How Would You Know?

Had you not ever experienced God’s presence, if you had not heard of the Bible, how would you know if it is true, or not, upon reading its content cover to cover?

Todd Beal

Sometimes, the best “atheist” is the one who believes what his teachers have told him, yet denies in his heart the very God, or belief, he proclaims to the world. How would you know if the Bible is true, or not, if someone had not told you what to believe?

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About Todd Beal

I love truth and its facts. I love thought-provoking conversations that give both the other person and me a better understanding of a particular topic. I love to find answers to life-long questions; answers that let me see things for what they are instead of what they seem to be. I truly enjoy being in the midst of a group of people where all individuals are joining in, where everybody is enjoying the company of each other. I relax in the company of individuals who are competent yet humble. I like to catch myself doing or saying something ridiculous and then laugh my head off. I enjoy my church and being involved.
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11 Responses to How Would You Know?

  1. Todd Beal says:

    This is not meant to assault, attack, or demean, but to instead prick my conscience to the very quick, and yours also.

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  2. Todd,

    I have to admit I was challenged by this one, and I did read it several times. I’m not sure if you’re saying that some sort of prior knowledge of the Judeo-Christian concept of God is necessary in order to receive a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of scripture–that we need someone to “prime” us, so to speak, before we can be completely accepting of truth.

    I believe that “the spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world”, so that in a sense we are born with a measure of ability to recognize truth by the light of Christ, which is reflected in every soul that comes from God. I’ve heard enough missionary stories from non-Christian lands to know that people who have never heard of Christ from anyone are still touched (and even changed) by their first contact with His word, including those converted entirely through their contact with scripture alone (as long as they could read it in their own language, of course!)

    So I’m definitely looking forward to more discussion and expansion on the ideas of this post.

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  3. Lance Ponder says:

    Most of the apostles were martyred for their beliefs. Unlike us, they died believing what they’d seen with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and experienced personally. They were witnesses in the most literal sense. It only makes sense that some (many?) claim faith but if pressed would deny it because they do not “know” what they claim. I do not believe in blind or unreasoned faith. Faith must be grounded in something. Reading scripture and having intellectual understanding is inadequate. Jesus calls us to be born again, to experience renewal, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul describes this as putting on the new man or becoming a new creature. No matter what words we use, it is the reality of transformation that transcends language which is both that grounding and the core of our own witness.

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  4. 1 Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does NOT accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are FOOLISHNESS to him, and he CANNOT UNDERSTAND them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.

    Ephesians 2:1-3 says we were all DEAD, living according to the ways of satan, with no power to resist. (like a dead fish being carried along in a stream by a fast moving current)

    Good question Todd, but I believe that as a non-believer I could have read the Bible a thousand times and not understood it, simply because FAITH is a GIFT OF GOD. Reading the Bible might have assisted a mental acceptance of its contents, or caused me to question, but until the Holy Spirit gave me enlightenment of His Word, I could not understand it or believe it. I had absolutely NOTHING to do with my salvation. It was ALL the work of God. He revealed Himself to me and gave me the faith to respond.

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  5. Todd Beal says:

    Allow me to expound. Each of you – Michael, Lance, and Angela – articulated what should be the case, and what is the case for a born-again Christian. Unfortunately, I find that most individuals believe what they believe, primarily because they were taught to believe it (whether Christianity, Atheism, or other).

    The Jewish people, as spoken of in Isaiah 29, all believed in their head – they were truly zealous about God – but they didn’t believe it in their hearts, thus no personal experience with God and hence God’s prophecy against them:

    [Isaiah 29:13-14 NASB]
    Then the Lord said,
    “Because this people draw near with their words
    And honor Me with their lip service,
    But they remove their hearts far from Me,
    And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,

    Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
    And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
    And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”

    I find that the majority of all people, regardless of religious orientation (including atheists), could not back up their beliefs if their very life depended on it. They cannot because they grew up believing that what they were taught is wholly true and have never truly questioned, let alone discerned, whether it is true.

    So, to rephrase the question in this post: Imagine you had never heard of the Bible, let alone read it from cover to cover, and also imagine you had never heard of God – let alone experienced his personal presence – and therefore had never experienced any religious teaching; Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Atheism, or other (for each religion addresses God, even if in error it supplants God with a god or gods, including the god of self which is anti-God in its basis). How then would your beliefs differ from what you were taught, if you were to read the Bible from cover to cover and wholeheartedly open yourself to the God of whom the Bible speaks?

    Would you ultimately subscribe to Atheism anyway, if someone instructed you to reject God in favor of the god of humanistic-based science? Would you subscribe to the gods of Hinduism, or the god of Islam, if someone so instructed you? Would you accept the God of Christianity, the one True Living God?

    And finally, imagine that (according to the above scenario) after reading the Bible from cover to cover, while opening yourself to the God of whom the Bible speaks, you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart and became a brand new person from the inside out, would you, upon thorough exposure to all the various divisions and versions of Christianity, accept the belief-set of Catholicism, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Mormonism, traditional Calvinism or Arminianism, Jehovah’s Witness, United Brethren, Old Order Amish, Mennonite, traditional Holiness, Greek Orthodox, or the emergent church?

    The point of this post is to ask the question: If you were to start all over with a clean slate and had only the Bible and an open heart to begin your search – with no prior knowledge of God or the Bible – and then read the Bible from cover to cover, would you ultimately believe differently then you do right now? I say yes, because when it comes to receiving and understanding Truth, it is human nature to rely more on human “wisdom” and tradition, and less on God’s personal revelation. To do otherwise puts the responsibility back on us, to seek God personally, to receive his truth, personally, and to obey it wholeheartedly whether it feels good or not, whether others agree with it or not – even if we are persecuted because of it.

    Sometimes we need to stop everything, return to God’s Holy Word, put our current beliefs on the shelf, make our heart open wide, and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

    [Philippians 2:12-13 NASB]
    So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

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    • That makes a lot of sense, Todd, and is a question well-worth pondering. I think anyone, regardless of how secure in their beliefs, would find themselves and their beliefs changed with a wide-open rereading of the Bible. Although it’s hard to shed our preconceptions, what a great experiment to read it in total humility, assuming nothing and throwing out what I “know”.

      It’s time for me to do it again, but I tried something like your challenge when I was serving as a full-time missionary in Brazil 25 years ago. I tried to read the Bible from the perspective of a humble investigator without any real immersion in religion. I remember a couple of things striking me as I read:

      1) God created and loves humankind. He speaks to people in ways both personal and general. Personally, he usually speaks through his Spirit, which can impress and communicate in a variety of ways (including scripture), although he can also address people directly. More general communications intended for all mankind come through a prophet (Amos 3:7), one chosen to be the vessel of divine communication for that particular generation, and generally applicable to future generations as well.

      2) Christ lived, and his life is strongly witnessed by the gospel writers and apostles. He created an organized religion (I know this terrifies some people) with a certain number of apostles and conferred priesthood authority on them. He died with a purpose, an atonement made for all mankind, applicable upon acceptance and obedience. He was resurrected, lives again in a glorified and immortal state, and promises the same to us.

      I see these two themes as the core messages of the Bible. I can only imagine this, but I would hope that as an ignorant non-believer, I would be convinced of these truths with a “virgin” reading. I do believe that some people are “elect” and are much more prepared and likely to accept the gospel message more easily than others. I saw this in the mission field as some people we found just seemed to be waiting for our message and were overwhelmed with joy at finding it.

      If after discovering this good news for the first time, I would hope that if I embarked on a search for “organized religion” that I would eventually find one that confirms the two messages promised in the Bible: Access to continued revelation for my own time, and an organization that resembles that established by Christ himself. I would have to consider myself a “searcher” until I found those things.

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      • Todd Beal says:

        Michael,

        | I think anyone, regardless of how secure in their beliefs, would find themselves and their beliefs changed with a wide-open rereading of the Bible. Although it’s hard to shed our preconceptions, what a great experiment to read it in total humility, assuming nothing and throwing out what I “know”. |

        This is so very true. Michael, I want truth, absolute truth, and my life-goal is to discover as much of its/His revelation as time permits. I love the freedom truth provides and I hate the restriction of manmade doctrine. Manmade doctrine restricts without giving freedom in return. God’s truth restricts only from life-sucking unnatural restriction, even if it immediately feels like a limitation. Manmade beliefs and doctrine stifle life-giving truth and its freedom. God’s truth, as personally revealed through the Holy Spirit and his inspired Holy Scriptures, not only gives personal freedom, but also is the firm basis for spiritual belief and sound doctrine. The problem with humans is that we think we can do it better than God, hence the scores of divisions and versions of Christianity – most of which include regurgitated religious ideals passed on from generation to generation that range anywhere from slightly non-Biblically based to blatantly anti-Biblical.

        I have never witnessed, before your statement (the one I quoted above), anyone who explicitly agreed with clearing the slate, setting current beliefs aside, and starting all over with just the Bible, an open heart, and God. Most of us don’t trust God enough to let him show us his truth, and all because we are afraid that we will have to give up our precious hand-me-down beliefs. The Pharisees were the epitome of this, and Jesus called them whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers because of it. God give me truth!

        Regarding the rest of your comment, I can only say, right on. What a true pleasure to read it and then read it again. Thanks once again for your desire and willingness to love truth.

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  6. Lance Ponder says:

    |The point of this post is to ask the question: If you were to start all over with a clean slate and had only the Bible and an open heart to begin your search – with no prior knowledge of God or the Bible – and then read the Bible from cover to cover, would you ultimately believe differently then you do right now?|

    That is an interesting theoretical question which we simply cannot answer smugly and walk away from. In this world we cannot turn back the clock. That’s one reason I enjoy science fiction. Gaius Baltar is a character on Battlestar Galactica who is a scientist and a non-believer in God, gods, or anything else beyond the natural realm. His faith in the natural world is turned inside out when exposed to the supernatural, an angel who explains that God loves him. Gaius at first rejects the ‘Cylon God’ only to learn that God is not the Cylon God, He is everyone’s God. In time he learned to trust this angel and her God, and in one episode we witness his repentance and conversion – an amazing bit of writing and acting considering it is contrived as part of a fictional story. I say all this because it isn’t the book which convicts, but experiencing God which convicts.

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    • Todd Beal says:

      Lance,

      | I say all this because it isn’t the book which convicts, but experiencing God which convicts. |

      And because the Bible is God’s Word to mankind, if we have an open heart while reading it, God will reveal himself to us through the Holy Spirit, who will then teach us about himself. This has been my personal mission for many years now, to set aside what I was taught, until either I verify it or invalidate it through reading the Bible. This takes a lot of perseverance, a whole lot of soul searching, a lot of cleaning out the old personal junk, a lot of setting my previous biases aside, bucking the tide of those who disagree with my mission, and just letting the Holy Spirit teach me, from square one, as he sees fit.

      This is not to say it is not important to also study other theological and Bible-based writings, but that we need to make studying the Bible in the presence of the Holy Spirit, our first priority over all else. If we do that, we won’t be so quick to replace truth with manmade doctrine, human “wisdom”, and tradition, because we will automatically test all things against the truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to us.

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  7. Lance Ponder says:

    Todd, please do not misunderstand. I’m not saying you need to open up to writings outside of scripture. I’m also not denying the power of experiencing God through His spiritual revelation of Himself as we read and meditate on the scriptures. I personally have experienced several miracles while reading scripture, one of which quite literally saved my life. What I am trying to say is that God is not limited to written word. Jesus is the living word. Not was -but IS. Jesus is the God-Man manifestation of the divine mind. This is the Divine Logos. This is why I chose this for my site name. God’s border isn’t the cover of the bible. Rather, that’s where it really begins. God bless you, brother, and keep it up. Just know the Word is not just a sacred text containing past revelation – but a Living God who loves you now and has revelation for you in the present. Scripture is a tool, but the Author is who you want to know. So say we all.

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    • Todd Beal says:

      Lance,

      | I’m not saying you need to open up to writings outside of scripture. |

      That part of my comment was not directed toward you but was my own addition because supplemental Biblical/theological teaching does provide great benefit for better understanding the scriptures, providing it is wholly rooted in the Bible; we all learn from each other. For example, I learn a tremendous deal from you on your blog.

      | What I am trying to say is that God is not limited to written word. Jesus is the living word. Not was -but IS. Jesus is the God-Man manifestation of the divine mind.

      Just know the Word is not just a sacred text containing past revelation – but a Living God who loves you now and has revelation for you in the present. Scripture is a tool, but the Author is who you want to know. |

      Absolutely, and thanks for clearing that up. To echo what you are saying, that’s why I so adamantly assert that just because one has not ever had the privilege of studying the Bible, or the privilege of attending a group of like-minded Christian believers (church building or otherwise), that does not mean that person is forever lost without God. I know from personal experience that God meets anyone, anytime, anywhere, on his or her own level to offer that person eternal salvation from sin. What an awesome and undeserved privilege to belong to and serve Him. Lance, for a fuller explanation of my stance on this issue, please visit this comment from one of our prior conversations – one of the best conversations to date on Truth Behind Reality, and is from the post, Become Fully Human.

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