Consider the source

Recently a friend sent me a link to a blog written by a famous comedian. It was about why he was an atheist. My friend is a Christian and was simply sharing this article because they found it interesting. I read the article in its entirety and, to be honest, it troubled me deeply. Not because I agreed with the author or because he had challenged my beliefs; I was troubled because of his tone of authority.
After making what I considered a flimsy argument about how science can’t prove the existence of a God, so we shouldn’t believe in one, the author proceeds to explain that the burden of proof lies with believers, then he shares his anti-testimony explaining how he lost faith in Jesus at a young age. He then concludes his post by explaining why we should all be good to one another regardless of what we believe. I agreed with his last point, but I couldn’t help but wonder why he thinks human life has intrinsic value (unless still subscribes to some of his Christian beliefs, of course).
I could refute all his main arguments here, but that’s not why I’m writing this. There are two main things that troubled me about his post.

1). He appeals to the lack of scientific evidence for the existence of God as a sufficient reason not to believe. I’ve always thought this argument was insufficient. Let me ask you this, is the existence of God a scientific question? By definition, at least by Christian definitions, God exists outside of time and space. Doesn’t science specialize in the measurement of time and space? So is the existence of God a scientific question? I would say no. Or, to phrase it slightly differently; science measures the natural world; but God is a supernatural being. Can science prove or disprove God? Not likely; in fact I’d say it’s likely impossible. This is why faith is a part of the deal; but that faith is born from a lack of thinking. In fact, Pastor Timothy Keller would argue that a lack of faith results from a lack of thinking!
The existence of God is a philosophical question. It’s like me walking up to a mathematician and demanding he prove to me the existence of the ancient Mayan civilization. The mathematician doesn’t specialize in archeology or history; why am I asking him? So why do we appeal to a discipline that specializes in measuring time and space to determine the existence of an Individual that exists outside of time and space? I believe we ask far too much of science and fail to see that, as far reaching as this discipline is, it does have limitations.
That being said, please don’t label me as one of those “dumb, close-minded fundamentalists” who thinks that science is evil and can’t be trusted. Science fascinates me and I love reading about it. I can’t wait to see what’s next! But I know better than to ask questions science cannot answer.
2). The thing that troubles me the most is that the article was actually written! To be fair, the author stated that he gets asked why he’s an atheist often and this was a place for him to publicly explain why he doesn’t believe in God and why he thinks science is a better option (as though the two are mutually exclusive). But just like we’re asking the wrong questions of science, is it possible that we need to learn to be more discerning when we seek advice? Shouldn’t we learn to consider the source? Should I ask a car mechanic for health advice or a heart surgeon for car advice? For example, when pop stars start singing about politics I can’t help but roll my eyes; especially when they got famous by singing songs about crude topics that they wrote while they were on drugs (I realize that’s not a universal description, but it certainly applies to the band I’m thinking of at the moment).
So why do we suddenly listen to these voices? Why do we give them so much credibility? Am I going to put my eternal destiny in the hands of a comedian? Should we base our national policy off songs by punk bands?
I’m not saying that those people aren’t entitled to their opinions; they are. I’m not saying that anyone who disagrees with me is an ignorant fool; they aren’t. I’m not even “hating on” anyone, which is why I didn’t mention anyone by name in this entire post. I’m simply cautioning you to consider the source.
This equally applies when you go inside the church. You must make sure your pastor, elder, Sunday school teacher, deacon, or anyone else is teaching accurately. Read your Bible to make sure their message fits in with the broader context of the Bible. Buy a good systematic theology book and do some reading of your own. You’ll be amazed at all the incredible things you can learn. My theology classes have stretched my understanding time and time again; they’ve been a rich blessing.
1 Peter 3:18 tell us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” In this verse, Peter is urging us to grow in grace but he’s also challenging us to grow in knowledge.
I pray that we as a generation would grow to become more discerning in all areas of life, but especially in areas of faith.

He descended into Hell.

(This is part eight of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry examines a line of the Apostles’ Creed that has troubled Christians for years:

“He descended into hell.”

This entry is going to be a little different than all the others before it. Why do I say that this verse has troubled Christians? Well…. it’s not Biblical! In fact, it could easily be considered counter-Biblical. In Luke 23:43, while dying on the cross, Jesus says to one of the thieves next to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus pretty clearly states three things in this statement:

  1. The thief will be in Paradise.
  2. Jesus will be with him.
  3. It’s going to happen that very day!

Also, Jesus says in John 19:30, “It is finished.” Which implies that Jesus did not need to suffer further by going to hell. Finally, when Jesus dies in Luke 23:46, He says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus is very clearly going to join His Father in Heaven at this point.

We quickly see that there is very little allowance for Jesus to go to hell. Some could argue that Jesus became omnipresent and was able to go to Hell and Heaven at the same time. Dr. Wayne Grudem very strongly opposes this line of the creed in an article that originally appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Volume 34, called “He Did Not Descend Into Hell: A Plea For Following Scripture Instead Of The Apostles’ Creed” (if you’d like to read the entire article, it’s available here). I’ll just share a couple quotes that I found particularly helpful concerning the development of this line of the Apostles’ Creed:

  • the Apostles’ Creed was not written or approved by a single Church council at one specific time. Rather, it gradually took shape from about A.D. 200 to 750.
  • until A.D. 650 no version of the Creed included this phrase with the intention of saying that Christ “descended into hell.” The only version to include the phrase before 650 gives it a different meaning. [It meant simply that he went into the grave.]

Dr. Grudem’s article concludes with this: “Unlike every other phrase in the Creed, it represents not some major doctrine on which all Christians agree but rather a statement about which most Christians seem to disagree. It is at best confusing and in most cases misleading for modern Christians. My own judgment is that there would be all gain and no loss if it were dropped from the Creed once for all.”

I know what you’re thinking at this point, “But hey, weren’t we going to be looking at major doctrinal sections that all Christians agree on? Did you say this was all upper-tier stuff in the Creed?” And perhaps more importantly, “What do we do with that? Does it even matter?”

I think this shows us two important things.

First and foremost, this shows us that over a long enough span of time, false teachings can, like a little bit of yeast in a batch of dough, spread and become pervasive. The Apostles’ Creed developed over a long span of time:  about 550 years! That’s longer than the United States of America has even existed! That is a long, long time. Over time, things can creep in to a church that are simply false; then people just cling to false doctrine because, like a loyal pet, it’s always been there as long as they can remember.

Second, this shows us that we must examine everything in light of Scripture; even something that we take for granted like the Apostles’ Creed. We must always listen and look. First you listen to those around you in teaching positions and then compare what they teach you to what the Bible says; do they match up? Listen and look!