Ten Key Questions About Life
This study is dedicated to developing a Biblical world view by "girding up" or sharpening our minds with ten key questions about life. These are: What is man?; What is the real meaning of life?; How am I to make moral choices?; What is truth?; What is love and where can it be found?; Why is there suffering and how can we live with it?; What is death?; What hope is there for the human race?; What is real?; Is there any hope in fighting evil and injustice?
What Is Man?
What Is The Meaning Of Life?
How Are We To Make Moral Choices?
Is It Possible To Know The Truth About Ourselves And The Universe?
What Is Love And Where Can It Be Found?
Why Is There Suffering And How Can We Live With It?
What Is Death And How Are We To Face It?
What Hope Is There For The Human Race?
What Is Real?
Can Evil Be Defeated?
Is It Possible To Know The Truth About Ourselves And The Universe?
by: Allan Turner
It is God's own eternal and unchanging nature to be true. This means that if every man is found to be a liar, God will still be true (Romans 3:4). Jesus is referred to as “the truth” (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13). Consequently, when God speaks, His word is truth (John 17:17). Truth and truthfulness are essential to our understanding of who we are as human beings. Truth and truthfulness are the very core of right relations with God and with our fellow men. On the other hand, Satan is the father of lies and liars. Jesus said, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Lying and falsehood are contrary to the very nature of things. They distort man's true relationship with God and his fellow human beings. It should not surprise us then that ungodly and unrighteous men are doing everything within their power to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). In the rest of this article, we will spend our time thinking about what is true and what is not.
According to Ecclesiastes 12:13, the whole duty of man is to fear the Creator of the Universe and keep His commandments. This is not something just for those who are in covenant relationship with God through Christ, but for all mankind. The Creator has natural dominion over us even before He has authority over us by consent when we are converted. Why? Because, quite frankly, He is the Creator/Sovereign of the Universe: He's the Creator and we are the creature; He's the Potter and we are the clay! Consequently, He has the authority to make demands upon us and we are under obligation to obey His commands. Apart from this understanding there are no real ethical norms (i.e., What should I do?) or obligations (i.e., Why should I do it?); no such things as absolute norms of conduct—no such things as moral absolutes! This, we learn in Romans 1:18-32, is why those who wanted to satisfy their own lusts chose not to retain in their minds the proper concept of God as Creator/Sovereign. According to the Scriptures, they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
True religion (man made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26,27) and false religion (God created in the image of man, Romans 1:22,23) are completely opposites of one another. The antagonism between these two is constant. Consequently, the apostle Paul warned, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). In this passage we can see the antagonism between the “tradition of men” and “basic principles of this world” and the teaching of Christ. As Jesus said elsewhere, there are only two sources for religion—God or man (Matthew 21:23-27).
In II Corinthians 10:4,5, Paul wrote: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Making use of military metaphors, the apostle is contrasting vain philosophy (man-made religion) with the truth revealed in the Bible (God-breathed or inspired religion). He is contrasting the secular world view with the Biblical world view. Our weapons, he tells us, are not carnal. In other words, they are not “according to the tradition of men” nor are they “according to the basic principles of the world.” Nevertheless, they are mighty “in God” for the pulling down of “strongholds.” These “strongholds,” according to Paul, are philosophies, arguments, reasonings, concepts, ideas, and every man-made ism (i.e., “every high thing”) that exalts themselves against the “knowledge of God.” Primarily, this knowledge of God is derived from just one source, namely, the Bible.
In the very first verse of the Bible, we are told: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In this simple and uncomplicated sentence are concepts with the most profound implications. If one believes this sentence to be divinely inspired truth, then it completely destroys the “strongholds” of atheism, polytheism, materialism, and pantheism. Genesis 1:1 says the atheist is definitely wrong when he says there is no God, because Elohim (the name used to identify God in this verse and one that suggests His triune nature) identifies Himself as the Creator. This one true God (viz., the one and only state of being divine, which the Bible tells us is shared by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is contrasted with all the false gods of polytheism. Furthermore, materialism, a theory that says physical matter is the only fundamental reality and that all being, processes, and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter, is thoroughly defeated by the divinely revealed truth of Creation. The heavens and the earth, with all the matter contained therein, were simply spoken into existence by Almighty God. Finally, the transcendent God identified in Genesis 1:1, the One who had, and continues to have, an existence apart from His Creation, is contrasted with the pantheistic concept that teaches God consists of the forces and laws of the Universe. In other words, instead of the Biblical concept of a God who is different from His Creation, the pantheist sees God and the Creation as being One. Specifically, such a pantheistic belief is identified as “Monism” (viz., “All is One”).
The Christian must not ignore Paul's warning about the doctrines of men or vain philosophy. According to Paul, vain philosophy is a brigand that, if we are not careful, will take us captive and steal from us our spiritual possessions. Deception, long the technique of those who would cheat us and steal our physical possessions, is the major device of all man-made philosophy. Promising everything, it delivers nothing; and claiming to be one thing, it turns out to be something else entirely!
Unfortunately, many Christians, living in the twilight of the twentieth century, have either forgotten Paul's warning or no longer believe it. For whatever reasons, Christians, because of their ignorance, have been seduced into thinking that man-made philosophies are religiously neutral. Therefore, they have become enchanted by the smorgasbord of secular thought that obscures the way, perverts the truth, and totally wrecks one's spiritual life. These must be reminded that it was Jesus who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). What this means is that apart from the way, there is no going; apart from the truth, there is no knowing; and apart from the life, there is no spiritual living. This, quite frankly, is why the apostle Paul said that “every thought” must be brought “into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
In Colossians 3:17, Paul wrote that everything one does in “word or deed” is to be done “in the name of the Lord” (i.e., by the Lord's authority). But how can one's actions be correct if one is not thinking properly? And how can one be thinking properly if one has not brought “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”? It is clear, then, the Lord calls upon His disciples to out-think, out-live, and out-die the polytheistic pagans and atheistic humanists around about them.
All man-made philosophies are destined for total defeat. Consequently, it is ludicrous that Christians, who have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9), would want to return again to the “weak and beggarly elements” of this world, symbolized in the Bible as spiritual darkness (cf. Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 4:17-20; Colossians 1:9-14).
Divine revelation is divided into two categories: natural and special revelation. Natural revelation is directly associated with God as the Creator. This is what the apostle Paul was writing about when he wrote: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Natural revelation is very important, but it is often misinterpreted and flawed by man (see Romans 1). This is particularly true when the Creator is divorced, via Naturalism, Darwinism, Humanism, etc., from the very nature He created. The powerful implications of natural revelation are often overlooked in our modern world because of religion's retreat from the aforementioned isms. In other words, natural revelation should not be, but often is, separated from the God who actually gave it. Today, modern man is paying the price for his ignorance of the divine implications of natural revelation.
On the other hand, special revelation (namely, the Bible) cannot possibly be separated from the God who gave it. The classic affirmation of this is II Timothy 3:16, which says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The Greek word theopneustos (theopneustos), translated in the King James Version as “inspired by God,” literally means “God-breathed.” If scripture is “God-breathed,” then any attempt to divorce it from the God who breathed it is not just irreligious, but downright heretical as well.
Unfortunately, the modern-day theologians are attempting to do to special revelation what the worshippers of “Scientism” have done to natural revelation (namely, to remove the supernatural). This attempt must be refuted. We will now examine the Bible's claim of being inspired and inerrant (that is, without error, mistake, contradiction, or falsehood).
Inspired Message And Messenger
In II Peter 1:20,21, we learn that not only was the message inspired, but the messengers were too: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” In John 14:26 and 16:12-15, the Lord promised the apostles they would be guided by the Holy Spirit in their presentation of the gospel. In I Peter 1:12, the apostle wrote that he had “preached the gospel...with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven.” Paul, in I Corinthians 7:40 and I Timothy 4:1, claimed to have been led by the Holy Spirit in his writings. Furthermore, Paul maintained that the gospel he preached was a revelation from Jesus Christ Himself (Galatians 1:11,12). Consequently, a good working definition of inspiration would be: “The special supernatural supervision exercised by God over His messengers to make sure they communicate His message accurately” (Jack Cottrell, The Authority of the Bible, page 23).
Not Just Ideas, But The Very
Paul wrote: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Corinthians 2:11-13). We can, therefore, take great consolation in the fact that God not only inspired the message and messengers, but He inspired the very words that were used in communicating His message to man. The Lord said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Observe that He did not say just the ideas were inspired, but every word. This is depicted by the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:16. Referring to the promise made in Genesis 22:18, Paul wrote: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” In other words, God said “seed” not “seeds.” The very words God uses are inspired. In this connection, it is worthwhile to note that the Lord emphasized that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). What this means is that orthodoxy (that which conforms to Biblical teaching) demands that we defend plenary (full or complete) inspiration of the Bible.
What Does The Bible Say About Inerrancy?
Intrinsic in the Biblical doctrine of inspiration is the concept of inerrancy.
As has already been pointed out, inerrant means “without error, mistake,
contradiction or falsehood.” Some have the idea that the doctrine of inerrancy
is a theory or philosophical concept foreign to the Bible. This is a serious
mistake. Actually, the doctrine is inescapable when one considers plain
Bible passages and the necessary conclusions that may be drawn from them.
For example, the Bible teaches:
It is correct, then, to conclude: Every Word of God is true; the Bible is the Word of God; therefore, the Bible is inerrant. Of course, it must be understood that all such claims refer to the original autographs or manuscripts. No one should think that it is somehow impossible for scribes or translators to make mistakes. They can and have done so! It is important to realize, though, that when such mistakes are made, they can be identified as mistakes. This is possible because so many copies of the Bible were made that it can be determined what was actually contained in the original manuscripts. Apart from minor variations, such as those found in spelling and word order, it can be estimated that we can be sure of ninety-nine and nine-tenths percent of the original New Testament. The remaining one-tenth of a percent contributes nothing harmful to the integrity of the Bible. In other words, the reconstructed text (taken from early copies) is nearly perfect. Consequently, when we read a good translation of the Bible, we are reading what was in the originals.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Although the original manuscripts have been lost (perhaps to prevent them from being idolized), one can trust that with a good “word for word” translation of the Bible (such as the King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, etc.) one has the accurate communication of God's Will to man. The Bible is, therefore, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16,17).
Let us all be resolved to give ourselves diligently to a study of God's Divine Revelation (II Timothy 2:15). Let us determine to let the Word of God dwell in us richly in all wisdom, so that we can teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Let us decide that whatsoever we do in word or deed, that we do all of it by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17). Finally, when we speak, let us be resolved to speak as the Oracles of God (I Peter 4:11).
Reason Alone Vs. The Bible
Rationalism (i.e., human reason uninformed by special revelation) is a conscious effort on the part of those who constructed it to eliminate God and His revelation from man's rational faculty. Instead of seeing the ability to reason as a gift from God, men have misused this blessing to construct an idol that, like all idols, corrupts man's concept of not just God, but of himself as well. To use a Bible expression: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who changed the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:22.23). Whether it be rationalism, humanism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, or scientism, the mantle under which all these isms are nourished is the idol of SELF. The question is, and always has been: Will man worship his Creator or will he insist on worshiping himself?
Echoing the atheism or anti-theism of her rationalism, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, in her book What On Earth Is An Atheist, wrote: “There are no supernatural forces, no supernatural entities such as gods, or heavens, or hells, or life after death. There are no supernatural forces, nor can there be. We atheists believe nature simply exists. Matter is. Material is” (page 43). In other words, as was said in Humanist Manifesto I, “Humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.” This goes hand-in-hand with what astronomer Carl Sagan believes when he says the cosmos is all there is. It is reflected in the teachings of behaviorist B.F. Skinner, who says human beings are made up solely of matter and that we think with our bodies (viz., brains) rather than our minds (viz., spirits) because bodies are all we are. Of course, when the O'Hairs, Sagans, and Skinners tell us they know what they know, the question they ought to be asked is, “How do you know what you know?” We say this because there is nothing Ms. O'Hair has learned that proves “there is no supernatural, nor can there be.” There is nothing Carl Sagan has discovered by peering through his telescope that proves “the cosmos is all there is.” There is nothing B.F. Skinner has discovered in his studies that proves man is “totally matter.” Actually, none of these statements have any thing at all to do with science. These are, in fact, presuppositions. They are nothing more than dogmas that are being presented as if they were discoveries of science. Whether consciously or unconsciously, these people have started with a view of the universe, a philosophy of life or world view—whether they call it that or not—and have superimposed that view onto their findings.
Such a bias is sometimes admitted by scientists. For instance, the popular physicist Fritjof Capra, in his very popular book, The Turning Point, wrote: “My presentation of modern physics...has been influenced by my personal beliefs and allegiances. I have emphasized certain concepts and theories that are not yet accepted by the majority of physicists, but that I consider significant philosophically, of great importance for the other sciences and for our culture as a whole.” In other words, a godless, humanistic world view, with all its presuppositions, and not science nor reason, has brought these rationalists to the conclusions they have reached. And although they would certainly deny it, the there-is-no-supernatural, the-cosmos-is-all-there-is, man-is-only-matter people know what they know not by reason, as they would like for us to believe, but by a so-called reason alone system that actually depends on faith, albeit an anti-God faith. This is clearly confirmed by the history of philosophy which testifies to the fact that the classic atheistic belief systems were developed by men who already, for various personal reasons, rejected God.
Consequently, the materialistic rationalist, who claims that all knowledge must be restricted to what the senses can perceive, cannot really have anything to say about the origin of the universe because no human being was there to perceive it. In truth, when they speak of origins, they have entered the realm of religion and metaphysics. They have yet to adequately explain their presuppositions concerning the origin of the universe and life. For instance, as Robert A. Morey pointed out in his book, The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom, the materialistic rationalists would have us believe 1) everything came from nothing, 2) order came from chaos, 3) harmony came from discord, 4) life came from non-life, 5) reason came from irrationality, 6) personality came from non-personality, and 7) morality came from amorality. Morey made it clear that believing these things takes a far greater faith than believing that a personal, rational God created the universe. But, what many have failed to realize is that the faith positions of these atheistic, materialistic rationalists, who foolishly bow to the totem of SELF, have combined to become the dominant motif of our present society. In fact, with the sanction of the United States Supreme Court, the only metaphysical or religious presuppositions permitted in our public schools today are the godless, humanistic kind. Consequently, any concept of the true God and any allegiance to His divine revelation has been effectively expunged from the public educational process. Although many Americans still believe it to be untrue, the battle for the minds of our children is now being waged in an arena that permits one side to use any and every means available to destroy the other side, while restricting the other side from using any battle implements at all. Not only is this situation ungodly, it is clearly not the fair play we have traditionally associated with the “American way.”
Maybe some will think that all we have written up to this point is simply “sour grapes.” Some may think we are just “anti-intellectual.” Some may think we are somehow against “reason.” Others may believe that we are against “science.” We assure you that we are against none of these things. The religion we practice will not allow us to engage in “sour grapes.” Man's intellectual pursuits are only possible because of the God-given faculty of reason. The Christian, we believe, is under the Biblical imperative to out-think, out-live, and out-die the pagans around about him. Therefore, the use of reason in the exercise of one's intellectual capacity for the ultimate glorification of God is not wrong but required. And although the Christian opposes “scientism” because all idolatry must be opposed by those who worship the one and only true God, the Christian does not oppose true science. In fact, the Bible believer ought to be the most passionate scientist of all because he should be open to the truth wherever it is found. Knowing, as he does, that all truth is God's truth, the Christian is not afraid that some new discovery will destroy his faith. To the contrary, the Christian believes that if his basis for truth is really true, then all other truth can only support and enhance it. In truth, the cynical skepticism of our age cries for talented, God-fearing scientists who see the scientific inquiry as a true vocation that ultimately glorifies God.
Modern science actually owes its existence to those who believed in the God of the Bible and respected His revelation, be it special (viz., the God-breathed word) or general (viz., God's revelation of Himself in nature). When we do physics (i.e., the scientific study of the creation) it should be done ultimately for a metaphysical purpose. In other words, we should engage in physics or any other scientific endeavor so that we might ultimately understand the big or total picture of all reality. Sir Isaac Newton, undoubtedly the greatest scientist of his day, who said that what he was ultimately trying to do in his scientific investigations was to think God's thoughts after Him, is a fine example of this attitude.
Science, then, is a legitimate pursuit for man. It can provide some of the information that man needs to know about himself and the world he lives in. There is nothing wrong with the scientific method per se; but it is limited in what it can actually do for us (cf. Romans 1:20). To extrapolate from that which is empirically observable to everything that is, involves one in what can only be described as a non sequitur (i.e., “it does not follow”). This limitation is recognized and acknowledged by true scientists; but it is not always understood by scientific laymen. Suffice it to say, to understand ultimate truth (i.e., “the big picture”), man needs special, divine revelation (cf. I Corinthians 2:9-16). Indeed, based upon what we know, both from experience and divine revelation, we know that it is not within the capacity of man, apart from divine revelation, to direct his own steps (cf. Jeremiah 10:23).
According to the psalmist, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10). This truth has been lost on all the agnostics, atheists, materialists, rationalists, and humanists who make up our society today. Unfortunately, this truth is sometimes lost on those who call themselves after Christ. Being products of our secular educations, the isms of men have crept almost imperceptibly into our intellectual repertoires. As a result, we have been slow to respond to the threat of secular humanism. Slow, because we did not see it as a threat. We did not see it as a threat because we wondered how a way of thinking that had become so commonplace in our minds could be so wrong. Unfortunately, many have already grown weary of sermons on the subject, never having realized just how much they, personally, have been affected by it.
What is the remedy? God's Word, of course! But, it must be remembered that God's Word, apart from our willingness to know it in our minds, stow it in our hearts, and show it in our lives, will produce in us nothing but condemnation. We are under obligation “not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s], that [we] may prove what is that acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). In other words, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We must “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them” (Ephesians 4:17,18). We must “put off, concerning [our] former conduct...and be renewed in the spirit of [our] mind[s]...and...put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). We must “gird up the loins of [our] minds” (I Peter 1:13). We must, as we have already said, out-think, out-live, and out-die the pagans. We must, “Beware lest anyone cheat [us] through philosophy, and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). We must take God's Word, “the sword of the Spirit,” and pull down “strong-holds,...arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:4,5).
Is it possible to know the truth about ourselves and the universe? Yes, but only through God's divine revelation in nature and His special revelation, the Bible.