Wednesday, 11 June 2014

IS THIS LEVEL?



“How do you know the Bible is true?”

We have all been asked the question, and I am sure that many and various have been the ways which we went about answering it.

Depending upon your level of reading in a given area perhaps you resorted to:-


-archaelogy to prove the existence of the peoples and lands described in Scripture
-history to demonstrate how biblical prophecies have been fulfilled through the years.
-geology to prove the flood
-cosmology in order to demonstrate the Anthropic Principle (look it up)
-philosophy to show the rightness of Christian thought



But I would like to invite you to see that in each of these cases you have actually done one and the same thing, and this the very thing that your questioner was inviting you to do.

You have deployed an external standard (history, cosmology etc) and placed it over God's Word as a superior & overriding authority to the Bible. 

You did not mean to do this but nevertheless you did. 

Let me dare an analogy from DIY (this analogy must of necessity be couched in the third person because there are people out there who know that I think DIY stands for Don’t Injure Yourself, and that I live my life steering well-clear of such lethal implements as hammers and saws). 

Suppose a man (another man) were putting up a bookshelf.

Having completed the task he is going to want to check that his handiwork is truly horizontal (if it isn't there will always be a woman coming along shortly who will advise him of the fact, so it is best to do it himself).     

To do this he will doubtless place a spirit level on top of the shelf.

Now why has he done this?

It is because he considers the spirit level to be a greater authority on straightness than his bookshelf is, and so he trusts its judgement over and above his own handiwork. So if the spirit level communicates bad news he knows he has more work to do.

The spirit level is the final arbiter in the matter of straightness, not the bookshelf.

This is, of course, as it should be.

Hopefully no one has such overwhelming confidence in their DIY skills that they see a skewed reading on the spirit level and conclude that it must be the level that is crooked rather than the shelf!



But now do you see what the questioner who asked you to prove the truthfulness of the Bible was getting you to do?

He wanted you to do what he does himself and place something else (history, cosmology) as judge and jury over the Bible in order to assess its truthfulness. But that could only work if the something else in question could be shown to be truer than the Bible itself.

But this is not so.

 The Scriptures are the final word on Truth. They are not only true but the very arbiter of truthfulness.

Quite simply the Bible is the spirit level for all spiritual, religious, ethical & moral matters. 

By agreeing to apply external standards to the Word of God you are unconsciously admitting that truthfulness can be measured against something greater – truer – than the Bible. You have inadvertently placed an external standard above the Word of God and are treating it as a higher authority.


The Word of God is not the standard for all things, of course. It cannot overrule the Haynes manual for your car or the manufacturers instructions on your washing machine. It is not meant to be the final authority in those areas.
 
But for all matters on which it deals (that is everything pertaining to life and godliness) it is the final authority.

In the areas of its purview we must always view the Bible as the spirit level, and not just another bookshelf.

Incidentally, staying with the bookshelf analogy, we should say that once you have tested the levelness of the shelf you have no need to test the levelness of the books that you then place on the completed shelf. You know that if the shelf is straight then the books must be also.

Hence the bookshelf, once having been tested by the ultimate authority of the spirit level can now serve as a secondary authority for straightness.

This is why Creeds & Confessions are legitimate as secondary and subordinate authorities to scripture.  If a creedal statement has first passed the test of biblical orthodoxy then I can trust it too. It has passed the spirit level test. But I digress.

For those who haven't guessed yet, we are discussing here the divergence of opinion in Christian Apologetics that exists between  Evidentialism and Presuppositionalism.

Whilst evidences for Christianity certainly have their place (and we live in days where the evidence has never been greater) I am convinced that biblical apologetics ought to be presuppositional in nature.

We will unpack this in later posts.