Why We Believe What We Believe: Is the Bible an Authoritative, Truthful Document? (Ep 2)

A series on theology: Why We Believe What We Believe about God. Originally given to the students and faculty at Moody Bible Institute.

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Introduction: If God has spoken and His Son Jesus Christ is the revealed logos, Word of God, you cannot say, “I believe in Jesus and it’s ok for you to believe what you believe.” Paganism, men and women. Idolatry, men and women. Syncretism, men and women. Don’t let the world teach you theology.

EASLEY: Welcome back again. This is Michael Easley inContext. You know, I don’t know about you, but when I look at my Christian life, one of the most frustrating components is, I look so much like the world. I mean I go to movies,I go to places to eat. I go to different venues and I don’t look any different than anyone else on the planet. I don’t look any different than anyone else in that environment. And it frustrates me sometimes, because I wonder if I am a follower of Christ, if I’m to call myself a Christian, am I to look any different than the world? We know the phrase, “In  the world, not of the world.” I have to confess that is one of the most frustrating parts of the Bible to me personally, because I think I’m in and of more often than I would like to be. How about you? Today we’re going to continue thinking about “why we believe what we believe” What is truth? What is authority? Do we look at the Bible as an authoritative truthful document? Or do we pick and choose? It’s that Mark Twain quote we’ve all heard again and again: “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts  that I do understand.” And we all have a part of us that is consistently, inconsistent, right? We pick and choose. Well let’s listen. Again, this message originally given at the Moody Bible Institute, their faculty, staff and students. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday.

I went to get a haircut a couple of weeks ago. My normal barber was closed. I went to a place I’d never been before. That was a mistake. I sat down in this chair, this young girl started cutting my hair. The first thing she said to me; it was kinda one word. She said, “What’d you do this weekend?” Strange question. I thought, “Well, what’d I do this weekend?” I worked in my yard; I took my family to church on Sunday; and I went out to lunch,” I said, “What’d you do this weekend?” She began to tell my about how she went clubbing in downtown Chicago. She lives out in the west suburbs and how she went to all these clubs and she drank too much and she got drunk and on she went. I said, “What’s your favorite club?” She said, “The Crowbar.” She said, “Ever been there?” And I said, “No, I can’t say that I have.” And on this conversation went, and as these things go, she said, “Well, what do you do?” I said, “I work for the Moody Bible Institute.” She said, “Really? I have some friends that went to Moody.” I said, “Really?” She said, Yeah, I want to go to Moody.” I said, “Really?” and on this conversation went. We went back  talking about clubs and about drinking too much and on and on we went and at the end of this conversation, I left with a very bad haircut, but with a twelve dollar illustration that is so powerful, men and women. I don’t know how to reach her but you do. I mean that. I don’t know how to do this anymore. I believe the truth and authority go hand in hand and if ergo-therefore, if it’s truthful and authoritative, we should believe it and live that way. If you think that way, you’re a dinosaur, and that’s the culture you’re going to work in, and minister in, and are now ministering in, and trying to reach and help and impact. They don’t get it because of all these isms and ologies that have erased these thinkings, these thoughts, these processes. “Why you believe what you believe” is crucial.

If you have a Bible flip over to II Timothy three for a moment. II Timothy three, first seven verses I’d like to read. II Timothy three beginning at verse one: “Realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;  avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and  captivate weak women, weighed down with sins lead on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Each one of those words could be an entire series of messages in our culture. The relevancy of these things is as real today as it was when God had Paul had scratch them on parchment.

If you are not grounded in this book, you will always list. As I said recently, if you are not in this book everyday, why are you here? Had a lot of conversations with people, post that remark. And, I will say it again, “If you’re not in this book everyday, why are you here?” If you’re a faculty, staff, student, you ought to be in it everyday. Not because you have to, because you get to. Not because you should check a box, because you want to know the very mind of your God, that you portend to believe and follow. If you don’t need it everyday, what  you’re really saying is,
“I’m smarter than He is and I can rest on what I studied, and I don’t really have time for it because I’m too busy and I’m too important and you don’t’ know my schedule.” The God of the universe must crease a smile. “You really think you can do this without me.” I can track my own stress level and my own frustration level in life. The more intimately I walk with my Saviour, the less stressed out I am in the crucible of life. The more stressed I am, the more frenetic I am, the more disconnected I am, the more upset I get, the quicker my temper, the less intimate I am with Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re different than me. Maybe your super spiritual. I’m just a sinner saved by grace trying to hammer it out.

After his Green Bay Packers were trounced 73-0 by the Chicago Bears, Vince Lombardi showed up Monday morning with his team and he took a leather oval object and held it up and said, “Gentleman, this is a football.” The legendary Lombardi speech took them to two super bowl victories. Lombardi basically said, “We must go back to the basics. We must go back to the first down, to the tackle. Forget the scoreboard. Forget the winning right now. We want to win.” He was very clear about winning, but in order to win, you’ve got to execute; you got to catch the ball; you’ve got to tackle; you got to be defensive; you got to make a first down. Gentleman, this is a football. Men and women, this is the very Word of God! How can we do this thing called “ministry” apart from the very Word of God? We are Moody Bible Institute. Tattoo it on your forehead backwards. When you put your makeup on in the morning, or shave your mug, you’ll see the word, Bible. The Hebrews took it literally and they put phylacteries on their forehead, and on their wrist and mezuzah on their door. He said, “No, keep the Word of God in your mind. Keep it on your hand when you work, when you go in and come out. Keep the Word of God in your goings and comings, ups and downs, ins and outs, lying down, getting up.” All of life, you must have a Biblical theology. Your God is one.

It’s a football. “Why you believe what you believe” must season every pore of your being. It cannot be perfunctory; it cannot be secondary; it can’t be, “Oh, by the way, I read the Bible once.” A good friend of mine said, “I haven’t read the Bible, but I’ve colored most of the pages.” It needs to be part of who we are, not as Moody, but as believers in Christ.

Well the shift in doctrines as we’ve watched liberalism take over, has not been a tsunami, not been a terrorist attack, it’s not been a frontal assault. I think science professors can correct me. I think  the theological structures are like tectonic plates that have over time, and heat, and pressure, and erosion have shifted and buckled. If you’ve studied hogbacks you can come to your own conclusion. These ridges in the desert seem to be there for no apparent reason. Scientists theorize that those huge tectonic plates are pushing against each other and finally a weak point pops up and they call it a ridgeback or a hogback in the middle of no where. That to me is false doctrine in the landscape of evangelical theology. It pushes, it pushes,it pushes, it changes our thinking. We speak the language of the culture in the day thinking we’re so erudite and before long we’ve been hoodwinked into believing something we never thought we should believe. When someone like me comes along, and says something like this, you say, “Oh you’re such a dinosaur.”

The word doctrine comes from the Latin word, doctrina, where we get the word “doctor,” that many of your professors boast in the front of their name. I’m Dr. so and so. Doctor means “a collection of literature, a collection of teachings,” and so we use the word “doctrinal statement.” I would encourage you in the weeks ahead if you’d like, to print out a copy or bring your undergraduate catalogue to chapel. I would also challenge you to read pages 15-20 once in a while. I’ve been studying this all summer long. I was just  talking to Dr.Dyer about it over this weekend and even this morning. This is a great document. It’s full of tremendous assumptions. And If I may, “This is a football.” We must come back to “why we believe what we believe” before we know what we’re going to do.

When I use the word “teaching and authority” let me give you a quick commercial break. We’re almost done. You’ll be fine. Hang in there. When we talk about “teaching and authority,” in the New Testament particularly, we hear these terms, we kind of raise our hackles. Nobody likes authority today. Nobody likes truth today. I was reading about inerrancy the last few weeks in several , what I call single volume handbooks of theology, I have. I have Ryrie and Barackman and Ends and Elwell and certain ones that I like to go to and I enjoy what they write. I read a little bit of Henry and others and I just like to see, what do they say about inerrancy? I was reading some journal abstracts on line this weekend from, like JETS and different ones talking about inerrancy and the debate of all the terms. The one thing that struck me again and again is that the presupposition is that we think there is a truth. We think that because it’s truth we should salute and I would say most, not all, most in this room are fine with that. If it’s the truth of God’s Word, I’m going to do it. There are some in here that resist that. They arch their back to it. This is systemic in our culture, men and women Just because the truth does not mean a person’s going to say, “Oh, ok I believe.” Truth has become relativized. Hegel was the first German philosopher that said the concept of “There are existing truths we can’t reconcile.” I shared it before. Envision it like a sphere, your truth is over here, mines over there. They coexist. What’s true for you is true, what’s true for me is true. Even though we can’t reconcile it, because truth is just too big to reconcile. Bologne! But this type of thinking has seasoned the academic, has seasoned the author, has seasoned the culture and that’s where relativism comes in. That’s truth for you, that’s fine. We talk about spirituality today, that’s what’s it’s all about. What’s spiritual for you is fine, what’s spiritual for me is fine. Why can’t we all just get along, and be inclusive, and tolerant, and go back to Kindergarden and holding hands and have milk and cookies? Because if the Word of God is true, all else is false. If God has spoken and His Son Jesus Christ as the revealed logos Word of God, you cannot say, “I believe in Jesus, and it’s ok for you to believe what you believe.” That’s paganism, men and women. That’s idolatry, men and women. That’s syncretism, men and women. This culture is going to push you, and push you, and push you, and push you, whether you’re an academic or a practitioner, a student, a grad student, a faculty, a staff, or just a friend listening. Don’t let the world teach you theology. It’s got to be rooted and grounded in the Word of God. Jesus says in Mark seven, seven. Look at it; turn there. It’s where the word, “doctrine” pops up in the New Testament several times. Mark seven, seven, “But in vain, do they worship me,”Jesus says. “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” Jesus says,If you worship me in your own way, in your own truth, it’s vain.” Because you have taken the doctrines, the collection of ideas of man, and used those to come to me and Jesus won’t have anything to do with it. In vain, emptiness, no meaning, do they worship me. Teaching as doctrines, the idea of the thoughts of men. Doctrine in our Greek New Testament is from didasko, (this is a transliteration of a Greek word into English), the idea of didactic teaching, line by line we think of it. That’s really not a fair definition. Didactic or didasko  is a collection of truth. It’s the logos in a way; it’s the content. It’s the corporate of belief that we say, it’s true, therefore it’s authoritative. Therefore we must obey. “Why you believe what you believe” is crucial and it must be grounded in truth.

The last passage I want you to turn to is in Mark Chapter one, back a few pages. Jesus Christ teaching is different than man’s teaching. Jesus says in Mark Chapter one, verse twenty-one, twenty two, I’ll read. They went to Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and there began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Now there’s a little bit of spade work you have to do here, but as I understand it, the rabbinic teaching was largely was like case study. If you’ve been to law school some of you or know someone in law school, you don’t just stand up and say, “Your honor, I think it should be this way.” That’s foolish! You must cite case law. Other cases that have been tried and found a certain way, a court found something this way. So you say, “Well in this case what the judge found was x, so therefore, we apply this case to the current case. You with me? The Rabbinics were not too different. They quoted other Rabbis. A Rabbi was known as brilliant and a scholar. If he could handle lots, we might say “a lot of commentaries.” If he could cite and source a lot of other Rabbis, then he was a scholar. Because you don’t come up and say,“Well I think this passage means.” That would be hubris and arrogance and they’d mock you. That’s why the lawyer concept fits well with the Scribe and Pharisee, right? Because they knew the law. They could cite cases, if you will. Jesus stands up and He just teaches. Because God, the God man can speak with authority, unlike anyone else. So fast forward, when you go somewhere and you hold this book, and you’re not talking about postmodernity, and relativism, and secularism, and humanism, and pam modernity, you’re talking about God, and what He has said, and what He has spoken. I hope that you will come to know it’s truth, not just academically, or intellectually, or make a decision, but as you know the Word of Life, the Author of your life, and the very Saviour of your soul, that you’ll submit yourself more and more to Him, and less and less to yourself. And say, “You know what? I’m wrong.” And humbly come before the very Word of God. Tozer wrote, “Moral power has always been accompanied with definitive belief.” Listen again. “Moral power has always been accompanied with definitive belief. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now, a return to a gentle dogmatism.” Isn’t that great? “ A Gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever.” May you have a gentle dogmatism about the very Word of God, because, “why you believe what you believe” is not important. It is crucial to what you will do.

EASLEY: Prayer given.

As we review “why we believe what we believe,” one thing that strikes my mind, is how do we know a person, how do we know someone? I think about my closest friends, my best friends in life, and why we’re good buddies. At the end of the day, when I boil it down, it’s because we have common interests, and we spent a lot of time together. So when I used to backpack, hike, and climb, and kayak, I had friends that did those things. I have interest in technology, I have buddies that are geeks and I enjoy talking about tech issues and having them help me with my problems and once in a while helping them with theirs, but it’s something that we have in common and we spend time around that common interest. Well when we talk about knowing God through His Word, let me suggest, that you and I have to have time in the common interests. But of course the common interests can take many forms, but lets just talk about the Scripture. We know the mind of God from the Word of God. If I want to know what God thinks about something, I’m going to read the Bible, not just listen to someone on the radio, or on the internet, or some program, or what someone told me, but we want to go to the source. What does the Scripture say? So let me encourage you on your spiritual growth, and your spiritual journey. You need time in the Word. You need time with a Bible in your lap. You need a cup of coffee, in the morning perhaps. You need ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes a morning where you’re sitting, not hurried, don’t turn on the e-mail. Don’t turn on the computer. Don’t check your facebook, twitter account, instagram. Avoid it! Open up the Bible and read a paragraph and read through it. You know, for years, I’ve read one chapter of the Proverbs a day. There’s thirty-one chapters. Each month you get through the Book. You do it for a year, you’ve read the book of Proverbs twelve times. It takes the average reader four, maybe five minutes  to read a chapter of the book of Proverbs. Lots of great practical wisdom. It’s an easy book to read. “Why we believe what we believe” begins by who we know. And I want you to know God. I want you to know Him intimately. I need to know Him. I need to have a relationship with Him. So whether you’re in medicine, or law, in a classroom, a stay at home mom, a mom raising kids and working full time as well, single parent, a student, a young person, do you have any time of the day, with a Bible in your lap, reading God’s Word, and praying through it? You know you’ll never waste time in God’s Word. So I hope you’ll join us tomorrow on the broadcast as we continue thinking about “why we believe what we believe.” We’re going to look at the idea that God is one. We call it Monotheism. Why is that important? What does it mean? and practically, how does it change a faith? Who are you believing in as opposed to many gods or one God? This is Michael Easley in Context.

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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