Question about limiting God to His Word

(Joseph) #1

Hello. I’m in a thread with my friend who recently found God, but I can tell by his questions he is either not saved yet or still seriously looking.

He posted a video about the Gospel of Thomas and stated it was full of info necessary, but left out of man’s finished gospel. I commented on its nature as a false teaching. His response was commenting on how I have “unfortunately only been schooled in what emperor Constantine has approved for print. There is more to the story for those who are open to it.” He furthered states that I do not stray outside the canonical literature as far as hecan see and that It is a comfortable place to be, but in his opinion, a “limited one.”

I stated “limited” is interesting word choice because we can do all things in Christ. I asked why he chooses to seek answers outside of scripture and asked why the Word of God is not enough.

Then another person replied and asked why “limit God’s Word to scripture?”

I know there is a lot to unpack here, but the only question to answer is about limiting God’s Word to scripture. I have an answer, but understand there is intent by the question and I think there is a real desire to learn…maybe not.

Anyone with thoughts on how to answer?
Thank you

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(SeanO) #2

@joekopasek Truth is inherently limiting. Reality requires us to work within its boundaries. Touching a hot stove burns, we cannot fly like superman, our earthly bodies do die… If there is a real, true God then the truth about that God will naturally exclude false views, the same way that reality excludes fantasy. Jesus says this very thing when talking to the woman at the well - He clearly, directly says that salvation came through one people - that God revealed Himself to the Jews - not to the Samaritans. That there is a true God. For the modern person, this directness is shocking because we deny religious truth as a category. But really all truth works this way.

I think one thing that may help is to consider the difference between special and natural revelation. Christians believe that all of nature declares God’s glory - that all of the great literature throughout history shows the image of God in us. And that God is speaking through creation. That is natural revelation.

However, special revelation is different. Special revelation is God revealing Himself - God speaking - God entering into history. Special revelation does not limit God - rather, it makes it possible to know God at all. How could we know God who is outside nature if He did not reveal Himself? How can we know God if we do not know the truth about Him?

Think about this - what if you wanted to know a person named Bob. So you asked a few people about him. Alice says that Bob is 5’ 6" with blond hair, blue eyes and jovial laugh. He is laid back and kind. But Eve says Bob is 6’ 9" with brown hair, green eyes and a bad temper. Yet again Josh says Bob is overweight, barely 5’, and is usually a bit depressed. My goodness - how can we ever know Bob!

Suddenly, Bob himself walks into the room. It turns out Bob is 5’ 6" with dirty blond hair, blue eyes and a hearty laugh. Well - Alice was right! But how could we know unless Bob revealed Himself?

In the same way, to know God at all He must reveal Himself. And we believe He did so through the Bible and ultimately through Jesus.

John 4:19-24 - The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

N. T. Wright does a great job refuting the Gnostic Gospels. And F. F. Bruce has a great book on why we believe the 66 books of the Bible are the right ones.

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(Kenny) #3

Hi @joekopasek, I do appreciate you sharing about this situation that you are in with your friend. I think it is interesting that you have noticed that there is more to the question than just something very simple about “limiting God’s Word to scripture”. Ravi Zacharias often remind us that, when we do apologetics, we are answering a questioner, not the question. Behind every question, is a person who has experienced / heard / learnt / seen something which has led to to uphold a certain worldview, and we do need to be able to understand that in order to give an answer that accurately ministers to the questioner.

As you have mentioned as well, the conversation does bring up 2 areas, which I hope to address separately if you don’t mind.

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<< The bible is accurate and divinely ordained. >>

I do believe in the accuracy of the accounts in the bible. Some people will feel that there should be a possibility of error because it is written by humans, and humans are bound to err. However, even if humans are flawed, that does not necessarily mean that they can’t perform small actions perfectly (e.g. writing the alphabet once vs writing the alphabet 100 times). Therefore, when God inspired the authors to write the books, it can be assured that it will be accurate.

In addition, the bible is divinely ordained. It is intended to be as such, with that number of books; precisely those 66 books; the arrangement of the books (deliberately not in chronological order); with the kind of information that is intended to be conveyed. I do think that your friend is not wrong to claim that the bible is “limited” based on his context. His view is that the bible has “missing info” which may help him better understand the situation, and further support a more “balanced” or “unbiased” view. This is also true. Take for example the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They share many similarities, but yet they are so different because of the various aspects they portray of the same situations.

Therefore, to be fair, his statement that the scripture is limited is actually correct. Just that there is an intended divine purpose of why it is as such.

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<< Seeking confirmation outside of bible. >>

In relation to this area, I do think that it is perfectly fine to do so. This is because whatever that is outside of the bible, is but a subset of whatever that it is in the bible. Be it science, literature, philosophy, they all branch out from the bible itself as the root. I feel that people commonly feel that it’s either the bible, or something else. However, they fail to realise that it’s the bible first, then everything comes as a derivative of the bible. Therefore, the signs outside of the bible will all still point towards the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, your friend is coming from a non-believer POV, which will be more inclined to evidences which are outside of the bible. He will feel that using the bible as evidence feels like it is a biased account, and is flawed to justify that Christianity is true. In fact, by doing so, we are actually following the claims of Islam: How do you know the Quran is true? Because Muhammad said so. How do you know what Muhammad said is true? Because the Quran says so.

However, I will actually be curious to understand what kind of evidence your friend is trying to seek. That is because many times we tend to not just search for the answers but also specify the conditions and evidences in which they come about too. With that, I would like to just share just 2 stories, that Ravi Zacharias mentioned in one of his talks:

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Parable of the Invisible Gardener

Told by John Wisdom, developed into a university debate by Anthony Flew

Anthony Flew, english philosopher, who believed that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle.

In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.” So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced.

"But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.

At last the Skeptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?”

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Parable of the Constant Gardener

John Frame, theologian, Christian philosopher, counter to Anthony Flew

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle.

A man was there, pulling weeds, applying fertiliser, trimming branches. The man turned to the explorers and introduced himself as the royal gardener. One explorer shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries. The other ignored the gardener and turned away: “There can be no gardener in this part of the jungle,” he said; “this must be some trick.”

They pitch camp. Every day the gardener arrives, tends the plot. Soon the plot is bursting with perfectly arranged blooms. “He’s only doing it because we’re here—to fool us into thinking this is a royal garden.” The gardener takes them to a royal palace, introduces the explorers to a score of officials who verify the gardener’s status.

Then the skeptic tries a last resort: “Our senses are deceiving us. There is no gardener, no blooms, no palace, no officials. It’s still a hoax!”

Finally the believer despairs: “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does this mirage, as you call it, differ from a real gardener?”

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I find these stories really interesting because it is such a fine line between recognising the evidence vs discounting the evidence when it does not align with how we expect it to be presented. To bring it back to the previous discussion on evidence, if your friend is trying to search for evidences that God exists (for e.g.), he will likely not get one where he expects God will appear in front of him in person and show miracles to verify that He is God. However, secular documents or historians, can actually give multitudes of reasons which when put together, justify that God exists.

In fact, I do think that one of the key speaks from RZIM - Nabeel Qureshi, researched and analysed external evidences for both Christianity and Islam before coming to his conclusion that Christianity is able to defend itself with what he has found.

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To round it off, I’d say it will be good to explore outside of the scripture for his sake (since he may feel Christianity’s bible is biased), but only to caution to judge the evidence logically, since it may not come in the form which he may want it to be. In fact, it might be a good opportunity as well, because the more you investigate, the stronger case you have if someone comes to ask you about your faith. :slight_smile: Hope this helps explain where I think your friend is coming from, and also gives you a way in how to approach this.