Monday, October 27, 2014

The Biblical Canon

Question:  How do we Know  #1. the Bible is the ancient word(s)?  and #2.  it is accurate and complete?
How do we know we have the right words?

This is the question of a Biblical Canon.

We started this series with General Revelation and Natural Theology ==> 1) a case for God 2) apart from Scripture

BUT, Christianity is more than General Revelation or natural theology.
Christianity is General Revelation plus Special Revelation.

Special Revelation = knowledge and information about God that is not generally available; cannot be gleaned from nature (our surroundings)
Example:  the Gospel

The means of Special Revelation?  Heb. 1:1-3 - "exact representation of His being"

The record of Special Revelation? = the Bible

So, the Question.  Given Special Revelation AND given that it was written down, still

How do we know we have the Right Record??

This is the question of a Biblical CANON.

CANON - a rule or measuring stick.  Point:  these are the writings by which and with which we measure all things!! - truths, morals, ethics, person of God, information about God, etc.

The test(s) of Canon - (how it was formed)

#1.  A call - Isa. 6:1-9  Ezek. 2:1-5 - GOD chose the individual - could never get revelation from God without a call from God.

#2. Accompanying miracles - examples:  Moses, Elijah, Elisha, etc.- not to prove existence of God, but to prove the message/messenger was from God.

#3.  Fulfilled prophecy - example:  Jeremiah - fall/return

#4.  Acceptance by the people - (often in retrospect)

So,  Old Testament Canon closed 400 years BC - until John - Mark 1:1-5


#1.  Apostolic Authorship - because they were companions & eyewitnesses  - 1 John 1:1-3
Question?  Mark & Luke? - ans. Mark wrote on behalf of Peter, Luke wrote on behalf of Paul
James and Jude? - answer:  Jesus' half brothers
Paul? - 1 Cor. 15:3-8

#2.  Acceptance by the early church
because = close to the Apostles SO were able to question and verify!!
= recognition, CirculationPreservation 

#3.  Compatible doctrine
questionable books *measured against undisputed books - Matthew, John, Galatians, ...

Question?  "Lost Books" ?

Note:  New Testament - Canonical process.  If didn't meet all three tests, were not accepted .  (formal) Finalization - 397/Carthage

(*Canonization doesn't grant authority, it recognizes authority!!)

The historic and orthodox Christian faith is built on:
General Revelation plus Special Revelation

Question - What's the most common form of faith n America today?  My guess is a form of Christianity built on General Revelation plus Speculation .
ie:  doesn't openly, explicitly, verbally reject the Bible, simply doesn't use the Bible!!!

"I believe in God and it seems to me...  I think, etc...

Question:  if = General Revelation plus My Notion, how is this different from ancient paganism and idolatry.
Answer:  we don't make a physical idol!!!

When we reject Special Revelation and substitute Speculation, have made god of own design.  "Neo-Paganism" - new world pagan.

When we come to the conclusion that all the prophets, apostles, Jesus Christ, had it wrong, and WE are right, it is the height of arrogance!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Building Our Faith from the Ground Up

#1.  Can we know God exists .... apart from Scripture?   Yes.

Example - Argument from design ==> Belief = reasonable.  If not, at least compelling!!

#2.  IF He Exists ... what can we know about Him?  (also apart from Scripture?
We can know that He is:  (by necessity)   Powerful, Intelligent, Creative, Transcendent (far beyond us)

All of this can be gleaned from General Revelation - fingerprints of God are all over natural theology and design.   End up at Gen. 1:1

BUT, Christianity is based on Special Revelation.  Definition:  knowledge and information from God that is not generally available;  ie. it can't be gleaned from nature or our surroundings.  Example:  the Gospel
Learn things that cannot be learned otherwise.  No amount of study, contemplation, or natural things can reveal that Jesus is God's Son, died for sins, we're separated from God due to sin, etc.

#3.  Is it reasonable to believe in Special Revelation?
YES!!  in light of:  fulfilled prophecy - thousands fulfilled
                           accompanying miracles
                           unity of content - 66 books written over 1500 years
                           universal relevance
                           social impact
                         *the endorsement of Jesus - He said repeatedly that s Word of God.

Since Special Revelation is so crucial to the Christian faith, will be giving it extra attention.

The means of Special Revelation - Heb. 1:1 "various ways"

           Dreams - Daniel
           visions - Peter & sheet
           signs - Gideon's fleece
           angels - Daniel, Mary, Joseph
          audible voice - Adam & Eve, Samuel
          inner voice
          theophanies = visible manifestations - example:  burning bush, cloud by day, pillar of fire
          incarnation - Heb. 1:1-2

The Record of Special Revelation - the Bible - the "written down" record of these special revelations - not all by any means, but LOTS!!

The Message of Special Revelation  "Thus sayeth the LORD"
many subjects, BUT point always = "this what LORD God says!!"

God speaks to us - in our language at our level.

The Purpose of Special Revelation
Same as General Revelation... ie:
    (A)  to Reveal God - He is there.  He is God - John 1:18
    (B)  to Reconcile Man - John 10:10    Luke 19:10

QUESTION:  Is Special Revelation still occurring?
Answer depends on definition and understanding of "revelation".

YES -- He is still Revealing Himself to individuals.
NO -- He is not imparting new information  (additional information)

Illustration:  Does God still speak through nature?  creation?
                  Is God producing additional information?

Compare:  does God still teach, enlighten, further knowledge and understanding of individuals through the Word?
Is He adding TO the Word??

Question:  Could He not reveal Himself more clearly?                                           

Matt.  13:13-15    a couple Latin terms:   Deus Absconditus & Deus Revelatus - Deut. 4:29
He gives free will - don't have to see and hear if don't want to.

Point:  Proof does NOT lead to Persuasion - example:  how many Egyptians saw all the miracles before the exodus?  How many believed in God after seeing them?
          Clarity does NOT lead to Belief    John 11:45-46   Luke 16: 27-31

Yes, He can reveal Himself more clearly, and, when Christ returns, HE WILL!!!
Application:  goes far beyond the non-Christian/ the unbeliever.
ie:  when WE (believers) ..
on one hand, accept Christ, accept the Revelation of Redemption,
BUT, refuse to accept, embrace other Special Revelations - give, forgive, offer soft answer, turn other cheek, seek first Kingdom of God, be baptized, etc. etc. etc.

What makes us any better than the non-Christian/unbeliever???


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Special Revelation

I.  Can We Know God Exists - apart from Scripture?  - covered 2 weeks ago
         Natural Theology
          Argument from Design

II.  What Can we Know About God apart from Scripture?  - last week

He is (must be)    powerful   }
                           intelligent  }      
                           creative    }
These three = must be Personal!!  (a "force" has no personality.  Chance has no power)
                           transcendent  =  beyond His creation to create it

Paul's words - Rom. 1:20 - "eternal power/divine nature"

This is called general Revelation (imprinted into His creation ) =  some knowledge

BUT, we need Special Revelation (specific) for more....   (God chose to reveal after creation)

Christian View (in summary) - Heb. 1:1-2
                                             2 Pet. 1:20-21
                                             2 Tim. 3:16 - God-breathed

Christian faith claims many more things than what can be discovered through General Revelation.

Question?  Is this possible?? - Answer:  Of course it's possible.  Quote from Anthony Flew (renowned atheist who changed his mind regarding existence of God)
"You cannot limit the possibilities of omnipotence except to produce the logically impossible."

Question?  Is this reasonable?  ie:  have we any reason to believe in Special Revelation ... aside from our desire for it to be true???   .... Aside from subjective experience(s)??

Reasons to believe the Bible is Divinely Inspired:

1)  fulfilled prophecy - D. James Kennedy study = 333 Old Testament texts fulfilled in Jesus - all written more than 400 years before His birth.  This doesn't include those prophecies covering other peoples, places, events, etc.

2)  accompanying miracles -  John 3:1-2  (typical of prophets/apostles)

3)  unity of content - 66 books -40+ authors - over 1500 years - 3 continents, 3 languages, various situations, cultures, etc.
YET - A) agree on life's controversial issues, and, B)  all focus on God's redemption of man

4)  universal relevancy - speaks to all people, all cultures, all ages,  all life situations ...(it fits)

5)  social impact - on individuals ==> on Society(s)

6)  the endorsement of Jesus - repeatedly upheld the Old Testament, predicted the New Testament  (John 14)
Contrast the scholar who says "Bible not reliable" with Jesus who says Matt. 5:18  - Who do you believe??

Above = objective (external) tests

Add subjective (internal) test   ie:  We see ourselves & meet our God in Scripture!!!

Most come to believe without any knowledge of above reasons.  However, is good in the aftermath to know there are good, solid Reasons!!

This brings us to a very critical and decisive point in the Christian faith --- because:



IF THE BIBLE IS HIS WORD   (self-revelation)

                                        INTERPRETATION  of text
                          and        APPLICATION  to life

Back to:  2 Tim. 3:16-17

Scripture = from  God,  practical and useful ... FOR:  Teaching

"So that...."
YOU might be trained and equipped to live your life as GOD intends, and, respond to life as GOD intends.


Assist others as GOD intends and
Instruct others as GOD intends.

If God exists and the Bible is His Word, then the rest is just Exegesis (drawing out (digging out) what He has breathed in)

IF He has given us what we need, He's spoken and You are obligated!!  If you reject the Bible, then you are saying there is NO Special Revelation or No God.

Since we have reasonably concluded God IS and the Bible IS, we will go on to "What Does It Say".

Monday, October 6, 2014

IF God exists, what Can We Know About Him?

Last week:  Gen. 1:1 - "Can we know God exists apart from Scripture?"

Answered with:  1)  Natural Theology (based on nature)  - (argument from being, design, desire, morality, etc)
                         2)  Paul's address - Rom. 1:18-20

TODAY:  IF God exists, what can we know about Him?  apart from Scripture?

Appeal to :Argument from Design (meaning not naturally happening) - Examples:  watch, smartphone
Because:  1)  easy to understand   "laws of nature and of nature's God"
                 2)  difficult to refute

We know difference between something intentionally designed and something that just happened.  Very evident to those who want evidence.

Remember:  only 2 options/possibilities for the universe (everything material that is made)
#1.  The Universe is eternal and self-existent
#2.  The Universe was created by an eternal and self-existent Something.

One of prominent theories today is:  universe is not eternal, but there was a time when the universe was not and then was.  ie:  created itself.  THIS doesn't work.  Something cannot be and not be at the same time.

IF the Universe is eternal, THEN we need no Creator, BUT, must still account for:
1)  Material Design/ material complexity, material harmony, LIFE
2)  Immaterial Things - information, intelligence, thoughts, dreams, longings, desires, ambitions, passions, expectations, sense of right & wrong, justice

IF Material World is all there is, is it possible for unintelligence to create intelligence??

So, Option #1.  The Universe is eternal and self-existent.

BUT, IF the Universe is NOT eternal, THEN it had a beginning.

IF the Universe had a beginning, it had a Creator  (note:  self-creating Universe)

IF the Universe had a Creator, that Creator must be:

#1.  Powerful

#2.  Intelligent (complexity, intricacy, harmony)

#3.  Transcendent ie: far, far beyond us!!

#4.  Intentional - having a will, acting on purpose, (non-living objects don't intend to do anything) which adds up to..

#5.  Personal - having personhood, personality - Contrast "FORCE" of Star Wars - no personality

Question:  This description remind you of anyone???  D
All this fits perfectly with Gen. 1:1-3  Don't have to have the Bible to conclude this stuff. 

Powerful?  Omnipotent - spoke --> ex nihilo (out of nothing)  In the beginning GOD was there.
Intelligent?  Omniscient
Transcendent?  Spatially, in His Nature
Intentional?  acts ON Purpose with WITH purpose
Personal?  "our Father"  "hairs numbered"

POINT:  if you seek God through nature and Reason, you find the same God that's portrayed in Scripture!!

1)  If you seek God through Nature and Reason,  you wind up at Gen. 1:1-3  (ie:  God exists as a Personal Creator.
2)  if you believe in God, you stand on solid ground.  (you're not foolish, old fashioned, irrational, empty headed)

Next Week - we go from General Revelation - revelation around us for all to see - available to all - to
Special/Specific Revelation (God has chosen to give us many things about Him)

There we'll find confirmation for something else you already know (apart from Scripture)

ie:  the testimony/witness of God (external and internal) is not designed to bring you to belief in God!!

Rather = designed to bring you to FAITH in God!!! ie:  trusting God.  There is a world of difference between the two.

Don't think you've arrived because you believe in God, or even believe that Jesus Christ is the bridge to God.