How to know what is true

The authority for Christian teaching and doctrine is the apostles, apostolic teaching. Yes, the apostles wrote the New Testament and it is, therefore, apostolic. (But we must weed out a few errors in their teaching.)

The following factors are the necessary ingredients in defining the Christian faith...

  1. The core Christian doctrines determined by the early church
    (Canon, Trinity, inerrancy of scripture)
  2. The Bible (interpreted in light of these doctrines)
  3. The moral law

The whole point of discerning Christian truth is to fix our eyes upon Jesus; to obey his commands, to follow his teachings, to live a holy life pleasing to God as he did.

Christianity is all about truth. Any group having error in the essential Christian doctrines is not Christianity, it's that simple.

My View of the Bible

The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God (but not the only word of God).

The Bible is not the one and only source of authority (Sola Scriptura)...

  1. Even if the Bible did teach Sola Scriptura, we would first need a source outside the Bible to inform us that the Bible is to be our teaching authority. Here's why: how do we know whether to accept the claims of the Bible, or the Koran, or the book of Mormon? Merely because a book claims to be the authority for truth is not good enough reason.
  2. Everyone has different interpretations of the Bible.
  3. Many of the heresies from the past and into the present day are based on the Bible.

We must interpret the Bible in light of known true doctrine. Even the Protestant reformers (revolutionaries) did this, but they won't admit it. (No, they did not derive their doctrinal system from scratch from the Bible as they claim, rather, they started with Catholic teaching and only discarded some of it.)

God's Word manifests in many ways

The Word of God manifests in many ways. Some examples...

The source of Divine Revelation is God himself; he revealed his Living Word to the apostles and prophets directly, not through writing. Later these apostles and prophets shared these received revelations both verbally and by writing them down. But the Word of God is the authority, not the medium of communication of the message (for example, the writings).

Certainly the Bible contains the Word of God and is authoritative, but the Word of God takes other forms also. For example, the Word of God manifested in the council of Nicea when the bishops formulated the Nicene Creed in response to the Arian heresy.

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:5)

This Divine Revelation was not made known by scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) but was revealed to the apostles.

The apostles were the first leaders of the Christian church. They had the authority (1) to teach correct doctrine, and (2) to interpret scripture.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)

The apostles possessed the reliable prophetic message and this message is the important thing whether communicated via scripture or tradition.

Who is qualified to interpret? The word we refers to the apostles and those who teach the same orthodox gospel message.

I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:14)

Fundamentalist evangelical Protestants often equate the phrase "word of God" with the Bible. But the true Word of God is the gospel message of redemption expressed in the holy life of Christians.

Sacred traditions are authoritative

The Protestant Reformers opposed what they called traditions of men but we must distinguish between sacred traditions and human traditions. Sacred traditions are those truths of the Christian faith bringing redemption.

We must allow for human traditions that do not violate the Christian faith. Examples of these...

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

We are to stand firm in the traditions of the apostles, including oral traditions. Certainly manmade traditions have no binding spiritual authority, this in contrast to the traditions and teachings passed-down from the apostles which are authoritative.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

Apostolic tradition is the measure of true Christian faith.

Chronology of Bible Events

My conclusion about the true story of what really happened...

  1. The fall of Lucifer. God creates the universe but allows Lucifer to influence it resulting in pain, suffering, and death. God never hurts anyone, never destroys nations in divine wrath. Lucifer uses his influence so that the world has limited resources requiring competition among created creatures who must often replenish their metabolism. Animals eat each other; humans kill and exploit each other.
  2. Evolution occurs, guided by entities from the spiritual realm including wicked spirits.
  3. Modern humans evolve 200,000 B.C. They are hunter gatherers for 190,000 years. Language ability evolves sometime before they migrate to all continents by 30,000 B.C.
  4. Paganism arises perhaps as soon as 40,000 years ago, expressed by cave paintings and burying the dead with objects. Perhaps by 10,000 B.C. statues of idols became common as did animal and human sacrifice.
  5. The Hebrew Bible of events before David and Solomon are highly fictionalized, certainly not trustworthy as history, but containing elements of the true story. After that, there inaccuracies and fictional sections are fewer but still prominent.
  6. Adam appears 10,000 years ago near the dawn of agriculture. God introduces him to monotheism. The knowledge of the one, true God is passed on the the various people as narrated in the Hebrew Bible genealogies.
  7. The Nephilim were genetically modified humans with a local flood to wipe them out.
  8. Abraham came into the promised land and mingled with the Canaanites.
  9. The subsequent patriarchs (Isaac, Jacob/Israel) were real people.
  10. The Israelites are Canaanites who rejected the Canaanite gods and who banded together in tribes in the hill country. The mixed multitude.
  11. A group of Semitic people who were captured and enslaved by Egypt escaped and were accepted by the Israelites. The mixed multitude.
  12. There were struggles between different groups having different ideas about the name of the one, true, monotheistic. Some still practiced pagan worship.

Getting at the Truth

With so many voices clamoring to be heard, claiming that truth is such and such, how are we to know who to believe? Some possibilities...

  1. Atheistic scientists who say miracles are impossible and there is no God
  2. Scholars of the Bible who don't believe the gospel message
  3. Archaeologists who claim the evidence doesn't support the biblical accounts

My view on how to get at the truth: where to start, what to assume, the trail of clues we must follow...

We must start with two facts: (1) we are conscious entities, and (2) animistic and pagan religions were practiced nearly universally from very early in human history.

  1. Animism — There is a spiritual realm. All of existence is imbued with a spiritual nature.
  2. Paganism — There are gods corresponding to natural phenomena. Empowering and creating the gods is a power or divine energy of some sort, even having an evil side to it (that's why there is pain, suffering, death, and evil in the world).
  3. Consciousness — Humans have a spiritual conscious soul residing in the spiritual realm. There is a God who created us and who has a plan and a purpose and who loves us. He has the attributes of beauty, justice, goodness, love, truth, and etc.

Therefore, we can rule out atheism. However, we must consider the conclusions of modern science (including evolution, psychology, behavioral biology) when addressing aspects of the physical realm. And we must consider the conclusions of modern archaeology with its use of modern science in dating artifacts.

Evil exists outside of God and is a living spiritual entity; a spiritual being chooses to operate in free will outside of God's nature.

God would want to interact with those cognitive creatures (humans) he created. God would want us to know the truth about his nature and plan and purposes. God would allow us to stumble through our attempt to discover truth using our free will. Therefore, over time, he would reveal more accurate information about himself.

We should expect God to reveal monotheism to humanity at some point. Probably would single out a person (Adam) to reveal this to, then pass on to patriarchs (Noah, Abraham) of a tribe through multiple generations (the Israelites), improving in accuracy over time.

Which other religions match this criteria? We can rule out eastern philosophy with its reincarnation and polytheism — they don't match at all. Only Judaism, Christianity, and Islam qualify as monotheistic. We can rule out the later of these with its conquering of much of the world by the sword.

Judaism traces human history and redemption history all the way back to the origin of the revelation of monotheism to Adam.

We should expect God to take on human form and human nature at some point to conquer evil. Judaism is missing this aspect, seeming incomplete somehow.

How would the incarnate deity comport himself? He would teach monotheism and truth. He would collect disciples who would become apostles and would write down the teachings. The incarnate deity would conquer evil, providing for redemption. Jesus, of course, is this incarnate deity and he conquered evil though his death and resurrection.

We should expect the true religion to appear after the age of philosophy. Philosophy appeared with only one people in the history of humanity, with the Greeks. Philosophy provides the foundation for knowing about beliefs, ideas, truth, knowledge, and the nature of reality including the foundations of the scientific method for determining knowledge of the physical world.

We should emphasize the importance of using writing to pass on these teachings. Only in the Roman Empire could writings be passed on to a large audience with copies stored at many places in the empire. And the Roman Empire had peace, good roads, and freedom of movement. Certainly writing could be maintained from the time of the first kings of Israel, David and Solomon, with the temple having priests and scribes.

There should be a canon of scripture. Rules are needed to determine which writings to include. Only the writings of an apostle should be included since they are the authorities, having been taught by Jesus.

We should have an early creed having the essential doctrines of the faith. Of course, Christianity has this in the Nicene creed which is very harmonious with the New Testament.

In judging the truth of claims made by anyone, these points above should provide the criteria for judging.

Thus, we should reject the following...

  1. liberal Christianity
  2. atheistic science when addressing the topics of consciousness and life and souls
  3. Bible sceptics including those with a Ph.D. and teaching at a prestigious university

But we should also reject...

  1. creationism
  2. certain provably fictitious accounts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) which don't match archaeology and which contradict science
  3. interpretations of the Bible requiring the Holy Spirit to dictate every verse, especially long speeches and intricate historical narratives which could not possibly have been remembered accurately
  4. immoral events of the Bible and the implied moral teachings of these