Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Self-Authenticating Witness Of The Spirit Of God

Among questions I receive are those seeking direction from individuals pondering issues pertaining to how one knows or perceives God's presence in the world and how one comes to salvation.

While there are some poignant theological differences and debate in this area within Christian circles, I don't know of anyone who doesn't believe that salvation is a work of God wrought or performed in the life of the believer.  In other words, under most constructs, Christians would contend that salvation is not a mere product of intellect, or arguments rooted in evidentialism. However, one could make the case that in many instances intellect, arguments and evidence play a significant role in the entire process of salvation and certainly spiritual growth.

Reaffirming many of the primary principles within teachings such as those of Henry Dodwell (1700-1784) and Alvin Plantinga, Dr. William L Craig points to what is called the "self-authenticating witness of God's Spirit" in the life of the believer, in the following statement:
Dr. William L Craig & Pastor H. Burnett
"Therefore when a person refuses to come to Christ, it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God's Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God. But anyone who responds to the drawing of God's Spirit with and open mind and an open heart can know with assurance that Christianity is true, because God's Spirit will convict him that it is. Jesus said, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me: if any man's will is to do his will he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." (John 7:16-17 RSV) Jesus affirms that if anyone is truly seeking God then he will know that Jesus teaching is truly from God."
So then for the unbeliever as well as for the believer, it is the testimony of God's Spirit that ultimately assures him of the truth of Christianity. The unbeliever who is truly seeking God will be convinced of the truth of the Christian message." {Craig, William L. Reasonable faith Christian Truth and Apologetics Third Edition 2008 Pg. 47}
In my opinion this is certainly true. I don't know of anyone who came to Christ initially because an argument, whatever that argument was. [I don't consider the Gospel to be an argument. It is the preached word of God and as such the Good News. Not an argument in the sense that I am proposing here] I know of no argument that is so absolutely compelling or overwhelming that one has to be saved on the basis of it. I don't know of too many individuals who's intellectual assent, no matter how steep, was the sole or singular motivating factor in accepting Christ for salvation. 

However, there is ample testimony from people, even former atheists such as C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel, who were not saved by the evidences of Christianity, but drawn by the power of the Spirit of the Lord to salvation through the self-authenticating witness of God's Spirit. In other words, faith, for these men and I would venture to say the majority of Christians, was not and is not merely a matter of the head, it is a matter of the heart. It is that tug on the reigns of the heart by God that defines and often boggles the mind and or intellect, which leads to salvation. In theological terms this could be called regeneration. 

That Which Is Seen

Now, if this is true, that it is not the church, the individuals in the church or anything else associated with the church that either causes one to accept or reject God, then each individual is truly accountable for their own response to God. No matter the situation, it is not one's family, family history or upbringing that can be fully blamed for how the individual responds to the Spirit of God.

I'm sure that we have all witnessed individuals raised in the church, given great teaching or nurturing, but who have turned from all of that to lifestyles of sin, and shame. On the other hand, and please don't get me wrong, some situations are more conducive to salvation than others...So realizing that there are situations in which persons are driven away from or drawn to the church is not the whole question here, however, at the end of the day, every person is responsible for their own response to God and either their acceptance of union with him or their rejection of HIS grace, mercy and ultimately forgiveness. 

The facts are these: It was not Jesus who failed. It was not God who came up short or who mishandled issues. It was the individual(s) some known as part of the church or maybe institutions associated with the church or maybe other parochial institutions claiming to be built upon "biblical and Christian principles" who may have failed. 

From an individual standpoint, although we may not always intellectually comprehend or apprehend God, invariably it is flesh that always fails and not HIM nor his Spirit that woos us. But even in that  failure of the flesh in no way negates or stops the self-authenticating witness of the Spirit" from speaking and revealing the glory of God to each and every individual, from those that reject him to those that will receive him. 

Ps. 19:1 ~ To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

His works and majesty can be perceived by all. His mystery is known to all the universe. In response the impetus of all scientific study and discovery is an attempt to comprehend his works. The unfortunate part is that many of them engaged in the study of pursuing the understanding of his works (science) because they (the works of God through creation) are seen, are oblivious to and rejecting of the wooing of HIS Spirit, even though the only reason that they are curious is because of the works they see. The works of God are HIS works and not the works of a man or some blind force. They are the evidence of his manifest presence.



Consequences Of "The Light"

At the end of the day, an individual is where they are, believing what they believe and doing what they do, because they WANT to. Not because they are fatalistically determined to be in the spiritual condition that they are. 

John 3:19 ~ And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Sin born into the hearts of men and embraced intellectually and spiritually is what destroys the man. The wages of sin is death but the penalty of sin is more sin. Notice the nature of sin. It takes men to what we describe as "dark places". Many, if not all sin behaviors, have a self destructive basis. For example, many alcoholics drink to the pace that the alcoholism destroys their bodies. First, many controlled by the substance refuse to admit it, and secondly it is often some tragedy or threat of loss that causes the individual to seek help and eventually turn away from the behavior associated with the substance. One hardly ever simply decides to walk away from such addiction on their own and do so successfully.

Drug addicts are similar as well. The illicit and illegal use of drugs, such as opioids, which have

Then there is the adulterer, molester and those who commit sexual sin. Usually these individuals go from a stage of personal, private, hidden and even recreational pursuit of sin, to a stage of addiction or life changing actions which causes multiplied grief, heartache and confusion sometimes for generations enveloped some whole communities within America, has proven to be virulently destructive. According to a recent NBC Nightly News report, one particular city in West Virginia, with a population of 3200 persons, received over 20 million pain pills by prescription over the last 10 years. I believe drug use along these lines, are not so much a display of illness as it is a display of a heart and mind desperate in seeking to relieve itself from the burden of sin. Relief being illusive the sin nature of man finds it much more easy to embrace more sin as a remedy instead of embracing the light.

Sin ADDS to itself until in the end, it is out of control. The rejection of light and ultimately truth always leads to greater darkness.

The key here is that the Light is seen and amply available, but men find it too challenging to draw themselves away from darkness. Why so challenging? The acceptance of light has a consequence and that consequence is that darkness, which pervades every fiber of this creation, is rejected and at that point a new path must be taken because the Light has come! Therefore to accept the Light of Jesus means to reject the thought patterns, systems, and social and spiritual norms that men have embraced to comfort themselves in darkness.

Critique

The critic asserts, how then is this "self-authenticating witness of the Spirit" any different from a Mormon's "burning in the bosom" or a Hindu's state of "nirvana" or Buddhist moment of enlightenment?

First, I believe that it may be a mistake to attempt to de-authenticate the experience of them claiming to have had one. There are many experiences, but not all of them lead to the Lord or HIS throne. John was aware of this as he encourages the believer to "not believe" every spirit, but to "try the spirits, whether they be of God". (1 John 4:1). The experience is to be "tried" or weighed or judged as to its authenticity and is always subject to Christ. In measuring that, one can tell whether the experience points to Christ or points away from him by adding another measure whereby men can be saved or blessed. Therefore the experience itself is also self-authenticating.

Secondly, the best witnesses to this are those who have converted from those systems to Christianity or those who have "found" Christ. As stated, other experiences certainly may have occurred, but there should be no assumption that those alternate experiences and the experience of Christianity and the exercise of faith are the same or even equivalent. The messages are certainly not the same, so why would anyone expect the experiences themselves to be the same? Those who come from non-Christian systems of belief will be the first to assert that the witness of the Holy Spirit upon and in their lives is wholly different than anything received under former systems or channels of belief.  So these are distinctions that make all the difference. 

Next the critic would assert, then why aren't all saved since the self authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit is so unique?

Because something is unique does not mean that all people yield or avail themselves to it. First, do all people desire the same thing? For example, Tesla has a good and some say the world's best electric car. Their new version has a multi-thousand preorders. However, do all individuals stop driving their current cars and start driving Tesla? Does everyone want a Tesla because it is "unique"? Just because someone can do something, does it mean that they always do? Free will is the issue and the key here. Everyone has it and can exercise it as they see fit.  Once again, the exercise of free will to reject the self-authenticating witness of the Spirit does not diminish or negate the role, majesty or uniqueness of the Spirit in the process. 

Conclusion

The self-authenticating witness of the Spirit has been played out throughout the Bible. From something as simple as a man named Moses going up to see a bush that burned with fire, and coming down the deliverer of a nation (Exodus 3), to Pilate as Jesus stood before him asking "what is truth" (John 18:38) to Paul preaching so convincingly that Agrippa, says "you almost persuade me to become a Christian" (Acts 26:28)...The Spirit of God has been and will always be active because HE is God. 

One will not be able to leave this world and certainly not the presence of God without having been presented with compelling evidence of the self-authenticating witness of the Spirit...Argument or no argument, intellectual fulfillment or none, God speaks and HIS sheep do hear him!

John 10: 27 ~ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me:

Blessed!

7 comments:

  1. Go ahead Rev...hanging out with the BIG GUN... William Lane Craig!

    I've watched several of his debates with them "high level atheists", and I must say, HE IS OUTSTANDING! I disagree with him wholeheartedly though, his take on the age of the earth, he and the Hugh Ross fellow. I am a young earther, more in the Morris and Ham camp. I wish COGIC will do more to engage more in the field of APOLOGETICS and defense of the truth. They need to have a classes during their Convocation on this subject matters, and rather than pay Osteen and Jakes that hugh sum of money, maybe invite experts to teach their parishoners the aspects of this vital study. (Sorry I digressed).

    Anyways, I think the Bible rings clear, man loves darkness rather than light. They REJECT GOD despite the fact God revealed Himself in CREATION, in CONSCIENCE and in CHRIST His SON!

    I believe man can NEVER even in his highest intelligence understand the fullness of the INCOMPREHENSIBLE GOD. I do however believe GOD GAVE us all intelligence that we can use to UNDERSTAND Him as the SPIRIT OF GOD reveals His Son. If I understand Dr. Craig, I'm convinced it's not because of our intellectual difficulties, we refuse to come to Christ. I also agree, it is the testimony of God's Spirit that ultimately assures him of the truth of Christianity. It is the Spirit that appeals to our mind and thoughts and hearts to convict us we are sinners who stand in the need of a SAVIOR.

    There is only One Spirit of God who testifies of the One Son of GOD who died to satisfy One God the Father for the sins of the WORLD. This is the ONE True GOSPEL MESSAGE of GOD. The "burning in the bosom" or a "nirvana" moment of enlightenment are as far away from the TRUTH as Pluto is from the SUN. Their beliefs DOES NOT COMPARE. Matter of fact, their beliefs are LIES, POINT BLANK!

    Just My 2 Cents.


    "Therefore when a person refuses to come to Christ, it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God's Spirit on his heart. I don't think it imaginable some can be drawn to HIM through an "intellectual" discussion, though the discussion itself is NOT the SAVING catalyst.

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  2. Well the age of the earth has never been an issue with me...I look at it two ways, God created man, not a baby. God evidently created man a sentient being with the ability to communicate to him in some form. If God created the earth with an appearance of age, that could be a possibility that I am willing to accept. However, I do not discount the age of the earth as in as much as it is scientifically ascertainable.

    In our short epoch of time, we see the earth and constellations moving and an entire universe in transition and even expanding. It would be very difficult to believe that process only began some 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.

    There is no time frame between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. and prior to the period of "day creation"...However, on the flip side, I ind it difficult to believe that God made dinosaurs as some kind of precursor to men or mankind that experienced "death" prior to the all of man when all death entered the world.

    So I see the issues, but none of them are an special problem to me...the only problem is when they take the account off Genesis as a philosophical tale or a non-literal account.

    To the article, I believe the point here is that men will never "comprehend" God as such. He can only apprehend HIM. We believe him because that's what he says and what he describes (whatever that is)

    However, I have stated in a podcast and will do in a part two, we are to worship him with our "whole mind" as well. The pursuit of God with our intellect is scriptural and according to HIS command. So I don;t believe he discounts our intellect, although it won;t be fully satisfied until we meet HIM!!!

    Thank God for that.....but DARN...that means I really don't know it all!!!!!LOL-LOL-LOL!!!!

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    2. Well said Rev. . I’m with YOU. He does not discount our intellect.

      I take a little more seriously the age of the earth the BOOK of GENESIS, Satan's attack on the first Book of the Bible which lays put many of the foundation of the FAITH – There is a GOD, He is ETERNAL, He is CREATOR of ALL THINGS, Man SINNED against Him, He Promised of a REDEMER. Our atheist counter parts tend to whitewash all this when producing their billion-year theory using pseudo evidence at best.

      I’m a firm believer that if we take the historical information from the Bible, we see the age of the Earth and the Universe to be about 6000 years old. Science has not and can not prove the age of the earth. When it comes to determining the age of the Earth, scientists do a lot of calculations based on assumptions. Don’t get me wrong Rev, science when done RIGHT is AWESOMW. Problem is you got the “man element” involved. Although they are scientists, they evolutionists are SINNERS, when they don’t know God. They like the JEWS in Christ’s day will lie just to promote an agenda. I don't know Rev...but I’ll take God’s words over man’s observation any day!

      Wit regards to our boy William Lane Craig and Hugh Ross too, I think they miss the mark when defining the word “day” (yom) to mean a long period of time, or age in the Book of Genesis the Creation Story. A day in Genesis is not a long period of time. It is a “24 hour period”. “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first DAY.” Gen 1:5

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    3. Well looking at the word "Yom" or day...Adam was promised that in the "day" they ate of the fruit they would truly die. (Gen. 2:17) Now, from scripture we see that Adam lived to be 930 (Gen. 5:5) or at least so we take it...it could be that he lived 930 years AFTER being banished from the Garden, but that is another story...

      What I am saying is that the word "day" does not necessarily facilitate a literal 24 hour period of time. Now, I am also hard pressed to accept the day age theory as well. I don;t see that as necessary or essential.

      So although I wouldn't fight you or your contention, I hope you can also see the validity of opposing contentions especially when it is considered that God has not set forth deceit to catch us up and his creation is a display of his nature...So if we find something that is true, we can believe it, unless God has committed to tell us otherwise. 6 24 hour days or a story of 6 epochs in which God moved, or an insurmountable time from creation of man to the expulsion from the Garden, there is much to consider in the narrative. Either way, It's completely true, God created as opposed to men evolved.

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  3. Rev, this will be my last comment for this post on the Age of the Earth.

    YOU RIGHT REV, Adam lives 900 plus years. The BIBLE is 100% accurate historically. When we calculate the time from Adam to the present, we conclude only a few thousand years between Adam and the present. Just a quick note though, when God said to Adam “this day thou shalt surely die”, the Hebrew meaning of the phrase renders “dying thou shalt die”. The word translated “day” (yome) is used however, in a different context than "day" in the CREATION story.

    I just hate when Christians feel like they have to use the "scientific" data of men (many of the data is false and a lot of times out right LIES) to supercede the HISTORY the BIBLE gives. I personally believe the Bible can be trusted in all matters, including the areas of Science. Like I said earlier, I don’t trust man, especially his testimony there is NO GOD, and CREATION was DONE without HIM. His claim to have all the evidence is HOGWASH. He has never witnessed a MUTATION. He has no “missing link”, and lot of what he “theorizes” is untrue.

    I think does disservice to the WORD of God and His POWER, though, when Christians try to fit in the "evidence of men" to say things like there was a gap between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2. Even here, the 4th Commandment, the very moral law God gave to His people, you see embedded a 24 hour "day". God said -

    “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

    Six days WORK, one day REST. The same idea is noted, not only in Genesis, but Exodus (same writer of course) ““In six days the LORD made heaven and earth” (Exodus 31:17).

    Not only MOSES, but other writers of the Bible when referencing CREATION, implies a day to be a 24 hour period. Even Jesus (GOD HIMSELF), when he referenced Genesis and CREATION in Mark 10:6 saying “But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.” He did not mention anything about a time billions of years before, then “God made them male and female”.

    Scriptures interpret Scriptures, and you don’t get a sense when the Bible references "CREATION" outside Genesis, there was a time before the miracle acts God performed in Gen 1:1. It’s OBVIOUS the use of “evening and the morning” was a day, just like David said "This is the day that the LORD hath MADE" (The LORD made a DAY!).

    While I applaud the GREAT works of Dr. Craig, I think he is WRONG on this one. No need for any of God’s people to compromise with any evolutionary philosophy. THE WORD of GOD is inspired. It stands ALONE on it’s OWN!

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