Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Inextinguishable Light

In the first section of this book I commented that the basis upon which secularism attacked religious knowledge would ultimately destroy not just belief in God but belief in the very concept of truth itself. That is the deduction I will presently sustain. If this conflict is not resolved, nothing else will matter, for nothing will make sense. On this issue the two foundations of secularism and Christianity differ. Once this is settled, the answers we seek may be found.


The much-heralded belief of the postmodern West is that skepticism on ultimate matters is the law by which we must live. Truth as a category in relation to metaphysical issues no longer exists. All is relative. This surrender of truth is the hallmark of our culture's greatest crisis and makes the culture war so deadly, restricting meaningful dialogue on questions of the soul.

Winston Churchill once said that the most valuable thing in the world is the truth. So valuable is it, said he, that it needs to be constantly protected by a bodyguard of lies. Churchill made that remark in the context of intelligence and counterintelligence efforts during the Second World War. This assertion from that great statesman was probably the only pronouncement on which he and his nemesis, Adolf Hitler, agreed.

Unfortunately, the propagation of lies is not restricted to conventional military warfare it has also been the most insidious weapon in the war of ideas. And what is more, the practice of lying, according to surveys, is at epidemic proportions- assuming, of course, that those surveyed told the truth!

All that aside, as valuable a commodity as it is and as indispensable as it is to meaningful existence, truth is possibly the most violated concept in our world. This is more so now than ever before in history. The lies that punctuate business transactions, the lies by which trusted relationships have been destroyed-these we are aware of: The greater tragedy is not just that we live with a proliferation of lies but that this is probably the first time, certainly in Western civilization, that society at large does not believe in the existence of absolute truth.

Such radical step toward moral and metaphysical skepticism, which asserts the very impossibility of knowing the laws by which our individual lives must be governed, is the single greatest indicator of our postmodern mind. What is most surprising is that a posture of disbelief in truth is not restricted to the liberal element, instead, truth as a category has been jettisoned by many at all levels of society, even among conservatives.

According to a study reported by George Barna in I99I, 67 percent of the U.S. population did not believe in absolute truth. In 1991, that figure rose to 75 percent. In i99I, 52 percent of evangelicals did not believe in absolute truth. In 1994., that figure rose to 62, percent. The difference between saying there is no such thing as the truth and living as if truth does not matter is a small one, and the consequences for both are catastrophic.


Several decades ago Malcolm Muggeridge warned of this spiritual plague coming upon the West, branding it her ultimate death wish. In his autobiography he beckoned humanity to beware of this, the most destructive of all trends--the death of truth. This is how he worded it.

Yet even so, truth is very beautiful: more so I consider than justice-today's pursuit which easily puts on a false face. In the nearly seven decades I have lived through, the world has overflowed with bloodshed and explosions whose dust has never had time to settle before others have erupted. All in purportedly just causes...The lies on behalf of which our wars have been fought and our peace treaties concluded! The lies of revolution and of counter-revolution! The lies of advertising, of news, of salesmanship, of politics! The lies of the priest in his pulpit, the professor at his podium, the journalist at his typewriter! The lie stuck like a fishbone in the throat of the microphone, the handheld lies of the prowling cameraman! Ignazto Silone told me once how when he was a member of the Old Comintern, some stratagem was under discussion, and a delegate, a newcomer who had never attended before, made the extraordinary observation that if such and such a statement were to be made, it wouldn't be true. There was a moment of dazed silence, and then everyone began to laugh. They laughed and laughed until tears ran down their cheeks, and the Kremlin walls began to shake. The same laughter echoes in every Council chamber and cabinet room. Where two or more are gathered to exercise authority, it is truth that has died, not God. 1

The most disconcerting aspect of this attitude toward truth is that anyone who holds to the possibility of truth is categorized as one who merely "believes" that truth exists. The implication is that because truth does not exist, what is held to be true is only a belief and is therefore not a rationally admissible fact. At the same time, those who dismiss truth can end up believing anything at all, and any belief that is contemptuous of truth is considered plausible for that reason alone. This is the raw nerve of postmodern existence, and unless we establish the possibility and the necessity of truth and of how one arrives at the truth, any belief system can be mocked at will or off handedly dismissed as cultural.

For the Christian this is where the battle must be fought, for no world-view suffers more from the loss of truth than the Christian one. Strangely, as has been noted, other religions are culturally protected; no one had dare make light of an Eastern religious belief. The Christian faith, however, is free game for ridicule and analysis by social critics and is afforded no protection from hate or hostility by our so-called multicultural society. In a culture where truth no longer exists, the very cardinal statement of Jesus, "I am the way and the truth and the life,° becomes meaningless. And-unless truth as a category is defended every commitment that is made because of a commitment to Christ Himself will be deemed a "mere belief and differentiated from fact, thereby making it unworthy of intellectual assent.


Scholars who deal in social theory and cultural shifts tell us that the modern world as we know it spanned the two hundred years from 1789-1989, the storming of the Bastille in France, which signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, which symbolized the collapse of communism. That brought the modern era to an end and ushered in the postmodern world. But the breakdown of both these edifices of human construction, with all the tyranny they represented, is meager compared to the breakdown now facing the West, a breakdown heartily sanctioned by the free Western societies now basking under the banner of the postmodern mind. In the modem world reason reigned supreme, and it was envisioned that rational man would hold all things together. Now, postmodernism has become the buzzword in academia, the word by which all things have fallen apart, for reason itself is banished as a dinosaur in humanity's evolutionary climb, and truth is considered extinct.

The modern world had emphasized purpose and design. The postmodern world emphasizes randomness and chance. The modem world sought stability in values: The postmodern world sees values as transient and relative. The modern world saw reason as the means and meaning as the end. The Postmodern world glories in unreason and celebrates meaninglessness. The modem world pursued a synthesis of all disciplines in its search to find the unity of truth. The postmodern world focuses on deconstruction and extols the marvel of contradiction. In short, the very purpose of the university, which was to find unity in diversity, is now in contradiction to its own name, and students are graduating unable to bridge the disciplines and proudly boasting a skepticism that one can be sure of anything.

This is the one monumental difference between the modern and the postmodern mind. In the modem pursuit, even though there was an inhospitable climate toward spiritual truths, debate was nevertheless possible because information was still subject to induction and deduction. Calm spirits could prevail to allow facts a place in dialogue. In the postmodernist mentality the purpose of dialogue or debate is not for truth but only for feeling, and as passion has taken over, facts are given no legitimacy The result is hate-filled shouting matches.

If any progress is to be made amid the shifting sands of cultural change it is imperative that we understand where any meaningful dialogue can begin. Too much is at stake, and too many lives will be hurt or lost if we are unable to agree even on the starting point.

This is not to imply that a moral consensus can be reached purely by arriving at the truth. Not by any means. But it does assert that at least in theory we can determine whether a statement that is made about reality is true or false. If even that is denied, then no judgment on any statement is possible. That state of affairs is rationally inadmissible and existentially unlivable.


We recall Aristotle's reminder that truth is primary, from which morality and technique flow In our time, technology is supreme, morality is mocked, and truth has been eradicated. But thankfully, all is not lost, for at least postmodernism has unwittingly awakened society to the realization that truth, morality, and meaning are connected. If the first goes, there is nothing on which to base the other two. On every side society feels this colossal breakdown, and a stirring is taking place deep within the national conscience that when truth has been lost, the results are devastating. Nowhere has this been felt more than among those who think in the area of morality and ethics within the legal system and by our young people whose lives reflect the turmoil and emptiness within.

Consequently, many are aroused from their stupor, a stupor that the modern mind created when it trumpeted that rational man could arrive at his Utopia without God's absolutes. In fact, so drastic has been the realization that our purpose on earth is inextricably bound to our behavior that some scholars are reluctantly admitting that the teaching of the Bible provided a logical basis for goodness and that with the abandonment of the Judeo-Christian ethic, the basis for morality is gone. So how do such antagonists to the gospel message then deal with this need for a foundational ethic?

The suggestions range from the absurd to the preposterous. Take, for example, one scholar who presented his thesis at a 1991 symposium of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. His basic argument began with the admission that a catastrophe has come upon us as a people. Philosopher Loyal Rue argued that science has made it impossible to believe any longer in the myths of the Bible, myths such as God giving the Ten Commandments and Jesus rising from the dead. But with the loss of these tenets,he said, we have lost the very underpinnings of moral theory that had provided a legitimate recognition of accountability and charity. We are left, therefore, with the unprecedented situation of needing to concoct a "noble lie" so powerful that it will furnish us with reasons to be good, even though those reasons in themselves will be untrue. This is how he worded it:

The illusion must be so imaginative and so compelling that it can't be resisted. What I mean by the noble lie is one that deceives us, tricks us, compels us beyond self interest, beyond ego ... that will deceive us into the view that our moral discourse must serve the interests not only of ourselves and each other, but those of the earth as well.2

One should rightly be incredulous at the extent to which some will wantonly and deliberately dupe themselves. But let us take a beneficent route, because here again, there is a tacit concession, that a purpose to life and a sense of accountability to a higher moral law are inseparably connected to the justification of ethics. In effect, what is being said here is that without a transcendent order, ethics is unjustifiable, and without ethics, life is unlivable.

On all fronts, therefore, our existential realities are pointing us to the relationship between truth and life. And what reality has revealed to be joined together, let no man put asunder. In short, the greatest concern of our time should be the recovery of truth. It was not too long ago that in a survey among Canadian young people, the majority said their greatest longing in life was to find someone they could believe in. The question is, how do we arrive at the truth, principally the truth on which alt other truths hang and by which life must be governed?

The irony of defining truth is that while in practice we all instinctively recognize it when we see it, we nevertheless ask whether it exists theoretically. Professor Dallas Willard, who teaches philosophy at the University of Southern California, asks this of our sensitivity to and estrangement from the truth. What would you think if you asked your ten-year-old, "Susie, did you eat the cookies on the counter?- and she placidly replied, "Mother, what is truth?* Thankfully, Susie may not have gained that evasive philosophical sophistication. But Pilate of old had, and he raised the question often, "What is truth?" Jesus answered him with a categorical response (see John 18:38). But before we turn to His answer, let us establish some definitions.

First, we know that relativism as a theory cannot be true. The Greek Protagoras was the one who said, "The human being is the measure of all things. By that he meant that each individual measured in terms for himself or herself the fact or nature of anything. He was disagreeing with Parmenides, who stated that what is, is; what is not, is not. Without getting too far afield it would be simplest to demonstrate the fairly obvious that Protagoras's relativism is self-defeating. Professor .Allen Wood of Yak University states it succinctly:

The problem arises as soon as Protagoras tries either to assert relativism or to believe it. To assert a proposition is to say that it is true (and its denial false). To believe a proposition is to believe it is true (and its denial false). Thus if Protagoras asserts relativism, then he asserts that relativism is true, and that those (such as Plato) who deny relativism say and believe something false. But relativism denies that anyone can say or believe anything false. Hence to be consistent Protagoras must concede that the denier of relativism says and believes something true. Consequently relativism is committed to saying that its own denial is true, and in this refutes itself. 3


Very simply stated, truth is the judgment expressed when we use the word "is." The verb"? asserts something about reality to which the statement conforms. In other words, the statement "This is so” expresses a state of existence that is real and not dependent on someone's belief in it to make it true. The reality being represented is objective, universal, and transcendent. This is precisely the logic by which we operate and the logic by which we either make statements about reality or make denials about what is not real.

It is of supreme importance to know that, as Mortimer Adler has said:

The logic of truth is the saw for all exclusionary claims to truth. Any claims that are correctly judged to be true also imply that all judgments to the contrary are false. The proposition may be a theorem in mathematics, a scientific generalization, a conclusion of historic research, a philosophical principle, or an article of faith.4

This leads us to the definition of an absolute. An absolute is basically in unchanging point of reference by which all other changes are measured. Each discipline brings with it a handful of certainties by which others are developed. Those certainties, if assumed, must be previously demonstrated when used as absolutes. In contrast, relativism in ethics denounces absolutes and erects an indefensible system that leaves all morality at the mercy of individual whim. Relativism is, therefore, only another word for anarchy, and that is why truth itself becomes elusive when there is no longer a point of reference.

Where, then, may one begin? There are fundamentally four questions that every thinking human being must answer the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. How did life come to be in the first place? To what purpose is my life? How may I choose between right and wrong? What happens to me when I die? When these questions are individually answered, the answers must be seen to correspond with reality. These answers are then collectively tested for coherence, that is, that they do not contradict each other. Answers that correspond with reality and fit into a coherent system provide the individual a world-view by which all of life's choices may then be made.

For the Christian, the starting point is God. He is the eternally existent one, the absolute, from whom we draw all definitions for life's purpose and destiny. This God does not expect us to come to Him in a vacuum. He has so framed this world and our minds that the laws of reason and logic we use lead us to the certainty of His being and assure us that we may know Him who is the source of all truth. At this point the argument is a bit rigorous, but it is vitally important. Philosopher Norman Geisler says, "In order of being God is first: but in order of knowing, logic leads us to all knowledge of God. God is the basis of all logic (in order of being), but logic is the basis of all knowledge of God (in order of knowing) 5 If one finds this statement too rigid, let us present it in a softer version. The right process of reasoning must at some point be invoked in order to defend the reality and "knowability" of God.


Here we run aground and face the first criticism from the skeptic: Are we not using logic with which to prove logic? The answer, to that is straightforward. The logical system is built on four fundamental laws, laws that are impossible to argue against without at the same time proving them. For the sake of brevity, let me discuss just two of them.

First is the Law of Non-contradiction. This law affirms that no two contradictory statements can be both true and false at the same time in the same sense. To deny the Law of Non-contradiction is only to affirm it, for to say that the Law of Non-contradiction is not true is to assume that the denial is true and the law is not. But that is precisely what the law says-that two contradictory, statements cannot both be true. There is no way to get around this.

The second foundational is the Law of Rational Inference. By that we mean that inferences can be made from what is known to what is unknown. No one can prove any point without the Law of Rational Inference. There are conclusions that-may be legitimately drawn when statements are true and the argument containing those statements is valid. Postmodern skeptics cannot tolerate the Law of Non-contradiction because of the rational inferences they draw from it--that truth does exist-but it is evident that they live by the implications of these laws. And what is more, one of the most fallacious ideas ever spawned in Western attitudes toward truth is the oft-repeated pronouncement that exclusionary claims to truth are a Western way of thinking. The East, it is implied, is all-inclusionary. This is patently false. Every religion, without exception, has some foundational beliefs that are categorically nonnegotiable and exclude everything to the contrary.

Truth by definition is exclusive. If truth were all-inclusive, nothing would be false. And if nothing were false, what would be the meaning of truth? Furthermore, if nothing were false, would it be true to-say that everything is false? It quickly becomes evident that nonsense would follow In short, therefore, truth boils down to two tests: Statements must correspond to reality, and any system of thought that is developed as a result must be coherent. The correspondence and coherence tests are applied by all of us in matters that affect us.

Therefore, when Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except through me," He was making a very reasonable statement by affirming truth's exclusivity. The question one may legitimately ask is whether He demonstrated that claim rather than just stating it.


Let us see, now, how Jesus responded to Pilate's question. The conversation had begun with Pilate asking Jesus if, indeed, He was a king. The very surprising answer of Jesus was, "Is that your idea, or did others talk to you about me? (John 18:34).

This is the first and most important step to understanding the nature of truth. In effect, Jesus was asking Pilate, if this was a genuine question or purely an academic one. He was not merely checking on Pilate's sincerity. He was opening up Pilate's heart to himself to reveal to Pilate his unwillingness to deal with the implications of Jesus' answer. Intent in the pursuit of truth is prior to content or to the availability of it. Author George MacDonald once said, "To give truth to him who loves it not is only to give him more plentiful reasons for misinterpretation."6 The love of truth and the willingness to submit to its demands is the first step.

But Jesus said something else that is even more extraordinary After identifying His Lordship in a kingdom that was not of this world, He said, "Everyone on the side of truth listens me° (John 18:37, italics mine). Jesus was not merely establishing the existence of truth but His pristine embodiment of it. He was identical to the truth. This meant that everything He said and did, and the life He lived in the flesh, represented that which was in keeping with ultimate reality. Therefore, to reject Him is to choose to govern oneself with a lie.


Let me take this point further. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He branded His creation "good "That word both defined reality and specified how we ought to live. Out of that relationship with God, all other relationships take their cue, including the use of language in defining the world. We read that Adam named the creatures. That naming was the work of man as sub-sovereign, defining reality in God's terms.

It was at this point that truth was tested. The temptation of Satan was the challenge to the first humans to take upon themselves the prerogative of God and redefine reality in their own terms. The lie entered, and truth was violated by rejecting the propositional revelation of God and contradicting His definitions of good and evil. By yielding to that temptation Adam and Eve "exchanged the truth of God, for a lie" and chose to create their own realities. This, as God had warned, led to death and destruction.

It is noteworthy that when the tempter came to Jesus in the wilderness the temptation was the same, namely, to make His own terms for, living. Jesus rejected this seduction by quoting the Word, i.e., the definitions of God. As mentioned earlier, it is interesting that Jesus quoted from the Book of Deuteronomy, which literally means the "second law." This was God's law reiterated to His people-not as heteronomy, with the state as the authority; not as an undefined theonomy, with intuition or culture as the authority; and not as autonomy with self as the authority. This was God's law as given in the beginning, and it represented the nature of reality as God had designed it. The opposite of Deuteronomy is autonomy, or self-law. It is in this context that we must understand Jesus' statement that the truthfulness of one's intent is revealed by the response to Him, for He is the fulfillment of God's law and the expression of His truth.


God's answers to the four basic questions, however, are not just proven by the process of abstract reasoning but are also sustained by the rigors of experience. And in the reality of history, He has demonstrated empirically the living out of truth in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son.

In short, the intimations of truth come in multisensory fashion. The Guardian of Reason leads us to check the correspondence of His word with reality and ascertain the coherence of the assertions. Our grand privilege is to know Him, to bring our lives into conformity with truth that leads us to that coherence within. He has said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31, 32). In a world increasingly enslaved by error and alienation, how wonderful to be freed by the truth to His peace. The Scriptures tells us that the enemy of our souls is the father of all lies. He will do anything to keep us from coming to the truth, because it is the most valuable thing in the world and leads us to the source of all truth, to God Himself.


To all of this the skeptic might say that such conclusions may be drawn only if the God of the Bible exists. To that I heartily answer, Absolutely! And on numerous campuses around the world it has been my thrilling privilege to present a defense for the existence of God and for the authority of the Scriptures, unique in their splendor and convincing in the truth they proclaim. But let us not miss what the skeptic unwittingly surrenders by saying that all this could be true only if God exists. For, implicit in that concession is the application of the Law of Non-contradiction and the Law of Rational Inference, which exist only if truth exists. Truth, in turn, can exist only if there is an objective standard by which to measure it. That objective, unchanging absolute is God.

I heard a cute little story, growing up in India. It is the story of a little boy who had lots of pretty marbles. But he was constantly eyeing his sister's bagful of candy. One day he said to her, "If you give me all your candy, I'll give you all of my marbles." She gave it much thought and agreed to the trade. He took all her candy and went back to his room to get his marbles. But the more he eyed-them the more reluctant he became to give them all up. So he hid the best of them under his pillow and took the rest to her. That night she slept soundly while he tossed mid turned restlessly, unable to deep and thinking, I wonder if she gave me all the candy.
I have often wondered, when I see our angry culture claiming that God has not given us enough evidence, if it is not the veiled restlessness of lives lived in doubt because of their own duplicity. God calls us all to enjoy His glorious truth. We believe, but not because we need to in order to make us feel better. We believe because truth survives in the end and it is truth that must be believed. What is more, when we trust Him who is the source of all truth there is an enjoyment in life beyond any momentary pleasure a lie can give. The battle in our time is posed as one of the intellect in the assertion that truth is unknowable. But that may be only a veneer for the real battle, that of the heart.

1. Malcolm Muggeridge, The Green Stick (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 19

2. George Cornell, “Religion and Ethics,” Houston Post, 7 July 1991.

3. Professor Allen Wood, Cornell University philosophy class lecture notes, 1993.

4. Mortimer Adler, Truth in Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1990)

5. Norman Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come, Let Us Reason (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker 1990), 17

6. George Macdonald, The Curate’s Awakening (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1985), 161

Extracted from Ravi Zacharias’ Deliver Us From Evil.

The Ineradicable Word

At the Mayoral Prayer Breakfast Washington, D.C., ten-year-old Ashley Danielle Oubré, delivered a memorable speech that brought the audience to its feet in two standing ovations. The brief but mind-stirring text follows.

Good morning, Mayor Barry, platform guests, ladies, and gentlemen. I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the leadership of the greatest city in the world on behalf of the children. I wondered what I would say to you when I was first asked if I would make a presentation. Being young limits the experience you have in most areas, but not as being a child.

Jesus said, “Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the kingdom.” When I think about my friends, who are all young people like myself, many things come to mind.

If you would like to be a child in God's kingdom, I will share some of what we think about and do.

Children play together, have lots of fun, and sometimes fight, but the very next day we makeup and play again. Wouldn't it be wonderful if mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, neighbors and our leaders would be more that way? It hurts us when we see you fighting and not making up.

When you tell us something, we believe it, and we don't ask many questions. We have faith and trust in you until we grow up and find it's really not that way with adults. I think you tell us Bible stories because we are children. The Bible stories do us a lot of good, but you don't tell each other Bible stories. Are they only good for children?

You teach us that when we have a problem, we should talk it out with-others and with Jesus. You say that we should pray about it and keep our hearts right for Jesus. You say that Jesus can solve all of our problems, both big and small. But we notice, when people get older and have problems, they are embarrassed to talk like that among themselves: We wonder if you really mean it, or is Jesus only for kids? I am still young enough to believe that Jesus knows how to solve my problems, the problems of the city, and of the world. I hope I never grow old enough to stop believing and that you all become like children in search of God's kingdom.
Thank you very much for listening to me. God bless you all! 1

The easiest response by a skeptic, even to such innocence, would be to dismiss this as childish simplicity at best, wandering in uncharted terrain and eliciting sentimental applause. But let us be clear of the adult-sized ramifications of this child's questions. Is the Bible merely a fanciful storybook, distorting reality? Or is it fantastically true, challenging the intellect against its escapist illusions? Is there truth for all of us within its pages, or is it only for those with superstitious and unsuspecting minds? Is this indeed the Word from God to us, or is it the fraudulent work of a few claiming divine superintendency?2

There is absolutely no doubt that the Christian message stands or falls upon the authenticity or spuriousness of the Bible. Believing it to be God's Word, millions across history have staked their lives upon it, destiny-defining trust has been placed in it; graveside hope has been based upon it; extraordinary good has been spread because of it, the charters of nations have been built upon it; others with equal intensity have sought to expel it; yet wrongheaded zeal has caused untold evil in its name. There is no book in history that has been so studied, so used, and so abused as the Holy Bible. How life-inspiring it would be to many more if only they could be indubitably certain of its truth. Can we muster the courage to face up to its claims of divine authorship?

Many routes could be taken in the defense of the uniqueness and authority of the Bible. The age-old approach would be to test its accuracy by measuring the authenticity of the present text of the Scriptures against the earliest extant documents. In such a venture scholars examine the text of Scripture as they would examine any-document, investigating such things as authorship, date, historical reliability, and acceptability at the time of writing. This approach is obviously foundational because if these matters cannot be verified all else must stand on a leap of faith.

In addition, the supernatural nature of the content is important to consider, for example, miraculous claims such as fulfilled prophecies and the ultimate assertion of Christ's divinity and power in His resurrection from the dead. Still other buttressing factors-such as the sheer volume of early manuscripts, which is unmatched by any other writing of such antiquity--make the evidentiary basis quite overwhelming.

When the archaeological and philosophical defenses are added to these arguments, a very powerful case can and has been made for trusting the Bible to be what it claims to be.

Instead of dealing with the question in the traditional way, because much is already available in that genre, my present response focuses on die authority of the Bible in the existential struggles of life, particularly as we cope with evil.


First and, foremost, the Bible is the only book in the world that points to a life perfectly lived amidst the grim realities and alluring forces of human existence. Pore over the countless pages written across time, and it becomes quickly evident that the founders of various religions or cults fall short in their own lives, not only when measured against the supreme standard of the Law of God, but even when measured by the standards they themselves have espoused. Biographical sketches of some who today have a following in the millions should only make one wonder how lives so poorly and immorally lived could be so revered.

In contrast to all of them, the life of Christ stands supreme and impeccable. The recognition of this uniqueness in the person of Christ has been readily expressed by some of history's greatest scholars, both those who are avowedly Christian and those distinctly non-Christian. (An example of the latter would be the historian W. E. H. Lecky who, in A History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne II, granted the impact of Christ as unequaled in word and deed.) So incredible is this unblemished life that, in an effort to make his own defeated aspirations seem normal, the noted intellectual Nikos Kazantzakis, in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ, tried desperately to construct a Christ who succumbed to the impulse of sensuality. Kazantzakis failed in his pathetic bid bemuse he robbed himself of the life-changing truth that it was Christ's purity that made His empowering grace possible, not the indulgence Kazantzakis tried to fabricate.

How grand is a life so perfectly lived, a life that resisted every enticement of lust, greed, and power even in its most seductive forms. Pontius Pilate, the power seeker, said of Him, "I find no fault in this man." The convicted criminal hanging by Him said of Jesus, "This man has done nothing amiss." The religious leaders who saw Him as a threat to their demagoguery mounted the farcical charge that He was healing on the Sabbath and therefore He was ceremonially vile.

Is it any wonder that even the outcasts of society clamored for His spotless presence and that a devout though rich man like Joseph of Arimathea offered a tomb for His burial? A learned man like Nicodemus sought Han out because he saw in Him a wisdom beyond anyone he had ever known. He whose dwelling was in the heavenlies attracted even those whose lives were marred and scarred by every pollution of the earth.

This One who lived with such perfection pointed to the authority of the Word when He said, "The Scripture cannot be broken." He spoke of the eternality of the Word when He said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will never pass away." He pointed to the centrality of the Word when the Devil tried to tempt Him in the subtlest form of evil-to use His power for self-aggrandizement rather than for the honor of God. The Word reflected the character of God. That reflection was merely propositional in the Scriptures, but it was lived out in the life of Jesus. What good would the Law have been if its very author could not demonstrate its purity?

At the 1994 Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C:, Mother Teresa delivered a soul-searching address in which she touched upon the sensitive theme of abortion. When a reporter afterword asked President Clinton what he thought of her remarks he simply stated, "It is very hard to argue against a life so well lived." If the life of Mother Teresa is considered a life so well lived, what should be said about the greater life of the One worshiped by her and by millions of others? We would do well to listen to His seal and verdict on the written Word.

One may, of course, ask whether the argument is not circular: We believe the Bible because Jesus affirms it to be true. We believe Jesus because the Bible says He is the Truth. The question is a fair one. But this is where the Bible stands uniquely among other religious-books claiming divine authority.

The Bible is a book whose facts can be tested outside of itself. The historical, geographical, archaeological, and prophetic data can be verified from outside the Scriptures. When sixty-six books covering a two-thousand-year span and written by approximately thirty-seven authors coalesce with such singularity, purpose, and empirical verifiability, the argument can hardly be considered circular. An honest investigation of such intricate convergences actually bespeaks a very profound moral and historical sense, dating back over four thousand years. The Bible is more than a book pointing to itself. Its attestations are multifaceted.


The second aspect of scriptural authority is revealed in its intellectual breadth. From the beginning to the end the narrative is rich in simplicity, so that even a child can grasp the truth of its stories. Yet it is so profound in its exposition of great theological themes that it has challenged the best of thinking minds and inspired the greatest of artistic genius. The stories are varied enough to apply to the king who hosted a feast-, to the politician who sought the best seat in the banquet; to the athlete who ran a race; to the soldier who went to war, to the widow who lacked any income; to the shepherd who lost his sheep; to the father of a wayward son; to the fisherman who cast his nets; to the needy who longed for acceptance. In rich parable, illustration, and action Jesus spoke so that both the child and the rabbi craned their necks to hear Him.

It is very possible to miss just how meaningful is this truth. By contrast, in the religious books of another tradition a profound understanding of one particular language is necessary to even recognize the so-called miracle of the book. In the tradition of yet another, there is debate as to who is even qualified to interpret it, necessitating the birthright of a particular station in life to do so. These terribly restricting impositions do not apply to the understanding of the Scriptures. In fact, Jesus reprimanded His disciples when they discouraged children from coming to Hun while fawning over those who were society's favored sons and daughters. Till this very day stories both from the Old Testament and the New Testament, such as Solomon settling the dispute between two women who claimed to be the mother of the same child and the father waiting for the prodigal son to return, are told to eager minds, whether old or young.

It all makes sense. Why would a God who cares so particularly for the weak and disenfranchised of this world make it difficult for them to understand Him? In the middle of one of His sternest warnings to an unrepentant generation, Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to, little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure" (Matt. 11:25,26). It is not accidental that in the darkest days of slavery in America the spirituals rang with simplicity and splendor, beckoning the slaves to steal their hearts away to Jesus or to think of that great crossing over one day into freedom and the Promised Land. Educated or uneducated, adult or child, bond or free-the Word has always been within the reach of all.

There is an important point to be made here lest a greater truth be missed. These are not just simple anecdotes or illustration that Jesus used, not communication ploys to weave some fanciful tale. These stories, interwoven with the truths of history that narrate the very birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, address the existential struggle in the human heart for deliverance from the reality of evil. This method reinforces for us that the Scriptures are not inspired just in content, but also in form. Author Eugene Peterson comments on this.

Storytelling creates a world of presuppositions, assumptions and relations into which we enter. Stories invite us into a world other than ourselves, and if they are good and true stories, a world larger than ourselves.... The minute we abandon the story, we reduce the reality to the dimensions of our minds and feelings and experience.... This is in contrast to the ancient preference for myth-making, which more or less turns us into spectators of the supernatural. It is also in contrast to the modem preference for moral philosophy which puts us in charge of our own salvation. "Gospel story" is a verbal way of accounting for reality that, like the incarnation that is its subject, is simultaneously divine and human., It reveals, that is, it shows us something we could never come up with on our own by observation or experiment or guess, and at the same time it engages, it brings us into the action as recipients and participants but without dumping the responsibility on us for making it turn out right. 3

Peterson goes on to point out how this form delivers us from both extremes, the one of becoming frivolous spectators always pining to be entertained by another story, the other of being anxious moralists, taking on the burdens of the world. In short, the story is more than just an illustration. It shoulders the truth of reality.

Have these not been the same extremes to which the modern mind has succumbed in facing evil? On the one hand, we read story after story in the front page and succumb to becoming spectators in a journalists' arena. On the other hand we hear myriad moral philosophers offering yet another theory to address the scourge of crime. In the Scriptures there is a wholesomeness in the connecting of all of life, protecting us from a sense of entertainment when the reality should hurt and from pessimism when the hope is real. In other words, the headline story of a mother who kills her children is not lost to God in the weight of world politics and global issues. He who took pains to tell us of the sick son of a Roman soldier or of the man without sight who stationed himself at the temple in search of a cure must hurt with the things that break the heart of the individual, and He bends law not only to lift up the cause of the victim but to offer help to the victimizer.

Some of us may recall a particular author upon whom the death sentence was pronounced for "blasphemy and irreverence shown to his religious heritage and his "holy book." Clearly the work was very disrespectful and mocking of a belief that millions held sacred. But by equal measure one must wonder about the irrationality of calling for a death sentence upon the writer. When a representative of that religion was asked on national television how such a sentence could be pronounced in disregard for the individual's right, the answer was definitive of the philosophy. "In our belief," he said, "the individual is dispensable; the cause must go on."

Here then is the cardinal difference. Jesus left the ninety-nine to search for the one, because the individual does matter. When we lose sight of people to pursue our own personal gain or when we devalue the individual in the name of cosmic priorities, we forget this truth and approach the core of evil. The Bible tells us that God knows even when a sparrow falls to the ground, that He adorns the lilies of the field, and that the very hairs of our heads are numbered. That is the degree to which His care is personal.

Jesus said, "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds! ... Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" (Luke 12:24, 27-28). By contrast He reminds us that "the nations are like a drop in a bucket; ... he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust" (Isa. 40:15). The end of history will reveal the hollowness of national pursuit and the eternal value of each and every individual. History is His story told in individual hearts.

There is a third aspect of God's unique revelation in the Scriptures, the transcultural nature of His Truth. The Bible is neither Eastern nor Western but applicable to every culture, because the truth of life's purpose must always transcend any cultural shortsightedness. The imagery with which Jesus speaks so clearly addresses the Eastern mind. The parable of the ten women with their lamps waiting for the bridegroom to arrive engenders a wealth of sentiments to the Eastern reader. Anyone who has spent any time in the East can immediately envision the bridal procession, instruments playing and the accompanying throng rejoicing, making its way with the groom to the home of the bride. The whole picture is Eastern to this very day.

On the other hand, there is a touch here and there of the impact of Christ that would today be more readily identified in the West than in the East. He talks, for example, of the tyranny of the employer who lords it over the one who serves him, and He says true character is not to be found in commanding or suppressing other people but in serving one another. This reality of the dignity of labor is far more manifest in the West than it is in the East.

The impact of the gospel cannot be gainsaid on this matter. The disregard for essential human worth and the slavish pandering that is inflicted upon so much of humankind in parts of the world where the servant is considered to be inferior as a person is a terrible scourge upon people. Who we are should always be prior to what we do. Even the atheist Bertrand Russell admitted that it was debatable whether the method espoused by Mahatma Gandhi in calling for independence from the British would have succeeded except that it appealed to the conscience of a nation that had been influenced by the gospel. Today in Gandhi's ashram in the city of Ahmedabad in central India, Russell's quotation greets each visitor. How transculturally noteworthy that, in a predominantly Hindu nation, a quote by an atheist testifies to the impact of Christ upon nations- both East and West, enjoining respect toward every human being.

Only in biblical terms do we see how God is able to humble each of us without humiliating us and to elevate all of us without flattering any of us. The West today lives off the capital of the Christian faith without realizing it. The work ethic of the West and the belief in the dignity of labor are biblically based. And the same equality applies in matters of race and gender, two turbulent conflicts of our time.

Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at. Boston College elaborates on this marvelous truth of equality that retains a difference. He demonstrates that in God's economy there is an egalitarianism in people but an elitism in ideas. By that he means the equality of all humanity but the inequality of ideas. While human beings are equal, ideas are not. By contrast, in the world's way of doing things we have created an elitism, among people and an egalitarianism of ideas: We have made some people superior to others and rendered all ideas equal. The end result has been the exploitation of people and the death of truth. And that is why we have an epidemic of evil that denudes people but fights for ideas.


One final argument for the authority of the Scriptures that I present is the power of this book to touch the spirit by fax-using on the holiness of God rather than mandating a-set of do's and don’ts as if that were at the heart of spirituality. Jesus has clearly pointed out where the root of wickedness lies.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, *Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the am First o and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary (Matt. 5:21-24)

In the same manner Jesus proceeds with the issue of lust. It was not the act of adultery alone that He spoke against, but dwelling on lustful thoughts from which adultery sprang. Does this not then address issues like pornography and violence, where thoughts sow the seeds of evil? In a similar manner He addresses the sanctity of the word, that our yes should mean yes without having to pile oath upon oath. He speaks to the terrible and unstoppable bent to exact personal revenge upon every wrong of the past. Finally, Jesus climaxes that segment of His teaching by telling us that love is at the heart of all relationships and that without love, hate and anger will rule. Jesus gets to the heart-sot to a set of rules that can be observed while the heart still rebels.

By setting the problem in its root form rather than in its flowering, Jesus directs us then to the holiness of God, the glimpse we need to touch our spirits. All the rules in the world cannot change a heart or make a person righteous. Only as the spirit is touched by the Spirit of God does the soul rise in worship and true goodness flow:

One of the greatest masterpieces of music composition, if not the greatest, is the work of George Frideric Handel simply called Messiah. Prior to its composition Handel had not been successful as a musician and had retired from much professional activity by the age of fifty-six. Then, in a remarkable series of events, a friend presented him with a libretto based on the life of Christ, the entire script of which was Scripture. Handel shut himself in his room on Brook Street in London. In twenty-four days, breathtakingly absorbed in this composition and hardly eating or drinking, Handel completed the work all the way to its orchestration. He was a man in the grip of profound inspiration. Later, as he groped for words to describe what he had experienced, he quoted Saint Paul, saying, "Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote I know it not."4 Handel's servant testified that on one occasion when he walked into the room to plead with him to eat, he saw Handel with tears streaming down his face saying, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." 5

When Messiah was staged in London, as the notes of the Hallelujah Chorus rang out-"King of Kings and Lord of Lords.... And He shall reign forever and ever"--the king of England, drawn irresistibly, stood to his feet, and the audience followed as one.

Listen to how one writer sums up the impact of Messiah:

Handel personally conducted more than thirty performances of Messiah, many of these concerts were for the benefit of the hurting and the needy. "Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan.... ° Another wrote, "Perhaps the works of no other composer have so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering." Still another said, "Messiah's music has done more to convince thousands of mankind that there is a God about us than all the theological works ever written."6

Even if overstated, the point is well taken. The work was based entirely on Scripture. The focus was on the person of Christ. The spirit of a man was enraptured by the holiness of God. A king rose spontaneously to his feet. The people followed his example. The first performance was a charitable benefit to raise money to free 42 people from prison who could not pay their debts. In the prison of suffering and evil within which the whole world now lives, the same Messiah offers us deliverance.

Young Ashley Oubre, is right. Her future, Western civilization's future, and indeed, the world's future, will depend on the answer to her question. Will we restore to the Bible its rightful authority or leave it for young minds till they can grow into our evil-ridden world? Only that which is ineradicable and true can counter that which must be eradicated and false. This preeminent role against the false ideas that are the root cause of evil is that of the Scriptures.

1. Ashley Danielle Oubré, Used by permission.

2 An annotated bibliography dealing writing this subject follows this Appendix. As demeaning as the comment may seem, it must be said that some recent attacks on the historicity of the New Testament by radical scholars from groups such as the Jesus Seminar are so prejudicial and bizarre that even noted liberal scholars have rejected their ill-founded deductions. Such absurdity notwithstanding, these attacks have nevertheless been responded to by conservative scholars. If the defense of the Scriptures were made on such sparse accumulation of evidence as that upon which these extreme views have been constructed, the proponents of those theories would have scornfully dismissed such defense as unworthy of any response. But a tabloid mentality prevails in these matters even in respected journals, and even the most aberrant thesis gains legitimacy when a doctoral degree after the author's name is placed in the byline. There is no other explanation for the credulity of such intellectuals other than that they want to believe the spurious and desire to be so duped.

3. Eugene H. Peterson, Subversive Christianity (Vancouver. Regent College Bookstore, I994), 4-5.

4. Patrick Kavanaugh, The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers (Nashville: Sparrow Press, 1992), 5

5. Hertha Pauli, Handel and the Messiah Story (New York. Meredith,1968), 51

6. Kavanaugh, 6.

Extracted from Ravi Zacharias’ Deliver Us From Evil.

The “Startling Coalescence of Contrarieties"

He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him, and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine.

No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break, his whole life was love, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all of our stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes.

He saved others, yet at the last Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.

– James Stewart, Scottish theologian

Word-Faith Movement

Word-Faith Movement
by Clete Hux

Founder/Founding date: As a movement rather than an organized group, there is no founder or founding date, per se. The philosophical roots extend to Gnosticism. E.W. Kenyon (1860-?) was perhaps the earliest modern exponent to blend the movement's eastern mystical and New Age elements with Christian teaching.

Official Publications: None. Two prominent publications are Kenneth Copeland's "Believer's Voice of Victory" and Kenneth Hagin's "The Word of Faith" magazines. There are scores of books, newsletters, pamphlets by various authors Hagin, Kenyon, Copeland, Capps, Price, etc.

Organizational Structure: Has no key universally acknowledged leader or central headquarters. The teachers of the movement all have their own churches and followings.

Unique Terms: The God-kind of faith; the force of faith; the Anointing; spirit-man; spiritual death of Christ; born-again Jesus; authority of the believer.
Other Names: Word-of-Faith, Positive Confession, Faith-formula, Health & Wealth Gospel.


Born in 1860, E. W. Kenyon is generally recognized as the founding father of the modern Word-Faith Movement. Beginning as a Methodist, he became quite ecumenical, associating with the Baptists. Some of his work even resulted in the founding of a few Primitive Baptist Churches. Late in life, Kenyon moved into Pentecostalism. At the same time, he combined elements of the metaphysical cults, such as Christian Science, New Thought theology, and Unity School of Christianity (D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, pp. 31-35). "The doctrines of correct thinking and believing accompanied by positive confession, with the result of calling a sickness a symptom (denial of reality supported by a Gnostic dualism) are not found in Christian writings until after New Thought and its offspring had begun to develop them. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to state that the doctrine originated and developed in these cults, and was later absorbed by Christians in their quest to develop a healing ministry" (H. Terris Neuman, An Analysis of the Sources of the Charismatic Teaching of Positive Confession, p. 43).

Though obviously not the movement's originator, some have also called Kenneth Hagin the "grand-daddy of the faith teachers" (Sherry Andrews, "Kenneth Hagin ‹ Keeping the Faith," Charisma, October 1981, p. 24). In a survey of readers of Charisma (a major Charismatic magazine) concerning those ministers that influence them the most, Kenneth Hagin was 3rd, ranked behind only TV evangelist Pat Robertson, and the heir apparent to the Word-Faith movement throne, Kenneth Copeland (Kenneth Hagin, Jr., Charisma,"Trend Toward the Faith Movement," August 1985, pp. 67-70).


Word-Faith teachers claim that God operates by spiritual law and is obliged to obey the faith-filled commands and desires of believers. He not only reveals prosperity teaching supernaturally to the Word-Faith teachers, but personally and verbally confirms their unique interpretations of Scripture (Copeland, Laws of Prosperity, pp. 60-62).

They say the Abrahamic Covenant is the basis for commanding God to do His part in the covenant. Robert Tilton says, "we make our own promises to do our part, then we can tell God, on the authority of His word, what we would like Him to do. That's right, you can actually tell God what you would like His part in the Covenant to be" (God's Miracle Plan for Man, p. 36). Kenneth Copeland says, "as a believer, you have a right to make commands in the name of Jesus. Each time you stand on the Word, you are commanding God to a certain extent, because it is His Word" (Our Covenant with God, p. 32). Copeland goes so far as to say that "God was the lesser party and Abraham was the greater" in the covenant between them (Copeland, Legal and Vital Aspects of Redemption, 1985, Audio Tape #01-0403).

The Faith teachers also make God into a big man. Copeland says, "God is...a being that stands somewhere around 6'-2," 6'-3," that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred pounds, little better, and has a hand span of nine inches across" (Spirit, Soul, and Body, 1985, Tape #01-0601). Morris Cerillo, in an alleged out-of-body experience, describes God: "Suddenly, in front of this tremendous multitude of people, the glory of God appeared. The form that I saw was about the height of a man 6 feet tall, maybe taller, and twice as broad as a human body, with no distinguishing features such as eyes, nose, or mouth" (The Miracle Book, pp. x-xi).

Word-Faith teachers say that not only is God a big man, but man is a little god. Kenneth Hagin has asserted, "man...was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God's presence without any consciousness of inferiority.... He made us the same class of being that He is Himself.... He lived on terms equal with God.... The believer is called Christ, that's who we are; we're Christ" (Zoe: The God Kind of Life, pp. 35-36, 41). "God's reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself...He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even" (Copeland, Following the Faith of Abraham, 1989, Tape #01-3001). He also proclaims, "You don't have a God in you ‹ you are one!" (Copeland, The Force of Love, 1987, Tape #02-0028). Morris Cerillo says "the whole purpose of God was to reproduce Himself.'re not looking at Morris Cerillo, you're looking at God, you're looking at Jesus" (The End Time Manifestation of the Sons of God, Audio Tape 1, Sides 1 &;2).

The deity of Christ is compromised. Kenneth Copeland, in relating what Christ supposedly told him, says, "don't be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you are God...the more you get to be like Me, the more they are going to think that way of you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn't claim I was God. I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was with Me" (Copeland, "Take Time to Pray," Believer's Voice of Victory, #15, 2 February 1987, p. 9). "Jesus was on the earth just a man, not the son of God" (Frederick K.C. Price, Tape #RP 19, May 1993). And Kenneth Hagin says, "You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was" (The Word of Faith, December 1980, p. 14).

The very important doctrine of the atonement of Christ is distorted. Frequently Word-Faith teachers unduly over-emphasize the spiritual death instead of the physical death of Christ. "Physical death will not remove sins" (Hagin, The Name of Jesus, p. 29). In other words, it took the spiritual death of Jesus to atone for sins. "Do you think that the punishment of our sins was to die on the cross? If that was the case, the two thieves could have paid our price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God" (K. C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1990, p. 7).

According to Word-Faith teachers, when Adam rebelled, or "committed high treason," he not only betrayed God by turning over to Satan what God had given him, he also took on the nature of Satan. So, to redeem mankind and creation from Satan's legal control, Jesus, as the second Adam, had to die not only physically but spiritually. This may be acceptable among some evangelicals. But where it has led Word-Faith teachers is not. They say Jesus not only bore our sins on Calvary, but also took on the actual nature of Satan himself. "Just as Adam died spiritually, Jesus died spiritually. The spiritual death He suffered caused His physical body to die.... When Jesus accepted the sin nature of Satan into His Spirit He cried 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' He was separated from God... He was ushered into the bowels of hell" (Kenneth Copeland, Classic Redemption, p. 13; emphasis added). "Spiritual death means having Satan's nature" (Hagin, The Name of Jesus, p. 31).
Just a man on earth, and taking on the nature of Satan at the cross, Jesus becomes just a sinner in need of redemption. At the resurrection Jesus is a born again man from the pit of hell. "Jesus was born again in the pit of Hell....The Church started when Jesus was born again in the gates of Hell" (Charles Capps, Authority In Three Worlds, pp. 212 13).

Other Doctrines
1) Positive Confession: The Theology of the Spoken Word (Rhematology), or thought actualization, is commonly known as positive confession. It stresses the inherent power of words and thoughts. Each person predestines his own future by what he says verbally and by how well he uses spiritual laws. As such, it is as if we live in a mechanistic universe instead of a personal one (see, Kenneth Copeland, Laws of Prosperity, p. 15; Charles Capps, The Tongue A Creative Force, pp. 117-118; Releasing the Ability of God, pp. 98-99, 101-104).

2) The Gospel of Health: Isaiah 53 is used to justify blanket coverage for the physical healing of every Christian who has enough faith. " is the plan of our Father God in His great love and His great mercy that no believer should ever be sick, that every believer should live his life full span down here on earth and that every believer should finally just fall asleep in Jesus" (Hagin, Seven Things You Should Know About Divine Healing, p. 21). Hagin also denies having a headache for forty-five years, labeling such as "simply symptoms rather than any indication of a headache" (In the Name of Jesus, p. 44).

3) The Gospel of Wealth: A central tenet of the prosperity gospel is that God wills the financial prosperity of every Christian. If a believer lives in poverty, he/she is living outside God's intended will. "You must realize that it is God's will for you to prosper" (Copeland, Laws of Prosperity, p. 51).


1) God is the unique, Sovereign of the Universe (1 Timothy 6:15). God is pure spirit (John 4:24). There is no biblical basis for teaching that God has His own body, as an essential part of His nature or being. This would be more in line with Mormonism than orthodox Christianity.

2) Man is unique from the rest of Creation, but is not Divine. He was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27; 9:6), but bearing God's image does not make him a "little god." By definition, God is an "uncreated" or self-existent Being. Obviously, humans were created and therefore are not self-existent or divine; only God has a divine nature (Galatians 4:8; Isaiah 1:6-11, 43:10, 44:6; Ezekiel 28:2; Psalms 8:6-8).

3) Christ is Eternal, the Only Begotten Son, and the Only Incarnation of God (John 1:1, 2, 15; 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:1). In Him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). By receiving the limitations of humanity (Philippians 2:6-7) Jesus forwent the exercise of some of His prerogatives as God. But He did not cease to be God. It is also impossible for the natures of God or man (Christ was both on earth) to cease being what they are.

4) The nature of the atonement had to do with Jesus' physical death on the cross being the payment for sins (Hebrews 9:22). Christ said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), which translates tetelistai meaning "paid for in full." Payment for our sins took place on the cross (Matt. 26:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; Col. 1:20-22; Heb. 10:10, 12, 14, 19 20). There was nothing more to pay beyond the cross (Heb. 10:18).
5) God is the only One who ever created reality by the power of His Word (Genesis 1:3). He does not have or need "faith." Faith is depending on something outside ourselves. If God depends upon something outside Himself, He is not Supreme and therefore not God. Man, not God, is in need of faith. The faith referenced in Mark 11:22 and Hebrews 11:3 is clearly "the faith which has God as its object," not "the kind of faith that God has

6) The use of words for Positive Confession ‹ One may help or hurt another by words of encouragement or condemnation, by telling the truth or misleading, etc. But to treat words as if they were some "star wars" type weapon by which reality is manipulated or altered is not biblical, but occultic.


A Different Gospel (Updated Edition) D.R. McConnell. Warns of the movement's cultic nature in its doctrine of healing and its understanding of the atonement, and demonstrates how far the movement's doctrine of prosperity is from Scripture's true teaching. Chapter end-notes, Bibliography, 195 pages, softcover.
Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff. Documents the antibiblical doctrines of the Word-Faith Movement and shows their systematic subversion of the historic Christian faith. Appendices, Notes, Bibliography, Scripture and Subject indexes, 447 pages, hardcover.

© Copyright 2000 Watchman Fellowship, Inc..

Word Faith Theology and Mormonism

Teaching that God, who is pure spirit (James 4:24), has His own spirit body is to teach something definitely not found in Scripture. There is no biblical basis for such a teaching. This teaching would be more in line with Mormonism than orthodox Christianity.


Kenneth Copeland teaches that God created the Universe, and everything therein, out of a spiritual substance known as faith, by forming a mental picture of the creation in "the insides of Him," then by using words as containers for His "faith," projected the image outwardly into the reality of creation.

For example, in his tape, Spirit, Soul, and Body, Copeland says, "Faith is real, is a power, is a force. It's used by God at His will. This world and everything in it was created by Him and He used His faith to do it. Now you couldn't really and truly say that He created it out of nothing because faith is something, the whole thing was born out of the force of faith that was resident inside the being of God."
Copeland's misunderstanding of faith and creation has a New Age ring to it. If the universe was created out of God's faith, and if this faith is the actual life and personality of God, then the creation is merely an extension of God (pantheism or panentheism), thus making all things divine.

In his tape, Following the Faith of Abraham, Copeland asserts, "You don't think God created man in His image and created the earth in some other image, huh? There's nothing under the whole sun that's new-This is a copy of home-a copy of the mother planet. Where God lives, He made a little one just like it and put us on it."
Evidently to Copeland, God lives on a big earth just like the smaller one humans live on, since everything images the things of God.

There is a striking similarity here to Mormonism which teaches that "God is supposed to have lived on a planet near a mysterious star called Kolob" (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 428).


Gloria Copeland, Kenneth Copeland's wife, stated in The Believer's Voice of Victory that, "when God breathed the breath of life into Adam, He transmitted His very self into him. God imparted the same spiritual substance of which He is made into Adam's being" (Believer's Voice of Victory, June, 1986, p. 10).

In his sermon tape, Following the Faith of Abraham, Kenneth Copeland teaches that God created Adam a god (having the same attributes as God Himself): "And Adam is as much like God as you can get, just the same as Jesus when He came into the earth. And I want you to know something ¾ Adam in the garden of Eden was God manifested in the flesh." We now see that Brigham Young of Mormonism isn't the only one who has taught the Adam-God theory (Deseret News, 16 June 1973), but also Kenneth Copeland. (parenthesis mine).

In The Force of Love, another sermon tape, Kenneth Copeland states, "You don't have a god in you, you are one."

Kenneth Hagin in Word of Faith says, "You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was. Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth" (December 1980, p. 14).

Earl Paulk of the Harvester Church in Atlanta, Georgia, in his work, Satan Unmasked, explains it like this: "Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods; we have trouble comprehending this truth. Until we comprehend that we are little gods, we cannot manifest the kingdom of God" (p. 97).

In his book Agony of Deceit, Michael Horton has documented Kenneth Copeland in a 19 July 1987 crusade as saying, "I say this and repeat it so it don't upset you too bad. When I read in the Bible where He (Jesus) says, I AM, I say, Yes, I am too!" (p. 268). In John 8:58, I AM is a self proclamation of Jesus' own unique Deity from Exodus 3:14, 15.

Dave Hunt, in his book Seduction of Christianity, documents Casey Treat, pastor of Seattle's Christian Faith Center, as saying in his tape series Believing in Yourself that we're exact duplicates of God. "I'm an exact duplicate of God! When God looks in the mirror He sees me! When I look in the mirror, I see God! Oh, hallelujah! You know, sometimes people say to me, when they're mad and want to put me down. You just think you're a little god. Thank you! Hallelujah! You got that right! Who'd you think you are, Jesus? Yep!...Are you listening to me? Are you kids running around here acting like gods? Why not? God told me to! Since I'm an exact duplicate of God, I'm going to act like God!"

One of WOF's proof texts for them being little gods is Psalms 82:6. If one looks carefully, it is apparent that God is mocking the judges (gods) who had perverted justice. He (God) says, "I say ye are gods, nevertheless, you will die as mere men" (vss. 6 & 7). This is the same proof text the Mormons use to say one can become a god.

It is also a contradiction that if one is a god that one should die as a man. God is mocking and in a real sense condemning those that would arrogantly try to lift themselves to such status.

As is seen with Casey Treat, another problem with WOF teachers is their misunderstanding of the meaning of man being made in the image of God. To use Treat's own illustration of looking in the mirror, when one does look, what one sees is one's own reflection. The image is not reality. The image is only a reflection of one's reality. One reflects God's image (some of His qualities) but one is not God.
Granted that man is the apex of God's creation and as such is completely different from the rest of creation, but being God's image does not mean that one is a little god. Humans are not divine by nature. God is divine. "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods." (Galatians 4:8, also see Isaiah 1:6-11, 43:10, 44:6; Gen. 1:26, 28, 3:4-5; Ezekiel 28:2; Psalm 8:6-8).


Michael Horton points out in Agony of Deceit, that "any teaching that denies that Christ as `the only begotten Son, the One and Only incarnation of God' is heresy" (p. 269; John 3:16, 1:14,18; I John 4:1). It is important to point this out.

Kenneth Copeland, in Believer's Voice of Victory, in relating to what Christ told him says, "Don't be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you're God -the more you get to be like me, the more they're going to think that way of you. They crucified me for claiming that I was God. But I didn't claim I was God, I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in me" (August 1988, p. 8).
The early Gnostic heretic, Cerinthus, taught that Jesus was just a man, becoming divine only at Baptism. At the cross, the Holy Spirit left Him, leaving Jesus devoid of His divine nature - once again He was just a man (Baker's Dictionary of Theology, Corinthians, p. 113).

Copeland seems to advocate the same thing in the same Believer's Voice of Victory, Aug. 1988 issue when he says, "He voluntarily gave up that advantage, living His life here not as God but as a man. He had no innate supernatural powers. He had no ability to perform miracles until after He was anointed by the Holy Spirit as recorded in Luke 3:22." This is needed to understand the WOF's teaching on Jesus' spiritual death.

In God's Will for You, Gloria Copeland states, "Jesus experienced the same spiritual death that entered man in the garden of Eden" (p. 3). This can not be so because Adam's death in the garden was due to disobedience where Jesus' death on the cross was due to obedience. (Phil. 2: 8b).

In The Name of Jesus, Kenneth Hagin defines spiritual death as "something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan's nature¼Jesus tasted death - spiritual death - for every man" (p. 31).

To many in the WOF movement, the emphasis is not on the physical death of Jesus (which is what the Bible emphasizes, i.e., "without shedding of blood is no remission," see Hebrews 9:12, 14, 15, 22) but on the spiritual death of Christ.
On his tape, What Happened From the Cross to the Throne, Copeland says, "When (Jesus) said, `It is finished' He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption had just begun. There was still three days and three nights to be gone through before He went to the throne" (parenthesis mine).

This is in direct opposition to what Christ said on the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The word is tetelistai meaning "paid for in full." There was nothing more to pay for beyond the cross. If there was, Jesus would not have said to the thief on the cross, "To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43), but instead would have said, "Today you will be with Me in hell."

© Copyright 2000 Watchman Fellowship, Inc..

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Establishment of a Worldview

We enter here into what may be legitimately called the heart of the process; failing here, we fail everywhere. The necessary ingredients that make up a world view are not thrown together in a haphazard fashion. Neither are they composed tendentiously to fit a prejudiced conclusion. Starting with self-evident statements, both direct and indirect, we proceed to the establishment of a truth-centered world view. When that is established, it must meet certain tests to distinguish knowledge from mere opinion.

In The Case for Christian Theism, Arlie J. Hoover listed a number of necessary components for establishing a world view. I shall mention five of them, and then add one more important aspect.

(1) A good world view will have a strong foundation in correspondence; it will have factual support. Conversely, it will refuse that which is known to be false. It must harness all areas of reality and not retain a selective sovereignty. To refuse to include facts that challenge the thesis or to arbitrarily make some subservient to others because they better fit a predetermined conclusion betrays a prejudice that distorts the world view.

(2) A good world view should have a high degree of coherence or internal consistency. A logically contradictory system cannot be true. To be internally consistent it cannot have contradicting deductions, regardless of what "experiential needs" are met in the process. Let me illustrate these two characteristics of correspondence and coherence. Very recently, I was able to witness a criminal trial involving child rape at the Old Bailey in London. The atmosphere was tense, filled with all of the attendant emotions-agony, anger, and drama. It became very clear that the attorneys were seeking to do two things. First, they wanted to bring either certainty or doubt into the allegations, depending upon the client they represented. Second, they wanted to determine how the alleged facts all fit together. They explored issues such as time and location by questioning witnesses, and with this wealth of information tried to show either coherence or incoherence.

It was impossible to listen to these proceedings without realizing that truth could not stand on isolated statements: it had to fit the alleged story. Further, it was impossible to escape the fact that whichever way the judgment went, it would change the lives of the principals unafterably. Such a scenario, with all its implications, must be enacted scores of times every day in our world. The pursuit of correspondence to fact and the coherence of the whole, even in specific beliefs, cannot be expunged from the process of reaching accurate conclusions. This is true in court trials and in every other aspect of life.

(3) A good world view has explanatory power. The collation of facts leads to initial postulations, from whence we devise our theories, our hypotheses, and then finally delineate our "laws." United facts and integrated deductions lead to systems. Facts ultimately do not just speak for themselves; they help build a theory, or provide the prescriptive elements, the eyeglasses, through which we view the world.

(4) A good world view will avoid two extremes. This means, said Hoover, that a good world view will be neither too simple nor too complex. He uses the famous "Occam's razor test." William of Occam (1300-1349) supposedly said, "Do not multiply entities without necessity," which basically means that we are to resist the temptation to make our explanations too complex. If an explanation becomes too complex, Occam's razor will cut it off. On the other hand, an explanation should not become so simplistic that it commits the reductive fallacy. To make man an incomprehensible entity is to go to one extreme. To consider him a mere brute is to reduce him to the other extreme. A good world view, therefore, is neither too simple nor too complex in its explanatory power.

(5) A good world view has more than one line of evidence, not just one knock-out argument. Cumulative evidence converges from several sources of data. Hoover's illustration of the metaphysician being like a good stage manager is excellent. One by one he clicks on a series of lights, placed at different angles around the stage. The full illumination from all the lights falls on the center of the stage. When all the lights are on, you're supposed to see his assertion in the center of the stage.1
To Hoover's five, I add this important sixth component.

(6) A world view is not complete in itself until it is able to refute, implicitly or explicitly, contrary world views. This is often a forgotten factor when arriving at a position. The law of non-contradiction (that a statement and its opposite cannot both be true) applies not only within a world view but also between world views. Thus, it is more reasonable to say that all religions we know of are wrong than to assert that all are right. Any system that opens its arms wide enough to incorporate everything will end up strangling itself when the arms close in.

Most Eastern philosophers despise the law of non-contradiction, but they cannot shake its life-sized reality. The more they seek to assault the law of non-contradiction, the more it assaults them. For this very reason, and in recognition of its undeniability, an Eastern mystic said, "It is better to remain silent, for when the mouth opens, all are fools." The problem is that his mouth opened to tell us that. One may as well talk of a one-ended stick as to deny the law of non-contradiction.

Since our goal is to arrive at a world view that meets these aforementioned tests, let me propose the approach that will accomplish that.

Man is unquestionably multisensory, or multifaceted, and the intimations of reality come to us from a diversity of sources. Therefore, it stands to reason that no one test will capture all of reality. The combination of several truth tests, harnessing their strengths and eliminating their weaknesses, would be the ideal path to take. That is why this method is often called combinationalism, or systematic consistency. It combines several methods to arrive at logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance.

In his book Christian Apologetics, Norman Geisler considered these three tests in combinationalism inadequate, unless preceded by two others, which he calls "unaffirmability as a test for falsity" and "undeniability as a test for truth." For readers who wish to pursue this, it will be well worthwhile to do so. Geisler's reasoning is that systematic consistency is only appropriate within a world view; it does not eliminate the possibility of other views being true. I think this judgment is merely the fine tuning of the process, because the threefold test of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance ought to incorporate the unaffirmability and undeniability tests. For example, any system that denies the law of non-contradiction fails the test of logical consistency because while denying it, it affirms the law at the same time. In the same way, when one attempts to deny his existence he fails the test of experiential relevance because he is using his existence to deny it. The undeniability and unaffirmability tests, whether seen separately from combinationalism or inherent within it, are crucial for truth testing and prevent any escape attempts of a world view to deny reality.


I have selected the combinational method because the defense of any position, sooner or later, ends up in this terrain, reluctantly or otherwise. Churchill, speaking of secretive war strategy, once said that the truth was so valuable that it had to be protected by a bodyguard of lies. This estimate applies to all of life's pursuits, though not always by intention. Truth is often avoided, or eludes us, because of a smokescreen of lies leading us the wrong way.

Let me use another analogy for a moment. Imagine a circle, with truth at the center, often hindered by a coarse periphery of resistance. Although various attempts are made to get to the center, entry is possible only by a certain approach. The closer one gets to the center, the more indispensable is systematic consistency. Even Shankara with his strong bent for logic that is supposedly Eastern, and repeated attempts to elude the law of non-contradiction, nevertheless goes to great lengths to justify or offer his "cohesive" conclusions. The gravitational pull of the center makes consistency inescapable.

In summary, I frame my methodology in a three-four-five grid. The three tests (logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance) must be able to give truthful and consistent answers to the four questions of man's origin, condition, salvation, and destiny. These four areas, in turn, will have to deal with five topics: God, reality, knowledge, morality, and humankind; or theology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and anthropology. One may reverse this sequence and say that, on the basis of a study of these five areas, the answers to the four questions lie in the truth tests of the three components of systematic consistency. Then the conceptual framework, or the glasses through which we see this world, makes for a strong foundation in understanding reality and is able to deal with truth and error.2


1.Arlie J. Hoover, The Case for Christian Theism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker House,1976), 52.

2.Ronald Nash in Faith and Reason rightly considered these as needful for a world view study.

Extracted from Ravi Zacharias’ A Shattered Visage

The Finger of Truth and the Fist of Reality

Somebody once wrote to G.K. Chesterton and asked him what he thought about civilization. Chesterton promptly replied, "I think it is a wonderful idea, why doesn't somebody start one?" The moral bankruptcy that stalks our land and the existential emptiness so evident in our youth today remove any temptation to brand this Chestertonian response as cynical. What is harder to admit is the cause-effect relationship between atheism and our present crisis.

At first glance one may wish to dispute the allegation that atheism is the womb that conceived our moral malady. But a careful examination of its assumptions and conclusions reveal it to be a system indefensible against that charge and many others. It incorporates in its world view several fatal flaws, making it a costly and dangerous philosophy on which to build a life or destiny.

The philosophical process I have undertaken is somewhat akin to the three-step method that leads us to any conclusion-our assumptions, our arguments, and our applications. This necessitated incursions into the realm of logic, the testing of its conclusions in experience, and the mandating of those applications as prescriptive for others. Putting it differently, I have had to cover ground from the logically persuasive (that which can be demonstrated by argument) to the experientally relevant (that which can be tested and illustrated in life). Only after these steps can one establish norms and make applications for life. When atheism is tested along these lines, its vulnerability is seen in contrast to the cohesive strength of theism.

The word philosophy for many spells boredom, if not grief. Philosophy is to a student's mind what spinach is to a child's taste buds-a punishment to be endured but of questionable value. The other extreme is when it becomes to the philosopher what spinach is to Popeye-the sole and sufficient means to cerebral muscle-flexing. Here it sets itself up as the supreme authority on reality, capable of decimating any enemy, and hence of ultimate value. I have endeavored to rescue the arguments from both extremes, so that we neither allow the allegation that philosophers are mere wordsmiths nor do we allow them to take unto themselves the responsibility of being the ticket inspectors into heaven. The English scholar C. S. Lewis asserted that everyone in life has a philosophy-the only question is, whether it is a good one.


Philosophy, as I see it, comes to us at three levels. Level 1 is the theoretical substructure on which we make inductions and deductions, but it depends heavily upon the form and the force of an argument. Logic, to most minds, has never overflowed with romance or triggered excitement. Ambrose Bierce, an American writer and journalist, defined it as "the art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human understanding" (The Devil's Dictionary). Logic, unfortunately, also lends itself to the same critique Somerset Maugham made of perfection, "It's apt to be dull." With all of our resistance to it, however, it is the price one has to pay for testing truth claims, and it is impossible to attack logic without using logic. For, wherever there is truth, it has a direct bearing on reality, and the laws of logic do apply to reality. The classic illustration states:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

It is hard to argue against that, regardless of how dull it sounds.

Since the laws of logic apply to reality, it is imperative that these laws be understood if any argument is to stand its ground. The laws of logic can be a vast subject, but the foundational laws are indispensable to the communication of truth.
Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, briefly addressed the importance of correct argumentation in his book Three Philosophies of Life. In a subsection entitled "Rules for Talking Back" he said:

There are three things that must go right with any argument:
(1) The terms must be unambiguous
(2) The premises must be true
(3) The argument must be logical.

Conversely, there are three things that can go wrong with any argument:

(1) The terms may be ambiguous
(2) The premises may be false
(3) The argument may be illogical.

In any argument, the application of this grid cannot be compromised if the conclusion is to be defended or refuted. Truth is indispensable to each statement, and validity is indispensable to each deduction. This dual combination of truth and validity is central to the persuasiveness of any argument, and if there is a flaw in either of the two, it fails.

Many commonly held beliefs are prone to such mistakes. For example, take an often used argument, that is assumed to be a proof against the existence of God.

(1) There is evil in the world.
(2) If there were a God, He would have done something about it.
(3) Nothing has been done about it.
(4) Therefore, there is no God.

The third premise is not self-evident. It is susceptible to strong counter-arguments because it is a deduction in itself and in need of inductive support. It can be shown to fail the test of truthfulness and validity because it reveals the presuppositions of an individual. It says nothing about whether God exists or not, but only that if He did, He would do things "my way."

Despite the weakness of the third premise, this type of argument from atheists presents a logical dilemma for theists. Responding to this, theists may take several approaches as a starting point. Their goal will be to first defang the question and then present stronger arguments for God's existence.

The issue of evil is, of course, one of the greatest debating points between theism and atheism. Let me give just two meaningful approaches theists may use as starting points:


(1) Yes, there is evil in this world.
(2) If there is evil, there must be good (a problem the atheist has to explain).
(3) If there is good and evil, there must be a moral law on which to judge between good and evil.
(4) If there is a moral law, there must be a moral law giver.
(5) For the theist, this points to God.

With this as a starting point, theists can mitigate the force of the argument from evil and then deal with underlying assumptions. They can show that some assumptions are not consistent with an atheistic world view. Then, as a final step theists can present the arguments for God's existence and explain what God has said (and done) about the problem of evil.


(1) There is evil in the world.
(2) There is nothing inconsistent about evil and the freedom of the will within the framework of a loving creator.
(3) In fact, concepts of love and goodness are unexplainable unless there is a God.
(4) Since man does experience love and goodness, it argues for the reality of God.
(5) Therefore, it is not unreasonable to believe that he exists.

From here theists begin their arguments for the existence of God. Atheists may challenge some of these premises, but this is how the arguments and counter-arguments are fashioned.

There are many excellent books written on the subject. The problem of evil has many facets that need to be dealt with the moral problem, the physical problem, the metaphysical problem, and so on. Also, under discussion would be the issue of "the best of all possible worlds." The books The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis and Philosophy of Religion by Norman Geisler both contain representative discussions of the problem of evil. Lewis deals with the problem existentially, and Geisler, philosophically.

I have illustrated the foregoing to show that logic is pivotal in any discussion of God's existence. At some point and mere classroom confusion or convulsion. Logicians, they contend, may deal with theory; the existentialist, they argue, deals with life, sensation, and feeling.

This second level, or approach, has within it both strength and weakness. Its strength is that felt needs are met; its weakness is that feelings create absolutes. Unfortunately, in our day more than ever before, the imagination has been assaulted in every direction so as to invade our consciences with disturbing visions and distorting sounds of reality that shun the constructive and uplift the bizarre and violent. The end result is manipulated emotions that produce dissonance in life rather than harmony. The basic reason for this is that imagination has turned into fancy, and rather than serving the cause of beauty or good, it has become an avenue of strife and evil. Therein lies its danger. An abused imagination yields perversions that defy reason. On the other hand, when the imagination is stirred for all that is noble and right, its capacity to make the world a better place is enormous.

An illustration of the potency of this level of philosophy is a song that was sung by a nine-year-old girl. It became the most requested song all over the country because it addressed a theme that did not require any logician for its defense. It touched the sensitivities of old and young in every strata of society.

Dear Mr. Jesus, I just had to write to you.
Something really scared me when I saw it on the news,
About a little girl, beaten black and blue,
Lord, I thought I'd like to take it right to you.
Lord, please don't let them hurt your children,
Lead them up and shelter them from sorrow,
Please don't let them hurt your children,
Won't you keep us safe at home?

The reason for the effectiveness of this song is readily understood. Child abuse is one of those dastardly crimes that even a majority of criminals despise. It is said that child abusers must be segregated to protect them from the avenging anger of prison mates. A belief this common, that you do not hurt a child, does not necessarily need a philosopher's help. The force of the incontrovertible truth, carried forth in the strains of a simple melody and made doubly persuasive through the voice of a child, can stir the imagination of a whole nation.

Why is this so? Imagine yourself caught in the middle of a conversation at a professors' luncheon, discussing the issue of child abuse. Imagine your reaction should you find that there were both protagonists and antagonists-some in favor of it, while others condemn it. It would stagger the imagination to think that some would defend the victimization of a child. Common sense alone dictates the rationale behind the protection and care of the most innocent and vulnerable of our society. And that is the point. While the appeal of the song is to the imagination, it is the handmaiden of good sense and reason.

This is the very idea intended by Samuel Taylor Coleridge when he made a plea for the imagination to play a vital role in the transmission of truth within the boundaries of reason, as it pursued the good.

Imagination understood in this way is not simply the mind's aimless and uncontrolled (Pavlovian) reaction to stimuli, but the way by which we are able to penetrate and indeed repeat after it, the very divine act of creation.

Rightly understood and constructively used, imagination helps the mind pierce reality with unique glimpses through the inward eye. Wrongly understood and destructively used, imagination can become fertile ground for unmitigated evil.
Its vulnerability lies in its inextricable link with our emotions and feelings, which can easily take off into fanciful flings. Unguarded feelings can in turn create a whole new set of absolutes, until reality is viewed as a dispensing machine, designed to submit to the whims of our fluctuating emotions. Imagination easily falls prey to what Canadian economist and humorist Stephen Leacock has said, "Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl."
The person who takes emotions as a starting point for determining truth in clutching the finger of feeling thinks he has grabbed the fist of truth. By thinking exclusively at this level, he is driven inward until the whole world revolves around his personal passions. This is a dangerous self-absorption. He reshapes his world view to a "better felt than 'tellt"' perspective. If it feels good, do it; or as the line from a popular song says, "It can't be wrong when it feels so right."

The history of modern cultures and their expressions easily demonstrates how the moods and indulgences of a nation have been generated by the popular writers, entertainers, and musicians of the day. Those who harness the strength of the arts mold the soul of a nation to an extraordinary degree, affecting and changing the way people think and act to drastic proportions; hence, the lines of Andrew Fletcher, "Give me the making of the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws." Television and music media are such potent forces because they have within them the capacity to bypass reason and head straight for the imagination. They can bind the strongman of reason, and so capture the goods.

The existential philosophers of the 1950s and 1960s were fully aware of this potential and used these avenues to impart a world view of rebellion. The impact of the artist or writer at this level of communication must be seen as continuous with moral philosophers. It is an enlargement of the academic imagination, but they have a built-in aversion for systematization. They do not like to be put into categories. Since they deal so much with the here and now, they bear an obvious hostility to abstract theory, which to them obscures the roughness and untidiness of life. If life itself is so coarse and has such a jagged edge, why should a philosophy of life be uniform? They fail to see that they have made the effect the cause. They see life as a string of passions with which to conquer emptiness. The experience of feeling the here and now supercedes the existence of truth. To such people, experience precedes essence, the subjective overrules the objective, and what they do determines who they are. This inversion of thinking is what produces the grunts and groans of the gravediggers as they bury God. For, with His burial, all sense of life is buried. As they face the encroaching panic, they are forced to redefine everything, and each one has to create his own personal reality.

This is Level 2. It appeals to the imagination and deals with why people live the way they live. In concert with reason it is immensely powerful for the cause of good. When it is allowed to run unchecked by reason in fitful responses to stimuli, it will end up justifying even the most unconscionable acts.


Level 3 is what I call "kitchen table conclusions." It is amazing how much of the moralizing and prescribing in life goes on during casual conversations. The settings can vary from sidewalk cafes, where frustrated philosophers pontificate on profound themes, to the kitchen table, where children interact with their parents on questions that deal with far reaching issues. The question may be the nagging one of the day, or it could be a question raised in the classroom, such as, what would one do in a sinking boat with three life jackets and four passengers on board? This level of philosophizing escapes neither the beggar nor the academic dean of a prestigious school, because why is one of the earliest expressions of human life.

I recall an occasion when I had addressed a European university audience at an open forum that was chaired and moderated by a highly reputed scholar. The audience, recognizing his academic credentials and his great philosophical prowess, paid very close attention to what he said on some remote and obscure issues. They were in awe of him, even though much of what he said must have escaped the capacity of a large portion of the audience.

Shortly after this, we headed to his home, where he and his daughter got into a verbal sparring session over some evening plans she had made, the wisdom of which he had questioned. It was a somewhat pitiful sight to see this discomforting conflict between father and daughter. Suddenly the accolades showered on him in the halls of learning a few moments earlier were distant and smothered echoes of an unimportant event.

What he believed and how he lived had come home and had given his daughter leverage to challenge his dictums for her. She was arrogating to herself the rights he could not deny on the basis of his own belief system. It was a pointed reminder minder to me that everything that I believe about life is sooner or later tested at the kitchen table, or in the family room, where young people are very quick to make applications on the basis of their parents' philosophy.

This is Level 3 in action, and has a biting reality to it. Such philosophizing lacks foundational authority and is merely an opinion that dares to prescribe without bothering to defend. It smuggles in an ethic while denying a moral referent.
Every individual makes moral judgments in his day-today interactions in life. It is the coinage by which he pays as he goes. Without an accepted standard, a coin is worthless. The fundamental problem with Level 3, taken by itself, is that all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and when morality cannot be justified, any denunciation ends up undermining its own mines. Reality begs a better answer than mere applicationary pronouncements.

Most talk shows are examples of conversation at Level 3, where the opinions thrown back and forth treat on an equal plane, sexuality and ice-cream parlors. Everything in this relativized culture becomes purely a matter of taste or preference.
One particular talk show host I know of has constantly and dogmatically favored abortion with no sympathy for the pro-life position. So uncompromising and extreme was his attitude that he refused to even take calls from men, saying that this particular subject had nothing to do with the male of the species. Not infrequently he would get into a tirade, vilifying those who opposed his position.

Very surprising, therefore, was his reaction to a newspaper article, that described the process of preparation for some East European athletes before a competition. It explained that as part of their muscle development, they would plan to become pregnant two-to-three months before a key race. As the first two months of a pregnancy greatly enlarged the muscle capacity, they would reap its benefit and then abort the baby a few days before the race.

This article infuriated the talk show host, and he unsparingly denounced it as going to unpardonable limits; but he never explained his own inconsistency. Prescriptivism is doomed as a starting point and can never justify itself. Level 3 deals with why one prescribes what he prescribes.


To summarize, Level 1 is supported by logic; Level 2, by feeling; and Level 3 is where all is applied to reality. Putting it differently, Level 1 states why one believes what he believes. Level 2 indicates why one lives the way he lives, and Level 3, why one legislates for others the way he does. For every life that is lived at a reasonable level, these three questions must be answered. First, can I defend what I believe in keeping with the laws of logic-is it tenable? Second, if everyone gave himself or herself the prerogatives of my philosophy, can there be harmony in existence-is it livable? Third, do I have a right to make moral judgments in the daily matters of living-is it transferrable?

None of these levels can live in isolation. They must follow a proper sequence. Ideally, one must argue from Level 1, illustrate from Level 2, and apply at Level 3. Life must move from truth, to experience, to prescription. If either theists or atheists violate this procedure, they are not dealing with reality but creating one of their own.

Understanding these three levels uncovers the many sided weaknesses of atheism. With feeling or experience as a starting point, life is not livable, because it will face contradiction on every side. Application as a starting point, without truth to support it, is only one step removed from feeling and cannot be justified. But when one starts with the truth, it can be proven in experience and be justifiably prescribed for others.

In this study of atheism we have seen the logical contradictions it embraces, the existential hell it creates, and the vacuous pronouncements it makes. This manifold vulnerability is what provoked the acerbic remark that atheism has a greater capacity to smell rotten eggs than to lay good ones, or to attack other systems than to defend its own.

Extracted from Ravi Zacharias' A Shattered Visage