I want to relay a fictional conversation to you, between me at age 43 and me at age 21. I'll call the me of today "ME", and the me 20-odd years ago "HIM".
ME: 'sup dude? Long time no see.Before we go after this, this is not a slam of WOTM -- it is actually an argument that WOTM is way more effective than demanding the belief in all OT miracles. See -- if "Old Me" hadn't taken the bait of "young Me" to distract from the fact of God's judgment, "Old Me" would not have been immediately outmanned.
HIM: Do I know you? You look familiar, but pretty fat.
ME: heh. Yeah. Listen -- I have something to tell you which is the most important thing you'll ever hear, and I need you to take me seriously for about 15 minutes, and then you can go about your business.
HIM: I'll give you 5 minutes, old dude. Then I have to see a guy about a Long Island Iced tea.
ME: OK, then listen -- How would you know if you were living your life the right way?
HIM: I'd be rich?
ME: No seriously -- how do you know if you're a good person?
HIM: I am. I'm good -- everybody says so.
ME: What if we compare you to God's law?
HIM: Um, what?
ME: What if we open up the 10 Commandme ...
HIM: (interrupting) Hang on, bub. You mean the 10 Commandments that Moses got from God on that mountain?
ME: yes -- see, I knew you'd know what I ...
HIM: (interrupting again) No, listen: don't judge me by mythology, OK? In order for me to accept the stone tablets as a source of information, I have to accept all kinds of other stuff because the stone tablets are meaningless without that other stuff. Like the plagues in Egypt -- and that thing with the Red Sea.
I don't believe in those miracles, so don't bring that law out to me. It's a fiction just like the Flood is a fiction and all that other junk.
So what do we do here? If you run around the internet, you'll find dozens of people -- well-meaning, God-fearing people -- who will at this point begin the apologetics for the supernatural. Defending the historicity of the Red Sea parting or whatever.
And that's what I was on about last week: seeking to make people believe the whole Bible before they can believe the Gospel is a mistake. And while we had a good little run of kudos in the meta, eventually someone said (in words to this effect), "Cent: there is no Gospel without all the miracles of the OT. If someone doesn't believe in the Flood or something, they don't believe the Gospel."
Well, that's ridiculous -- and I promised one (and here let me say it clearly: only one) follow up to that post so my point can be crystal clear.
(1) There is a difference between accepting the whole Bible as inerrant and sufficient and believing and repenting. The latter may (and in my opinion, will) lead to the former. The former is not required in order to do the latter.
(2) There is a difference between accepting the authority of the Bible and knowing for certain that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. The latter is apparently (Acts 2) the right offer of the Gospel; the former is a logical consequence of the latter.
(3) Proving any particular miracle (save two) is historically substantiated doesn't save anybody, and getting derailed by evidentialist apologetics when you are really seeking to preach the Gospel is really taking the unbeliever's bait to talk about his religion rather than talk about your good news.
Look -- don't trust me. Trust Paul.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: ...Now, before we get to what Paul did in fact say, let's think on this: he's not talking to Jews here -- not to people who had the books of Moses and the Prophets pretty much ingrained into them culturally. He's talking to the philosophers of Athens -- the pagans who seek an agrument. And there he doesn't start with the Ark of Noah. he starts like this:
"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you."And if you miss it, this is his argument from Romans 1 sets forth positively as a message to them rather than as a message against them. That's not to say that Paul affirmed that they had a right view of God: it's to say that Paul is telling them that they have the good sense to know that they have missed something, and he's here to tell them what they have missed. And notice that he doesn't then go after the miracle of manna from heaven:
"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man ..."Now think on this: there's no question that Paul is here appealing to Genesis here, right? God made Adam -- and in a second he'll strike the drum of "in His own image" -- and that's all he says about that, not trying to force the Greeks to accept, by the right authority of Scripture, a 6-day creation. He simply appeals to the fact of creation, and that man is created as is everything else. Watch:
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him."That underlined bit is rather clever of Paul because it looks back at his initial plea that they know something of God. But he underscores that God wants them to know something about Him.
"Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, forSee: made in His image. That is, God is knowable because He made us in order that we should know Him.
'In him we live and move and have our being'
as even some of your own poets have said,
'For we are indeed his offspring.'"
"Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man."And I think this is especially good here -- because Paul closes the gap from his opening statement -- by arguing that if God made everything, we shouldn't think of him as a picture in our minds or merely a picture we have made out of metal or stone: we should think of Him as a God who has made us children.
"The times of ignorance ...That is, the times past when we were stupid enough to think of Him as merely in a temple, merely as a statue, merely as some thing and not our creator and father.
"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed;"Compare that fully to, for example, the Way of the Master. The reason Paul's message matters is that men are under condemnation.
"and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."Can you really not see it here? The only miracle Paul makes necessary to receive the Gospel is the miracle of the resurrection. The only assurance we can have that God's judgment is coming is that Jesus was raised from the dead.
And, of course, the Greeks laughed at him for this -- for a host of reasons. But Paul didn't then break out with the evidentialist posturing. The necessary miracle of the faith Paul was evangelizing to was this resurrection from the dead by a man named Jesus.
See: the Greeks demand an argument, but Paul didn't give them their idolatrous worship at an intellectual altar. He gave them the only miracle necessary to be saved from the coming judgment.
You should be at least that wise to do the same.