This post comes from Calvary Chapel Pastors
On Monday nights at Calvary Philly’s young adults group we’re in the middle of a series examining the reasons we as Christians can rightly claim to know things, especially when it comes to claiming to know things about God. Of course, this part of our witness for Christ is very contested in our current cultural climate. It isn’t so much that nonbelievers tend to claim that we have the wrong God, or that they have a better God (although this situation is changing with an influx of adherents to other gods). Rather, often we find that people will question our ability to know anything about God at all. As long as we confine our conversation to things we “believe” (which is supposed to mean something less than “know”) we can get along fine enough. But when it becomes clear that we actually claim to know things about God, we’re going to meet with opposition.
After all, can anyone really know anything about God?
While studying all of this recently, an illustration occurred to me which I think helps expose some of the assumptions being made by our non-Christian culture.
Imagine a local bank branch. One day the workers discover that someone has smuggled counterfeit bills into the vault. The fake bills are everywhere—they’re filling the cash drawers. So the workers set about shutting down the branch while they try to determine which bills are fake and which are authentic. Unfortunately, what they discover is that there are many different kinds of counterfeits. They find dozens of different versions of 20’s and 100’s alone. Almost immediately workers begin arguing about which bills are authentic. Several different groups of employees form around certain bills. Each group claims that they have the correct bills. Everyone can list all the reasons why their bills are the real bills. They all fervently believe that they have it right.
Now, if we were to step in to this situation, we would understand a few things immediately.
- It is not possible for every group to be right. They have different bills. The disagreement is real.
- It is possible that they are all wrong. This would be the case if either of two things was true. Perhaps they happened to not have any true bills in the branch (in other words, real bills exist, they just don’t have any). Or maybe, in fact, money isn’t real, and they are deceived about the existence of a monetary economy—in other words, there is no such thing as authentic currency at all. But we know that, in our nation at least, the second option is not the case, so in this situation we would only need to determine if there were any real bills in the branch, and identify them.
- Since there is so much disagreement among people, what would be needed would be an outside source of information. This could come from a person (say, a representative of the U.S. Mint) who was an authority on the subject, maybe even carrying a copy of real currency. It could also come from a book—say, if one of the branch employees found a U.S. Mint “Guide to Identifying Authentic Currency.”
But notice—at no time in this situation would we simply assume that since people disagree it must also be the case that none of them can be right. In other words, the presence of disagreement doesn’t negate the existence of authentic currency, nor of the possibility of someone being able to rightly identify it. It just means the workers would have to do their homework.
And so do we. When we’re in conversations about Christ, we need to be able help people see that the fact that people hold other beliefs doesn’t automatically prove that no one can be right about these things. At the very least, it means we have to get serious about examining the claims of Christ next to the claims of other teachers and beliefs. But we’ll go a long way if we can just get someone to see that they can’t assume that knowing God truly is impossible.
In these situations, then, part of our mission must be to bring the conversation around to this point. Then we can get to what we really want to do anyway: point to Christ.
continue reading the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Calvary Southampton