Here's what our parents never taught us
Can we believe God's word is true because our parents told us it?
An article by Michael J. Kruger:
How do you know the Bible is the word of God?
Almost every Christian has heard this question before. And when that happens, our heart beats faster and we feel a tingling sensation in the stomach. We want to provide a comprehensive and satisfactory answer. Best something that doesn't make us look like fools.
In our minds we go over all the apologetic theses and the numerous historical dates that we heard years ago. Yet, because we can't remember the details, we mumble about the fact that the Bible has good “historical evidence” of its truth (in the hope that no one digs deeper).
But there is an underlying assumption in such discussions that should be challenged. And that assumption is that external "historical evidence" is the only appropriate reason to support our belief in the Bible. We often think that we can only justify our beliefs if we can back them up with a series of scientific facts.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with defending the Bible based on historical facts. The Bible has impressive historical testimony and there are times to discuss it. However, when we think that these testimonies are the only basis for our faith, we run into some problems.
First of all, it means that hardly any Christian would really know that the Bible is the word of God. If it takes a doctorate in theology to trust the Bible, very few Christians enjoy such a privilege.
In addition, the Bible itself suggests other ways in which one can experience that it is God's word. This approach cannot be defended in full at this point, but I have written about it extensively elsewhere (e.g. here), as have other experts (see here).
But there is another way: the testimony of others whom we trust. As strange as it sounds, we are justified because we believe God's word is true because those we trust told us it was true.
Yes, even Paul points this out to Timothy when he encourages him to trust the word of God:But you stick to what you have learned and what is entrusted to you; you know from whom you have learned and that you have known the Holy Scriptures from childhood, which can instruct you in salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3: 14-15)
Note that Paul's exhortation to Timothy to continue to trust the word of God is based on who taught him: you know who you learned from. There is no doubt that it is Timothy ‘mother Eunike and grandmother Lois (2. Tim 1,5).
In other words, one reason (but not the only) reason to trust God's Word is the testimony of those we trust. And this is especially true for parents (or grandparents).
Of course, such a thesis sounds ridiculous in our anti-authoritarian culture. Some common objections sound like this:
1. “The testimony of others is not a valid reason for our belief. We have to check it out personally. "
According to this objection, we can only believe something that we ourselves have gathered enough evidence of. Yet this is not true for most of the things we know. In addition, it betrays a naive trust in our modern investigative skills - what the philosopher Alvin Plantinga describes as “Enlightenment optimism that gets out of hand”. (Warrant and Proper Function, 78)
“Can I really find out regardless of any testimony that there was a war between the Athenians and the Spartans in the fifth century BC? Is this how I can discover that Plato was a philosopher? Or that the woman I think is my mother really is? Or that I got the name I think of? Or that there is a country called "Australia"? "
He concludes: "We are therefore dependent on testimony for most of what we know".
2. "My parents could be wrong"
Of course that's true. Everything our parents say could be wrong. But that misses the point. Rather, the matter is whether it is reasonable (and whether there are good reasons for it)Believing our confidants when they tell us certain things are true. Timothy had good reasons to trust his mother and grandmother.
The only alternative would be to doubt all sources of knowledge, simply because they could be wrong. Then I would also have to question my own ability to absorb and accept nothing that I see, hear or touch. After all, my senses could also deceive me.
But this approach would lead to self-destructive skepticism. Under these conditions I could not grasp any truth (not even the truth of my skepticism!).
3. "My parents do not have sufficient authority to know such a thing."
This objection basically argues that children cannot trust their parents whether the Bible is true because they are not experts in the Bible. Most parents have not studied the historical evidence or earned a doctorate in New Testament studies, etc.
But this argument is actually based on exactly what it is about. As stated above, it is believed that external "historical evidence" is the only real basis on which to establish our belief in the Bible. But that is not what Christians have believed in the past. On the contrary, the Christians believed that one could get to know the Bible as God's Word through one's self-affirmation. And when parents have good reasons to know the Bible as God's Word, it is reasonable for children to listen to their parents' testimony too.
4. "Trusting my parents makes me a victim of religious indoctrination"
This objection is a variant of the classic argument that all religions basically emerged as a result of cultural conditions. Or, as the argument argues, most people are Christians only because they were born in the West to Christian parents. For example, if they were born in Egypt, they would probably be Muslims.
But this argument cuts both ways. If all religious claims are subject to cultural conditioning, then so are the skeptics, atheists and pluralists. To quote Platinga again:
“Pluralism is not and has not been widespread in the whole world; if the pluralist had been born in Madagascar or medieval France, they probably would not have been a pluralist. Does this mean that he should not be a pluralist or that his pluralistic beliefs are generated in him by an unreliable, belief-generating process? I doubt it ("Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism," 187-188). "
In other words, to dubiously reject what your parents taught you just because your parents taught you is for no reason.
All in all, Paul's argument is true. Yes, there are many ways to know that the Bible is God's word. Yes, don't overlook a rather simple path: the personal testimony of the people you trust. And that is especially true for Christian parents.
Michael J. Kruger is the director of the Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, teaching the New Testament and early church history. He blogs regularly on michaeljkruger.com, where the above article appeared on April 8, 2019. Translation with kind permission!
This blog post by Sergei Pauli appeared first Belief and thought (old) . Read the original article here "Can we believe God's word is true because our parents told us it?".
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