“Hold Fast Our Confidence”!

Adult Bible Study Fall Quarter 1997
Lesson One: “Why Is Confidence Difficult?

1. Transparency 1/1 The destruction of the Christian’s confidence
is the result of Satan’s subtle strategy to undermine the comfort of hope given by the gospel (cf 2 Co 4:1-18; 10:3-6; 1 Pt 5:6-10; etc.). When believers survey society’s attitudes toward spiritual matters, they are disheartened. The callous immorality, cynical criticism toward religious things, and, blatant blasphemy unite to destroy their confidence. It is all to easy to surrender confidence for cowardice (cf 2 Ti 1:7-8). Too often Christians do not understand how the confusion of society has infected their Faith and planted the cancerous doubts of faith and compromises of convictions. This point is addressed in this lesson. Its answer is found in understanding the philosophy of society. This lesson may appear to be totally removed from the scope of the series. Yet this lesson is one of the most important, if not the most important, in setting the foundation of our investigation.

 a. How important is "philosophy" to Christians? To the world?

  1) C.S. Lewis asserted that everyone in life has a philosophy --  the only question is whether it is a good or bad one.

  2) G. K. Chesterton - "There are some people - and I am one of
them - who think that the most practical and important things abt a man is still his view of the universe.  We think that for a landlady considering a lodger it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general abt to fight an enemy it is important to know that enemy's philosophy" [quoted by William James, "Pragmatism," Writings, p. 487].).

  3) Realize that philosophy is not restricted to the stuffy halls of academics -- it is a topic that touches all.

 b. There are problems with philosophy. 

  1) Many are bored and with grief anticipate philosophical discussions.

  2) Some are mesmerized by philosophy and set themselves up as the supreme authority of "reality."

  3) Most are dazzled by philosophy's vocabulary and are fearful of its probing questions and seeming unanswerable theories.

  4) But, like all monsters and myths of fright, philosophy is not
difficult. The student will discover that if it is not "fun" it is at least "interesting."

2. Transparency 1/2 Specifically we examine philosophy in this
lesson as various philosophical positions (and tenets) have impacted the study and interpretation of Scriptures. In considering these positions we will be able to observe the underlying principles that have melded together to form the governing philosophy of our society (i.e. the post-modern mindset). Once this philosophical mind is described we will be able to see why the believer’s confidence is ruthlessly attacked. Our observations will present a basis for explaining why modern “changes” in beliefs and practices should be rejected. It is an interesting survey that is seldom contemplated, but it is critical for Christians to understand!

 a. Influential factors in modern society's philosophy.

1) FRANCES BACON (1561-1626) is known as the "father of in-
ductive reasoning." To understand Bacon's role we need a quick review of history.

   a) During the Middle Ages it was generally assumed the Ro-
man Church was the supreme power. Her clerics were empowered with decisions that originated from an "inspired" choice. The Roman Church ruled with a heavy  hand which would eventually result in a backlash toward all religiously rooted principles.

   b) The Protestant Reformation offered an approach to
Scripture interpretation that dramatically opposed Rome's edicts. Freed from the repression of Church Traditions courageous hearts began to urge biblical authority for all religious practices.

   c) The Renaissance Period coincided with the Reformation
and together they urged a serious reexamination of religious practices. New interests and discoveries in Science flourished and these resulted in a "reawakening" of independent thought and a reactionary rejection of all religious authority. All elements of this period began to come together and a new perception of "man" resulted -- the general view of man, prior to this time, focused upon the spiritual (he was created by an Almighty God). Following the reawakening man was viewed as "natural" (he was all material evolving from the primal mist). Thus, man was elevated from the "creature” to the "Creator."

   d) During this reawakening Bacon formulated his philosophical concept that is now recognized as the "inductive study method."  This applied reasoning in a systematic method in which scattered facts are brought to support a general conclusion. Bacon's system cautioned that these perils would prove disastrous to a logical conclusion:
    1) Wishful thinking 
    2) Personal bias in the study
    3) Failure to give adequate definitions
    4) Blind allegiance to traditions as authority

   e) The "Age of Reason" was a logical consequence to this cli-
mate. Following the reawakening men saw mortal reason as the superior method of revelation. Hence, religious revelation was replaced with a "rationalism" of mortality.

  2) JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704) was a major figure in philosophy
who utilized Bacon's method. Locke's works are numerous but one especially brought a focus upon the reasonable nature of Christianity as a logical conclusion. Although Locke focused upon the gospels and opposed any Church doctrine, his writings were influential and had a great impact upon religious thinkers. The fact we need to remember is Locke's insistence upon how facts, arriving from a general investigation, validates a conclusion.

  3) WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910) was a philosopher who made an
impact upon modern thought that is seldom admitted. James was religiously inclined yet swayed by the naturalistic philosophy of Darwinism. James struggled with the radical critics of Scripture and sought to accept a "middle road" position which allowed him to hold to naturalism and theism.  The prevailing thought of his day prevented James from a satisfactory dualism and he struggled to find a system of thought that would "give and take" so he could equally believe in religion and naturalism. James found his answer in the "pragmaticism" that was suggested by Charles S. Pierce in 1878. Pierce, James, and Dewey are recognized as the three leading advocates of pragmatic thought in modern times. James is recognized as applying pragmatic philosophy to religion.  James was able, by application of pragmaticism, to resolve the conflict that had plagued him so long. There are many points of James' thought in this regard but some of the major ones are . . .

   a) "Interested in no conclusions but those which our minds
and experiences work out together ... If theological ideas prove to have value for concrete life, they will be true ... [The Age of Analysis, p. 170].  Note: He thought that a religious belief/practice had meaning ONLY if one thought so by it bringing profit. If a belief did not have profit for the person, it could be discarded. "Truth" became defined by personal experience not objective standard (i.e. Scripture).

   b) James developed a concept of "Truth" which is still echoed in modern times -- "An idea is 'true' so long as to believe it is profitable to our lives" [Age , p. 170].  He maintained that "Truth" is verified only as far as it was practiced. Thus "Truth's reality" became a capricious state which was to be defined solely by one's experiences and moods! James stated that "Truth" was validated for each person just as each would validate terms such as "wealth," "health," "strength," etc. In this manner "truth" (especially biblical "Truth") lost its absoluteness and could be modified to accommodate any challenge [Writings, p. 581].

   c) James addressed the issues of opinion and Truth. He ob-
served that "Truth" and "opinion" are exclusively in the eye of the student. Whatever "works" is "true," if it does not work for one then it is the "opinion" of another and may be "Truth" for him but not "Truth" for another. [Age, p. 149]. James viewed practices of the past which have no merit for the modern man as "Truths grown petrified by antiquity" [Writings, p. 515]. Note: It is amazing how similar the change advocates are today with James' thoughts almost a century ago. Today we hear that the Church suffers from, "Fozzilization of some wooden commands."  The charge may be coincidental but the roots feed from the same stream  -- pragmatic thinking! The same deadly result occurs -- the believer’s confidence is destroyed!

   d) In order to reconcile the contradictions between what
James wanted to believe and what the old "logical inductive" system would allow him to believe, James maintained that "To a certain degree, therefore, everything here is plastic" [Writings, p. 513].

   e) Since "truth" is ever in a process of being modified (so
it can become "profitable"), James explained that "new opinions" must be grafted into the stock of old opinions and the resulting "new" doctrine is to be adopted as the "true one" [Writings, p. 512-513].

   f) The critical litmus test for "Truth" in James' system was
the simple question -- "Is the belief, practice, or teaching practical? Will it end with a profitable result?" Of course this necessitated "Truth" to be redefined by each person. Each situation requires new assessment.  What was “adultery” in the past, may not be “adultery” in the present! What was "Truth" yesterday could very well be "untruth" today! The only constant in pragmatic decision making was  there are no constants, everything is fluid!

 b. Transparency 1/3 Consider some terms that are used in philosophical discussions. These have a practical impact for us today. We may not use the exact term but we do use the concept.

  1) RATIONALISM -- This is the reliance/dependence upon mortal reasoning to obtain valid truth. This rejects revelation from God and rests upon man.

  2) REASON -- A thoughtful and careful application of thought
in a logical, consistent manner so that parts will be brought together and the whole concluded. This simple thought process allows men/women to determine what is truth. It studies all available sources -- especially revelation and acknowledges that it is incapable of knowing Truth upon its own intuition.

  3) UTILITARIANISM -- Is a philosophy that applies pragmatic
tenets to life's situations. One is to practice/believe only that which "works" for him/her. If  something "works" then there should be no objection to its practice. Modern society is guided by this philosophy as it contends that, "Faith does not have to be rational (reasoned)!" This thought suggests that we should consider the "utility" of any belief/practice before it is condemned. We are urged to believe anything as long as it "works" and has a good goal!

  4) PLURALISM -- Refers to a philosophy that says modern man
is in the midst of many religious ideas and each idea has equal validity. We should not condemn any idea, even if it possess contradictions, because it may be "truth" for another. Since there are so many different beliefs we must accept all and judge none as error!

  5) SUBJECTIVENESS -- Refers to man's feelings as a basis for de-
cision-making. This is often referred to as a "personal leading/decision/relationship." As such it has NO universal Truth -- all is to be judged only when personally accepted as applicable to one’s life. The term "intuition" is often used in connection with this concept to refer to that which "feels right" [See Smith, p. 128).

  6) RELATIVISM -- Refers to the philosophy that nothing has
meaning (reality) for me unless it has a realistic meaning for MY time (i.e. "I want what is relevant!"). This is often interpreted in light of culture and custom -- if MY culture/custom is different from that in Scripture, then Scripture has NO significance for ME. Focus is solely upon Self.

  7) EXISTENTIALISM -- This philosophical position arose as Ratio-
nalism crumbled. Since man could not find "truth" from mortal reasoning, it was decided that "Truth" was absent from mortal mind and accessible only through a non-rational source. Primacy was given to feelings, intuition, and subjective basis. One was thus able to find "Truth" by transcending logic and finding a mystical source of "truth." In this view "Truth" varies from person to person, hence there is no universal "Truth" binding all. The Bible is a good book and may or may not have Truth. 

 c. When these terms are considered by the Scriptures the   following will be observed :

  1) RATIONALISM -- The radical elevation of mortal mind above
the Divine is wrong. This has been historically verified. In Eden man thought he could elevate himself above Jehovah, but it was catastrophic (Gn 1-3). Other references reveal the same tragedy resulting whenever man trusted in his own reason for guidance and standard of Truth (cf Ro 1:18,20; 1 Co 1:18-26). Man tragically learned that rationalism (mortal reasoning alone) was incapable of providing the answers to his greatest needs.

  2) REASON -- This is commended by God and urged upon all (cf
Is 1:18ff; 1 Pt 3:15). This "reason" uses logical tenets to determine a common sense conclusion.

  3) UTILITARIANISM -- Although practiced in modern times this
is an old philosophy (2 Ki 17:33, 41). The error of this view is illustrated in Scripture -- just because something" works" does not mean it is acceptable (i.e.  I may eat something that will satisfy my hunger but if it has no nutrients I will starve to death!).  The ethic of utility has been condemned:

   a. It did not work for Saul (1 Sa 13:13; 15:23).

   b. It did not work for Nadab and Abihu (Lv 10:1).

   c. It did not work for Uzzah (2 Sa 6:3ff).

   d. It will not work for anyone who trusts in his own reason-    ing rather than God's revealed Will! (Pr 14:12; 16:25).

  4) PLURALISM -- This fails to admit that there is a distinctive-
ness characterizing God's will! (Cf. 1 Pt 1:15; 2:11-12; etc.). God is never satisfied with the "ordinary" -- He wants that which is unique!  There is a distinctive "oneness" that characterizes God's system (cf. Ep 4:4-6). God has never tolerated a pluralistic philosophy (cf 1 Co 8:5-6; Josh 24:14-15).

  5) SUBJECTIVENESS -- The Word of God DOES NOT operate on
a subjective basis. Those who trust in subjectiveness are destined for a shocking eternity (cf Mt 7:21ff). One cannot trust “feelings” for guidance.

  6) RELATIVISM -- The Word of God (Bible) is always practical (2
Ti 3:16,17). To appeal to “relevance” to validate teaching is tragic error! (cf Mt 7:13,14, 21-23; 2 Pt 2:1-19; 2 Ths 2:1-12; etc.).

  7) EXISTENTIALISM -- This philosophical approach denies an ab-
solute Truth. The Word of God (Bible; Scriptures) is absolute Truth and is knowable to any honest searcher! (1 Jn 5:13; Ep 3:1-5; etc.). It does not take some mystical, intuition!

 d. Transparency 1/4 Consider some points that arise from   these considerations.

  1) The concept of "Truth" has been affected by philosophical    infectious germs!

   a) Many today deny that there is an "absolute Truth." These
have been impacted by William James' pragmatic "Truth."  The remarks he made 9 decades ago are being rephrased and repeated in our modern times. They are uncannily similar!

   b) The statement that "truth is unknown and unknowable
except via personal intuition" is contradictory to Scripture (Jn 14:6,17; 16:13; 17:17; 1 Jn 5:13; Lk 24:45; Ro 16:26).

  2) To eliminate all "reason" and "logic" from the study of
Scripture is an illogical position! How can one hope to "understand" when s/he approaches the topic in a manner that is opposed to the very principles of "understanding"?  How can we "examine,"  "take heed," "give diligence to," and "reprove" without applying reasoning and logic? (Ac 17:11; 1 Co 10:12; 2 Ti 2:15; 1 Ths 5:14, etc.). The ONLY WAY this can be done is to accept the  "subjective truth' of pragmaticism and believe only those things which "work."

  3) To trust upon the basis of subjective feelings and emotions    is to act foolishly (2 Ths 2:12; 1 Jn 4:1; 2 Co 13:5).

3. Transparency 1/5 A philosophy that enables us to approach  this series with confidence possesses three important aspects. 

 a. The first factor, of any workable philosophy, focuses upon its
logical truth. Whenever one examines any belief or practice s/he must ask, "Is this tenable?" If one's belief/practice cannot be supported with valid reasoning, it is unwise to hold it as a central belief or governing principle! As much as the change advocates are repulsed by "logic" in their "spiritual discernment," it occupies a critical role in their belief system. Logic alone is insufficient to provide a working philosophy. Logic needs the element of feeling/intuition/emotions to be a proper standard. 

 b. The second factor of a working philosophy focuses upon its
applicability to daily life. When one examines a belief/practice s/he must ask, "is this livable?" Any belief must provide a harmony in practical living. This explains how the logic of the belief/practice is to be lived.  This factor details how feelings/emotions are restrained by logic. Many have failed to note the danger of philosophies based solely upon this level. These allow feelings and "practicality" to outweigh the logic of reason. It is on this level that pragmaticism is based and this is why it is an erring philosophy! Standards based upon feeling alone create absolutes in doctrine and morality that are contradictory. In this second level one's imagination (intuition) will allow that which reason forbids (i.e. those ensnared will admit, "Oh, I know what the Bible says, but my heart tells me otherwise.").  Whenever a philosophy is based solely upon this level it allows man to be guided by emotions, unchecked by reason, and, will eventually justify the most unconscionable belief/practice!

 c. The third factor focuses upon the practicality of urging   others to live right. In addressing any situation one must ask, "Do I have the right to regard such-and-such as wrong? Am I to urge caution and repentance regarding this belief or practice?" In short we must ask, "Is this transferable to another?" It is this third level that brings our belief/practice down to the "nitty-gritty of life." A logical conclusion or an emotional belief that fails to prescribe is meaningless. This is where we "exhort" one another. But this level cannot stand alone -- how can one prescribe belief/practice without levels one or two? Those who live on this level (without the other two) allow culture to decide behavior as "individual tastes." Yet a most interesting contradiction is seen -- those who advocate a "non-judgmental" attitude in life’s choices have this level as their standard, but they condemn others who disagree with them! They fail to allow for the "taste" of the individual who disagrees. To be true to their position they cannot  rebut anyone who criticizes them!

 d. A proper philosophy must incorporate all three of these   levels -- logic, feelings/emotion, and real-life application. Logic tells us what we believe.  Feeling/Emotion tells us why we live as we do.  The real-life application tells us why we prescribe certain beliefs/practice for others. None of these levels is acceptable by itself. Each depends upon one another. We  should argue from logic, illustrate from feelings, and apply to all others. Our lives move from Truth, to experience, to prescription. If we rest upon feeling/emotion one's life is not livable because it faces constant contradiction. If we rest upon application without Truth, it is similar to the ethic of feelings. When we begin with Truth, discerned by logical investigation we can move to enjoyable feeling and practical application that is justifiably prescribed for others. The vital point of beginning is the discernment of objective Truth!  This is only possible if we utilize all three of these points. Note: The current change advocates seek to persuade us to question the foundations of our confidence by telling us we should live only on levels two or three. They look with chagrin on any "logic" being applied! 

4. Transparency 1/6 As you consider "Hold Fast Our Confidence!" it must be understood that you are asked to decide a fundamental question regarding your philosophical perspective -- "How do YOU view Scripture's competence to direct one in modern society so s/he will possess the calm confidence of Faith in God?"

 a. There are only 2 responses -- it is either with a logical, reasoned response or with a pragmatic, utilitarian response.

  1) One provides a sound, consistent, objective standard.

  2) One provides a shifting, ever-changing standard. 

 b. Your response will have a tremendous impact upon :

  1) How one should obey God.

  2) How one should know God's will.

  3) How one should view the conditions of salvation.

  4) How one should view the Church of the New Testament.

  5) How one will practice the teachings of the New Testament.

 c. Sadly some have opted for the subjectiveness of pragmaticism. Their choice has prodded them to call for "change" in basic doctrines and practices. They see futility in maintaining the absolute Truth, and, thus the absolute authority of Scripture. They choose to accept a pragmatic philosophy in religion that finds any absolute intolerable! Such a choice deprives them of the wonderful confidence offered by God to all in our confused world!

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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