Prove It

Audio of “Prove It” (5 min, 16 sec)

A friend asks, “Why should I trust a God I can’t see or prove even exists?”

If such a scenario hasn’t happened, it will. Even some reading this now are probably saying, “Good point,” to this argument.

So…how would you respond?

Let’s listen to Dr. Jerry Root share his own story of responding to such a question after a class he taught (which, I believe, captures so well the crux of the real flaw with the initial question).

Here is the transcript:

I [Dr. Root] said [to this atheist student], “…You’re from Brown University, you must be very bright–ivy league school–tell me about that, what are you studying?”

She says, “Biochemistry.”

We talked a little further and I said, “Well we talked about spiritual things in this class. What did you think?”

She said, “Well, as a biochemist,” which I thought was a little premature–she was only a sophomore. She said, “As a biochemist, I live by the principle if I can’t perceive it empirically I just don’t believe it.”

I said, “That’s the principle you live by? If you can’t perceive something empirically you won’t believe it?”

She says, “Yes.”

I said, “Would you please set that principle forth for me empirically?”

I hope you see the problem. It’s an inherent contradiction. It’s a proposition that is not empirically perceived…

She saw the contradiction. She was a bright Brown student, and she freaked out.

She said, “I’ve never seen the contradiction in my own presupposition.” She said, “Why, everybody at Brown University believes this.”

I said, “No, there’s Christians there, too.”

And I said, “And you know what? Just to be fair to materialists, I’ve met materialists who would never subscribe to that. So let’s be fair.”

But I said, “This is the thing. Um, John Polkinghorne, who taught at Cambridge University and was…had a degree in theology and a degree in physics. He taught physics; he was the president of one of the Cambridge University colleges. He said, ‘If you ask the scientist, “Why is the kettle boiling?,” the scientists would tell you based on the measureable features, on observable features: the heat from the burner is agitating the molecules and it’s burning it up. I mean, it’s ah, ah…at a hundred degrees centigrade sea level it boils.’

“He says, ‘That’s a good answer, that’s the answer the scientist would give you.’

“He said, ‘But you could also say, “I would like a cup of tea, and would you like one, too?” And the second answer you couldn’t arrive at by mere scientific method.'”

And so this becomes very, very important.

And I said to her, too, “Mortimer Adler, the philosopher, who was at the University of Chicago, said, ‘In three generations we’ve gone from saying, “That which is measurable is that which is important for science,” to saying, “That which is measurable is the only thing that’s important.”‘”

Lecture by Jerry Root, Lanier Theological Library, Sept. 18, 2019

In case you missed it, here’s the point:

Everyone begins with unproven assumptions. Let’s call those presuppositions. Even the one who demands scientific proof is beginning with the presupposition that empirical, scientific proof is a necessary prerequisite to following Christ. Where does such a notion come from? It is a presupposition that cannot be proven (which is the ultimate irony).

Of course, Christians also have presuppositions.

I presuppose that Jesus is Lord, and that the Bible is His Word. I believe such conviction only happen by revelation, and that revelation comes primarily and specifically through God’s Spirit and God’s Scripture (as we have humble hearts to obey/receive)…but also comes in a general way through reason, observation, and nature.

So if we can all agree that we all start with presuppositions, the true question is:

Whose presuppositions are the most sound, consistent with reality, and ultimately true?

Now that’s a question worth exploring!

Brian

Does Jesus Know You? (Full Podcast Episode)

Audio of “Does Jesus Know You?” (48 min, 11 sec)
  • Many surprised when they meet Jesus Matthew 7:21-23; 13:24-43; 25:1-13, 31-46; Luke 6:46; 13:22-30; 2 Timothy 2:19-21
  • The indwelt Holy Spirit is THE DIFFERENCE Matt. 25:1-13; John 3:3-8 (compare with Luke 13:27); Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 
  • We receive the indwelt Holy Spirit when we receive the gospel John 5:24; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:13
    • Receive the gospel = repent and believe that Jesus/God lived perfectly, died for your sins, bodily resurrected 3 days later Mark 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 
  • Our transformed character shows we have received the gospel and Holy Spirit Galatians 5:22-25; Hebrews 10:14; James 2:14-26; 1 John 3:14

What is the normal Christian life?…it is something very different from the life of the average Christian.  Indeed a consideration of the written Word of God – of the Sermon on the Mount for example – should lead us to ask whether such a life has ever in fact been lived upon the earth, save only by the Son of God himself.  But in that last saving clause lies immediately the answer to our question.

The apostle Paul gives us his own definition of the Christian life in Galatians 2:20.  It is “no longer I, but Christ.” Here he is…presenting God’s normal for a Christian, which can be summarized in the words: I live no longer, but Christ lives his life in me.

God makes it quite clear in his Word that he has only one answer to every human need – his Son, Jesus Christ.  In all his dealings with us he works by taking us out of the way and substituting Christ in our place. The Son of God died instead of us for our forgiveness: he lives instead of us for our deliverance.  So we can speak of two substitutions – a Substitute on the Cross who secures our forgiveness and a Substitute within who secures our victory. It will help us greatly, and save us from much confusion, if we keep constantly before us this fact, that God will answer all our questions in one way and one way only, namely, by showing us more of his Son.

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, 1977, pp. 11-12

Psalm 78 & God’s Attraction to the Unworthy

In Psalm 78, after speaking for the large part of 64 verses about Israel’s stubbornness, rebellion, and wickedness…after God brought judgment of Israel…and without Israel showing any sign of repentance…

Suddenly, we read:

Then the Lord awoke as from sleep...
He beat back His enemies...
He built His sanctuary like the heights...
(Psalm 78:65-69)

Why did God do this? Everything thus far indicated that Israel did not deserve it.

Further, the end of this Psalm tells us that:

God did not choose the tribe of Ephraim...
[God] chose David His servant,
And took him from the sheepfolds
(Psalm 78:67-72)

Intriguingly, the Psalm begins by telling us that:

The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows,
Turned back in the day of battle.
(Psalm 78:9)

So notice the contrast:

  • Ephraim was armed and had strong weapons, but was rejected
  • David was watching sheep (and you’ll recall against Goliath that he had no armor and pathetic weaponry), yet was chosen

Thus, we are faced with 2 times at the end of Psalm 78 that God does something amazing with the unworthy:

  1. He rescued “unworthy” Israel (Psalm 78:65-66)
  2. He chose “unworthy” David (Psalm 78:70-72)

Jesus only continues this theme when saying things like:

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.

Matt. 9:12-13

Of course, the Bible is adamant that we are all unworthy of God. But it seems there is a special place in God’s heart for those who recognize their unworthiness and inability while appealing to God’s worthiness and ability.

May that be true of us.

Brian

Do We Resist God’s Will With Doctors?

As stated elsewhere, I believe God is sovereign (and His will is served) over sickness and disease, and He also loves to heal.

However, some have raised the following concern:

Objection: If you believe it’s God’s will that people are sick, then aren’t you guilty of resisting God’s will by visiting a doctor?

My Response

A good athletic coach will work his team hard, causing (temporary) physical stress and pain on the athletes. A good teacher will work her students hard, causing (temporary) struggle and distress on the students. Good parents will give (temporary) consequences that hurt children so that the child grows in character. As the athlete grows stronger, as the student grows smarter, and as the child matures in their character, they will, in some ways, overcome the pain caused by their coach/teacher/parent, which will very much please the coach/teacher/parent. In the same way, God strengthens us through sickness, and part of that strength comes from working to bring healing (on yourself or others) – which can very much please Him.

Let the beautiful God-ordained process of metamorphosis be our guide. During this transformation, the caterpillar is in tremendous pressure and anguish. However, if the chrysalis were to be cut open prematurely, though the caterpillar’s struggle would complete, it would never grow strength to fly as a butterfly. It is only when the caterpillar has struggled completely that it builds enough strength to break open the chrysalis on its own. And it is this struggle that gives it strength to fly as a butterfly. If the caterpillar would have said, “Well, God gave me the chrysalis, I should just relax,” it would never fly. Or if others would cut the chrysalis prematurely it would never fly. Instead, God wanted it to struggle to learn how to fly. God gave the trying circumstance in order to provide a way for the caterpillar to fly. In the same way, He delights when we seek healing (in fact, it is very much in the DNA of every sick person to want to be healed!). But this does not mean He did not bring the sickness for us to struggle against.

Even Jesus Himself, knowing that crucifixion was God’s good and perfect plan, can still say, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42). As a Man, He is saying, “This is tough. If it can pass, please let it pass. But if it can’t, then let Me endure it well.” In a similar way, we can pray and struggle against our own sickness, not knowing how temporary (and all sickness is temporary in comparison to eternity) it will be, but contenting ourselves on God’s ways over our own ways.

For a related subject, see Is God Sovereign Over Satan?

Brian

God’s Teachers 1: Character

Videos

Outline

2 Tim. 2:24: all Christians should be able to teach
Ezekiel 33:1-9: our obligation to share what God reveals
Ephesians 4:11-16: teachers build up body; speak truth in love
Romans 12:7: teachers teach
Matt. 13:57; Luke 9:43-45: even if not understood/received

Matthew 23:
vv. 2-4: Scribes/Pharisees taught hypocritically; don’t follow
vv. 5-10: Loved self
vv. 8-10: Only 1 Teacher (cf. 1 John 2:27)
vv. 11-12: Humble yourselves
vv. 13ff.: “Woe to you…hypocrites!…child of hell…blind guides…”

James 3:1-18: warning for teachers; heavenly vs. demonic wisdom

Proverbs (“the wise”):
8:33; 9:8, 9; 10:8; 12:15; 13:1; 15:31; 18:15; 21:11: teachable; learner
12:18; 13:14; 15:2, 7; 16:23; 25:12: words bring life
26:1-12: contrast “wise-in-own-eyes”

God’s leaders: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-25; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:7
Faithful teaching essential; faithful character overwhelming focus

God’s teachers:
Faithful: Luke 16:10-12; 1 Cor. 4:1-5; 1 Tim. 4:11-16; Rev. 22:18-19
Humble, God-dependent: Acts 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 1:12-14
Women: Matt. 28:9-10; 1 Cor. 11:2-16; Titus 2:3-5
David (Psalm 78:9-10, 67-72), Peter (Acts 10-11), Paul (Acts 9:6-19; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 10:10), Apollos (Acts 18:24-28)

When God Heard…

Audio of “When God Heard…” (4 min, 8 sec)

In Psalm 78:56-58 we read a sad account of Israel rejecting God. They did things like:

  • “Did not keep His testimonies”
  • “Turned back and acted unfaithfully”
  • “Provoked Him to anger with their high places”
  • “Moved Him to jealousy with their carved images”

But after this, in Psalm 78:59, it tells us how God found out:

When God heard this, He was furious...

And, sadly, He had to give them up to captivity as a result. Though keep reading until the end where God also, even after their unfaithfulness, showed outlandish love in bringing them back and restoring them.

But back to Psalm 78:59. Does anyone else find it peculiar that God found out about their unfaithfulness by “hearing” about it?

A similar, tragic account of Israel’s unfaithfulness is found in Deut. 32:15-18. But the result there is different:

And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them...
And He said: 'I will hide My face from them...
(Deut. 32:19-20)

Notice the difference? In Deut. 32:19, God, “saw” what Israel did. His face was already present with them such that He needed to hide his face after they did this.

But in Psalm 78:59, God “heard” what they did.

Of course, it would be just as true to say God knows everything and sees everything. So it’s not as if God really didn’t know in Psalm 78:59 until He heard it.

Instead, I believe it’s intended to leave the impression that God wasn’t in their immediate presence. That God’s face was already hidden from them. Or, perhaps better yet, they already intentionally were hiding things from God and didn’t want His scrutiny.

It reminds me of Genesis 3:8-9. After the first sin of humanity, Adam and Eve heard the sound of God walking, “and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord.”

Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"

Notice again the verbiage. Adam and Eve heard God walking (which means they weren’t in His presence anymore). Then they hid from his presence (so they stayed out of His sight). Then God had to ask, “Where are you?” (which shows they are not together).

Again, of course God knew where they were and what they did. Just as in Psalm 78:59, God didn’t have to wait until he “heard” about the events. But it challenges me to ask this question:

Am I living my life in such a way that God has to “hear” about what I do?

Or am I constantly seeking Him, seeking His presence, welcoming His difficult (as well as good) words to lead me before I get to that point of rebellion? Such that, before it got to the point of abhorrent disobedience, I would have heard God and responded when He said, “Don’t go that way,” “Don’t keep doing that.”

And, the good news is, even if you’ve been so distant from God that He needs to “hear” about what you’ve done, He is far from done with you. He did come back to Adam and Eve. He did come back to Israel. He did come back to the Prodigal Son. He ran back to him when he was a long way off.

But like a dad having to discipline their kids for something they did in his absence, I’d think that God would rather you initiate the conversation and come honestly to Him, instead of Him having to start the conversation (though He will, in love, as necessary).

Brian