Modern Humanism teaches that truth is relative. Each person invents his own truth. This is wrong, dangerous and sinful. We cannot create reality. To say that we can is to say that we are gods, which is what the Father of Lies wants us to believe Gen. Truth is absolute, not of itself, but because it is rooted in God. God is the final absolute and He does not change. Mine is different. Truth is not contradictory to itself, but to error. Nevertheless, we are finite and do not generally see all the relationships between the things God has said and made.
God has revealed some things as paradoxes. For example, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are both revealed truths, but we do not grasp how they are both true. There are also mysteries, or things partly revealed and partly hidden cf. The Trinity is the mystery of mysteries.
We know there is only one God and that He has three persons or aspects. But we cannot fathom the depths of this great mystery. One final thing about truth is important. The deepest theological truths are not the complicated ones, but the basic ones. This is to be truly wise. All believers must be able to give a good answer for their faith and hope I Pet. We call this apologetics, not in the sense of a wimpy apology for something wrong but a virile defence of something right. Every Christian, not just preachers and theologians, ought to be able to give basic answers to the objections and questions of unbelievers.
It is especially useful in evangelism. We need to refute those who oppose us Tit. Apologetics specifically refers to answering the objections thrown at us by those persons and systems which do not claim to be Christian. Polemics aims to refute and expose the various kinds of false Christianity. Our fight is not only with those outside the Faith, but with those who promote false gospels and heresy of the first order while still claiming to be Christian. One is outright war; the other is sabotage and treason. Both are dangerous. But pseudo-Christianity is more dangerous and sly than outright non-Christianity.
We are to be watchmen on the wall Ezek. It is mere human wisdom, which is really foolishness. Philosophy sprang from Greece. In Acts 17, Paul opposed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. The major Greek philosophers were Plato and Aristotle, and many others. In the modern era, others include Hegel, Marx, Kant, Hume, and many others.
Philosophy emphasizes the use of human reason, the mind, rationality. If unchecked, it tends to become atheistic. All Non-Christian Religions are False. Philosophy is not the only ancient enemy. There are dozens of non-Christian religions, mostly coming from the East. They emphasize the heart, not the mind. They tend to mysticism and pantheism. Some are closer to the truth than others, but they all lead to Hell.
Even post-Biblical Judaism is a false religion, for it does not accept Jesus as the Messiah, denies the Trinity, asserts salvation by works, etc. The three main groups of false Christianity correspond to the three main groups of unbelieving Judaism at the time of Christ. Roman Catholicism is like the Pharisees — huge, works-salvation, tradition-bound, etc.
Eastern Orthodoxy is the same. The second is Liberal Protestantism, similar to the Saducees in their rejection of revelation, weak ethics, etc. Then there are the many cults, like the Jewish cults of the Essenes, Herodians, Zealots, etc, exclusivist and esoteric. The earliest form of pseudo-Christianity was Gnosticism, opposed in Colossians, I John, and elsewhere. There are many pseudo-Christian cults around today.
We may not use force, violence, brainwashing, fleshly temptations, entertainment, or other such means. Honest questions deserve honest answers, as Francis Schaeffer said. Some Weapons Are Useful but Insufficient. Other weapons are acceptable but insufficient. For example, some Christians argue from miracles, fulfilled prophecy, the endurance of the Bible and Christianity through centuries of persecution, the enormous popularity of Christianity, the many favorable words said about Jesus by important non-Christians, personal testimonies, logical proofs, empirical evidences and other such arguments.
These all have their place, but are not our primary resources, for each can be challenged in one way or another by non-Christians. At best, such arguments can only get a stalemate, not a victory. Such is the approach of Christian Rationalism e. The Word of God is our main weapon Eph. Jesus turned to it, not as a last resort, but as His primary weapon in opposing Satan Matt. Our opinions mean nothing. We do not use it as a magical or superstitious talisman, but rather by knowing and believing it and quoting and explaining it properly and appropriately in fielding the objections of unbelievers.
Any team or army will tell you that defence is good, but you also need offence to win. We must know what our opponent is saying, and then we compare it with what the Bible says on that point. Indeed, also challenge the underlying presuppositions of the argument. A presupposition is the underlying and often unconscious assumption of a system of thought. We must know the enemy 2 Cor. It can help to show where such views logically lead. But mainly we are to show where they contradict what God says. Quote Scripture whether the opponent believes in the Bible or not.
It is also important to be as clear in your words as possible. We need not know all the details of a pagan religion or worldly philosophy in order to refute it. Some Christians seem to know more about non-Christian theories than true Christian theology. Leave the detailed study to the experts and theologians.
Our job is primarily to know the Bible, for it is sufficient to enable us to believe and defend the truth 2 Tim. He fills the whole universe, but does not show Himself in His full manifestation except in Heaven. To us, He is invisible, inaudible and intangible. He conceals Himself. But He also reveals Himself. God is so great and far above us, that we would know nothing at all about Him unless He chose to show us Himself — and He has chosen to do just that I Cor. God has revealed some things about Himself, and left far more concealed.
His revelation includes truths about the universe, man, sin, and especially about God Himself. This revelation makes moral and ethical demands on us. Because only part is revealed, His revelation is often a paradox, a mystery, implying there is more to the facts. But it is never a lie or a contradiction. We may study His revelation, but may not pry into what is not revealed, such as the details of the future Matt. We know only in part, but will know far more when the revelation is full I Cor.
God has been revealing Himself by stages and levels. Each one builds on the previous one. This is working up to a climax. God does this in actual history, not in mythological saga or make-believe, as many Neo-orthodox liberals suggest. God also reveals Himself in various ways in different times and to different people. Similarly, when God sets out to save a person, He gradually gives him more light until he is saved, and then gives him progressive illumination and growth in knowledge. God reveals much about Himself in Nature. All men everywhere have this revelation, and therefore are without excuse.
Yet God does not reveal His special grace and salvation through Nature. All men know that God exists, but they do not know Him personally through Nature. God spoke or showed things to select people by dreams when they were asleep and visions when they were awake. These were not natural dreams like we have, but supernatural dreams. Angels also delivered personal messages to these select people, who as prophets were to pass on the messages to other people. God Revealed Himself through Theophanies.
Examples: the Burning Bush Ex. Sinai, etc. These were more direct than the other means of revelation, but still were not final. There was also some sort of Theophany in Eden. God Revealed Himself Verbally in the Bible. The next highest form of revelation occurred when God not only spoke through these other means, but commissioned certain prophets and apostles to write certain words down. This is the Bible, the verbal revelation of God. He gave us actual words. These are the very words of God Himself. Hence, the Bible frequently describes itself as the Word of God, the words of God, and similar terms.
Some terms point out that this verbal revelation was written, not just spoken: the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures, the Scriptures of Truth, etc. The fact that God reveals Himself verbally teaches us, among other things, that God is personal and not an abstract principle. He speaks, therefore is wise. He speaks to us, therefore He cares.
Human language is adequate for this level of revelation. God condescended to speak human language. It is through the Bible, not Nature, that we learn about salvation. This is how we know God personally. Special Revelation is superior to Natural Revelation, and is the means by which we correctly interpret Natural Revelation. God no longer reveals Himself through dreams, visions, angels, prophets, Theophanies, or the direct voice from Heaven. Our job is to diligently study this lasting revelation. To know God better, we read, study, understand, believe and obey the Bible.
Special Revelation has ceased, but the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible continues. We call this Illumination, not Revelation. The light is on, but we need to have our eyes opened. This is how God now reveals Himself best. Jesus Christ is the Greatest Revelation of God. Jesus Himself often said that to see Him was to see God. To know Jesus is to know God. He is the greatest of all revelations, because Jesus is God Himself.
He is God in the flesh John He is the personal, living Word of God. This does not demean the value of the Bible, but fulfills it. Jesus is now in Heaven. We can pray to Him and love Him, even though we do not see or hear Him directly. We hear Him when we read His Bible. It still is. It is not a collection of merely human books I Thess. It is the Word of God already, whether we believe it or not. It is already perfect. In Biblical days, God spoke through prophets, dreams, visions and angels. But that has ceased. See Heb. The Bible continues as the only Word of God. Similarly, preaching is not the Word of God.
Preaching should be based on the Bible, but is not the same as the Bible. Also, the Bible is qualitatively different from every other book ever written. It alone is the Word of God.
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Even the books of the Apocrypha contain only human wisdom. The Bible is the Written Word of God. God was pleased to commit His Word to writing. It was inscripturated, or written down in human script. The finger of God directly wrote the 10 Commandments Ex. God used the human authors of Scripture as His fingers to write the Bible.
God did this so that we would have His Word in black and white, in a permanent form to read and study and consult. We need not depend on a series of priests who passed it on down the ages by word of mouth to be contaminated by fallible human memory. We have it in writing. It stands written. God did not breath something into the Bible; God breathed the Bible out of His own mouth. Jesus referred to this in Matt. God sent forth the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God John 3.
He moved certain prophets and apostles so that they then put down in writing the exact words God wanted them to write. Technically, it is the Bible, not the writers, which is inspired. Also, it is inspired because of its source, not its effect. It is divinely inspired regardless of whatever effect it has on us. All of the Bible is Inspired by God. Rather, the text says that all of the Scripture is inspired. This means that all parts are equally inspired. Ruth is as inspired as Romans, Joel as much as John.
Therefore, it all carries divine authority and we should read all of it. All parts of it are profitable to our spiritual well-being. The Very Words of the Bible are Inspired. God breathed out specific words, not just vague ideas or feelings which the human authors were left to interpret and write down. The Bible is verbally inspired. In Gal. God inspired the words of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
This does not refer to any translation into English or any other language. Still, the authority of the original language carries over to accurate translations. God Controlled the Writers of the B i ble. They did not simply sit down and decide to write the Bible. God chose who would do the writing, then He worked miraculously in them so that He controlled what they wrote.
It was not left to the fallibility of humans. Some parts of the Bible were directly dictated by an audible voice e. In most cases, God moved in a deep and mysterious way on their hearts and minds in other ways, such as by dreams and visions. They certainly knew that the words they wrote were not merely their own I Cor. God gave them the very words, not an-inner illumination of wisdom. Also, this special inspiration has ceased. What we need now is illumination to understand what has been inspired.
The light is on; we need to have our eyes opened. Because of sin, the natural Man is incapable of understanding the true meaning of the Bible 1 Cor. God Proves that the Bible is the Word of God. Scripture carries with it certain marks of divine authorship. Among them are its high spirituality and morality, its enormous popularity in history, its durability against persecution, its record of fulfilled prophecy, etc. But these alone are insufficient to prove divine inspiration. The Spirit is the witness because the Spirit is the truth I John Even unbelievers are impacted by this power cf.
Like the men with Paul on the Damascus road, they hear the sound but do not know the voice. The Word of God carries with it the very power of God. It is compared to a hammer that breaks rocks, light that overcomes darkness, fire that cannot be extinguished, etc. Just as God created all things by the power of His Word, so He changes lives today by that same power. God spoke to the prophets and through the prophets.
He still speaks today through His Word. Let us listen and be transformed by this powerful book, the Holy Bible. The Bible is true. Some other books may be true, in that their contents are correct; but only the Bible is truth itself.
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It is the only reliable guide to ultimate truth. Being holy, it is free of all impurity of error. The Bible is inerrant; it contains no errors. Truth and error are incompatible, like light and darkness. It is also infallible; it cannot fail to speak the truth. It does not and cannot err. Thus, Scripture has no contradictions between its parts, such as the four Gospels They are complementary, not contradictory. The Bible also contains no myths Scripture itself warns against myths I Tim.
Parables are not myths. It contains deep mysteries and paradoxes, but no errors. Nor does the Bible contain any forgeries or frauds cf. The Bible is completely true, in whole and in part, in all details as well as in the general content. It is true whenever it speaks of things we could otherwise study or observe, such as history and science. It is true in all areas, not just the spiritual, religious and theological. If we do not believe God in the areas we could verify, how could we believe Him in the areas that we cannot verify? John Man can err; God cannot.
But it is not true that to be human one must necessarily err. Adam did not err before the Fall, nor did Christ ever err, and they were fully human. The divine side of Scripture guarantees purity from error in the human side, just as the divine nature of Christ protected the purity of His human side. Yes, the Bible uses round numbers, hyperbole, figures of speech, symbols, and phenomenological language. But these are usual for human language and are not errors.
God is truth and cannot lie Tit. What Scripture says, God says. This is not to deify the Bible, as we are falsely accused of teaching. Rather, it is but to recognize what God says about His Word. To believe the Bible is to believe God. To believe God is to agree that God is and speaks truth John But let God be true and every man a liar Rom. To judge it is to condemn oneself. God tells us to test all things I Thess. By what? By the Word of God, as the noble Bereans did in Acts Anything that contradicts the Bible is automatically wrong Isa.
We err if we do not know the Bible or if we contradict it Matt. God curses those who preach false gospels contrary to the one true Gospel Gal. Sola Scriptura — Scripture alone is our final authority in all areas, such as faith and practice. It carries with it the very authority of God Almighty Himself. In Matt. They appealed to their tradition; Jesus rebuked them by appealing to Scripture. Church tradition must be subject to the Bible, otherwise it nullifies Scripture.
Roman Catholicism repeats the same error as the Pharisees with their tradition. They say that the Church gave us the Bible, therefore the Church is in authority. But this is wrong. That includes all creeds, confessions of faith, catechisms and church constitutions. Men can and do err, but God cannot err. The Bible is therefore over the authority even the delegated authority of people who exercise some degree of influence and authority.
While Scripture tells us to obey parents, preachers and politicians, we must obey God and not them if they ever go against the Bible Acts The words and books of theologians must be weighed by Scripture, as well as all sermons and Sunday School lessons. Any preacher, priest, pope or rabbi who sets himself up as an equal authority to God is automatically a false prophet, for the true prophets themselves were under the authority of the Word of God.
No exceptions. Thus, all philosophy, psychology, logic, reason, science and opinion are subject to the truth and authority of the Bible. Because of common grace, Man may learn and teach some truths. But if they contradict Scripture — whether implicitly or explicitly, whether in doctrine or in method — then they thereby condemn themselves as false.
This applies to our own thoughts as well. Even Adam before the Fall was subject to the spoken Word of God. He fell into sin when he rebelled against that authority. We dare not trust our fallen minds, which are prone to err. The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit. He never contradicts Himself, for that would be contrary to His nature as the Spirit of Truth.
Some groups need to remember this in their zeal for the work of the Spirit. All spiritual feelings, impressions and intuitions must be subject to the Word. We dare not invent exceptions because we feel that the Spirit is leading us — otherwise we are no different from the fanatic who murders his neighbor with an axe because he said that God told him to.
The Holy Spirit never contradicts what He says in the Bible. The Bible alone is our source of all spiritual authority. We must trust in God and His Word, even when we do not understand it. We must not lean on our own understanding or inclinations Pro. We ought to read it, study it, believe it and obey it. Our attitude to the Bible is to be the same as our attitude to God, for it is His Word. This means we are to love it, even as we love God. Love God, love His Word. We Should Study the Bible. God gave us the Bible to read and study. It is a textbook to study, not a picture-book to browse through.
There is a big difference between simply reading a book and seriously studying it. One is leisure, the other is work. God wants us to study our Bibles, not use them for pressing flowers. To study the Bible is to research it to discover its meaning. Eisegesis is twisting the Scriptures to suit our preconceived notions 2 Pet. When we study the Bible, we should set aside wrong presuppositions and preconceived ideas.
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We need to be teachable. We should pray before and during Bible study, and rely on the Holy Spirit in us to teach us what He says in the Bible. Faith comes to us by the Word of God Rom. Without faith, we can understand the Bible only in a natural way, not a supernatural way. Studying the Bible profits us nothing unless it is mixed with faith Heb.
Search and you will find. Dig deep and you will find new treasures of gold hidden in this field. Alas, some Christians have not even read the entire Bible yet. Others try to read it through every year. It takes work, but the Holy Spirit enables us to understand cf. I John A lacksadaisical attitude betrays low respect for the Bible and little faith in God.
But serious Bible study is work which brings rest. Though the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, it is still understandable through reliable translations not to mention the scholarly study of the original languages. We may profit from preachers and teachers who explain the Bible to us Acts The Bible is for everyone. Though some parts are harder to understand than others 2 Pet.
Even a cursory study of the Bible will yield great results. We study the historical setting of Scripture human author, original readers, date, geography, manners and customs, archeology, etc , as well as the normal meaning of the language its lexical meaning, grammar, syntax, context, etc.
We should study all of it, not just our favorite parts. Read both testaments. Use a concordance and cross references to compare Scripture with Scripture. It has great variety. All Scripture is inspired and deserves our study. Just as God used many human authors, so he used their backgrounds and a variety of literary styles.
In these, we find prayer and praise to God, and wisdom in dealing with life. Then other books are mainly laws Exodus-Deuteronomy, parts of others. Some laws are straight-forward commands or prohibitions, while others are case laws. Then other books are mainly prophecy, recording direct messages from God, including accurate predictions of the future. Lastly, there are the epistles of Paul and others. All these styles form a wonderful harmony. One important principle of Bible study is knowing and noticing that Christ is the center of Scripture.
The Old Testament is filled with prophecies, types and symbols of the coming Messiah Gen. Jesus fulfilled these prophecies. Some are explained in the New Testament see Luke , , Acts And sandwiched between the Old Testament predictions of the future and the New Testament explanations of the past, we find the four Gospels which describe the person and work of Christ in a special way. Since it is a book about Christ, the Bible is therefore a book about how we may be saved from our sins through Him.
It makes us wise unto salvation 2 Tim. Some parts of the Bible more directly discuss salvation, such as the four Gospels, Acts and Romans. But all parts of Scripture fit into this comprehensive entity. Thus, the Bible was given to us that we may know how to be saved and how to have the assurance of salvation John , 1 John We can also use it to tell other people the Gospel of salvation. The Bible is frequently compared to food. We ought to thirst for it like a baby thirsts for milk I Pet. The basic message of the Bible is like milk; the additional details are like meat Heb.
We need both. The Bible is the means that God uses to nourish His children. It gave us the new birth and sustains our new life. We grow spiritually anemic when we ignore it. So, we need to regularly read and study it, and meditate on it like a cow chews the cud. The more we do, the stronger we will grow spiritually.
We study the Bible to learn about God. When we study it, we always need to find what God wants us to do in light of that passage. It teaches us how to live for God and helps us resist Satan and temptation, worship God in the way acceptable to Him, and witness in the world. It encourages us through its many promises, aids us in prayer, points out our sins and assures us of forgiveness, strengthens our faith, answers the basic questions we have for guidance, and so much more. So let us diligently read it, study it, believe it and obey it cf. The Bible is a Unity. Though it has many individual books in it, the Bible is a unity.
It is both one book and many books. It has unity and diversity. It is basically one book, The Book. Though it has many human authors for its parts, it is primarily one book by God Himself. God used the many authors over a period of approximately years to write the Bible progressively, each building on what has already been given. Since it is an infallible unity, all parts agree. The individual authors and books ought not to be seen as contradictory, but complementary to each other. The most obvious and significant division in the Bible is that it has two large sections known as testaments.
A testament is a covenant, or holy contract between God and Man. The first is the Old Covenant. It makes up about three-fourths of the Bible, of which about a third is by Moses. It revolves around the special covenant which God made with Israel, described in the first 5 books. The rest of the O. The N. The O. Psalms is the longest, then Isaiah. Some books are in pairs 1 and 2 Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and several of the epistles , only 1 is a set of three 1,2,3 John. Luke and Acts form a unique pair. There is occasional overlap of content and matter Samuel-Kings-Chronicles, the 4 Gospels, etc.
The books of the Apocrypha are not part of the Bible. Though Romanism accepts them, neither the ancient Jews nor Protestants have ever accepted them. Nor are any of the books of the Pseudepigrapha in the Bible, such as the Book of Enoch. And of course, not the Book of Mormon, or other pretended books.
The canon is closed. Other authors wrote only a single short book. Some books are anonymous such as Hebrews. All books were written by men, though two books are entirely about women Ruth and Esther. The human authors were prophets, priests, kings, apostles, shepherds, generals, a doctor, court officials, and other occupations. Hebrew is a Semitic language written from right to left, each word based around three consonants, with a grammar and vocabulary very different than English, but much in common with other ancient languages. Parts of Daniel and Ezra, and a few words and verses elsewhere, were written in Aramaic.
Aramaic was the lingua franca of the ancient near east until superceded by Arabic. It was very similar to Hebrew. There are a few Latin words, too, and also a few Egyptian and others in Job. The actual original parchments and papyri have long ago perished, but the inspired Word has been preserved by God through the ages. Jesus promised that His Word would never pass away Matt.
We call this Providential Preservation. There are no lost books, sentences, words or even letters. Nor will any yet be found, otherwise they would have been lost until now. Scripture is the means of salvation and the main means of revelation in this age. Its very nature requires its preservation. Satan has tried to destroy it, but the Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.
There are over 5, Greek manuscripts and over Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible, plus ancient translations and quotations. Since the Bible is a complete unity, it is very serious to tamper with it. God warns against this in Rev. Some English translations are based on the minority of ancient manuscripts which are faulty. They tend to subtract portions such as Mark A few ancient manuscripts tend to add to the real text, such as the Codex Bezae. But the vast majority of manuscripts agree almost in complete detail, so it is wisest to stick to the middle and neither add to on the right side or subtract from on the left side.
Nor may we substitute other words. This is known as the Septuagint. Other Greek translations followed. The Jews also produced paraphrased translations of most of the O. Most were done after the time of Jesus. The Samaritans translated the Pentateuch into their language, with alterations. Some were better than others, and all are useful for study by scholars.
There have been more translations of the Bible into English than into any other language. First there were bits and pieces by Bede and medieval monks. Then John Wycliffe translated the Bible from the Latin in the 14th century. The 16th century saw many other fine translations, especially the Geneva Bible. The Authorized Version of , known as the King James Version, has been the most popular one in history, even with its various slight revisions. The New King James Version is a slight revision and is very good. The New International Version is now the best-selling translation.
There have also been Jewish and Catholic translations. Overall, over translations have appeared. The Bible is the Book of God. It was inspired by God, written by God through the instrumentality of various human authors, and is primarily about God. It talks about Man, salvation, animals, the cosmos and other topics, but mainly about God. Its ethics come from God. Its stories tell how God has worked in history. Its songs sing to and about God.
Specifically, it is a book about Jesus, the only mediator between God and Man. Praise God for His Word. God is. He is there. He is the real God, the God who really exists. God is God. He exists eternally without origin or change. He self-exists. He has necessary existence, not conditional or contingent existence. He has perpetual existence in and of Himself. He has pure existence, compared to whom everything else is but a shadow. God not only exists, He lives. A stone exists, a person lives. God is the living God, as opposed to the false and dead gods of pagan religions.
He is life itself, self-life. He has life in Himself, not from another. He is the source of all life. He has aseity, or life in Himself John , He has permanent and perpetual life. God is pure life. Therefore He is immortal. He had no birthday, therefore no father or mother; He has no death-day, therefore no undertaker. God is the creator of everything else Gen. Creator of all, created by none. He is the first cause of everything else, but caused by nothing. God is certainly not the creation of Man.
Man did not create God by imagination, nor by projecting himself to the cosmos, as atheists suggest. Nor is God self-created. He simply exists and lives of Himself. The Creator is not the Creation.
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Idolatry worships the Creation rather than the Creator Rom. He is separate from His Creation. We are not part of God. God is everywhere, but is not everything. He has a separate and divine substance that is fundamentally different from the universe. Monism is also wrong to suggest that all things are one, i. Romans 1 and Psalm 19 state that God has made His existence known to all men.
He is a fool who tries to deny this Psa. Therefore, there are no real atheists or agnostics. They already know God exists. They are merely lying in order to try to run from God. We merely build upon what God has already revealed about Himself in Natural Revelation by bringing Special Revelation. See Acts Indeed, a God whose existence needed to be proved would not be the true God.
It is an insult to God to attempt to prove His existence, for that doubts the fact that He has already made His existence known. Man already knows God exists, but he must acknowledge this openly in order to come to know God personally Heb. He is God. But God is personal.
Not exactly like we are personal, but more than we are. Specifically, as we shall see later, God is actually Tri-personal in the Trinity. God is a He, not an It. God is also a He, not a She. He is personal in that He speaks, feels, thinks, remembers, recognizes, etc. God is Incomprehensible but Not Inscrutable. God has told us He exists and also gives us the privilege of knowing Him personally.
God is knowable. Agnostics and Deists are wrong to say God cannot be known. Yet we can never know everything about God. Finite Man can never know all about the infinite God, not even in eternal Heaven. It would take a second God to know God fully. His attributes are beyond full knowledge Eph. God is incomprehensible to us Job , , , Isa. There will always be something about God that only God knows Rev. Nor will we know God as God knows Himself.
Man in sin does not know God 2 Thess. The basic message of Ecclesiastes is that life has no meaning, only vanity, without knowing God. God created Man to know Him, and Man has a dreary existence without knowing God. God has allowed Himself to be known personally. This is only possible through Christ Matt. Knowing God is eternal life John , in contrast with meaningless existence.
God is perfect Matt. He is complete in every way. He needs nothing. He does not need to be fed. He does not need Man. He lacks nothing in any way. He has perfect life and existence, and does not grow. He is absolute perfection. Therefore, God is perfectly happy in Himself. God is not lonely. He did not create Man because He was lonely.
There was perfect happiness, fellowship and love within the Trinity. Nothing outside of God is ever perfect in the sense God is perfect. Yet we find a degree of perfection when we are in the right relationship with God as we ought to be, lacking nothing, Happy at last. The inherent value of human life, at every stage and in every circumstance, is not a sectarian issue any more than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian creed.
In a special way, we call on U. Catholics, especially those in positions of leadership -- whether cultural, economic or political -- to recover their identity as followers of Jesus Christ and to be leaders in the renewal of American respect for the sanctity of life. Every Catholic, without exception, should remember that he or she is called by our Lord to proclaim His message.
Some proclaim it by word, some by action and all by example. But every believer shares responsibility for the Gospel. Every Catholic is a missionary of the Good News of human dignity redeemed through the cross. While our personal vocation may determine the form and style of our witness, Jesus calls each of us to be a leaven in society, and we will be judged by our actions.
No one, least of all someone who exercises leadership in society, can rightfully claim to share fully and practically the Catholic faith and yet act publicly in a way contrary to that faith. Our attitude toward the sanctity of life in these closing years of the "American century" will say volumes about our true character as a nation. It will also shape the discourse about the sanctity of human life in the next century, because what happens here, in our nation, will have global consequences. It is primarily U.
What America has indelibly imprinted on the emerging global culture is its spirit. And the ambiguity of that spirit is why the Pope appealed so passionately to the American people in The Abolition of Man "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.
Nations are not machines or equations. They are like ecosystems. A people's habits, beliefs, values and institutions intertwine like a root system. Poisoning one part will eventually poison it all. As a result, bad laws and bad court decisions produce degraded political thought and behavior, and vice versa. So it is with the legacy of Roe vs.
Roe effectively legalized abortion throughout pregnancy for virtually any reason, or none at all. It is responsible for the grief of millions of women and men, and the killing of millions of unborn children in the past quarter century. Yet the weaknesses of the Supreme Court's reasoning are well known. They were acknowledged by the Supreme Court itself in the subsequent Casey decision, which could find no better reason to uphold Roe than the habits Roe itself created by surviving for 20 years.
They are part of the same root system. Roe effectively rendered the definition of human personhood flexible and negotiable. It also implicitly excluded unborn children from human status. In doing so, Roe helped create an environment in which infanticide -- a predictable next step along the continuum of killing -- is now open to serious examination.
Even the word "infanticide" is being replaced by new and less emotionally charged words like "neonaticide" killing a newborn on the day of his or her birth and "filicide" killing the baby at some later point. Revising the name given to the killing reduces its perceived gravity. This is the ecology of law, moral reasoning and language in action. Bad law and defective moral reasoning produce the evasive language to justify evil. The same sanitized marketing is now deployed on behalf of physician-assisted suicide, fetal experimentation and human cloning. Each reduces the human person to a problem or an object.
Each can trace its lineage in no small part to Roe. Obviously Roe is only one of several social watersheds which have shaped the America of the late s. But it is a uniquely destructive one. In the 25 years since Roe, our society's confusion about the relationship of law, moral reasoning and language has created more and more cynicism in the electorate. As words become unmoored from their meaning as in "choice" or "terminating a pregnancy" , and as the ideas and ideals which bind us together erode, democratic participation inevitably declines.
So too does a healthy and appropriate patriotism. We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident "For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. Lewis, The Abolition of Man The principles of the Declaration were not fully reflected in the social or political structures of its own day.
THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST
Then human slavery and other social injustices stood in tension to the high ideals the Founders articulated. Only after much time and effort have these contradictions been reduced. We see this in diminishing respect for the inalienable right to life and in the elimination of legal protections for those who are most vulnerable. There can be no genuine justice in our society until the truths on which our nation was founded are more perfectly realized in our culture and law.
One of those truths is our own essential creatureliness. Virtual reality and genetic science may give us the illusion of power, but we are not gods. We are not our own, or anyone else's, creator. Nor, for our own safety, should we ever seek to be. And therein lies our only security.
No one but the Creator is the sovereign of basic human rights -- beginning with the right to life. We are daughters and sons of the one God who, outside and above us all, grants us the freedom, dignity and rights of personhood which no one else can take away. Without the assumption that a Creator exists who has ordained certain irrevocable truths about the human person, no rights are "unalienable," and nothing about human dignity is axiomatic. This does not make America sectarian.
It does, however, underline the crucial role God's sovereignty has played in the architecture of American politics. This is so because the tolerance of our system is rooted in the Jewish-Christian principle that even those who differ from one another in culture, appearance and faith still share the same rights.
We believe that this principle still possesses the power to enlighten our national will. It encourages active citizenship. It also reminds us that, "The political community. The common good embraces all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families and organizations to achieve complete and efficacious fulfillment" In pursuing the common good, citizens should "cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism, but without narrow-mindedness.
The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. Nevertheless, both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles. Pope John Paul II elaborates on this responsibility in his apostolic exhortation, The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World Christifideles Laici : "The inviolability of the person, which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life.
Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life , the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. The human being is entitled to such rights in every phase of development, from conception until natural death, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor.
We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a "Gospel of life. We believe that this Gospel is not only a complement to American political principles, but also the cure for the spiritual sickness now infecting our society. As Scripture says, no house can stand divided against itself Lk We cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while eliminating or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of life only as a private piety. American Catholics must live it vigorously and publicly, as a matter of national leadership and witness, or we will not live it at all.
Living the Gospel of Life: the Virtues We Need "It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. As we stressed in our statement Political Responsibility : "The application of Gospel values to real situations is an essential work of the Christian community.
Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas.
Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life. But being 'right' in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.
Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the "temple of the Holy Spirit" -- the living house of God -- then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house.
All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house's foundation. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand. Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights. As Pope John Paul II reminds us, the command never to kill establishes a minimum which we must respect and from which we must start out "in order to say 'yes' over and over again, a 'yes' which will gradually embrace the entire horizon of the good" Evangelium Vitae , Since the entry of Catholics into the U.
As a result, some Catholic elected officials have adopted the argument that, while they personally oppose evils like abortion, they cannot force their religious views onto the wider society. This is seriously mistaken on several key counts. First, regarding abortion, the point when human life begins is not a religious belief but a scientific fact -- a fact on which there is clear agreement even among leading abortion advocates.
Second, the sanctity of human life is not merely Catholic doctrine but part of humanity's global ethical heritage, and our nation's founding principle. Finally, democracy is not served by silence. Most Americans would recognize the contradiction in the statement, "While I am personally opposed to slavery or racism or sexism I cannot force my personal view on the rest of society. Today, Catholics risk cooperating in a false pluralism. Secular society will allow believers to have whatever moral convictions they please -- as long as they keep them on the private preserves of their consciences, in their homes and churches, and out of the public arena.
Democracy is not a substitute for morality, nor a panacea for immorality. Its value stands -- or falls -- with the values which it embodies and promotes. Only tireless promotion of the truth about the human person can infuse democracy with the right values. This is what Jesus meant when He asked us to be leaven in society.
American Catholics have long sought to assimilate into U. But in assimilating, we have too often been digested. We have been changed by our culture too much, and we have changed it not enough. If we are leaven, we must bring to our culture the whole Gospel, which is a Gospel of life and joy. That is our vocation as believers.
And there is no better place to start than promoting the beauty and sanctity of human life. Those who would claim to promote the cause of life through violence or the threat of violence contradict this Gospel at its core. Scripture calls us to "be doers of the word and not hearers only. Jesus Himself directs us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Life in Christ is a life of active witness. It demands moral leadership. Each and every person baptized in the truth of the Catholic faith is a member of the "people of life" sent by God to evangelize the world.
God is always ready to answer our prayers for help with the virtues we need to do His will. First and foremost we need the courage and the honesty to speak the truth about human life, no matter how high the cost to ourselves. The great lie of our age is that we are powerless in the face of the compromises, structures and temptations of mass culture.
But we are not powerless. We can make a difference. We belong to the Lord, in Him is our strength, and through His grace, we can change the world. We also need the humility to listen well to both friend and opponent on the abortion issue, learning from each and forgetting ourselves. We need the perseverance to continue the struggle for the protection of human life, no matter what the setbacks, trusting in God and in the ultimate fruitfulness of the task He has called us to.
We need the prudence to know when and how to act in the public arena -- and also to recognize and dismiss that fear of acting which postures as prudence itself. And finally we need the great foundation of every apostolic life: faith, hope and charity. Faith not in moral or political abstractions, but in the personal presence of God; hope not in our own ingenuity, but in His goodness and mercy; and love for others, including those who oppose us, rooted in the love God showers down on us.
As bishops , we have the responsibility to call Americans to conversion, including political leaders, and especially those publicly identified as Catholic. As chief teachers in the Church, we must therefore explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of life through their actions and policies. Catholic public officials who disregard Church teaching on the inviolability of the human person indirectly collude in the taking of innocent life.
A private call to conversion should always be the first step in dealing with these leaders. Through prayer, through patiently speaking the truth in love, and by the witness of our lives, we must strive always to open their hearts to the God-given dignity of the unborn and of all vulnerable persons. So also we must remind these leaders of their duty to exercise genuine moral leadership in society. They do this not by unthinking adherence to public opinion polls or by repeating empty pro-choice slogans, but by educating and sensitizing themselves and their constituents to the humanity of the unborn child.
At the same time we need to redouble our efforts to evangelize and catechize our people on the dignity of life and the wrongness of abortion. Nonetheless, some Catholic officials may exclude themselves from the truth by refusing to open their minds to the Church's witness. In all cases, bishops have the duty and pastoral responsibility to continue to challenge those officials on the issue in question and persistently call them to a change of heart.
As bishops we reflect particularly on the words of the Office of Readings: Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead, let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ's flock. Let us preach the whole of God's plan to the powerful and the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as St. Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.