Will any sort of faith do?

In my last post we gave thought to why faith was necessary. I hope it spoke to you, you’re always welcome to ask questions. But the aim of this post is to think about whether just any faith will do. I’ve heard plenty of armchair theologians confidently declare that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something. Is that true? And if it’s not, what kind of faith makes a difference?

First, our faith needs to be in the God that the Bible (the Hebrew and Christian scriptures) speaks about. Why?

The God of the Bible is the God. Faith in another god is faith in nothingness.

How do we know that the God of the Bible is the God? He is the source of  the all prophecies found in the Bible, all of which have been fulfilled. A 100% fulfillment record cannot be said for the gods of the other so-called sacred scriptures. Here is why 100% accuracy matters: a simple, common sense test given by God Himself for the true scripture (and therefore the true God): “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21, 22). Absolutely every prophecy made in the Bible came to pass — every one; therefore the Author of that book is God. Not so with the Koran, Veda, book of Mormon, etc.; they are shot through with prophecies that were downright wrong and others that never came to pass. The God of the Bible; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses, Joshua, David, and the Old Testament prophets is the one true God. His name is YHWH, there is no other, and we must believe in Him.

And we need to have faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the object of many of those biblical prophecies just mentioned above. He proved His identity as the Son of God by 1) fulfilling all the prophecies made of the Messiah, 2) miracles and healings witnessed by thousands, and 3) His resurrection from the dead and appearance to as many as 500 witnesses at one time. One of His appearances is especially convincing, since it was to a man who was in vigorous opposition to Jesus and His followers, Saul of Tarsus. On the road to Damascus (Acts 9) Saul met the resurrected Jesus, spoke with Him, believed, and was baptized 3 days later. Saul went from being an adamant enemy of Christ to a dedicated evangelist of the the good news of Jesus in a virtual turn-on-a-dime moment. No, it wasn’t a psychotic break (his writings are too rational), and it wasn’t a hoax (no one suffers and dies for a lie, and he died for what he believed). In 2 Corinthians 4:13 Paul said, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe therefore we also speak.” And we should believe in Jesus, too.

But lastly, when we ask the question, “Will any sort of faith do?”, we need to realize that our faith needs to do things. Some people believe that faith is something that happens strictly between the ears, but the Bible would disagree wholeheartedly. Bible faith, real faith, acts in accordance with its belief — this is also known as obedience to God’s commands. 

The story goes that over a hundred years ago daredevils would string cable across Niagara Falls and perform high wire acts. As a crowd wildly applauded one such daredevil, he asked one of his more zealous admirers, “Do you think I can push this wheelbarrow across the falls?” “Well, of course,” the man responded enthusiastically. “Do you believe I could push a man in a wheelbarrow across the falls?” the daredevil asked again. “Why, yes, I believe you can do anything!” the fan replied. “Well, then climb into the wheelbarrow, Mister, and let’s go for a walk,” the daredevil invited. The fan declined. No faith. You see, faith without deeds is really just an opinion. Indeed, James 2:14ff teaches us that faith without words is dead! 

Is it true that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something? No, not at all. It does matter; it matters greatly. Getting to Heaven and avoiding Hell starts with faith in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a narrow road, but that’s just exactly what Jesus said it would be (Matt 7:13,14).

But there’s more. Check me out next time.

Have you taken a look at my new book?

Or do a search on Amazon.com for Park Linscomb Next?

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Why do we need faith?

This post is being written primarily for those who are searchers, perhaps agnostics, or sincere atheists. For those who already believe, I’d be “preaching to the choir”, right? But I want to start by acknowledging that your question is a legitimate one. Faith, for a fleshly human being used to empirical evidence for truth, it is sort of puzzling and perhaps even simplistic sounding to hear a believer tell you, “You just gotta believe!” It is no wonder that the the one who doesn’t believe will often accuse the one who believes of blind faith and naïveté. I would ask you for your ears (eyes?) for a couple of minutes to carefully consider from the Bible why faith might be necessary.

We’re told in the Bible that men and women are made of flesh, physical beings. We already know this but we may not have considered some of the ramifications. God is spirit (John 4:24), but He is also —well, God — the most powerful, holy being in the universe. His full presence is simply more than the human body can endure, we would die. In illustration, imagine standing next to a nuclear device as it detonates or being put a foot away from the surface of the sun. Empirical evidence would be our death, therefore we must operate by faith.

It could be argued that Adam and Eve walked with God, but there could be a couple things that would explain this question. 1) Perhaps, God appeared to them and walked with them in a diminished presence (not in His full glory) as He has done with (for example) Moses, Enoch, Joshua, and some others. Or 2) perhaps Adam’s and Eve’s pre-fall bodies were able to endure His presence. After eating the forbidden fruit, the fall, Adam and Eve were separated from the Tree of Life and death entered the world.

But angels, being spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), are different. They, like men, have free will, but they (unlike men) are able to see God face to face and have no need for faith. However, there is a disadvantage to needing no faith, when angels sin they are irredeemable. Angels know with empirical certainty that God exists, and when they sin they are doing so defiantly (with a high hand). There is only condemnation found in the Bible for angels who have fallen (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6). Such evil spirits (angels) rightly expect nothing but torment in the Abyss (see Luke 8:31; Mark 5:7; and Matthew 25:41). Nowhere is there even a hint at a plan to redeem them (Hebrews 2:16). 

There are probably many reasons for the special grace of God toward mankind, but undoubtedly the need to operate by faith is part of what makes humans savable. So, before we complain about not being able to see God, let’s remember that, at least in part, it is faith that gives us a chance to avoid Hell.

As a brief aside, let’s also remember that faith needn’t be blind, as unbelievers so often say. God hasn’t left Himself without evidences. We could list them, but that’s really a job for a good Christian evidences book; the evidences are really everywhere. God doesn’t expect anyone to check their brains at the door. This is the reason why so many agnostics and atheists have become believers as they did opposition research against Christianity.

Have you taken a look at my new book?

Or do a search on Amazon.com for Park Linscomb Next?

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A new book

Some of those of you who know me may remember that I’ve been working on publishing book for a while. Well, it is finally published and can be obtained as either a physical book or an electronic book from Amazon here

The book is primarily about death and beyond, and is broken down into 13 chapters, for those who might want to use it as Bible class material. This is an important study especially for our day. 

There is a clear gap in the knowledge of the Scripture’s teaching about the afterlife due partly to infrequent teaching on the topic, but also complicated by multiple religious groups teaching myriad afterlife doctrines. And this isn’t just my isolated observation. In an article I’ve read since beginning this book, Dr. Allan J. McNicol noted, “In my teaching in churches I find there is considerable confusion about historic Christian teaching on these matters. The church is in desperate need for teachers to think through and restate in a fresh way the biblical teaching on the last things. When one reads the Bible in its total canonical context, it is amazing how much of the text is concerned with the new world God is bringing.” Biblical teaching about the afterlife (a.k.a., the Christian hope) has been on the back burner for too long.

Yet it is the Christian hope that can help provide the resolve and strength for right living, perseverance, obedience, sacrifice, joy, and more. Is it possible that part of the abandonment of faith that we wring our hands about so much these days has to do with the scarcity and want of this very important biblical doctrine?

I hope you’ll consider picking up my new book up and possibly using it in your own congregation as class material. I’m also in the process of putting together a workbook and workshop, if you think your congregation might benefit from a Gospel meeting or congregational study of what comes next.

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Apologetics — Noah Around the World

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of Noah and the Flood. It is a story that also finds a lot of skepticism. It’s unbelievable, they say because of the number of animals needed on the ark, the improbability of a world-wide flood that covered the mountains, and the lack of technology to build a flood-surviving boat available to men at this time in history. 

First, not every single variant of species would be needed to repopulate the earth, just a representative of every species. Within each species is a God-given ability to adapt to various environments and ecosystems. Each species would be able to produce numerous sub-species; thus, the number of animals would be greatly reduced.

Second, calling a world-wide flood improbable doesn’t make it impossible. Clearly the Bible describes flooding agents that we don’t have around today — windows of the sky which opened and springs under the earth which broke upward. Moreover, it is likely that at least some of the mountain ranges, continents, etc. may have been significantly different in a pre-flood world. 

Third, we have no idea what kind of technology was available in a pre-flood world. Archaeology continues to uncover products that even modern technology cannot produce (e.g., the pyramids, crystal skulls, metallurgical products, and batteries found in Babylon). 

But is there any positive evidence of Noah’s flood? Some look for Noah’s actual ark, but that is unlikely to be discovered. But there is something that many have often overlooked, the numerous versions of a world-wide flood found in cultures around the world. Robert Schock notes that there are at least 500 flood myths.

“Narratives of a massive inundation are found all over the world…Stories of a great deluge are found on every inhabited continent and among a great many different language and culture groups.” (Schoch, Robert M. (2003), Voyages of the Pyramid Builders (New York: Jeremy P. Parcher/Putnam), pp. 103 and 249). 

Noah-like stories are found in Babylon, Syria, Persia, India, Norway, China, Mexico, Egypt, Wales, Ireland, Indonesia, Romania, etc. One tribe of American Indians (the Toltecs) relate a story so similar to the Noahic flood that it even includes a story similar to the Biblical story of Babel and the confusion of the languages of the world.

Among the Nosu in China a man named Dum heeded the warning of God of an impending flood and entered a wooden boat and was saved. The three sons of Dum repopulated the rest of the world. In fact, the Chinese pictogram for boat is composed of figures that may well tell the story of Noah’s flood. 

On and on the similar stories could be cited from civilizations and cultures around the world, based on cultural memory of a world-wide catastrophe coming from well before the book of Genesis was written. Such memories will naturally be remembered some details altered and others absent, but once the cultural trappings are eliminated from the kernel of truth there is tremendous agreement…

      • There was a world-wide flood that destroyed all but a handful of the human race and all air breathing creatures.
      • A great boat saved the survivors
      • All of modern mankind and the animal kingdom came from these survivors

The similarities are remarkable. Even William Wundt, who was no friend of faith or the Bible, wrote in Elements of Folk Psychology, 

Of the combination of all these elements into a whole (the destruction of the earth by water, the rescue of a single man and seed of animals by means of a boat, etc.), however, we may say without hesitation, it could not have arisen twice independently” (1916, p. 392).

The conclusion seems obvious. The world-wide flood of Noah really did occur, and is told in various forms among peoples around the world. Since it did, it makes for some other really interesting suggestions…

      • The earth and the universe is much younger than modern science believes 
      • The layers of the earth are the marks of the great flood
      • The fossil record is not from millions and billions of years ago, but is further evidence of a great flood
      • Sin does matter to God and He is willing to judge men’s deeds
      • The Bible is telling the truth here and elsewhere about its miracles, prophecies, and spiritual reality.
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Apologetics — The Marks of Myth and History

Just a quick word to all regarding my last post. I’ve received a couple of responses that pointed out that not all atheists are angry at God. I’d agree, in fact, that’s what I said in the last post “One of the major reasons for doubt…’ — not the only. There is another “stream” of atheism that is philosophic. I was addressing a very common, real, and often expressed reason given for disbelief in God; I have taken the time to ask unbelievers if they were angry with God and why. When they express anger, the reasons are various: sometimes God said no to their prayers, sometimes God let a loved one die, sometimes God condemns a sin they favor and practice, etc.

But onto the main thrust of this post, the marks of myth and history.

We all recognize the way that a fairy tale, myth, or legend begins. “Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land far away…” or (if you’re a Star Wars fan) “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” There are two things to notice here: the time and the place are nebulous, vague, shadowy, and obscure.

History is different. As we all know from history classes we’ve all taken, history is chock full of dates, places, events, and people. Specificity of dates, location, events, and people is the very hallmark of history.

What do we find with Bible events? Specificity. The Bible goes out of its way over and over again to provide dates, locations, and cross-referencing historical events and figures. We may find the genealogies of the Bible boring for the same reason we found history class boring, but they are there for a reason — to mark this as history. The prophets often date their prophecies by the kings who ruled that year, or earthquakes that were recorded, or invasions from foreign powers that occurred. The events (miraculous and otherwise) are meticulously located in places around Israel that can be found today. Gentile nations around Israel will often reference kings and events that the Bible also talks about. The only logical conclusion to reach: the Bible is a book of history, not myth.

Of course, those who doubt might be willing to agree on some historical truth being in the Bible — until they get to the miraculous stuff. If you don’t believe in God, or don’t want to believe in God, the miraculous things will be your “proof” that the Bible is a myth.

But consider this, in many cases the miraculous things that happened were witnessed by sometimes scores, sometimes hundreds, and sometimes thousands. Even more, sometimes the miraculous things of the Bible are witnessed obliquely by historical evidence (e.g., Sennecherib’s inexplicable retreat from Jerusalem or the conquest of Canaan by Israel). Will we discount the witnesses, because they tell me things I don’t want to believe? I hope not. I hope you’re not buying that the witnesses were 1) part of a grand conspiracy, 2) a bunch of unsophisticated and naive rubes, or 3) just flat out duped.

There are hallmarks of both myth and history. The Bible, including its miracles, bears the marks history, not myth.

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Apologetics — How do I answer the skepticism or contempt of friends?

“Religion,” Marx famously claimed, “is the opiate of the people.” Perhaps you’ve heard friends or family respond to your faith with similar condescending remarks: “Religion is for the feeble minded,” “Religion is just a crutch,” “It’s the same as fairy tales, myths, and legends,” or “Any who believes that [expletive deleted] is an idiot!”

These sorts of remarks are disheartening, discouraging, and unkind; but they are the same sort of irrational, personal attacks that Christians have heard and stood up against down through the centuries. It is the aim of this series of posts to arm us, so that we may stand up against the attacks against the only real hope of man, faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ. 

The first thing that I want to urge readers to be in their defense of the faith is rational. As I mentioned in my last post, Christianity is not a blind faith (a belief based on nothing but feelings). Christianity is based on evidence — plenty of it. Without going into detail here, the evidence for Christianity has converted a distinguished list of skeptical and doubtful scholars and journalists (for example, CS Lewis and Lee Strobel) who started their paths to conversion by aiming to discredit the evidences of Christianity. The more they studied the materials objectively, the more their doubts diminished and vanished. 

My point here is that irrational rants, answering insult with insult, or trying to base your answer on feelings (I just know, I feel it in my heart) to an unbeliever will only be playing into the hands of the doubter. So stay calm and reason on.

One of the major reasons given for doubt that I have heard (it can be useful to ask why they don’t believe) has been anger at God. The top three reasons I’ve heard: angry that He did not answer a prayer (said no); angry that a parent or close loved one died; and angry that God has forbidden something they want to do. It often explains why there is such an emotional denial of God’s existence or of the Bible’s truthfulness. 

But anger is not a rational reason, and the antidote to this kind of unbelief is logic and fact. Find out (calmly) why they’re angry at God; reason with them how ignoring and denying reality doesn’t make reality go away; and set the stage for a reasonable discussion that gives the evidence for Christianity a fair hearing. 

When opposition to faith in Jesus crops up among friends or family, don’t back down, don’t hesitate an instant, answer with calm reason and fact. The evidence is clearly on our side, as we’ll discover in further posts. As Paul encouraged the Christians in 2Th. 2:2, when false teachers came in with false information about the second coming; let me encourage you, “that you not be quickly shaken from your composure…”

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The Point of Apologetics

Apologetics in Christianity isn’t about saying, “I’m sorry.” It is a whole field of study that seeks to answer the questions men may ask about faith and answer the accusations that men may make about what we believe. It seeks to make believers out of doubters through reasonable explanation.

There is much, of course, that the world might reasonably doubt. After all, there is a lot of miracle involved in Christianity; a lot of faith required for things that cannot be seen, touched, or otherwise sensed; and a lot commands that call for us to behave in ways that the world would consider foolish or even crazy. Apologetics recognizes that a certain skepticism is a good and healthy thing, because there is much that claims to be religion, which is nothing but scam or fantasy.

Despite the assumptions that many make, Christianity does not rely on “blind faith”. Unlike pagan religions, myths, and legends, which all begin something like, “Long ago in a land far away,” Christianity has its roots planted firmly in verifiable foundations: known historical events, known timelines, known historical figures, known geography, perfect prophetic fulfillment, archaeology, multiple witnesses, and logic. Such foundations, if the listener is open to a fair evaluation, will lead naturally to an informed (not a blind) faith.

The things that the Bible says, the things that Christians teach, the promises, the warnings, and the requirements that are part of Christianity are real. They are a part of a reality that we may not be able to see, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t real. They are just as real as the physical reality that we deal with every day, with laws and consequences that are just as established and reliable as any we know of in this world. God is real; the Bible is His word; you will live somewhere forever; it makes a difference how you live.

Over the next few posts I’d like to point out a few of these, to encourage my believing readers and appeal to my unbelieving ones. This stuff is real!

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