Our second question in this series is as follows:
Will any of the perplexities of life make sense without the framework of faith?
Some of the introductory remarks in the first post will be very helpful to readers looking to follow the thread of thought as deeply as they can. However, the context of this question: it was asked in response to this blog post by an SDA, and it is being responded to by an SDA, so this response is very specific to the Adventist community.
I spoke about the fact that ‘sense’ in this context is determined by the recipient of an answer. This is a fundamental element of the so-called ‘apologetic task.’ Christian apologetics is not about ‘apologising’ for the faith (sick to death of hearing folks spout that claptrap – an inevitable consequence of using words the meaning of which we don’t know!). Have a look at the following conversation:
Skeptical Friend (SF): Hey, long time! How you doing?
Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA): Hey, good to see you! I’m well thanks, what about you?
SF: Well, I’m okay, but I’m happy to see you, ’cause I’ve got a few questions.
SDA: Okay cool, let’s sit down over here, I’ve got a few minutes. (Both parties sit down.) So, what’s up?
SF: So this business of believing in the Bible…you say that the only way to know about God is through the Bible, right?
SDA: Yeah, it’s a major part of God’s revelation, probably the most important we have now.
SF: How come?
SDA: Nature is a big way that we know God exists, and Jesus came to show us what God is like. But the skies and oceans can’t actually talk to us about God – not in words – and Jesus is back in heaven! So, we need the Bible to know who Jesus was – and is – and what God is like.
SF: Okay, I get that the Bible is a big part of the belief system for many Christians, but I have a big, big problem with the fact that many people have died without ever reading it. And I’m still not sure that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. I’ve met some Christian people who see themselves that way, and they are pretty vibrant to be around! But they’re not as into the Bible as you are. I don’t know what I think…
SDA: Okay, okay, well the thing is…for the Bible to make sense, you just have to have faith.
SF: Yeah, you’re always saying that, but I still have no idea how you get faith! Where does faith come from? I once heard a story about a primary school teacher who asked her class what they thought the meaning of ‘faith’ was and a nine-year-old boy put his hand up and said, ” believing what you know isn’t true.” So, why do you believe in the Bible? How do you know its true when you can’t prove so many things?
SDA: (smiling) Well, that’s why faith is so important. I know that the Bible is true because I have faith…
SF: …but that’s my problem! I’ve been meaning to bring this up for a while, but can’t you see that just because you have faith, that faith is not proof that the Bible is true?! Your faith is not proof of anything!
SDA: Yes, but I never said it was.
SF: So how then do you know that the Bible is true? How DO you actually know? What if you’re wrong and it is all lies, or at least parts of it? I think I’m readier than I’ve ever been to say that I believe in God. But I don’t think I can trust the Bible. Of course the Bible says that it is true…because whoever wrote it wanted people to think that! But because those words are in the Bible, that’s no PROOF that the Bible – or the whole of it – is in fact inspired! And if I’m going to follow the Bible, I need to know that I can trust it. How does that happen? Why do so many Christians emphasise some bits and ignore others? I’m fed up of this, it’s just so confusing!!
[…phone rings. It’s SDA’s phone…]
SDA: …erm, sorry, I have to take this call…
So, our SDA friend managed to get out of giving an answer on that occasion. My question and challenge: how would you respond to the skeptical friend? In #2b we will consider a number of different translations of 1 Peter 3:15 and become clearer on our mission in the context of ‘contending for the faith.’