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Ask the Pastor: Defending the Bible

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 ASK THE PASTOR BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

      Question: “How can I answer someone who asks, ‘How do you know that the Bible is God’s Word?”

     Answer: There are many different ways to tackle this question, and the best way depends on the state of mind and heart of the questioner. Your answer should be different if they are doubting and yet inclined to believe in the authority of Scripture, as opposed to being a skeptic and seeking to disprove Scripture’s authority. Also, your answer should be sensitive to the person’s current religious beliefs and knowledge of the content of Scripture. Overall, our culture is much different than it was a couple of generations ago, so you can usually expect the questioner to be almost completely ignorant of Scripture’s teachings and inclined to dismiss it as nothing more than primitive human ideas.

     The approach that I use most often is to begin by trying to establish some common ground in a belief that God exists. Very few people deny there is a God, although many have bought into the idea that we can’t know anything definitive about Him or His will. This is where I would try to put together some key pieces of the puzzle. I would ask: If you believe there is a God, do you believe that He created this world (by some means), and deserves the credit for the intricate mechanics and indescribable beauty of the universe? If so, do you recognize that human beings are unique creatures of God, able to reason and relate to one another at a far higher level than the rest of His creatures? The vast majority of people will answer “yes” to those questions.            

     Then I would ask the hard question: Do you think that God, having created such intelligent, relational beings in such a beautiful and complex environment, would leave them without any answers to basic questions about their existence? Here is where you will lose many people. Many people are willing to seek a God of “general revelation” (who can be known by what He has made), but few these days are willing to seek a God of “special revelation” – a God who has spoken to us, who has given us definitive answers to the central questions in life. We’re all like rebellious children – we try to avoid knowing what the rules and principles are in life so that we can attempt to avoid accountability. Therefore the idea of God placing an “inner light” inside each of us to guide us is very popular these days, but that is nonsensical, unverifiable, and is only another attempt to stay unaccountable for beliefs and actions. But if a person is sincerely seeking spiritual answers, they will be open to the obvious question – how can a God care so much about the details of creation and not reveal clear information about who He is, who He intends us to be, and what He expects from us.

     I would ask the person to consider what human beings do when they invent or create something. What manufacturer would create a kitchen appliance, a piece of electronic equipment, or new computer software, without writing an “owner’s manual” to explain how the product is supposed to work and be used, complete with warnings for misuse? If man as a creator always does this, why would we expect less from God? The idea is to get the seeker to accept the possibility that God has spoken, that there is a written account where He reveals Himself and His will. If they will accept this, a major spiritual barrier has been overcome. 

     The obvious question then becomes, “Which book has a right to claim to be God’s Word?” I don’t have space here to give a response to that important question, but let me say that at that point I can put forth the Bible with supreme confidence and great enthusiasm as THE Word of God. Other “holy books” (the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the teachings of Buddha, etc.) are quickly exposed as frauds and human compositions when honestly compared to the brilliant light and purity of the Bible, and of the Christ which it presents. It is good to be prepared to answer questions about alleged errors or contradictions in Scripture or to be able to explain how God inspired men to write His words or to explain how the different writings were brought together to form one consistent testimony to God and His will (there are many good resources for this information). However, the only way that a skeptic or seeker will be convinced is to read the Bible himself or herself and experience its transforming power. Their experience of God’s presence and power as they read His Word, if their heart has been opened by the Spirit, will confirm its authenticity. I know that’s what happened in my life, and in the lives of many, many others! 

     “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:1-3

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with
in Bible

Origin of Sin

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Senior Pastor Oakwood Presbyterian Church

QUESTION: In John 1:3 it says that through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  Does this mean that God also created sin?

ANSWER: You're not alone in being troubled by the question of where sin and evil came from.  Theologians have even coined a term for the age-old debate – "theodicy".  Part of that study addresses your question:  If God is holy and just, and, as you say, cannot even look upon sin, and if He is the only true God who created all things, then how did evil, temptation, and sin ever enter His good creation?   

     I'll start by saying that there is a great mystery here.  We can't (in this life, at least) know a full and satisfactory answer to this question, because God has not revealed the answer.  His Word simply doesn't address it directly.  But there are a few things that we do know about the origin of evil and sin based upon Scripture. 

     First, we know that sin existed before the fall of Adam and Eve.  God created the angels, and they were all "very good".  However, somehow they were tempted and some of them chose to sin by rebelling against God, resulting in their being cast out of heaven.  Therefore sin originated with Satan and the demons (fallen angels), not with the rebellion of Adam and Eve.  Satan tempted Eve to sin, God didn't.  But the Bible tells us very little about that original rebellion among the angels, and nothing about how the angels were tempted to rebel or how it was possible. 

     When John says in the verse that you quote, "All things were made through Him...", he is referring to the creation, the material world.  Sin isn't a "thing" in the same sense that trees, animals, stars, and human beings are created "things".  Sin is an action, a choice, an attitude, a desire.  God created Adam to be "very good", and by giving Adam an opportunity to choose to obey or disobey, God allowed for the possibility of sin entering His creation.  But He didn't tempt Adam to sin or in any way cause him to sin.  The desire to rebel came from within Adam, and it wasn't placed there by God. 

     We can know that for us, as fallen human beings, temptation and sin aren't things that God created, because James clearly tells us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:13).  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the real origin of sin is in our hearts.

     While the Bible teaches that God doesn't cause us to sin or tempt us to sin, it does teach that He is sovereign over our sins.  In a mysterious way, He is able to incorporate our sinful choices into His great plan for the world, and particularly for our redemption.  Joseph said to his abusive brothers, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:20).  Peter showed this relationship between God's sovereignty and our sins in the way he spoke about the events of the cross:  "...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." (Acts 2:23).  Somehow God incorporated the sinful choices and actions of the Jewish leaders into His sovereign plan to send His Son to the cross to die for our sins.  We don’t know how it works, but it is comforting to know that God is in total control of the sinful activities going on around us. 

     That also means that God not only knew about the sins of Adam and Eve, but He also incorporated them into His plan for the history of the world and for our redemption even before He began to create the world.  Ephesians 1:4 says that "He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him."  Again, there are mysteries here that we are not able to understand, probably both because the truth is really beyond our puny comprehension, and because God has not chosen to reveal the answers in His Word.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with