Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review: Tactics, by Greg Koukl

    In his book Tactics, Greg Koukl gives a very definite pattern of how to engage someone about one’s faith. Koukl breaks up the idea of the book into two sections: The Game Plan and Finding The Flaws. In each chapter, he develops the idea of a tactical, non-confrontational, non-offensive apologetic way to maneuver effortlessly in conversation with a variety of individuals. This process keeps the engager in the driver's seat becoming an effective ambassador for Christ in the process. Koukl’s no-nonsense approach gives people the freedom to share their faith in a manner that doesn’t seem forced or contrived. As he puts it, it is not about always “sealing the deal” but sometimes about just putting a pebble in the shoe of the listener to start them thinking. The tactics discussed here create a safe and level playing field for both the ambassador and nonbeliever. The Columbo Tactic is a straightforward and unforced maneuver that helps people interact without feeling like they are being steamrolled or caught in a conversation with no exit. 

Accurately following these tactics will prevent one from misdirecting or forcing the issue. By asking “what do you mean by that?” one can allow them to feel heard without manipulation or coercion. Tactics is helpful on all levels of conversations from the everyday conversation in the grocery store or on the airplane to a deeper academic discussion on a campus.  Koukl shows us that not all arguments are worth engaging in, and some commit suicide simply by pressing them in real-life application. Most importantly this book demonstrates to the reader that with a little practice and good listening skills a person can become an effective ambassador for Christ.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is the Book of Mormon from God?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


How may a person distinguish between truth and error? Can a person know which religion is right? Must a person rely on subjective inner inclinations and feelings? Or is religious truth ascertainable and knowable based on objective assessment? Most religions (e.g., Buddhism and Hinduism) base their credibility on some mystical or transcendental experience. Even some “Christian” groups (e.g., Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, et al.) claim that their credibility and authenticity may be established on the basis of the Holy Spirit Whom, they say, gives them their assurance. But when the Bible is examined, no such role is assigned to the Holy Spirit. Mystical religions have always existed, and have insisted that they were the recipients of leading and guidance from superior forces that are “better felt than told.” The God of the Bible, on the other hand, always offered evidence—proof—of the divine origin of the message before He expected people to believe (e.g., John 10:37-38; 20:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
The nature of truth is such that it does not depend upon subjective human experience for its veracity. Rather, God created human beings with minds that were designed to function rationally. We humans have the capability, if we maintain an honest heart free from bias, to consider and weigh evidence, and to draw correct conclusions. As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The truthfulness of religious claims is verifiable on the basis of evidence and rational thought. Humans can reason logically, and distinguish between truth and falsehood.

NO ABSURDITIES OR CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS?

The nature of truth is such that it does not contradict itself. After literally centuries of scrutiny by hostile skeptics and unbelieving critics, the Bible has been found to be completely consistent with the nature of truth, logic, and the laws of thought. On the other hand, uninspired documents cannot stand up to such scrutiny. The Book of Mormon is one such document. It lacks the marks of inspiration that characterize the Bible. In an official publication of the LDS (Latter-day Saints), 31 conditions are identified as necessary in order to produce an inspired book. Condition #9 says, “You must not make any absurd, impossible, or contradictory statements” (see “The Challenge...,” 1990, p. 1). This affirmation is a self-evident truth. Yet, the Book of Mormon is guilty of violating this very criterion.
In the first place, much of the King James Version of the Bible has been reproduced verbatim in theBook of Mormon—at least 25,000 words. For example, Mosiah 14 is a reproduction of Isaiah 53. 3 Nephi 13:1-23 is simply Matthew 6:1-23. Moroni 7:45 is copied from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Moroni 7:48 is 1 John 3:2. Moroni 10:8-17 is taken from 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Alma 5:52 is Matthew 3:10. 2 Nephi 14:1-3 is Isaiah 4:1-3. The author of the Book of Mormon obviously had before him a copy of the King James Bible, and simply copied many sections directly from it. But this is only half of the problem on this point. The KJV is an uninspired translation of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into the English language of the turn of the seventeenth century, completed in 1611. But God gave the Old Testament to the Israelites in their native language (Hebrew), and He gave the New Testament in the first century in the common language of that day (Greek).Question: why in the world would God give His Word to Joseph Smith in nineteenth-century America (1830), not in American English, but in the British language of seventeenth century England? The obvious answer to the question is that God would not do so. This absurdity is inconsistent with the nature of God.
The reproduction of so much of the KJV in the Book of Mormon raises four additional concerns. First, Mormons frequently attempt to establish the superiority of the Book of Mormon over the Bible by insisting that the Bible has been corrupted through the centuries in the process of translation (a contention similar to Islam’s defense of the Quran). But if the Bible has been so adversely affected, why does the Book of Mormon quote so much of the King James Version? Apparently, at least those portions of the Bible are to be considered accurate!
Second, all textual critics (those who study the original manuscript evidence that attests to the text of the New Testament) know that textual variants exist in the extant manuscript evidence. The vast majority of these discordant readings are resolved when all of the textual evidence is considered (e.g., Metzger, 1968, p. 185). If the Book of Mormon were inspired, not only would it refrain from incorporating the King James Version within its pages, it also would not include in those sections the manuscript errors that have crept into the text. Here was the perfect opportunity in 1830 for God to correct the mistakes that had accumulated during the previous 200 years (as well as the 1,500 years prior to the KJV). Instead, the mistakes were perpetuated!
For example, several textual variants occur in Matthew 6—a chapter that was reproduced in 3 Nephi 13. In Matthew 6:4, the Textus Receptus (the Greek text upon which the KJV was based) contained the words “himself” and “openly.” These insertions were perpetuated by the author of the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 13:4, as was the word “openly” in verses 8 and 16 of Matthew 6 (and 3 Nephi 13). Likewise, the Trinitarian ascription in 3 Nephi 13:13 and Matthew 6:13 in the KJV (“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”) is not supported by the earliest and most important manuscript witnesses to the text of the New Testament. Subsequent translations, including the ASV, omit the sentence altogether, or, in the case of the NASB, place it in brackets. The manuscript evidence simply does not support these additions as being in the original, inspired autograph authored by Matthew. Many additional instances of the same type of faux pas can be cited. The one who was responsible for producing the Book of Mormon in these cases unquestionably (1) relied on the KJV and (2) demonstrated his ignorance of textual criticism.
Third, in addition to errors that are due to textual variants, the KJV also made grammatical and stylistic errors that were naively copied by the Book of Mormon. For example, in Hebrew, singular masculine nouns are changed to plural by appending “im” (pronounced “eem”)—the equivalent of “s” or “es” in English. The Hebrew words “cherub” and “seraph” are singular nouns. The plural forms of these words are “cherubim” and “seraphim.” The KJV translators mistakenly added an “s” to these terms to denote a plural form (e.g., Genesis 3:24; Exodus 25:18,19,20,22; Isaiah 6:2,6; Hebrews 9:5). Alluding to cherubim, Clarke explained: “[T]o add an s to this when we introduce such words into English, is very improper; therefore the word should be written cherubim, not cherubims” (n.d., 1:56, italics in orig.; cf. Lewis, 1991, p. 59). Yet the original 1830 Book of Mormon reproduced the same mistake as the KJV in this regard (Alma 12:21; 42:2,3; 2 Nephi 16:2,6), though corrections were made in later editions. The unbiased observer is forced to conclude: God knows Hebrew; the author of the Book of Mormon obviously did not.
Another sample of stylistic error is the use of the expression “it came to pass.” This expression is aSemitism, or Hebraism, i.e., an idiomatic oddity or peculiarity of the Hebrew language that has no corresponding equivalent in English. Newer translations either drop it completely or render it with an approximate English equivalent like “it came about” or “it happened.” The KJV simply transferred the Semitism directly into English and, under its influence, has caused the expression to be naturalized into English religious usage. Nevertheless, it is not an idiom that is native to English. The Book of Mormon is literally inundated with the expression—as if the author was deliberately attempting to make his writing sound biblically or divinely authentic. In reality, he was unwittingly making it sound Semitic in seventeenth-century English! But God would not have communicated with Americans in 1830 through the convoluted pathway of Hebrew, to seventeenth-century British English, to nineteenth-century American English. Likewise, the peoples of the specific historical periods that theBook of Mormon claims to be depicting (e.g., the Nephites) would have had no earthly reason to have spoken in Hebrew themselves, nor to have their history reported in Hebrew phraseology and Semitic idiom. Apparently, later Mormon authorities, unable to completely eradicate this stylistic feature due to its extensive occurrence, were nevertheless so uncomfortable with the overuse of the phrase that they have deleted some of its occurrences when so many were used in close proximity with each other. For example, in Alma 14:7, the original Book of Mormon had three occurrences of “it came to pass”—in the same verse! Current editions have only one.
Fourth, in 3 Nephi 20:23-26, Jesus is represented as the speaker, and He applies to Himself the prophecy that Moses made in Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19. Yet, the author of the Book of Mormonunquestionably was relying on Acts 3:22-26, where Peter paraphrased the Deuteronomy passage, and then added his own comments. The Book of Mormon mistakenly has Jesus including Peter’s appended comments as if they were part of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy.
In addition to the absurdities and contradictions that exist within the Book of Mormon in its close reliance on the KJV, contradictions also exist within and between the Mormon scriptures themselves. Consider, for example, the serious contradiction in the promulgation of polygamy. The Book of Mormon condemns the practice of plural marriages in no uncertain terms:
But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.... Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts (Jacob 2:23-24,26-28; cf., 1:15; Ether 10:5; Doctrine and Covenants 49:16).
These referenced verses from the Book of Mormon enjoin monogamy with uncompromising vigor. Yet the Doctrine and Covenants flatly contradicts the Book of Mormon on this point:
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.... David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife (132:1-4,38-39, emp. added).
Two serious contradictions are evident. First, the Book of Mormon clearly condemned plural marriage as one of the “grosser crimes” and “whoredom”—at least among the Nephites. It specifically singled out the plural marriages of David and Solomon, denouncing them as an “abomination.” Yet Doctrine and Covenants insisted that David and Solomon were completely justified, and committed no sin in having multiple wives and concubines. If the author of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants (allegedly Joseph Smith) had worded it differently, saying that God enjoined plural marriages at one point in history, but chose not to enjoin the practice at another point in history, or if he had said plural marriages were to be practiced by some people early in history but not by others later in history, then no contradiction would exist. For example, God enjoined animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, and then forbade its use in the New Testament. But this is not what Joseph Smith did! He specifically identified the polygamy of David and Solomon, and then made the mistake of both approving and condemning it! This constitutes a flat contradiction. Two statements arecontradictory when they cannot both be true (cf. McGarvey, 1974, 3:31). [NOTE: Yet another indication of Joseph Smith’s uninspired status was his allusion in the above quotation (Jacob 2:27) to a man being permitted only one wife, but “concubines he shall have none.” This reference betrays an ignorance of the use of biblical terminology. A “concubine” in antiquity was a wife—not a mistress(unmarried sexual partner)—despite popular misconception (cf. Victor P. Hamilton’s article, “pilegesh,” 1980, 2:724)].
Second, Doctrine and Covenants stated that the practice of plural marriage in this life is aneverlasting covenant. The term “eternal” or “everlasting” as used in the Bible can sometimes be abbreviated to refer to a period of time of limited duration (e.g., Jonah 2:6). However, when additional terminology is employed that reinforces the primary meaning of “forever,” an abbreviated period is excluded. Terminology used in the Book of Mormon shows that “everlasting,” as applied to the covenant of plural marriage, was intended in its ordinary meaning of forever. Its application included one’s entire earthly sojourn, since the text says Solomon, Moses, and many others had practiced it “from the beginning of creation until this time.” Other references confirm this understanding: “both as well for time and for all eternity” (D&C 132:7); “in the world” (D&C 132:15); “on the earth” (D&C 132:46,48). Even Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma, was commanded to accept the additional wives given by God to her husband (D&C 132:52). Section 132 of Doctrine and Covenants claims to have been revealed to Joseph Smith in 1843. Yet 47 years later, on September 24, 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued an official declaration on the matter:
We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice.... There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy.... And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land” (“Official Declaration1” in Doctrine and Covenants, 1981, pp. 291-292).
In excerpts from three addresses that he delivered regarding this manifesto, Woodruff explained that if they continued to practice plural marriage, temples would be confiscated by the civil authorities, and the First Presidency and Twelve, and family heads, would be imprisoned. If, on the other hand, they ceased the practice, in order to abide by the law of the land, they would be able to continue the duties and ordinances of the church (including baptism for the dead). Question: Why would God refer to plural marriage as a perpetual practice that would bring damnation upon those who fail to practice it, and then call for Latter-day Saints to refrain from such marriages? God is timeless, and would have known ahead of time that the American government would reach a point at which it would call the Mormon practice of plural marriage to account. Therefore, He would not have enjoined the requirement as “everlasting” if He later intended to cease the practice. Nor would God have withdrawn one of His “everlasting commandments” simply because the law of the land by a pagan government made the commandment illegal and implemented persecution! When in all of human history has God ever bowed to civil government in its opposition to His will?

NO CHANGES?

Another legitimate affirmation listed in “The Challenge” is condition #10: “When you finish in 60 days, you must make no changes in the text. The first edition must stand forever” (p. 1, emp. added). “Houston, we have a problem.” Informed students of the Bible are well aware that no original autographs of the Bible are extant. We are completely dependent upon copies of copies of copies. Not so with the Book of MormonThe original 1830 first printed edition of the Book of Mormonexists! In the words of Latter-day Saints President Wilford C. Wood in 1958: “I do testify that the uncut sheets of the complete First Edition of the Book of Mormon have been reproduced in its original unchanged condition; that this is a correct and perfect restoration of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon as received by the Prophet Joseph Smith and printed in Palmyra, New York in 1830” (prefatory material). Latter-day Saint authorities have repeatedly affirmed that the original Book of Mormon contained no errors. In 1883, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, George Reynolds, stated: “It was done by divine aid” (p. 71). Reynolds refers to the eyewitness account of Martin Harris—one of the scribes who participated with Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon (p. 91). Joseph Smith claimed to have found gold plates that he translated into English using an instrument known as the “Urim and Thummim”—two white stones fastened together by a casing of silver, comparable to spectacles. Smith would hold the stones between himself and the gold plates. In 1881, the sixth president of the Mormon Church, Joseph F. Smith, explained the translation process (as reported by Oliver Huntington):
The Lord caused each word spelled as it is in the Book to appear on the stones in short sentences or words, and when Joseph had uttered the sentence or word before him and the scribe had written it properly, that sentence would disappear and another appear. And if there was a word wrongly written or even a letter incorrect the writing on the stones would remain there. Then Joseph would require the scribe to spell the reading of the last spoken and thus find the mistake and when corrected the sentence or word would disappear as usual (n.d., p. 168).
This procedure, that guaranteed complete accuracy of transcription, was further verified by David Whitmer. Whitmer, who continues to be listed in currently circulating copies of the Book of Mormonas one of the trio that constitute “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses,” described the process of translation in the following words:
I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man (Whitmer, 1887, emp. added).
In view of the specific procedures by which the gold plates were translated, the Book of Mormonought to be perfect. Yet, when one compares the original Book of Mormon with a currently circulating edition, one observes that many changes have been made in the Book of Mormonsince the original 1830 edition. This circumstance is completely unlike manmade translations of the Bible. All translators of the Bible are uninspired in their translating efforts. Joseph Smith, on the other hand, claimed to have been supernaturally guided in the process of translating the Book of Mormon, and preserved from making any errors. One official explanation as to why the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was filled with grammatical mistakes and content blunders is—“printer’s errors.” This claim, of course, contradicts the above claim of President Wilford, who vouched for the authenticity of the existing 1830 edition and even included in his reproduction of it a “memorandum” by one of the original printer’s associates—John Gilbert. The memorandum recounts the care given to insuring accuracy in the printing of the manuscript that was brought to the printer by Hyrum Smith (Joseph’s brother), who, along with Martin Harris, supervised the project. Hence, the claim that “printer’s errors” are responsible for the errors in the original 1830 edition would be a suitable explanation if it fit the facts, but it simply cannot account for the types of mistakes contained in the Book of Mormonthe types of mistakes printers do not make.
Consider a few of the estimated 4,000+ grammatical mistakes that have been corrected in subsequent editions. The original 1830 Book of Mormon in Jacob 7:24 read, “but it all were vain.” Alma 48:25 read, “for the promise of the Lord were…” Alma 53:5 read, “it were easy to guard them.” 1 Nephi 5:11 read, “Adam and Eve, which was our first parents.” All of these errors have been corrected in more recent editions.
Consider also a few of the many changes that have been made that correct content mistakes. In Mosiah 21:28, “Benjamin” has been changed to “Mosiah” (since king Benjamin was already dead at this point in the narrative—Mosiah 6:4-5). In Alma 37:21, “directors” has been changed to “interpreters.” In 1 Nephi 13:32, “woundedness” has been changed to “state of blindness.” In Mosiah 27:29, “wrecked” has been changed to “racked.” In Alma 13:20 and 41:1, “arrest” has been changed to “wrest.” In Alma 17:13, “arriven” has been changed to “arrived.” The original 1830 title page listed Joseph Smith as “Author and Proprietor.” Now he is simply “translator.” In 1 Nephi 20:1, the phrase “or out of the waters of baptism” has been inserted. It was not in the original 1830 edition.
Printers occasionally transpose letters or garble a word or insert the same line twice or omit a word or two, perhaps a line here and there. But the above changes are not the kinds of errors that printers make.
An honest and humble appraisal of these discrepancies should create great concern in the heart of one who believes Mormon documents to be inspired. Many criticisms have been leveled against the Bible over the centuries, yet have been answered decisively. If the Book of Mormon were from God, it, too, could be defended and its divine authenticity substantiated. However, the lack of adequate explanations to clarify such problems compel the honest individual to conclude that the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are not from God.

REFERENCES

Book of Mormon (1981 reprint), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World (1990), (Euless, TX: Texas Fort Worth Mission).
Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Doctrine and Covenants (1981 reprint), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Hamilton, Victor P. (1980), “pilegesh,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Huntington, Oliver B. (no date), Oliver Boardman Huntington Journals, 1842-1900 (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah State Historical Society).
Lewis, Jack P. (1991), The English Bible From KJV to NIV (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), second edition.
McGarvey, J. W. (1974 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1968), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press).
Reynolds, George (1883), The Myth of the “Manuscript Found,” (Salt Lake City, UT: Juvenile Instructor Office).
Whitmer, David (1887), An Address to All Believers in Christ, [On-line], URL: http://www.irr.org/mit/address1.html.
Wood, Wilford C. (1958), Joseph Smith Begins His Work (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press).


Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved





Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

God's Just Destruction of the Canaanites

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Originally Published on Apologetics Press 
Link to original Article here

In the 1930s and 40s, the Nazi regime committed state-sponsored genocide of so-called “inferior races.” Of the approximately nine million Jews who lived in Europe at the beginning of the 1930s, some six million of them were exterminated. The Nazis murdered approximately one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women, and three million Jewish men. The Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on like animals. In addition, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime slaughtered another three million Poles, Soviets, gypsies, and people with disabilities (see “Holocaust,” 2011 for more information). Most sane people, including Christians and many atheists (e.g., Antony Flew, Wallace Matson), have interpreted the Nazis’ actions for what they were—cruel, callous, and nefarious. 
Some 3,400 years before the Holocaust, the God of the Bible commanded the Israelites to “destroy all the inhabitants of the land” of Canaan (Joshua 9:24). They were to conquer, kill, and cast out the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 7:1-2; Joshua 3:10). After crossing the Jordan River, we learn in the book of Joshua that the Israelites “utterly destroyed all that was in the city [of Jericho], both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword…. [T]hey burned the city and all that was in it with fire” (Joshua 6:21,24). They also “utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai” (Joshua 8:26), killing 12,000 men and women, and hanging their king (8:25,29). In Makkedah and Libnah, the Israelites “let none remain” (Joshua 10:28,30). They struck Lachish “and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword” (10:32). The Israelites then conquered Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, and Hazor (10:33-39; 11:1-1). “So all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took and struck with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded” (Joshua 11:12). 
God had the Israelites kill countless thousands, perhaps millions, of people throughout the land of Canaan. It was genocide in the sense that it was a plannedsystematic, limited extermination of a number of nation states from a relatively small area in the Middle East (cf. “Genocide,” 2000; cf. also “Genocide,” 2012). But, it was not a war against a particular race (from the Greek genos) or ethnic group. Nor were the Israelites commanded to pursue and kill the Canaanite nations if they fled from Israel’s Promised Land. The Israelites were to drive out and dispossess the nations of their land (killing all who resisted the dispossession), but they were not instructed to annihilate a particular race or ethnic group from the face of the Earth.
Still, many find God’s commands to conquer and destroy the Canaanite nation states problematic. How could a loving God instruct one group of people to kill and conquer another group? America’s most well-known critic of Christianity in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Thomas Paine (one of only a handful of America’s Founding Fathers who did not claim to be a Christian), called the God of the Old Testament “the Mars of the Jews, the fighting God of Israel,” Who was “boisterous, contemptible, and vulgar” (Paine, 1807). Two centuries later, Richard Dawkins (arguably the most famous atheist in the world today), published his book The God Delusion, which soon became a New York Times bestseller. One of the most oft-quoted phrases from this work comes from page 31, where Dawkins called God, a “racist, infanticidal, genocidal…capriciously malevolent bully” (2006). According to one search engine, this quote (in part or in whole) is found on-line approximately one million times. The fact is, critics of the God of the Bible are fond of repeating the allegation that, because of His instruction to the Israelites to kill millions of people in their conquest of Canaan, the God of the Bible has (allegedly) shown Himself to be an unruly, shameful, offensive, genocidal, “evil monster” (Dawkins, p. 248; cf. Hitchens, 2007, p. 107).

WAS GOD’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANAAN IMMORAL?

How could a supremely good (Mark 10:18), all-loving (1 John 4:8), perfectly holy God (Leviticus 11:44-45) order the Israelites to slay with swords myriads of human beings, letting “none remain” in Canaan? Is not such a planned, systematic extermination of nations equivalent to the murderous actions of the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s, as atheists and other critics of Christianity would have us believe? In truth, God’s actions in Israel’s conquest of Canaan were in perfect harmony with His supremely loving, merciful, righteous, just, and holy nature.

Punishing Evildoers is Not Unloving

Similar to how merciful parents, principals, policemen, and judges can justly administer punishment to rule-breakers and evildoers, so too can the all-knowing, all-loving Creator of the Universe. Loving parents and principals have administered corporal punishment appropriately to children for years (cf. Proverbs 13:24). Merciful policemen, who are constantly saving the lives of the innocent, have the authority (both from God and the government—Romans 13:1-4) to kill a wicked person who is murdering others. Just judges have the authority to sentence a depraved child rapist to death. Loving-kindness and corporal or capital punishment are not antithetical. Prior to conquering Canaan, God commanded the Israelites, saying,
You shall not hate your brother in your heart…. You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself…. And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:17-18,33-34; cf. Romans 13:9).
The faithful Jew was expected, as are Christians, to “not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:39) but rather “go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41) and “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). “Love,” after all, “is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10; cf. Matthew 22:36-40). Interestingly, however, the Israelite was commanded to punish (even kill) lawbreakers. Just five chapters after commanding the individual Israelite to “not take vengeance,” but “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), God twice said that murderers would receive the death penalty (Leviticus 24:21,17).

The Wickedness of the Inhabitants of Canaan

The Canaanite nations were punished because of their extreme wickedness. God did not cast out the Canaanites for being a particular race or ethnic group. God did not send the Israelites into the land of Canaan to destroy a number of righteous nations. On the contrary, the Canaanite nations were horribly depraved. They practiced “abominable customs” (Leviticus 18:30) and did “detestable things” (Deuteronomy 18:9, NASB). They practiced idolatry, witchcraft, soothsaying, and sorcery. They attempted to cast spells upon people and call up the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
Their “cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious” (Unger, 1954, p. 175). Their “deities…had no moral character whatever,” which “must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time,” including sensuous nudity, orgiastic nature-worship, snake worship, and even child sacrifice (Unger, 1954, p. 175; cf. Albright, 1940, p. 214). As Moses wrote, the inhabitants of Canaan would “burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30). The Canaanite nations were anything but “innocent.” In truth, “[t]hese Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating and thoroughly justifying the divine command to destroy their devotees” (Unger, 1988). They were so nefarious that God said they defiled the land and the land could stomach them no longer—“the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). [NOTE: Israel was an imperfect nation (as all nations are), but God still used them to punish the Canaanites. God warned Israel before ever entering Canaan, however, that if they forsook His law, they, too, would be severely punished (Deuteronomy 28:15ff). In fact, similar to how God used the Israelites to bring judgment upon the inhabitants of Canaan in the time of Joshua, He used the pagan nations of Babylon and Assyria to judge and conquer Israel hundreds of years later.]

The Longsuffering of God

Unlike the foolish, impulsive, quick-tempered reactions of many men (Proverbs 14:29), the Lord is “slow to anger and great in mercy” (Psalm 145:8). He is “longsuffering…, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Immediately following a reminder to the Christians in Rome that the Old Testament was “written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” the apostle Paul referred to God as “the God of patience” (Romans 15:4-5). Throughout the Old Testament, the Bible writers portrayed God as longsuffering.
Though in Noah’s day, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” and “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5), “the Divine longsuffering waited” (1 Peter 3:20). (It seems as though God delayed flooding the Earth for 120 years as His Spirit’s message of righteousness was preached to a wicked world—Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5.) In the days of Abraham, God ultimately decided to spare the iniquitous city of Sodom, not if 50 righteous people were found living therein, but only 10 righteous individuals.
And what about prior to God’s destruction of the Canaanite nations? Did God quickly decide to cast them out of the land? Did He respond to the peoples’ wickedness like an impulsive, reckless mad-man? Or was He, as the Bible repeatedly states and exemplifies, longsuffering? Indeed, God waited. He waited more than four centuries to bring judgment upon the inhabitants of Canaan. Although the Amorites were already a sinful people in Abraham’s day, God delayed in giving the descendants of the patriarch the Promised Land. He would wait until the Israelites had been in Egypt for hundreds of years, because at the time that God spoke with Abraham “the iniquity of the Amorites” was “not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). [NOTE: “The Amorites were so numerous and powerful a tribe in Canaan that they are sometimes named for the whole of the ancient inhabitants, as they are here” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, 1997).] In Abraham’s day, the inhabitants of Canaan were not so degenerate that God would bring judgment upon them. However, by the time of Joshua (more than 400 years later), the Canaanites’ iniquity was full, and God used the army of Israel to destroy them.
Yes, God is longsuffering, but His longsuffering is not an “eternal” suffering. His patience with impenitent sinners eventually ends. It ended for a wicked world in the days of Noah. It ended for Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abraham. And it eventually ended for the inhabitants of Canaan, whom God justly destroyed.

What About the Innocent Children?

The children of Canaan were not guilty of their parents’ sins (cf. Ezekiel 18:20); they were sinless, innocent, precious human beings (cf. Matthew 18:3-5; see Butt, 2003). So how could God justly take the lives of children, any children, “who have no knowledge of good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39)? The fact is, as Dave Miller properly noted, “Including the children in the destruction of such populations actually spared them from a worse condition—that of being reared to be as wicked as their parents and thus face eternal punishment. All persons who die in childhood, according to the Bible, are ushered to Paradise and will ultimately reside in Heaven. Children who have parents who are evil must naturally suffer innocently while on Earth (e.g., Numbers 14:33)” (Miller, 2009). God, the Giver of life (Acts 17:25; Ecclesiastes 12:7), and only God has the right to take the life of His creation whenever He chooses (for the righteous purposes that He has). At times in history, God took the life of men out of righteous judgment. At other times (as in the case of children), it was taken for merciful reasons. [NOTE: For a superb, extensive discussion on the relationship between (1) the goodness of God, (2) the contradictory, hideousness of atheism, and (3) God bringing about the death of various infants throughout history, see Kyle Butt’s article “Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?” (2009).]

CONCLUSION

Though the enemies of the God of the Bible are frequently heard criticizing Israel’s conquest of Canaan, the fact is, such a conquest was in complete harmony with God’s perfectly loving, holy, and righteous nature. After patiently waiting for hundreds of years, God eventually used the Israelites to bring judgment upon myriads of wicked Canaanites. Simultaneously, He spared their children a fate much worse than physical death—the horror of growing up in a reprehensible culture and becoming like their hedonistic parents—and immediately ushered them into a pain-free, marvelous place called Paradise (Luke 16:19-31; 23:43).

REFERENCES

Albright, William F. (1940), From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201.
Butt, Kyle (2009), “Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/260.
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
“Genocide” (2000), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
“Genocide” (2012), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/genocide.
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great (New York: Twelve).
“Holocaust” (2011), Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Holocaust.aspx#1.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Miller, Dave (2009), “Did God Order the Killing of Babies?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=2810.
Paine, Thomas (1807), “Essay on Dream,” http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/paine/dream.htm.
Unger, Merrill F. (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Unger, Merrill F. (1988), “Canaan,” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).



Copyright © 2013 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Faith and Knowledge


This article original publish on Apologetics Press
https://www.apologeticspress.org
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

“As indicated earlier, there is not enough evidence anywhere to absolutely prove God, but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption or the faith that God exists” (Thomas, 1965, p. 263, emp. in orig.).
“Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
It is evident that the two above statements stand in stark contradistinction to one another. The first statement suggests that people may hold to the assumption that God exists—a position the author identifies as “faith.” The second statement, from the pen of the inspired apostle John, describes some of the people of Samaria who had faith in the Lord’s deity because they knew He was the Savior—based on the evidence He had provided them.

Obviously, both of these sentiments cannot be correct, for they represent mutually exclusive ideas of biblical faith. On the one hand, we are asked to believe that faith is an “assumption” made by a person who simply desires to believe something. On the other hand, the biblical record instructs us on the fact that knowledge is an integral part of faith, and that faith is not merely an “educated guess” or unfounded assumption. Why does this confusion over the topic of biblical faith exist? What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?

WHY THE CONFUSION?

Perhaps there is so much confusion surrounding the concept of faith because there are so many definitions from so many widely varied sources. First, faith has been defined by its opponents as “the power of believing what you know isn’t true,” or “an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” Second, even neutral authorities have added to the conflict, with reputable dictionaries suggesting that faith is a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof,” or “belief without need of certain proof.”

Third, some in the religious community itself have been responsible for, or added to, much of the confusion. Examples abound. In his “Introduction” to The World and Literature of the Old Testament, John T. Willis has written: “The Bible claims to be inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16). There is no way to prove or disprove this claim absolutely, although arguments have been advanced on both sides of the issue. It must be accepted by faith or rejected by unbelief ” (1979, 1:11). J.D. Thomas, in his text, Heaven’s Window, wrote:

In all matters of religious epistemology we come to the question of distinguishing between absolutely provable knowledge and that which is faith-dependent to some degree or other.... In other words, men of strong faith “act like” they have absolute knowledge, even though in this life they can never have more than a strong faith (1974, pp. 131,132).
In his book, Dear Agnos, Arlie J. Hoover stated that “...faith, by standing between knowledge and ignorance, certainty and credulity, in a sense partakes of the essence of both. It has some evidence, which relates it to knowledge, yet it has some uncertainty, because the evidence is indirect” (1976, p. 28). Roy F. Osborne has suggested that “faith of any sort is based on probability.... In a world of fallible beings, imperfect senses, and partial experience, absolute certainty is only a theoretical concept” (1964, p. 132).

If these writers are correct, faith is something based on little substantive proof, or, for that matter, no proof at all. Faith also allows men to “act like” they know something when, in fact, they do not. Further, at best faith is a probability proposition that may, or may not, have anything to do with truth. And, faith is seen as an entity composed of a small amount of knowledge and a big dose of uncertainty. Is it any wonder then that there is so much confusion in today’s world regarding the concept of faith and its relationship to knowledge.

Ultimately, improper concepts of faith damage or destroy the effectiveness of Christianity. There are a number of reasons this is the case. First, unlike many other religions, Christianity always has been based in historical fact. From the historicity of Jesus Himself to the reality of His resurrection, Christianity has entered the marketplace of ideas with factuality as its foundation. To then turn and suggest that Christianity is based on an unproven and unprovable belief system nebulously termed “faith” is to rob Christianity of one of its most important constructs—verifiability rooted in historical fact. That which should be documentable is reduced to mere wishful thinking.

Second, we live in a society in which an examination of the various evidences behind a claim has become practically an everyday occurrence. Whether we are purchasing an automobile or considering an advertiser’s boasts about its products, we routinely investigate a plethora of evidences that can prove, or disprove, what is being said. The Bible teaches that mankind is lost and in desperate need of salvation, which comes only through Jesus Christ. More often than not, the person who accepts and obeys the biblical message undergoes a radical change in both his thinking and his lifestyle. Surely the grand nature of Christianity’s claim is such that it requires both investigation and verification. For someone to suggest that Christianity, or the life-altering changes it ushers in, is based on little more than an unproven assertion (that might or might not be true) hardly could be viewed as a rational approach that would commend itself to intelligent people.

Third, surely people in the world who are not yet Christians, yet whom we hope to see become Christians, are smart enough to see through a ruse that asks them to “act like” they know God exists, to “act like” they know Jesus is His Son, or to “act like” the Bible is His inspired Word when, in fact, they do not know those things at all. Further, if Christians simply “act like” they know, when in reality they do not, why are they not hypocrites? And why is the Christian—who eventually will have to admit that he does not really know these things—any different from the agnostic who readily admits that he cannot know these things?

Fourth, any idea which suggests that faith is based on mere “probability” is at the same time tacitly admitting that there is some probability, however minute, that Christianity might just be false. In addressing this point, Dick Sztanyo has observed:

To admit that Christianity is only probable is to admit the possibility that, in fact, it might be a hoax! Could you in your most irrational moment imagine even the slightest possibility of an apostle preaching the “God of probability” or the “God who may be”? ...I want to insist that there is not a single item in Christianity, upon which our souls’ salvation depends, which is only probably true. In each case, the evidence supplied is sufficient to establish conclusive proof regarding the truth of the Christian faith (1989, pp. 8-9,11, emp. in orig.).
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE

What, then, is biblical faith? How does it relate to “belief ”? And what is its proper relationship to knowledge?

Biblical Faith and Belief

It is not uncommon to hear someone say, in regard to a belief that cannot be proven true, “It’s just a matter of faith.” Or, if someone is being advised about a particular course of action, the recommendation might be, “Just launch out on faith.” How many times has the comment been made that something is just “a leap of faith”? Certainly it is true to say that the word “faith” is used on occasion in each of these ways. And each of these statements may well express a certain belief. However, such a usage is not biblical faith. What is the relationship between biblical faith and belief?

Is faith belief? Yes, faith is a kind of belief. The issue, however, centers on the kind of belief that is biblical faith. Belief refers primarily to a judgment that something is true. But belief may be weak or strong. If I say, “I believe it may rain tomorrow,” that is an example of a weak belief. It is an opinion I hold which, while I hope is true, and thus believe to be true, is nevertheless one that I cannot prove. However, if I say, “I believe the guilty verdict in the criminal’s trial is correct and just,” that is an example of a strong belief because I am able to present factual reasons for my belief, based upon available evidence. In addressing the idea of “weak” versus “strong” beliefs, David Lipe has stated that “...the difference in these two types of belief turns on the causes of the beliefs” (n.d., p. 3, emp. added). In his text, Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Walter Kaufmann listed seven causes of belief, the first of which was that “arguments have been offered in its support” (1958, pp. 132ff.). Thus, strong belief is a rational act based upon adequate evidence. Weak belief is produced by such things as emotion, vested interest, etc. (see Lipe, n.d., p. 4).

Biblical faith is a strong belief based upon adequate evidence. In the New Testament, the noun “faith” (Greek, pistis) is defined as: “primarily firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing...used in the New Testament always of faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual” (Vine, 1940, 2:71). The verb “believe” (Greek, pisteuo) is defined as: “...to be persuaded of, and hence, to place confidence in, to trust...reliance upon, not mere credence” (Vine, 1940, 1:116). Thus, biblical faith is a conviction based upon evidence, and is “not mere credence.” The Bible does not recognize any such concept as a “leap of faith,” because biblical faith is always evidence- or knowledge-based. Peter urged Christians to be “ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). This corresponds directly to what Kaufmann would call a cause for belief because “arguments have been offered in its support.”

Biblical Faith and Knowledge

One of the foundational laws of human thought is the Law of Rationality, which demands that we draw only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell stated it this way: “Give to any hypothesis that is worth your while to consider just that degree of confidence which the evidence warrants” (1945, p. 816). Biblical faith adheres to the Law of Rationality, and seeks conclusions that have a confidence warranted by the available evidence. In producing biblical faith, both reason and revelation are employed. Geisler and Feinberg defined these terms as follows:

“Revelation” is a supernatural disclosure by God of truth which could not be discovered by the unaided powers of human reason. “Reason” is the natural ability of the human mind to discover truth (1980, p. 255).
These authors went on to observe that “the basic relation of reason and revelation is that the thinking Christian attempts to render the credible intelligible” (1980, p. 265). Using capacities for proper reasoning, the Christian builds faith based upon numerous avenues of evidence. Sometimes that evidence may be based upon testimony provided by revelation. Paul wrote that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Guy N. Woods has noted:

Genuine faith derives from facts presented to the mind and from which proper and correct deductions are then drawn (John 20:30,31).... There is no such thing as “blind” faith. Faith itself is possible only when reason recognizes the trustworthiness of the testimony which produces it (1994, 125[11]:2).
Skeptics, of course, have suggested that reliance upon the testimony of another does not necessarily result in personal knowledge. Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason:

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it (1794, pp. 8-9, emp. in orig.).
Paine’s assessment, however, is incorrect, as an examination of both historical and biblical cases will attest. Must testimony by necessity be diluted or destroyed simply because it has been passed from generation to generation? Not at all. We know George Washington lived, even though no one for the past several generations ever set eyes on him. We know of numerous other people and events in the same manner, as a direct result of credible testimony passed faithfully from age to age.

Further, biblical information provides a good test case for the accuracy of information passed from one person to another. In Mark 16, the account is told of Mary Magdalene having seen the Lord after His resurrection. She immediately went and told other disciples who, the text indicates, “disbelieved” (Mark 16:11). Later, Jesus appeared to two men walking in the country. They, too, returned to the disciples and reported that the Lord was alive, but of the disciples it was said that “neither believed they them” (Mark 16:13). Were these disciples justified in rejecting the report of the Lord’s resurrection merely because they had not been eyewitnesses themselves? Was their disbelief somehow evidence of “intellectual integrity” on their part? Were they to be commended for their rejection of two different reports that originated with trustworthy eyewitnesses?

No, the disciples were not justified in their disbelief. Later, when the Lord appeared to them, “he upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:14). Thus, the Lord verified the principle that Thomas Paine attempted to refute. If Mary Magdalene had expressed accurately to the disciples what she had seen, and they in turn expressed accurately what they had been told, would this not constitute valid evidence-based testimony of the sort that would warrant genuine faith in the resurrection? Facts must be reported before they can be believed. In Acts 18, the circumstances are given in which “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed.” What did they hear that caused them to believe? It was the testimony given by Paul. Faith is thus seen as the acceptance of knowledge based upon credible testimony.

Sometimes the evidence for faith may come by sight, as it did in the case of Thomas when Christ said to him after His resurrection, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed” (John 20:29a). The Samaritans, mentioned earlier, believed on the Lord. The fact of their seeing Him did not preclude their believing on Him (John 4:41). There are times, of course, when faith and sight go together. Men sometimes walk by faith because of sight. Many came in obedience to the Lord during His earthly ministry because of what they heard and saw. During the early years of the church, many believed because of the miracles they saw performed. Much faith was produced by the actual events that were observed by those present.

But what of those who have not seen those events firsthand? Do they have any less of a faith than those who witnessed such events? No, faith is not diminished by lack of sight. Jesus told Thomas, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29b). Paul observed that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Thomas had faith after sight. Today we have faith without sight, because of credible testimony from those who were eyewitnesses.

What is the relationship between faith and knowledge? Does faith somehow rule out “knowing”? Can one both “know” and “have faith” at the same time, or is it an either/or proposition? In speaking to this issue, Woods has written:

More recently, a much more sophisticated form of subjectivism has appeared wherein faith and knowledge are compartmentalized, put in sharp contrast, and each made to exclude the other. The allegation is that a proposition which one holds by faith one cannot know by deduction. This conclusion is reached by taking one definition of the word “know,” putting it in opposition to the word “faith,” and thus making them mutually exclusive. To do this is to err with reference to both faith and to knowledge! (1994, 136[2]:31).
In John 6:69, Peter said to the Lord: “And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.” Writing in 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul said “I know him whom I have believed.” The Samaritans told the woman who brought Christ to them, “Now we believe, not because of thy speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

In his book on the relationship between faith and knowledge, The Concept of Rational Belief, Dick Sztanyo remarked:

Biblical faith is built upon a prior understanding (knowledge) of what is to be believed.... Any conception of faith that severs it from its objective, epistemological base (foundation of knowledge) is at variance with biblical teaching! Biblically speaking, one does not believe that God is (or any other items to be accepted “by faith”): (1) against the evidence; (2) without evidence; and/or (3) beyond the evidence. Rather, one believes on the basis of evidence sufficient to establish the conclusion (1989, p. 3, emp. in orig.).
Faith is directly linked to knowledge. Without knowledge (i.e., evidence), it is impossible to produce faith. Further, knowledge is critical in making faith active. Sztanyo has observed in regard to what he terms “rational” belief:

This evidence enlightens the intellect which then makes a volitional commitment not only possible (since I now know what to believe) but also rational (i.e., I know what to believe)! Thus, faith is a volitional commitment of an informed intellect! Knowledge without commitment is disbelief (John 8:30-46; 12:42,43; James 2:19); commitment without knowledge is irrationality! Neither is a genuine option for a Christian (1989, pp. 18-19, emp. in orig.).
In the Bible, faith and knowledge are never set in contradistinction. At times faith may be contrasted with a means of obtaining knowledge (e.g., sight), but faith never is contrasted with knowledge or, for that matter, reason. In addition, at times faith and knowledge may have the same object. The Scriptures make it clear that the following can be both known and believed: (a) God (Isaiah 43:10); (b) the truth (1 Timothy 4:3); and (c) Christ’s deity (John 6:69; cf. 4:42). Further, knowledge always precedes faith, and where there is no knowledge there can be no biblical faith.

CONCLUSION

In Hebrews 11 we find the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” because each person acted out of obedient faith to God’s commands. We are told “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain...” (11:7), “by faith Noah...prepared an ark to the saving of his house...” (11:7), and that “by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go unto a place which he was to receive as an inheritance...” (11:8). What does “by faith” mean in these statements? Were these people acting in the absence of evidence? Did they have no knowledge of what they were doing, or why they were doing it? Were they taking a “leap of faith”?

In each of these instances, the people involved acted because they had knowledge upon which to base their faith. Cain and Abel obviously had been instructed on what would be a “more excellent” sacrifice. Noah had the dimensions of the ark set before him by God. Abraham did not set out on a journey with no destination; he travelled by directions provided by the Almighty. None of these individuals took a “leap of faith” or acted on what they felt was a “strong probability.” Rather, they acted because their knowledge produced biblical faith. Brad Bromling has addressed this very point:

Some have made the mistake of thinking that faith is to be set in opposition to knowledge or evidence, as though the more one knows the less faith he needs.... This is a false concept of faith. Faith is knowledge-based!... When one gains knowledge of the truth, he is then in a position to engage his will and commit himself to the requirements of that knowledge (1988, 8:24).
God’s wish is for “all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). It is His intent that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Through such knowledge, upon which faith is ultimately built, we know that we are saved (1 John 5:13). The Lord’s promise was: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Because God has made the truth so plain, and so easily available, those who reject it shall stand ultimately “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

REFERENCES

Bromling, Brad (1988), “In Defense of Biblical Confidence,” Reason & Revelation, 8:23-26, June.

Geisler, Norman L. and P.D. Feinberg (1980), Introduction to Philosophy—A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Hoover, Arlie J. (1976), Dear Agnos: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Lipe, David L. (no date), Faith and Knowledge (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Osborne, Roy F. (1964), Great Preachers of Today—Sermons of Roy F. Osborne (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).

Paine, Thomas (1794), The Age of Reason (New York: Willey Book Co.).

Russell, Bertrand (1945), A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster).

Sztanyo, Dick (1989), The Concept of Rational Belief (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Thomas, J.D. (1965), Facts and Faith (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).

Thomas, J.D. (1974), Heaven’s Window (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).

Vine, W.E. (1940), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).

Willis, John T. (1979), “Introduction,” The World and Literature of the Old Testament (Austin, TX: Sweet).

Woods, Guy N. (1994), “Faith Vs. Knowledge?,” Gospel Advocate, 136[2]:31, February.



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