Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

An Interesting Question: How Do You Know the Bible is True?

There's a line of questioning you might like to consider sometime when you're in a discussion with a fellow Christian who criticizes the LDS concept of testimony through revelation from God. Instead of trying to find answers to all their questions, try to understand where they are coming from with this helpful question: "How do you know the Bible is true?" Sometimes, I've found the answer to be rather circular: "I know the Bible is true because it says it is, right there in chapter so and so of . . . ." Try to help the person get past the dogma of "knowing" the Bible to be true because that's what they believe or because that's what their faith teaches, and ask them to think how they could come to know it were true if they had been raised in, say, China, and had never encountered it before. How could they read it and know that it was true? At this point, the answer sometimes refers to "the impressive evidence of the witnesses recorded in the Bible." Yes, the Bible records that many people saw Christ and so forth - but it's still a circular argument. How do we know that the reported testimony of the witnesses and the other writers was not fabricated? Perhaps the person will then refer to scientific and archaeological confirmations of the Bible. A gentle dose of reality can be helpful (this is not the place to bring up the problems with the idea of inerrancy in the Bible or the doctrine of sola scriptura), such as explaining that just because the story of the Bible refers to cities and places that still exist doesn't have anything to do with whether Christ was the Son of God or not. No artifact has proven that. How can you base your life and even your eternal fate on that ancient record and be sure you're right? How do you know?

This line of questioning, if gently and lovingly done, can help a sincere person realize that deep down, something has happened in their heart that gives them a knowledge or abiding faith in the reality of the Gospel message. (Or maybe they have no testimony of God and Christ yet and need to be invited to come unto Jesus and know Him through the power of a covenant relationship in His restored Church.) God lives, Jesus is His Son, and many of our Christian friends outside the LDS faith know these things because they have experienced revelation in some way, including answers to prayers, experiencing the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23), being touched in their heart and mind by the influence of God, and so forth. Yes, of course, there are intellectual evidences or other confirming factors that can strengthen that faith, but deep down, many of our Christian friends may know a little more about the LDS testimony that they have realized. I've even heard other Christians speaking about their testimony of Christ in much the same way LDS people do. If we can help them get past the anti-testimony propaganda of some of our critics, it might help them be more receptive to the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of revelation from God.

If they refuse to admit the possibility of such things and insist that true faith can only be based upon empirical evidence, your conversation isn't going to get very far, and it may be fair to wonder if they are being deliberately unreasonable.

Avoid contention in this process. And if the time is right, you may be able to let others know, as I have often done, that there are some things we really can know, things like the reality of Jesus Christ and God the Father, and the reality of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. I know these things, though there are a zillion other things I don't know and can't explain, and other things that I am pretty comfortable with but not yet at the "know" stage. Thank heavens for the wonderful good news that many of us do know.

6 comments:

Ebenezer Orthodoxy said...

Great post brother Lindsay. I've had some modest success with this approach as well.

BB said...

I really appreciate this idea, very powerful. Thanks for sharing it.

Mike said...

I enjoyed this post. I thought about this topic while on my mission and came to the same conclusions. While talking with people who weren't just out to argue people usually had a greater respect for the Church after a discussion like this about the spirit. It didn't always lead to people opening up to hear more (I think often both parties left the discussion feeling that the other honestly felt they were following the spirit, but wishing they would just open up to listen for real)
But, as you said people who are simply attacking usually just continue to argue in an extremely circular manner, often in an aggressive and or demeaning manner- which often left me quite sad. For the person, and also for others- because it is that kind of action and attitude that has caused so many others to brand religion as a negative judgemental or stupid thing.

My current room mate often had a desire to believe, to know about God- but remained athiest/agnostic because the only explanations he received about how to know truth were simmilar to those given by other Christians for how they know the Bible is true. The element of faith was included- and my room mate was intrigued by the concept of faith, but without the doctrine of an assurance, of the spirit- of true faith- religion seemed an enigma.
One day before he was my room mate he was having dinner at my house when I was feeding the missionaries and they shared a bit of Alma 32 as a spiritual thought. He both felt the spirit and was intrigued by the entire concept. After the missionaries left I was driving him home and he said he really liked what the missionaries shared. We had a brief discussion about the nature of faith, and his frustration with how most Christians justification for their faith, or their claim to have a complete knowledge of truth was really circular and didn't seem to be based on anything. I am glad that he was able to find the truth and join the church, but I wonder how many people are put off by the attitude and or explanations of other Christians.

Bryce said...

I tried this with a person who had seen a post I made in an online forum, and who sent me a bunch of "questions" that she had. She is an evangelical Christian who had obviously been given a list of questions to ask LDS people.

Unfortunately, she never wrote back. I was looking forward to hearing her answer, so I could understand her mindset better.

Stephen said...

I'm glad that comments are working again.

It is amazing how many people do not examine their premises, and really too bad. You've sketched out a nice way to do that.

I've found that most anti-LDS arguments, when you reduce them to their foundations, are the same as many anti-Christian arguments from 100 to 400 AD.

With the foundations exposed, one has to go to the true basics, God and Christ and the witness of the Spirit, which is the only thing that leads us safely home.

Logic never will, because it is always incomplete.

manaen said...

A similar position by from the evangelicals is to say that they need to prove the BoM from the Bible because they know the Bible is true. I've then used a modified version of your approach by asking them how they know it's true, to what book of scripture did they compare the Bible? After they stopped going in circles, I helped them by telling that their faith is safe because I have compared the Bible with BoM and the Bible does agree with the BoM.

In a serious and truly helpful light, when they start citing internal proofs of the Bible, I like to show them where the Bible says that isn't the way to know, but that the Spirit is:

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2)

3 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (John 16)