Christian Witness

Addressing the Big “but” in the Room: Part 2

Anything “but” the Bible.

In my last post, we began to address the common objection presented to a Christian witness.

  • Non-Christian: You can share your faith with me and tell me about Jesus. You can tell me that you believe that God created all things and He destroyed them with a Flood. You can tell me that all humans beings are the works of His hands (anthropomorphically speaking) and that His one and only unique Son took on flesh, was sacrificed on a Roman Cross and arose three days later. You can tell me all you want to tell me; that’s your opinion you are entitled to it. But don’t try and force your views down my throat. More importantly, I’ll even let you try and prove these things to me—things that you sincerely believe, and I respect that—only leave the Bible out of the discussion. Anything, but the Bible. Show me the evidence. Give me the facts. Line up all the scholarly sources that you can; anything, but the Bible. Why should I believe in that book? Prove it too me first with something else, and then I’ll tell you what I think.

Granted, it would be nice if the “but” was only offered by unbelievers, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is some of the greatest proponents of the “but” objection are offered by many well-meaning Christians.

First, let’s look at why the “but” is being offered, and then we’ll test the rationality of the stance.

An Issue of Neutrality

Why the “but?” What is the cause of the objection? Why is another alternative preferred over and above the Christian Bible? The suggestion of “anything but the Bible” assumes neutrality.[1] Admittingly, the goals of the believer and the unbeliever who hold this stance regarding the “but” are markedly different,[2] yet the presupposition is the same. Both are convinced that common ground is possible.[3]

The proposition to leave the Bible out of the discussion seeks an objectivity to the truth apart from revelation. That is to say, the belief behind the “but” is that people are capable of weighing the evidence/facts of the Christian worldview on their own, without any aid. The person reviewing the material presented is the real arbitrator of truth—i.e. judge. That is the true desire of the unbeliever and sad to say some professing Christians.[4]

The very nature of a worldview precludes this possibility. A worldview acts as an intellectual lens by which an individual perceives all of reality. Not some of reality, not part of it, but every conceivable aspect of it.

We interpret everything we see, hear, read, believe, know (sometimes without even realizing it) according to our worldview. Why? Because all worldviews are formed, established and built upon a primary (ultimate) foundation. A final court of appeals, if you will. We reference or cross reference every aspect of our existence in light of the foundational standard our lives are built upon.

This is precisely why taking a “neutral” stance is not the best stance. In truth it is utterly impossible. To assume that you can objectively discern the truth of some fact or evidence without any preconceived biases whatsoever (apart from your worldview) is an example of irrational thought.[5] Our thoughts are always aided by our reasoning facilities, and those reasoning facilities (i.e. the use of a rational mind) are aided, guided and led by that which we ultimately depend. You cannot convince someone of anything with an unbiased evaluation of the facts/evidences. Not only do evidences/facts not speak (they are always interpreted), but what we draw from them is dependent upon what we already believe to be true.

Take for example the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How does one prove this doctrine to an unbeliever? More importantly, we ought to consider beforehand, from a Christian standpoint the following: “is this truth a spiritual truth or a natural truth?” Actually, it is both. Why is that important?

Well suppose you begin sharing the gospel with an unbeliever and they stop you when they hear about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And they say,

  • Non-Christian: “That can’t possibly be true, because dead people do not rise from the dead. Let alone after three days in a tomb! Either Jesus didn’t die on the cross, or the disciples faked his resurrection.”
  • Christian: “Oh yes, it is true, and with God all things are possible. In fact, Jesus not only arose from the dead, but the prophets foretold this event hundreds of years before it happened (cf. Psa 16.10; Isa 53.1-12), and even Jesus warned his own followers that this was going to take place (cf. Luke 9.22; John 2.19-22). And it did, just like he said it would.”
  • Non-Christian: “Hold on a minute! Where are you getting this from? Your going to have to show me some proof…I don’t believe it.”
  • Christian: “Sure, just let me show you right here. The Bible says….”
  • Non-Christian: “Stop! I said show me some proof!”
  • Christian: “Yeah, that’s what I was going to do…”
  • Non-Christian: “No…you misunderstand, prove it to me without the Bible. I don’t care what the Bible says. You say it’s from God, but I’m pretty sure men wrote what’s in it. And it’s been translated so many times. There is no way I can trust that. Give me some evidence that what you are saying is real, that it’s not made up, that it’s true.”

At this precise moment you have a choice. Abide by the demands of the unbeliever and prove Jesus’ resurrection apart from Scripture using extrabiblical sources—i.e. sources outside the Bible—or stand your ground. Stand upon the Rock on which you have been placed. A fair number of believer’s cave on this point.

My personal library is filled with many Christian attempts to prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ without the Bible. They are based on the same faulty assumptions. The lean on the natural aspects of the resurrection, while neglecting the spiritual nature of the event.

Let’s be honest here, the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be adequately explained with an appeal to nature. Citing historic source after historic source will not prove the resurrection of Jesus. The fact remains that apart from biblical revelation you cannot make sense of it. In fact, Jesus points that out very clearly, but we Christians are sometimes just like Israel was, dull in our hearing.

  • He said… ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16.31).

Why?

  • None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God…The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritual discerned” (1Cor 2.8, 10, 14; emphasis added).

“Yes, but….” But nothing…pay attention please:

  • “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the [nations] do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart…But that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Eph 4.17-18, 20; emphasis added).

Christian, you became a believer because of the work that God has done in you. You who once walked in darkness have now been allowed to step into the light. You see, because the Lord has granted you sight.[6] And now, do you pretend to be blind because your sight (the light within you) offends those trapped in the dark? You did not learn Christ in such a manner, but your desire is to lead another in such folly?

Is there no common ground?  

Arguing in the fashion that I have thus far, is often discouraging or confusing to the believer. If our worldviews determine our interpretation/view of reality, and neutrality is an impossibility, then what hope is there to be an effective witness for Christ?

First, know that Christ knew these things to be true and yet He still witnessed to the lost. He knew who were His and who were not, and yet He witnessed to both. He never strayed away from biblical truth and neither did his apostles after him in the presentation of the gospel. The world in the first century was every bit as antagonistic to biblical faith as our world is, and yet no quarter was given to the unbeliever. No area of neutrality was suggested or broached. Why? Because, an area of neutrality does not exist.

Well then, is there no common ground between believers and unbelievers? The answer is both no and yes. There is no common ground in areas of commitment. By nature, we are either believers or unbelievers. We are either founded upon God’s Word or on the word of another (i.e. man’s). On this field there is no common ground. We will serve and love the one we bow to as Master (cf. Matt 6.24).

However, all hope is not lost.

There is a common ground ontologically speaking. Don’t be afraid of that big word (ontological) for it only speaks of our state of being. We are all human beings. We are all creations of our Creator. We are all made as image bearers of the one true God. And, we all entered this world “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph 2.1), knowing the God who created us for He has made it plain to us (Rom 1.19-20); and yet, at the same time suppressing the truth of the knowledge of Him in our own unrighteousness (cf. Rom 1.18).

The only difference between those who Christians and those who are not, is that God graciously granted repentance to us leading to the knowledge of the truth (2Tim 2.25). Before this event, we were in reality in opposition to the truth of God and who we are as His creatures (v. 26). The same means that offered and gave us life, is the same means by which all people might be saved (Rom 10.17).

So, you see, the moment you are tempted to lay aside the Word of God in order to convince the unbeliever of the truth, realize that the only common ground you share with that individual is revealed in that very book. By laying the Bible aside in an effort to witness to the unbeliever, you are throwing aside the very ground on which the two of you stand. For apart from God’s Word, there is no common ground.

ENDNOTES:

[1] Cornelius Van Til expressed how the first experience of human neutrality looked in the beginning: “When Eve became neutral as between God and the Devil, weighing the contentions of each as though they were inherently on the face of them of equal value, she was in reality already on the side of the devil!” Cornelius Van Til, Why I believe in God, 1st Electronic Ed. (ISBN: 978-1-62154-757-0), loc 119, Kindle Edition. Every attempt to model Eve’s position is a move against, and therefore not neutral, our Creator and Lord.

[2] What is the goal of the goal of the unbeliever? To weight the evidence/facts with their own mind and decide what is true or false; to hold the right of refusal. What is the goal of the believer? To convince the unbeliever of the truth. So compelling is the state of affairs from the believer’s point of view, there is no possible way that the unbeliever will not be compelled as well; to lead the person to Christ (even though they take a different path than they traveled to get there).

[3] William Lane Craig is of this position when he states, “…our common ground with unbeliever is: the laws of logic and the facts of experience [sense perception, etc.]. Starting from these, we build our case for Christianity.” William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 59.

[4] If you hold this position, I am not denying your status as a child of the Father, through Christ the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can be a true Christian and hold to some erroneous or ill-informed views.

[5] Greg L. Bahnsen writes, “It should be recognized that the claim to be, or the attempt to be, completely objective and value free in deciding an issue of truth is ridiculous; the very fact that evidence is collected, arranged, and evaluated by each man’s own mind and in response to his personality and past experience indicates the strong element of subjectivity that is involved in settling issues of truth.” In order for the following to truly work, Bahnsen adds, the person “would have to have a blank mind working on blank impressions.” Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, Joel McDurmon, ed. (Powder Springs, GA & Nacogdoches, TX: American Vision Press & Covenant Media Press, [2008], 2011), 91, Adobe Digital Editions

[6] See Psa 36.9. In the future, I want to return to this theme with what I hope to be a useful illustration for my Christian brethren.

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