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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Newspaper column 2

My introductory article made clear my intent to focus on biblical answers to common questions. I closed by asking, “Why should we believe something just because the Bible says so?” This is a supremely important question: if there’s no good reason to believe the Bible, talking about biblical answers to questions is rather pointless.

Here’s one possible answer to the question of the Bible’s trustworthiness: “I believe that the Bible is completely authoritative simply because it is God’s Word, and it commands my allegiance and submission.” A different answer would be something like this: “I think that the Bible is trustworthy because it agrees with the conclusions of science and history and archeology and ethics, and therefore merits my allegiance.”

The first answer sounds terribly circular, doesn’t it? The second, by contrast, seems more rational and well-considered. But when talking about the Bible, we’re asking questions about our ultimate authority, and discussions about our ultimate authorities work differently than normal questions.

You see, most disputes are resolved by referring to some kind of shared authority. “I saw it with my own eyes!” “I read it online.” “The state law says….” “My horoscope promises….” These claims are appeals to authority: if you and I both accept a given source of authority as trustworthy (your sense experience, for instance, or my encyclopedia), our dispute can be settled by consulting that authority.

But suppose I reject a source of authority that you accept. I ask you why I should believe that a horoscope is a valid and trustworthy source of knowledge about the events of the coming day, and you respond, “Look, it says right here in the horoscope, ‘Completely valid and trustworthy.’“ I look at you, unimpressed.

But isn’t this the same thing I’d be doing if I said, “Look, the Bible is trustworthy; it says so right here in the Bible”? It may seem so; however, if I’m making the claim that the Bible is the ultimate authority, what alternative do I have?

Consider this parallel situation: a person says, “I don’t accept anything by authority; I have to test it myself.” A person who says this is claiming to be his own ultimate authority. If I were to ask him, “What makes you think that you’re entitled to such a lofty position?”, he’d either have to appeal to his own authority (a circular argument) or else appeal to some other source of authority, which undercuts his claim of being the ultimate authority.

The point here is that all claims of ultimate authority must, in the final analysis, be circular. What happens when two (or more) claims of ultimate authority collide? For instance, the Bible claims ultimate authority, but so do people who don’t believe the Bible. We’ll need at least another article to address that question.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Apologetics, Newspaper Article

 

For the local newspaper

One of my tasks here in Wakefield is continuing a column that Pastor Thomas Bauder used to write for the local newspaper. I’m planning to cross-post these essays on the blog as well. Here’s the first essay, in which I introduce myself.

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The editor of this paper has my thanks for allowing me to inherit the column previously written by Pastor Thomas Bauder, who preceded me in the pulpit of Calvary Baptist Church of Wakefield. My further thanks go to Pastor Bauder; he answered dozens of my questions and has shown me nothing but kindness in this transition. I know full well that I cannot replace him.

As a newcomer, a word of introduction is in order. I was born and reared in suburban Detroit. (The church here has agreed to mock my origins only when I really deserve it.) I have a couple of degrees in Bible and theology and am working on another. My ministry to this point has been mostly in academic institutions: I taught at a Bible college in Arizona and was most recently an administrator at a seminary in Minneapolis.

My wife Alicia is from Washington state, born near the coast and reared in the mountains on its eastern side. We met and were married in Arizona. Our daughter Katharine is 18 months old, and she will be an older sister come the turn of the new year.

I intend to continue writing this column in the format that Pastor Bauder established: simply explaining what the Bible says in answer to various questions. Why so? Mostly because I have little else worthwhile to offer. No one should read this column (or attend Calvary Baptist Church, for that matter) to marvel at my wisdom. I’m still youngish, and the Bible says nothing flattering about the wisdom of the young. Even if I were a fountain of wisdom, my calling as a pastor is not to be a puritanical Dear Abby. Opinions and advice are cheap and plentiful, and although I think mine are correct (else I wouldn’t hold them), they can be safely discarded if they are merely mine.

No, anything of value that I have to say must be rooted in a deeper wisdom. I’m convinced that the Bible is the very Word of God, and this column will (continue to) be written with that conviction. Proverbs, the very heart of the Bible’s wisdom books, tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), and for that reason, the Psalmist calls the Word of God “a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (119:105).

And so my life, my pastorate, and this column will be driven by a commitment to the Bible’s total trustworthiness. Why believe a thing like that? That, my friends, is certainly a column for another week.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Newspaper Article, Pastoral