.

Faith And The Bible
So what's so different about Christianity? It is also often thought that the entire Christian faith is nothing more than 'religious wishful thinking'. Much to the contrary, the Christian faith is a commitment based on evidence. It is actually quite remarkable as to how many times, God, Jesus, and the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, appealed to facts to support what they said and taught.


Introduction... A Brief Recap
As said by Dr. Philip G. Ryken. pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church

    Insisting that Jesus is the only way is an especially unpopular stance in a culture based on freedom of choice. If you can go to the school of your choice, root for the team of your choice, watch the cable channel of your choice, and eat the yogurt of your choice, why can't you pray to the god of your choice? Why can't religion be like the Mall of America? It is a fair question. If Christians are going to insist that their religion is true and that all other religions are false, they have some explaining to do. [01]

Many faiths today ask seekers to discover the truth of their religion or belief by experiencing it, rather than by theory... the try-it-you'll-like-it approach. And people do so.. in droves. While there is little doubt that, particularly when it comes to Eastern faiths, a vast number of people feel that something has changed within them as a direct result of their spiritual practices. Many, apparently, experience a sense of peace, and physical and emotional well being, which often affects how they relate to the world around them. These internal experiences, are often referred to as "enlightenment", or a "spiritual awakening". However, thousands of others, taking it many steps further, ascribe these changes to the 'awakening to the divine within you', or 'becoming one with Deity'.

However, if "feelings" are the sole arbitrator of spiritual truth, a lot of people may be in very big trouble. Just something makes you feel good, doesn't mean it is good for you. A sense of emotional and physical well being does not necessarily mean that this spiritual path is, in the long run, wise, much less that it leads to Deity. While, I suppose, much depends on what a person's idea of "deity" is, where is the evidence that tells us these experiences are from God, or even have anything to do with Him. (See Footnote I: How The Brain Contributes To 'Spiritual' And 'Mystic' Experiences)

It is but common sense to apply logical and objective reasoning to your spiritual life, which it seems most people are not inclined to do... preferring to believe that their 'spiritual experiences' actually validate the religion, or spiritual path, they are connected with. However, what most people do not seem to realize is that Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.

Surprised? Disbelieving?

Read on....


The Role of Faith In Other Religions
Whether you are aware of it or not, faith plays a huge part in many, if not most, religions of the world. For example...

Buddhism
Since Buddhism leans towards exploration and experience, Buddhists rarely speak of Buddhism as a "faith". In an article entitled What Do Buddhists Believe?, Barbara O'Brien states that...

    What the historical Buddha taught was a method for understanding oneself and the world in a different way. The many lists of doctrines are not meant to be accepted on blind faith... [02]

As said by Geoffrey DeGraff, aka Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the fact that "The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone's faith", is one of "Buddhism's most attractive features", especially for those "from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one's faith". He goes on to say that, in Buddhism... (Emphasis Added)

    you should take certain things on faith, as working hypotheses, and then test them through following his path of practice. [03]

Which boils down to ... try it and see if it works. However, none of the above means that faith is nonexistent in the Buddhist world. As blogger Kathy Kiefer rightly points out (Emphasis added).

    Buddhist practice nevertheless requires a degree of trust, primarily in the spiritual attainment of Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on the understanding that the Buddha is an Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual teachings), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers).  [04]

In other words, before one accepts the truth of the Buddha's teachings, one has to have faith that he was 'enlightened'.. with the authority and/or credentials to give spiritual insight to the rest of us. (Note: Buddha based his teachings on internal experiences, but were those experiences merely brain wave activity or even something far more ominous?)

Islam
Muslim life is founded on what is called the 'Five Pillars' of Islam, which include daily prayers, alms-giving, fasting, and at least one pilgrimage to Mecca. However, the first, and probably the most important is the Shahadah, or first pillar, which is the "declaration that there is no god but Allah and Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is the Messenger of Allah". [05]

As the web site islamwebnet states... (Emphasis added)

    "... The difference between believers and unbelievers is not the result of merely uttering a few words. The real force lies in the conscious acceptance of this doctrine and its stipulations and complete adherence to it in practical life. [06]

One has to have faith that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad was his Messenger. But one has to ask what this faith is to be based on?

Hinduism
Hinduism, the religion of some 900 million people is, as succinctly put by Ken Raggio, "a vast, complex religion that did not evolve from a single person, a single book, or a single point in time. Its written history contains many epic tales that are based on oral traditions, and contain many conflicting concepts. Its teachings are countless and quite diverse, ranging from polytheistic, monotheistic, agnostic, to atheistic".  [07]

Is it any wonder that Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, head of Kauai's Hindu Monastery and publisher of Hinduism Today magazine, says (Emphasis Added)

    "The mystery of life and beyond life, of Siva, is really better understood through faith than through intellectual reasoning", since "The intellect in its capacity to contain truth is a very limited tool".

He also says Hinduism has three stages of faith, which he outlines as follows

    We progress from blind faith to conviction bolstered by philosophy, and finally to certainty forged in the fires of personal experience

And goes on to say that in Hinduism... (All Emphasis Added)

    faith is not a static state; rather, it is constantly deepening through personal experience and growth. The spiritual truths of Sanatana Dharma, initially accepted without proof, are ultimately proved through personal experience. Swami Chinmayananda, founder of Chinmaya Mission, succinctly conveyed this concept: "Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believed."

And...

    Faith in its initial stage is simple belief without the support of either knowledge or experience.

     Faith in its second stage is belief strengthened by a sound understanding of Hindu philosophy. Gurudeva

    In the third stage of faith, personal experience transforms informed conviction into certainty.

And here is where we come a full circle, because 'conviction is transformed into certainty' only by spiritual experiences. Veylanswami goes on to describe these experiences as "unsought-for, unbidden revelations, visions or flashes of intuition" which, verified by "what yogis, rishis and sadhus have seen and heard", create an unshakable faith that is "more a knowing than a conviction".  [08]

The problem being that the explanations for these supernatural experiences given by these yogis, rishis and sadhus over the centuries is generally accepted as being true. However, we quite simply have to have blind faith that they, as mere men, were right in what they said and taught and that we can trust them.

Similarly, although they uniformly preached good messages of unity and equality, one has to have faith that Baha'u'llah, Guru Nanak, and Zarathusthra (Zoroaster) were messengers of God, Divinely inspired, or had God given visions. An extremely short summary of each religion follows

Baha'i
Said to be among the fastest-growing of the world's religions, the Bahá’í Faith boasts more than five million followers, from virtually every nation on earth. It is founded on the teachings of one Mirza Husayn Ali, born into a noble family in Iran in the mid-nineteenth century, and who called himself Baha'u'llah, which means ‘Glory of God’, a title bestowed on him by his forerunner.. the Bab or ‘the Gate’. (The Bab is seen as a sort of John the Baptist, "whose mission was to prepare humanity for the coming of Bahá’u’lláh". [09]

According to bahai.org, Baha'u'llah "brought to humanity a stirring new message of peace and unity". They also say...

    Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be nothing less than a new and independent Messenger from God. His life, work, and influence parallel that of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. Bahá’ís view Bahá’u’lláh as the most recent in this succession of divine Messengers.

    The essential message of Bahá’u’lláh is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, that there is only one human race, and that all the world's religions represent stages in the revelation of God's will and purpose for humanity. In this day, Bahá’u’lláh said, humanity has collectively come of age. As foretold in all of the world's scriptures, the time has arrived for the uniting of all peoples into a peaceful and integrated global society. "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens,” He wrote. [10]

See 2 part article, The Baha’i Faith by Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon

Sikhism
Sikhism is said to be the fifth largest religion in the world with over 30 million adherents worldwide. [11] It is a monotheistic religion... the basic Sikh belief represented by the phrase Ik Onkar (One God).

Sikhism was founded in the 15th century in the Punjab region of India, and is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak, the first guru, or teacher, who is believed to have been divinely inspired. Nanak was followed by nine other Gurus, all of whom are revered as great teachers and leaders, and whose words are preserved in Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth. [12]

Guru Nanak was born into a deeply divided, and highly discriminative and prejudicial society. Hindus and Muslims were in constant conflict, women were treated as inferior beings, and the caste system ensured that the common man was brutally oppressed by the ruling classes.

    In this society, Guru Nanak’s Sikhs or disciples rebelled against the established social order and created a whole new identity for themselves. Some of the significant values Guru Nanak instilled in his followers were: a belief in one God; a rejection of an ascetic lifestyle, the importance of hard work, a casteless society that guarantees equality for all humanity and working towards the betterment of all. [13]

Zoroastrianism
Zarathusthra (Zoroaster), religious reformer and founder of Zoroastrianism is said to have received a vision from Ahura Mazda (the Wise Lord), who appointed him to preach the truth. He is believed to have composed the Gathas, 17 hymns which are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith.

Evolution
Please note that even evolution is based on theory... not on observable data. In fact, it requires the most faith of all to believe some of the 'impossible' ideas they come up with. But that is a whole other topic. [See Section on Evolution]


The Choice... Faith Without Evidence, Or Faith Based on Evidence
As shown, all religions call for faith on the part of the adherent. However, faith can mean two different things. It can mean reasonable trust based on evidence. On the other hand, faith can also mean trust or belief without evidence, or contrary to evidence. The following is a statement I recently read on (of all places) an atheistic website, and which I couldn't agree with more. (Sadly, much of the rest of the article was absolutely ludicrous)

    ".. a person who accepts faith as the basis for their beliefs effectively gives up the means for critiquing the beliefs of others. A belief based upon faith is not a belief based upon reason, logic, and evidence. If a person is not going to use reason, logic, and evidence as standards by which they judge their own beliefs, then it would be hypocritical to try and use them as standards for judging or critiquing the beliefs of others." [14]

Anyone, can claim to be divine, or divinely inspired. However, should the claimant have a charismatic, powerful personality, spout profound sounding statements, and proclaim an enigmatic or feel good message, their assertions suddenly becomes 'truth' to millions of people. Sometimes, it seems to me, that the more convoluted the language, the more people will firmly latch on to the coat tails of the speaker. What we need to do is stop checking our brains in at the door and ask the million dollar question... what evidence supports the many claims made by various religions, whether it comes from the founder of the religion, their holy book, or one of the leaders/teachers of that religion?

Do we have to take Mohammed and Joseph Smith's word for it that they were visited by angels. In fact, the Mormons claim that the way to confirm the truth of the Book of Mormon is to read the book, upon which and that God will confirm its truth by creating a burning in the bosom. It is absolutely foolhardy and, may I say it, takes the definition of “asinine” to previously unheard of limits, to cast our eternal destiny on something that subjective and ambiguous. As my husband says, pepperoni pizza always gave him a "burning in the bosom". 

In Buddhism, one has to accept some things on a "working hypotheses" and then proceed to test them. Much of Buddhism rests on the fact that Buddha was an "awakened being"... that he actually knew what he was talking about. There is no question that Buddha experienced something, just as thousands of his followers do. However, remembering that feelings and experiences are not necessarily indications of truth, where is the evidence that what he believed and taught is true?

Similarly, Hinduism, which has no known founder, starts with blind faith, which is only strengthened by understanding Hindu philosophy. Certainty only comes with spiritual experiences which are explained by various yogis etc. as "experiencing the Divine". The problem being ... how is one supposed to know whether or not this explanation is true, or whether these men were either themselves deluded, or simply wrong.

Everything in Islam flows from the first of its five pillars, which states there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. Again, where is the evidence behind the Qu'ran's declaration that there is no god but Allah? And, as we will see later on, Muhammad was a very unlikely prophet.

The Bahai faith is no different. Bahá’ullah might have declared himself to be the latest messenger from God, with a stirring message of peace and unity, but where is the evidence that he was indeed God's emissary? In fact, Bahá’ullah's statement about all the world's religions representing different stages in God's revelation to man regarding His will and purpose, does not ring at all true, considering, as discussed before, the various religions of the world cannot even decide how many gods there are, much less what the fate of every individual is. And hell will probably freeze over long before they do.

Besides which, Bahai may prove itself to be a very dangerous religion. See Footnote

Similarly, while few can argue with the essential message of Sikhism, there is no evidence that Guru Nanak was divinely inspired.

We have to simply 'believe' that the New Age channeler is not only in contact with a spirit, but that it is a benevolent spirit, not one intending harm.

In Summary...

    all of these religions stand or fall on something which no one can prove or disprove. "We have, therefore, nothing on which to base our decision about the truth of any of these religions except what the founder of the religion said, and whether the teachings seem to work in our own lives. Whether we reject one religion or accept another is simply a matter of blind faith".  [15]

When it comes down to it, as someone once said... "Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition." The more than adequate evidence for the truth of the Christian Bible is the goal of the rest of this piece. But, before you continue reading, perhaps you would consider an extremely pertinent question asked by pastor Bryan Ross of Grace Life Bible Church ...

    If someone could provide reasonable answers to the most significant questions and objections you have about Christianity... reasonable to the point that Christianity seems true beyond a reasonable doubt - would you then became a Christian?  If your honest answer is no, then your resistance to Christianity is emotional or volitional, not merely intellectual.  [16]


So What's Different About Christianity?
There is no question that "faith" is one of the central elements of Christianity. In fact, the word is found almost 250 times in the New Testament alone. As Hebrews 11:6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."

Sadly, the word "faith" in Christianity is usually misunderstood. Many, if not most, non-Christians assume that Christian faith is "blind faith", defined as a strong, unshakable belief, and unquestioning loyalty, to an absolute belief system without proof or evidence. It is also often thought that Christians ignore reality, or believe contrary to the evidence and facts. In other words, the entire Christian faith is nothing more than religious ‘wishful thinking'.

This is as far from the truth as it gets. 

Hebrews 11:1 says "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". The word "assurance" means a positive declaration or surety.. intended to give a person confidence and freedom from doubt. We are assured that the things we hope, and wish for, will come to pass.

The problem being that even many Christians are often unaware of the solid, factual foundations of their faith, which is often largely limited to "this is what I believe because this is what the Bible says". While this may be commendable, it can also be very dangerous, simply because it is, as Joel Stephen Williams says, a "naive, untested, unexamined faith", which can fall flat on its face when confronted with difficult questions. As he goes on to say, this type of faith

    is sufficient for some people for a whole lifetime, but for others it will not last. Some Christians with such a naive faith are unable to handle a setting such as many of you face on a daily basis on a state university campus. You and I both have seen too many people with a naive faith simply walk away from the church at some point in their adult life. The cause for a sudden change to disbelief is often nothing more than a brief encounter with an aggressive, skeptical person who throws one or two challenges their way which they cannot handle. [17]

Telling the secret doubters in our midst, those teetering on the edge, or the non believing world, to "just believe" is ridiculous. Unfortunately, much of the Christian world seems to regard debating the Gospel as not only in opposition to 'faith', but also condemned by Scripture. The latter due, in part, to an unfortunate decision made by the translators of the King James version. [See Contending For The Faith]

As pastor Greg Koukl says, The Bible knows nothing of a leap-in-the-dark, hope-against-hope faith... ie. a faith with no evidence. [18]. Much to the contrary, the Christian faith is a commitment based on evidence.

The Christian definition of faith is simply taking God at His word. And, since there is much evidence in favor of believing that it is He who said these things, this is not, by any standards, 'blind' faith. Rather it is an intelligent response.


Faith And The Bible

Christianity is unambiguous about the fact that it is not a philosophy, nor something dreamed up by a self styled religious leader, but a religion revealed to man by God Himself, one who seems to have absolutely no problem with people who have genuine doubts and questions. The Judeo-Christian faith consistently stresses the importance of truth, and makes appeal to evidence to support its truth claims. In fact, although emotions and feelings are an integral part of what makes us human, there is not a single example in the Bible of a godly person's beliefs stemming from their feeling, emotions, or experiences. For example...

Truth
The appeal to truth is found in virtually every single book of the New Testament...

    In John 8, Jesus told the Jews that they sought to kill a man (Himself) who told them the truth He had heard from God, which even Abraham did not do (V. 40). He asked why they did not believe Him when He told them the truth (V. 46). And added that they were of their father the devil... a murderer in whom there was no truth. In fact, Jesus went many step further, He not only claimed to speak the truth, but to be the truth... "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me". (John 14:6 NASB)

    The Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father" (John 15:26).

    The Gospel message is called the "message of truth" (Ephesians 1:13),

    Paul told both the Roman governor and king Agrippa that he was not out of his mind, but spoke words of "sober truth" (Acts 26:25). He asked the Galatians how he had become their enemy by telling them the truth (Galatians 4:6). And, in his letter to Timothy, Paul told him that God desires "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1 Timothy 2:4). When he wrote to the church in Corinth, he urged them to celebrate the Passover "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:8)

    Believers are  urged to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) and gently correct those who "are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25)

    Paul also foretold one sign of the times of the end... "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths". (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB)


Evidence
The Bible is also surprisingly indulgent towards skepticism that is not antagonistic. In fact, it is actually quite remarkable as to how many times, God, Jesus, and the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, appealed to facts to support what they said and taught. .

God

    When in Genesis 15, God told Abraham that He would give him the land of Canaan as an inheritance, Abraham asked how he would know this. God neither rebuked him, nor had a fit about Abraham's lack of 'faith'. He, instead, made a covenant with Abraham.

    In Deuteronomy 18:18-22, God very explicitly stated if even one of a the predictions made by a prophet was not fulfilled, that prophet was not from Him. In other words, the people were to base their decision regarding the trustworthiness of the prophet on the evidence. In fact, in Ezekiel 13:2, God told the prophet to tell those who prophesied from their own inspiration, to "listen to the word of the Lord!". Only the prophecies that came from the Lord were legitimate. The false prophets were accused of misleading the people and would have no place in the council, would not be written down in the register of the house of Israel, nor would they enter the land of Israel

    In Judges 6: 36-40, Gideon wanted confirmation that God would deliver Israel through him as an angel had told him. The test proposed by Gideon was that a fleece left out all night would be wet with dew, but the surrounding area would be dry. Even after this happened, Gideon, asked to God to re-confirm the results.... this time with the fleece bone dry and the surrounding area wet.

    Daniel, captive in a foreign country, and in training to enter the king's personal service, did not wish to go against Jewish dietary laws and eat from the kings table, but requested only vegetables and water. When the commander balked at this request, Daniel did not ask the official to trust him, but to test that his health had not suffered on this diet. (Chapter 1)

    In Isaiah 5, God Himself rebuked king Ahaz for not asking for a sign, then proceeded to give him one.

    In Isaiah 43, Isaiah describes what is very similar to a courtroom scene, in which witnesses testify of things they have seen or heard. In it, God calls on the pagan nations to bring their witnesses, and He would bring His. As he said, the gods they worshiped had no power.... none of them had been able to so much as predict future events. Therefore, the people who trusted in these false gods had eyes, but were blind... they had ears, but were deaf. He then asserted his superiority to all idol-gods, and said His people were His witnesses that everything He had predicted had, indeed, been fulfilled. They were proof that he was the only true God. Through them, He would reveal Himself to the nations, so that they may know, believe, and understand that, in His words... "I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me".

    In Malachi 3, God invites the nation to test His faithfulness and His promises. If they would bring the tithes into the store house, He would pour out for them a blessing until it overflowed. 


Old Testament Prophets and Leaders

    In Deuteronomy, Moses urged the people to keep the word of the covenant based on all they had seen God do for them, including their deliverance from Egypt, and the fact that they had wandered 40 years in the desert... had been fed all that time, and neither their clothes nor shoes had worn out.

    In Exodus 33, God's anger burned against the Israelites because they had made, and begun to worship, a golden calf. God told them they could make their way to the land He had promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, He would not go with them, because they were an obstinate people. He would, instead, send an angel to guide their way. Moses then argued with God on the basis that if He (God) did not go with them, there would be no evidence that he (Moses) was favored of God, and nothing to distinguish the nation from every other one on the face of the earth.

    When Korah and his company rebelled against Moses' leadership, he appealed to the evidence of God's immediate and physical judgment upon them.

    In Joshua 3, Joshua gave the people a physical visible sign by which they would know that the living God was among them... He would dispossess from before them all the nations in the promised land. But before that, when the priests entered the Jordan carrying the ark, the river, which usually overflowed its banks, stopped flowing, so the entire nation could cross over.

Jesus And The New Testament Apostles
In the New Testament, no one was asked to just believe. They were enjoined to believe based on what they had seen.

    In his introduction, Luke made it very clear that, after investigating everything carefully, he was completely convinced of the truth of the whole matter, and was compiling an account in chronological order, so that there should be a full, authentic, and accurate account of all that had taken place. The verb Luke used means to trace accurately. He followed up everything to the source.

    The opening chapters of the Gospel of John begin with the declaration that he was proclaiming what they had seen and touched.

    Jesus continually referred people back to the Old Testament as a basis for judging His claims, simply because He fulfilled all the prophecies about the Messiah, made hundreds of years earlier.

    Similarly, in Acts 17:11, Paul called the Bereans noble minded. Why? Not because they blindly believed everything they were being told, but continuously checked the Scriptures to see whether what they were being told was true.

Paul, one of the most important figures of the apostolic age and author of two thirds of the New Testament, was initially strongly antagonistic to the Christian faith, going as far as to put Christians to death. While there is no question that it was a vision that triggered his conversion, he subsequently proved that he was a critical thinker, and that he debated and taught based on proof and logic.

  • He often appealed to eye-witnesses in support of his claims (Acts 13.31; I Corinthians 15: 2-9).
  • He reasoned with the Jews from their own Scriptures (Acts 17.2-3)
  • When accused of stirring up dissension his appeal to the governor was based on facts and logic (Acts 24: 10-21).
  • When brought before king Agrippa, he not only appealed to his experience on the road to Damascus, but to the fact that Christ's remarkable life, and death and the events surrounding them were well known in the region.
  • He also made appeal to the prophets who had, centuries earlier, prophecies about the Messiah which were fulfilled, down to the smallest detail, in Christ. (Acts 26)

The Resurrection
The central claim of Christianity is that 2000 years ago God took the form of a man, came down to earth, died on a cross, but rose from the dead three days later. In fact, the entire Christian hope depends solely on His resurrection. So much so that, in a first-century letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul wrote the following very strong words... "and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain". (1 Corinthians 15:14 NASB).

In other words, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then we could just as well take everything He said, write it down on little bits of paper and stuff them into fortune cookies. Which is why the overwhelming appeal in the New Testament was not just to believe, but to believe based on the fact that Christ had risen from the dead, testified to by the many witnesses that had seen the risen Christ.

    When the Jews of Jesus' day asked for a sign of His authority, Jesus referred them to His coming resurrection.. The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (John 2:18-21 NASB)

    Thomas, one of the disciples, did not believe the others when they told him they had seen the resurrected Christ. When Jesus appeared again, He showed Thomas His scarred hands, told him to feel the wound in His side.... then believe. (John 20)

    Luke summed it up in the opening chapter of his second book.. The Acts of The Apostles... "The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3 NASB)

    In Acts 22:15, God told Paul that he would be "a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard."

     In Acts 4:19-20, Peter and John told the Jewish council, that they could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard.

    Peter was very clear when he said they did not "follow cleverly devised tales" when they testified to the power and coming of Jesus Christ, but stressed that they were "eyewitnesses of His majesty". (2 Peter 1:16)

    Speaking to the Roman centurion, Cornelius, Peter stated they were witnesses, not only of all the things Jesus did, but that they  "ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead". (Acts 10:39-41 NASB)

    In his letter to the Corinthians Paul did not appeal to circumstantial evidence to prove the resurrection of Christ, but to the testimony of more than 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom must have still been alive at the time of writing . Paul mentions some of those whom the risen Lord appeared to... Peter, the other disciples, his brother James, the apostles, five hundred others and to Paul himself. (1 Corinthians 15:4-8 NASB). Not mentioned however, are the women that Jesus first appeared to.

In short, the truth of Christianity's absolute claims rest squarely on historical facts that can easily be investigated. Note: Chapter 8b is about the Alleged Discrepancies in The Gospel Accounts of the Resurrection

But, if you do undertake such an investigation, do please remember that when the most difficult and obstinate disputes in  other fields are resolved by very definite standards, it would be both unfair and illogical to dismiss similar reasoning and standards just because the subject being investigated happens to be Christianity.

A very important example is that witnesses are assumed to be telling the truth unless the facts tell a different story, or they are proved to be lying or shading the truth.

It is beyond the scope of this article, to go into every detail of the great number of facts that support the Bible's claim to be the word of God. However, I shall cover as many points as possible, providing, in many cases, the URL of more comprehensive articles.


Continue on to Part 4: God and His Bible
What is truly interesting is that most non-believers seem to be prejudiced against the Bible, but well disposed towards other 'scriptures'. In fact, if you quote the Bible, it is quite likely that you will hear something like "everyone knows the Bible is full of errors and contradictions". However if you were to appeal to... say... the writings of Buddha, you would probably be viewed as a wise, or even enlightened, person. This is a rather illogical situation, because there is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books' like the Qur’an, the Bhagvad-Gita, the writings of Confucius, or the Book of Mormon. This evidence includes it's humanly impossible authorship, it's candor about the faults and failings of it's main characters, fulfilled prophecy, and it's archaeological and scientific accuracy... none of which are seen in the books of other religions. CLICK HERE

 


Footnote I: How The Brain Contributes To 'Spiritual' And 'Mystic' Experiences

One of the most common, yet least understood, reasons behind some of our 'spiritual' feelings can very well be attributed to brain wave frequencies, or the brain's spontaneous electrical activity generated by millions of neurons as they communicate with each other. These frequencies or electrical activity, which will change depending on what the person is doing, are measured in cycles per second (Hz) by an electroencephalography (EEG).

The brain waves of someone who is sleeping is very different from the brain waves of someone who is wide awake. The usual frequencies range from Beta waves, emanated by individuals who are alert and actively engaged in some form of mental activity, through Delta which is the slowest of the frequencies, experienced by those in deep, dreamless sleep.

The Alpha or "resting state" of the brain, occurs when one's brain wave activity slows down from its usual 14 to 27+ cycles per second to 8 to 13 cycles per second. It is a passive state in which the person is awake, but relaxed. They feel peaceful, have a sense of stillness, and are non-critical and non-analytical, which is why it is not at all surprising that this reduced brain wave activity is said to alleviate stress, relieve tension, and increase creativity.

Although Alpha brain waves usually occur prior to and just after, falling sleep, this passive state can be induced by any number of activities both intended and unintended. Exactly the same brain wave activity is found in people who are sitting near running water or simply daydreaming. The Alpha state can also be brought about by many kinds of repetitive activity or sounds, like listening to waves crashing onto the beach. The freeway driver who suddenly cannot remember what he, or she, has been doing for the last few miles is a perfect example of someone lulled into an altered state of consciousness. It is believed that listening to a certain kind of music like Baroque Music, especially the adagio movements with a 40 to 60 beats per minute cycle, can put the brain into alpha.

Meditation, yoga, chanting, biofeedback, electrical stimulation of the brain, sensory deprivation, and even the pure, but wavering, sound of Crystal singing bowls are all intended to produce Alpha, or even Theta brain waves. For hundreds of years, Native Americans have used certain patterns of drumming to induce a trance like state. Rhythmic dancing can do so as well, as attested to by the Sufi dancers who whirl themselves into ecstatic trances.

In other words, an altered state of consciousness can induce not only a feeling of calmness and peace, but sensory and psychic sensations including a mystical oneness with one's surroundings. In other words, these sensations and feelings could have absolutely nothing to do with attaining oneness with Deity, drawing nearer to God etc. but may, in fact, be exalted terms used to describe normal brain activity.

The Temporal Lobes Of The Brain
Todd Murphy, a Behavioral Neuroscientist, who says his "main interest is in understanding how the brain contributes to mystic, religious, and spiritual experiences" [19] talks about temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), also called 'complex partial seizures' because they are confined to the temporal lobes of the brain, and says,  

    "TL seizures are mostly experiences of altered states because the temporal lobes control states of consciousness". And goes on to say that while he is not "trying to equate TL epilepsy with spirituality", "there's a big area where they overlap" [20]

In fact some of the abnormal sensations experienced during simple partial seizures (SPS), called so because the level of consciousness of the patient is not altered during the seizure, resemble the experiences brought on by spiritual practices and can be hard to describe. As the Epilepsy Foundation says,

    "Sensory seizures" in which people may smell or taste things that aren't there, feel as if they are floating or spinning in space, may have visual hallucinations, seeing things that aren't there

    Psychic seizures that change how people think, feel, or experience things, can include déjŕ vu (a feeling of familiarity), jamais vu (a feeling of unfamiliarity). [21] [PLACE IN TEXT]


Temporal Lobe Lability David Darling's Encyclopedia of Science says Temporal Lobe Lability is the amount of spontaneous electrical activity taking place in the temporal lobes of the brain, which is known to vary widely between individuals. It goes on to say (Emphasis Added)

    In the most extreme cases, violent, synchronized electrical storms flair up in the temporal lobes and caused epileptic fits. Immediately before a seizure, epilepsy sufferers sometimes report strange feelings such as dejá vu or a mystical oneness with their surroundings. (1) Other people who are not epileptic but who nevertheless have a high lability as measured by an electroencephalograph tend on the whole to be unusually artistic and imaginative. They are also more prone than normal to having out-of-the-body experiences and other such dramatic psychotic episodes. Research by Persinger suggests that these effects can be induced in anyone by artificially stimulating the temporal lobes. [22]

    (1) Skirda, R. J., and Persinger, M. A. "Positive Associations Between Dichotic Listening Errors, Complex Partial Epileptic-like Signs and Paranormal Beliefs," Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 181, 663 (1993).

This is further elaborated on by Todd Murphy who, citing Michael Persinger,  Professor of Psychology and head of the Neuroscience Research Group at Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, says (All emphasis Added)

    Temporal lobe lability refers to a person's sensitivity to altered states of consciousness. I don't mean the dramatic ones, such as religious visions. I mean the more subtle ones, with phenomena like deja vu, 'sensing a presence', pins and needles sensations, fleeting visions during twilight sleep, and other common episodes.

    These occur in a continuum across the human population. Some are very sensitive, having these experiences very often, and others never have them at all.

    Not all people who have these experiences also have religious experiences, but almost everyone who has had a religious experience has. [23]


Footnote II
"Baha'u'llah called for national and international Houses of Justice, which would act in a legislative capacity alongside political governments. He envisioned the Houses of Justice would be staffed entirely by Baha'is, but also recognized that such a reality would be a long time in coming. In the meantime, the secular United Nations is considered a first step toward world government and international goodwill". [19] [PLACE IN TEXT]

 

Endnotes (Chapter 3)
[01] How Can Jesus Be the Only Way? By Dr. Philip G. Ryken. pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=605 ). Unfortunately this article now only seems to be available in the magazine Modern Reformation, for which you either have to fork over $32.00 For a one years subscription delivered to your mailbox, or $25.00 for the digital version.

[02] Barbara O'Brien. What Do Buddhists Believe? http://buddhism.about.com/od/introductiontobuddhism/a/budbeliefs.htm

[03] "Faith In Awakening", by Geoffrey DeGraff aka Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 12 December 2010,
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/faithinawakening.html

[04] Kathy Kiefer. Faith and Religion. January 2014. http://kathykieferblog.com/2014/01/31/faith-and-religion/

[05] Shahadah. Albalagh Children.  http://www.albalagh.net/kids/understanding_deen/Shahadah.shtml

[06] The Islamic concept of faith. 30/12/2012. http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=articles&id=134445

[07] Ken Raggio. Will The Real antichrist Please Stand?  http://kenraggio.com/KRPN-AntichristStand.htm

[08] Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami. The Three Stages of Faith.  October/November/December, 2009. 
http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5041. Copyright © 2014 Himalayan Academy

[09] Bahá'í International Community. The Báb. http://www.bahai.org/dir/thebab

[10] What is the Bahá’í Faith? http://www.bahai.org/faq/facts/bahai_faith. Copyright 2014, Bahá'í International Community

[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/05/5-things-you-should-know-about-sikhism_n_1744657.html

[12] Prof Arvinder Singh. Guru Nanak's Ecumenical Religion (Sikhism) – The Savior of Mankind –
 http://sikhinstitute.org/july_2012/3-arvinder.html

[13] Sikh History – The Life and Times of Guru Nanak. http://sikhhistory.haraman.org/sikh-history-the-life-and-times-of-guru-nanak/

[14] Austin Cline. Religion as Faith and Ultimate Concern. What is Religion.
http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutreligion/a/UltimateConcern.htm

[15] James BeauSeigneur. How Can You Know That The God Of The Bible Is Really God? http://mysite.verizon.net/res0ov3c/realgod.htm

[16] Pastor Bryan Ross. Grace Life Bible Church
http://www.gracelifebiblechurch.com/PastorsPen/Teen%20Winter%20Retreat%20Lesson5.pdf

[17] Joel Stephen Williams. The Real Jesus of History.
http://www.doesgodexist.org/Pamphlets/TheRealJesusofHistory/TheRealJesusOfHistory.html

[18] Greg Koukl. Faith and Facts. Stand to Reason Ministries. http://www.str.org/articles/faith-and-facts#.U6w5tdLn9cY

[19] Ten Principles of the Baha'i Faith By Catherine Beyer. About.com. http://altreligion.about.com/od/beliefsandcreeds/p/10principles.htm

Provision-Back

Index To
Choose Life