Articles by Brian Jackson
What I Am Saying is True and Reasonable
9 April 2009
Out of all the people mentioned in the New Testament, I think I've always identified with Paul the most.
The culture war in our present time returns frequently to the question, "where are the role models?". In simpler decades, popular culture knew far less about our heroes, especially their personal lives; now we know who they love, who they hate, who they've slept with, and which vice will probably kill them if they don't get professional help. If you're a Christian looking for a role model out of today's celebrity whirlwind, bring a lunch - you'll be there for a while.
A lot of people go to church, and there are plenty of boxers who quote Philippians every time they win a match: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Surely, their resolve is worth imitating, but it's hard to distinguish between someone who treats the Bible as poetry to be quoted and someone who lives the lifestyle the Bible dictates.
So hands down, Paul's my guy. There's the work ethic to imitate - willing to go anywhere, willing to do anything, willing to work with his hands when necessary, and dealing ruthlessly with issues of sin in himself and in the church. The emphasis he placed on truth in scripture is unmistakable, and his use of scripturally-informed reason is what I find really remarkable. And imitable.
One part of Paul's story that's always intrigued me has been his defense in front of King Agrippa and Festus, a Roman governor.
There's a classic line in there: when Paul has given his defense both of his conversion and ministry, Festus asserts that Paul's gone insane from "much learning", to which Paul replies, "I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What I'm saying is true and reasonable."
Does this strike a chord with anyone else?
A friend of mine asked me the other day if it was possible to believe something is only spiritually true. I disagreed. Nevertheless it occurred to me that the idea wasn't unique - the "churched masses" have largely adopted the notion of facts separate from truth.
The Bible does not present a pie-in-the-sky, arm's length notion of truth and falsehood. No, the Bible instructs us to investigate it and see if what it says is really true, and at the same time. The prevailing current of Christian culture doesn't place value in thorough examination, and I sincerely doubt that anyone could accuse Christianity of being an institution where people are going insane from too much learning.
After examining the claims and weighing the evidence of Jesus' resurrection and the lives changed, we're confronted with a Bible that has authority - not just a believe-this-or-else, but an authority that comes from being fully persuaded that these things are true, that the words of scripture are actually the words of God divinely recorded through the hands of men.
There are two mandates, then, that come from confidence in the Bible:
First, the duty of the Christian is to continually read and understand the word of God. It's silly to say that we're interested in the will of God if we are ignorant of what God says.
Second, we must approach the Bible completely naive - that is, to leave dogma at the door, let the Bible say what it says, and be completely honest about the consequences. To put the kind of trust that belongs to the word of God in tradition is a kind of idolatry.
Therefore, let us never take the approach that skips the hard questions - rather, let us work out our faith with "fear and trembling". God has given us reason so that we might use it.Tweet
I agree that God gave us reason, that way we can discern that which is false, and that which is true. One point to make about all of this is the evidences of the Bible at that point in time. If Christianity were false, and Jesus was not raised from the dead as ALL the Disciples taught and fully believed, then those around at that point in time could point those who believe at wherever Jesus was buried and disprove it. Since there is an empty tomb, and no trace of his body, and (as the Bible says) Jesus appeared to many people, not just the disciples, so many people are witnesses, and not just his closest followers, we have ample proof of His true resurrection and not just a claim by a few guys who formed a scheme to trick people. All of that, if false, would be the most elaborate, conniving, deceitful, epically huge lie in the history of mankind. But, again, these things are true indeed, thanks to logical proof given to us for discerning.
And yes, We as Christians are to study the Scripture as to give a credible witness to those who ask.
Nate - I'm glad you bring that up. That's an often overlooked bit of the story, and a point that has to be dealt with for any charge against the early church's credibility to hold up.