Two Vital Questions

A man sat down with his eyes closed leaning against a brick wall with a Bible in his hand

I have read the whole Bible and attended various Catholic and Protestant churches, and after much study and exploration I believe I have a pretty good idea of the central doctrines and tenets of the Christian faith. Those who have read my essay entitled An Almighty Predicament will know that there are some aspects of Christian doctrine that I struggle to accept and believe.

I have come to realise that there are two questions that I need to find answers to in order to determine whether or not I should be a Christian.

  1. Is Jesus the only way to have peace with God?
  2. Is the Bible God’s only revelation for people today in relation to spiritual Truth?

These two questions are interrelated. Jesus claims that He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). But of course, we know about this claim from the Bible, so it only needs to be believed if the Bible represents absolute and exclusive Truth.

Within Christianity there are many different interpretations concerning what constitutes Truth. Learned Biblical scholars differ wildly concerning which interpretation of particular scriptures is correct, so it seems that interpretation is to a certain extent subjective. After all, the words of Scripture are merely markings on pages – the way we come to understand what is written is by God working in us as we read and reflect, and He can do this in myriad different ways.

The sole authority of the Bible is disputed by Catholics who believe Truth must be interpreted and defined by the leaders of the Catholic church. There are also many other groups who argue that the Protestant canon isn’t the exclusive embodiment of Truth and that we can find truth in nature, reason, and logic, as well as in other scriptures, whether it be the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon, or some other supposedly inspired collection of writings.

How are we to know whether the 66 books of the Protestant Bible represent absolute and exclusive Truth? I believe the only way is through revelation from God to the human mind, resulting in a certain understanding or posture of faith. It must be a matter that we pray about, and ask God to help us discern.

Ultimately, what we believe to be true comes down to faith, and faith, I believe, comes from God. He is working out His plan for existence with sovereign authority, and whatever He wills us to believe is what we will believe. If you maintain it’s possible for us to believe things that are contrary to God’s will, then you are saying God is not in control of our lives, which is a belief that many Christians hold, but with which I profoundly disagree (read my aforementioned essay for a detailed account of my reasons why).

In my understanding God is completely sovereign, creation is His handiwork, and He is in control of all the details, including every aspect of our lives; our thoughts, words, actions, and beliefs (wouldn’t it be strange to pray to a God who isn’t in control?). And if I am to wholeheartedly dedicate my life to the teachings of Jesus Christ as we find them in the Bible, it will depend on God’s guidance, revelation, and ultimately, His will.

So I pray:

Lord God, shape me into who You want me to be, guide me so that I know I am on the right path, help me to live in a way that pleases You always. Be merciful to me and save me from any thoughts, words or deeds that lead to destruction. Sovereign God, help me to have sound understanding in matters of theology and Truth, and eradicate from me anything that is false, unsound, or evil. Help me to live well and be a blessing to others, and to be a person who will always be held in Your favour. Even if it’s difficult, Lord, show me the way. Amen.

36 Comments on “Two Vital Questions

  1. Hi Steven,

    May I first commend you on your ability to transmit your thoughts to blog. I am forever making poor attempts at doing so and reading well seasoned writers such as yourself really gives me the boost I need to keep going.

    You say that God is in control of our thoughts and actions, however if that were so, it would mean that he is behind the intentions we have to commit sin, but Saint James in his letter explains that God cannot tempt us. He cannot move us towards sin.

    This is because God has given us free will to choose Love or to choose hate. He is not in control of that otherwise he could not be perfect love for perfect Love casts out all fear.

    Gods bless and thank you for taking interest in my blog.

    Stephen

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Stephen!

      Many thanks for your kind comment, and for taking the time to visit my blog, I really appreciate it 🙂

      I’m very familiar with the free will argument you make, but I simply disagree. I believe God is omnipresent, which means there is no atom anywhere in existence that is not part of God. In this context, we cannot be free. I realise this means God is in control of everything Christians call ‘good’ and everything they call ‘evil’. I understand and accept that. But it makes much more sense for me to accept that than to place limitations on God (I have a very high view of God).

      I believe that divine omnipresence and human free will are logically contradictory. I realise this makes it hard for me to be a Christian, and this is my great struggle, which you can read about on my ‘About’ page and in my essay ‘An Almighty Predicament’ (on the Essays page) if you’re interested. You can also email me if you’d like to have a more in depth discussion about this.

      While you’re likely to disagree, I hope you understand my position.

      Thanks again – and I’ve just seen you’ve hit the follow button, I’m very grateful for that!

      Peace and blessings,

      Steven

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      • Hi Steven,

        I agree regards Gods omnipresence and that ultimately he holds entire universe in balance.

        However as God he is free to give us and confer upon us special gifts and one of those is free will.

        Just because Gods presence is both in and through everything does not preclude we are denied free will.

        To use an earthly example: If water is present everything in some shape or form all around us in the athmosphere, then how come we don’t drown?

        If this is how water behaves ( which God created) then what supposes God from behaving in similiar fashion who himself is the creator of all?

        Have I at least giving you some food for thought here? Gods presence is entirely different from HIS will. Does that makes sense?

        God bless

        Stephen

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi Stephen,

          “Just because Gods presence is both in and through everything does not preclude we are denied free will.”

          Unfortunately, I disagree with you on this point. God beats my heart and flows my blood and grows my hair, He grows the trees and plants, He moves the planets and the clouds. He is actively controlling everything that happens, because He is boundless being. There is literally no room for freedom from God. I believe all that exists is part of God, and contained within Him. In Him we live and move and have our being. How are we free from God if we are a part of God? That doesn’t make sense to me.

          I don’t really understand your water analogy, to be honest, apologies! Perhaps you could give me another analogy?

          I’m having Internet problems currently but hopefully this will reach you and you can respond 😊

          Peace and blessings,

          Steven

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          • Stephen

            God flows through all of us and everything but he has a will. His will is entirely different to His presence. For example, I am present in the room but I will not to hit you with a frying pan. See what I mean? I am in control of whether or not I hit you with an object regardless of my presence in the room.

            I hope your internet connection improves.

            Like

            • Hi Stephen,

              Actually, I think God’s presence and His will are intimately connected. How is God able to carry out His will if not by His presence?

              I believe God is the animating force behind all activity in existence.

              I don’t understand the frying pan analogy either I’m afraid, sorry! Surely you have to present to carry out your will?

              Steven

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            • Yes but God gets to choose what he will do in that moment amidst his presence. I can choose to give you a box of sweets or not. This choice is not dependent upon my presence even though my presence must be there in order to carry it out.

              Same with God, his presence doesn’t mean he becomes involved in our free will simply because it’s his gift to us. God cannot be inclined to control us towards evil simply because He Himself chose not to. His presence in the situation has nothing to do with what he wills only that as you say, it is necessary.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I agree that God chooses what He will do, and is able to carry out His will because He is present everywhere. In order for anything to actually happen, it is the result of God’s will.

              On the human level, whatever we do is what God is doing through us. I believe we are like puppets in God’s hands.

              Perhaps you pray to God about your life circumstances? If so, aren’t you acknowledging that He’s in control of every aspect of your life?

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            • He isn’t in control of every aspect of my life. Such is my free will I pray to him to intervene and invite him to take control of a situation in my life. He then chooses whether or not he will take action.

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            • Okay, so just so we can clarify where we disagree – you don’t believe God is in control of those things I mentioned, things like the beating of our hearts, the flowing of our blood, the digestion of food, the growing of our hair, etc? You believe you are doing these things by your own free will?

              And you believe God is somehow outside of you but can intervene in your life? Do you believe God is dipping in and out of your circumstances – coming into your life and then retreating somewhere else somehow?

              Like

            • To answer your question yes God is in control of everything and the air I breathe is something he gives and takes away. He creates life and he takes it. But the one gift he has given me is to choose good or evil.

              That’s the whole point of prayer to petition God to intervene in my situation. He’s always in my life but must ask him to change my circumstances. You may be in the room but I must ask you to help me do the dishes and don’t expect it.

              Like

            • Well, Stephen, I think that’s probably a good place to leave it. Thanks for the discussion, I hope it will be useful for people who happen to stumble upon it and read our exchange! These are matters that are at the heart of Christian theology so it’s good to talk about them.

              I wish you well, and you’re always welcome here!

              God bless,

              Steven

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  2. Hi Steven

    If we assume that the Bible is inerrant, we face contradictions that don’t make sense because: we don’t know if there is a symbolic meaning to a story; we don’t understand the context; or we don’t know how to solve apparent contradictions between passages – remember how you dealt with the different views of how salvation happens and the extent of humanity that may be saved, each view supported by different scriptures?

    Add to this the human factor whereby original manuscripts had to be copied by scribes because the materials on which the originals were written could not last forever and you have possible copy errors too. Also, there were groups of Jewish Christians who wanted to preserve the Jewish practices and others like Paul who wanted to include the Gentiles and it’s difficult to know which doctrines are from Christ.

    Personally, I think faith in God’s goodness and the inherent goodness of human nature should be fostered and respected and that includes Muslims.

    Peace and love to all,

    Dinos

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Dinos,

      Many thanks for your comment and I appreciate your points. I think textual criticism is a very complex area, but I do believe God (who is sovereignly in control of all things) is able to use the Bible to speak to people in exactly the way He wants to at any given time. So He has produced all the different versions over the centuries to be the way He wants them to be in order to communicate the Gospel and speak to people in different ways.

      I’m currently reading ‘The King James Only Controversy’ by James White, which is all about textual criticism and the history of the Bible. It’s a challenging read!

      Have a good weekend.

      Steven

      Like

  3. Do not let your mind get in the way. Bhakti, or selfless devotion to God, love of God comes from the heart. Work on that, and you will make progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Larry,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      What do you suppose I should be progressing towards, out of interest? And how do you decide what constitutes ‘selfless devotion to God’?

      These are genuine questions – I’m curious to learn more about how you perceive these things.

      Peace and blessings,

      Steven

      Like

  4. I have also read the whole Bible. The end result of this for me was Yoga (before you go away, you should understand that Yoga is not a religion or a belief system but a spiritual ‘science’ that is universal and inclusive of any religion, or none at all).

    Regarding your first question: According to my daughter and her husband, who are both very devoted Christians and have studied the Bible for years in the original language(s), the word ‘only’ does not exist in this context.

    Regarding your second question: The answer is “No.” It is absolute truth, but not the only text of its kind. One must consider history, and the damage done by Constantine to the masses of writings of the teachings of Jesus, that were burned after he dictated what would be allowed. He was first and foremost, a politician. The “Bible” as we know it, is what is left. This does not make it wrong, or not authentic.

    RE “the only way to the Father”. Jesus can rightfully say this because He knew who and what He was, and THAT is the only way. Because He has accepted every single one of us absolutely, regardless of our imperfections, surrendering to Him will save us. It’s a free ticket home.

    RE “many different interpretations re Truth.” There are many interpretations because there are many people, and not everyone is in the same place in this journey. Maybe they are ALL right (even if they appear to be contradictory).

    RE “the way we come to understand” is through experience. Not solely by intellect. It is for this reason that Yoga directs one to a regular “practice” in the same way a scientist uses a lab. Experience is the result, and proof is the prize. (My daughter would tell you the same thing. She and her husband do the same practice I do, but call it by a different name. I call it ‘surrender to God’.)

    If you depend solely on the mind, how is this different than depending solely on any one text, one interpretation, or one religion?

    All religions have the same Truth at the core, but religion tends to externalize and demand agreement among its members. This results in “belief systems”, which are subjective.

    Now, ‘faith’ is an interesting word. I like it better than ‘belief’. But both work once you have proved God to yourself in your own lab. Then these words have a place.

    I would definitely say that God does not automatically control our lives. “To wholeheartedly dedicate my life to the teachings of Jesus Christ as we find them in the Bible, ….depend on God’s guidance, revelation, and ultimately, His will.” This is your surrender to God, to Jesus — you surrender by your own choice — no one has forced you to do this.

    Your prayer is beautiful and I believe (!) it will surely be answered. You have put God, Jesus, in the driver’s seat, so That is what will be in charge of your life to the degree that you remain surrendered to That.

    Like

  5. My goodness – I don’t know how I missed this post earlier. Forgive me. I believe that God will continue to honor your quest for truth and your faithfulness to learn more about Him.

    Keep asking the good questions, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much 🙂 I’m planning to post an article today which is another of those ‘asking difficult questions’ posts, and I’m hoping I don’t offend anyone. I feel I must share these thoughts at least once in my life, to allow me to understand and process them and arrive at a place of greater clarity (possibly!).

      I appreciate your patience and support!

      Liked by 1 person

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