My former post seemed to get a bit of response. In it I posed several questions. Not the least of which was, “Is Evangelicalism, as a way of thinking, fundamentally flawed since it seeks to interact with a fluid concept of reality, through which it ultimately must determine truth and interpret Scripture?” But that was compared with Fundamentalism, and it was then asked, “Is Fundamentalism any better? Can one determine truth if he has not engaged all the facts available to him? Can one remain relevant to his culture, his world, his times, if he does not interact with all that those around him know as reality? Can he even know truth if he has not actively engaged falsity, in order to know it as such?”
The responses were variegated in topic and flavour, but seemed to revolve around two main thoughts. One of which was that all “isms” are man-made, and thus are inherently flawed. The second main thought in the responses was one wherein it was questioned whether the Bible should be used as a “science textbook” when that is clearly not what it was originally intended to be. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the main points and practical results of what the Bible teaches, rather than getting all caught up in the relevance of details that weren’t supposed to be taken as we take them (ie. taking the details of creation in Gen. 1 as a description of the exact chronology of how things occurred, according to modern scientific method)?
The post itself was meant to be leading in its line of questions. Wherein lies truth? How can transient man ever come face to face with eternal reality?
When Augustine was young he developed a love for philosophy by reading Cicero’s “Hortensius.” By this point in his education, Augustine had fallen head over heals for great poetry and prose and fanciful arguments of men over what to believe and what to question… sounds like many of us. When he first came to question these things, he queried his friends, searched his own mind and soul, and finally saw fit to probe holy writ.
He records his experience:
So I made up my mind to examine the holy Scriptures and see what kind of books they were. I discovered something that was at once beyond the understanding of the proud and hidden from the eyes of children. Its gait was humble, but the heights it reached were sublime. It was enfolded in mysteries, and I was not the kind of man to enter into it or bow my head to follow where it led. But these were not the feelings I had when I first read the Scriptures. To me they seemed quite unworthy of comparison with the stately prose of Cicero, because I had too much conceit to accept their simplicity and not enough insight to penetrate their depths. It is surely true that as the child grows these books grow with him. But I was too proud to call myself a child. I was inflated with self-esteem, which made me think myself a great man.
Many a “great man” treats the Word of God in this manner. Evey man who treats God’s word in this manner must indeed be “great,” at least in his own mind–how else could humanity pass judgment on the divine?
I am certain of this, that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I think this holds true with regards to the work of his Holy Spirit. The Word of God is indeed living and active, and it will not return to him who sent it without accomplishing its intended purpose.
When the Word of God meets a humble and contrite heart, who accepts it as truth truly sent by God, it has indeed found a home. The Spirit of God plants the seed of the word, waters and nourishes it. The grace of God is all the light and energy needed to bring forth a tree of good fruit.
As time goes by, I become more and more convinced that God honours faith and humility. If, in faith, I come as a human, bound in time and space, limited in knowledge and wisdom, to his Word which I regard as holy truth and wholly true, the revelation of the character and nature of the One Eternal Reality against which all else is measured, I will be blessed.
Too many times I have come to the Bible like Augustine, quoted above. I have thought of it and have been ashamed that the book to which I am supposed to cling is “not like Cicero.” It is, in places, not the most beautiful of language. At times it seems downright naive. It is almost always politically incorrect, and quite often it says things that are incredibly difficult to interpret aright.
It is much easier to come up with my own grand thoughts of what God must be like, or could be like, or the nature of reality itself than to read about them in a book multiple-millenia old. And it is old–it has all been heard before. What of new ideas, new thoughts, new perspectives? What about “always reforming” anyway? Shouldn’t that apply to at least our interpretations, if not doctrines of Scripture?
God has honoured and will continue to honour that faith which recognizes his Word as “God-breathed”–that is, from him and above reproach or rebuke, shame or scandal, culture or critique.
He does this in very practical ways. God honours faith by providing proof.
Remember in the Chronicles of Narnia when Lucy saw Aslan so plainly when others could not? Aslan demanded of her that she follow him regardless of what the others thought or did. The others thought she was nuts at best and a pain at worst. But as each one’s faith was added, they were provided with the grace to see that Aslan was there and had been leading them all along.
It is the same thing for the Christian as he reads his Bible. When I read it in faith, trusting that it is God’s truly inspired Word to me, his Spirit bears witness to my heart that what I read is truth. When I read with the faith of a child trusting his Father, he honours that faith and shows me the intangible internal consistency, undeniable connectivity of thought, and the subtle nuances that could be included only if one author had edited the whole.
So what? What does all this have to do with the conversation at hand? How does this relate to the Evangelical / Fundamentalist debate?
Simply this: The Bible is not a science textbook and Evangelicalism, like Fundamentalism and every other “ism” is indeed fundamentally flawed. Science cannot give us the answers we are looking for; it cannot interpret Scripture or give us absolute truth. Science, like the “isms” at hand, is never impartial, nor are our uses of it.
The only source of truth we have is the Word of God. And the Word of God is hard–hard to interpret, hard to understand, hard to apply. Who thought truth would be easy? The only answer we have is to simply choose to believe Scripture.
Ultimately, we must choose to either believe it or disbelieve it. It is a matter of faith. The more faith we place in it, the more we see that it is entirely trustworthy. The more we analyze, deconstruct, apply our criticisms, the more room for Satan to fill our minds with doubt. The Bible testifies to itself like Christ testified to himself, or like God testified to himself to OT Israel. Either believe or disbelief; take it or leave it.
To take the promises of God and wait to see if they hold true for others is to disbelieve. To take Christ and examine him sceptically as he is modelled by Christians is to disbelieve. To take the Word of God and determine whether or not to believe it based on how you see it interacting with culture or science is to disbelieve it.
What I am suggesting is not a return to Fundamentalism, where we do not interact with the culture or science of our day, but rather that we do so with a heart that has already determined that God’s Word is true in what it asserts regardless of what the rest of the world professes to believe. God’s Word is true regardless of any scientific “fact;” though we know that no fact could ever contradict truth. Thus, the fluidity of the reality of the world around us alternatively may testify for or against a truth claim of God’s Word.
Faith demands that I go into my interactions with culture or science with the understanding that what God (as Creator of all) proclaims to be good or bad, right or wrong, truth or fiction, is in fact exactly what he says it is. End of conversation. Regardless of what culture or science attempts to dictate or demand.
In humility we must come to the Word of God and believe it absolutely. To do anything less is to disbelieve completely. The inner testimony of the Holy Spirit to the absolute truth of God’s Word cannot be denied by any who have come in the humility our great God deserves.