Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Believe; Help My Unbelief!

On Friday I finally finished a book that I started reading last year. Unfortunately medical school is not the most conducive environment to pleasure reading. The book I finished is John Piper's Desiring God. I am thankful for a book not only rich in solid theology but also highly inspirational. As I finished reading through Piper's appendices I was struck by Piper's Appendix 2 which is actually a short apologetic sketch about the reality of Christ and the trustworthiness of Scripture. As with any apologetic argument the honest man must admit that Piper's is not water-tight. But he makes some good points and they are some of the logical reasons for my hope that is in Jesus Christ, His atoning death and His resurrection. In building his argument for the authority of Scripture, Piper starts with Christ:
Did some unknown creative genius take an ordinary man, Jesus, and invent His deeds of power and His words of love and authority and authenticity, then present this invented Jesus to a church with such deceptive power that many people were willing from the outset to die for this fictional Christ? Further, must we believe that all the Gospel writers swallowed the invention - and in the space of several decades while many who knew the real Jesus were still living? Is that a more reasonable or well-founded guess than the plain assertion that a real man, Jesus Christ, did in fact say and do the sorts of things the biblical witnesses said He did?

You must decide for yourself. To my mind, an unknown inventor of this Jesus is more incredible than the possibility of Jesus' reality. So for me the question becomes: "How do we account for a man who leaves a legacy like this?"

I cannot morally reckon Him among the poor deluded souls who suffer from pathological delusions of grandeur. Nor can I reckon Him among the great con men of history, a deceiver who planned and orchestrated a worldwide movement of mission on the basis of a hoax. Instead, I am constrained to acknowledge His truth. Both my mind and my heart find themselves drawn to yield allegiance to this man. He has won my confidence.
Piper is on to something that I have often thought of in times of doubt. This picture of the man Jesus presented in the Gospels truly captivates me. I have never read or heard of any man like Him. I say this not only because of His miracles but because of his words both of holiness and zeal for the Lord but also of love and compassion for the sinner. In times when I've struggled with doubt I've thought of the words of Peter as many left Christ because of a hard teaching. After Christ asked the Twelve whether they also would leave Him, Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life..." And I resonate with Peter. I can't explain exactly what I mean but somehow Christ's words are different than any other words I've ever read. I also sense "eternal life" in His words that I can sense nowhere else. It is because I've met this incomparable man Jesus in the Scripture and because of what He says about the Scriptures that I believe the Scriptures themselves are trustworthy. Piper also explores Jesus' view of the Old Testament in this appendix. Piper lays out a number of points and here are a few of them:
- In His controversy with the Pharisees concerning their interpretation of the Old Testament, He contrasted the tradition of the elders and the commandment of God found in Scripture. "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!" (Mark 7:9).
- When He answered the Pharisees concerning the problem of divorce, He referred to Genesis 2:24 as something "said" by God, though these are words of the biblical narrator and not a direct quote of God: "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father his mother'" (Matt. 19:4-5).
- He makes an explicit statement concerning infallibility in John 10:35: "Scripture cannot be broken."
- Repeatedly Jesus treats the Old Testament as an authority that must be fulfilled. "Do not think that I have come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18; cf. Matthew 26:54, 56; Luke 16:17).
- Jesus Himself used the Old Testament as authoritative weapon against the temptations of Satan: "But he answered, 'It is written...'" (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

The diversity of this witness and its spread over all the Gospel material show that the Lord Jesus regarded the Old Testament as a trustworthy, authoritative, unerring guide in our quest for enduring happiness. Therefore, we who submit to the authority of Christ will also want to submit to the authority of the book He esteemed so highly.
Piper goes onto argue for the New Testament to be viewed as Scripture in the same way that Jesus viewed the Old Testament as Scripture. As I said before, this is not some water-tight argument of perfect philosophical logic but I think that these arguments can't be dismissed without consideration either. To be honest I have mixed feelings about apologetics. I spent many years trying to convince myself of the truth of the Gospel by reading every apologetic I could get my hands on. I read most of Lewis among others. These apologists gave me hope but I was still assailed by doubt for many years. Then one afternoon in a prayer chapel in Grice Hall at Asbury Theological Seminary God changed my heart. He took away my striving for truth and my doubt and He put Truth in my heart. He convinced me that Jesus had died for my sins and had risen from the dead. My life has been far from perfect since then but something happened that day in the Spring of 2007 that has remained in effect. Ultimately it was only God who could make me believe, however desperately I had tried to make myself believe up to that point. So to the one who knows he is a sinner in need of salvation but who doubts and desires to believe I have one word of advice: pray as did the father of a little boy who was delivered from a demon. When Jesus said that all things were possible for the one who believes, the father of the demon possessed child replied, "I believe; help my unbelief!" Beg, beseech, plead with God to let you truly believe that Christ is who He says He is and that He died for your sins, beseech God to give you the gift of true faith. Jesus said, "which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matt. 7:9-11)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Post!