Tough Questions About God – Program 4


Besides the major religions in our world, there are thousands and thousands of religious groups all claiming different ways to God. But Jesus taught that He is the only way to God; there is no other way. Who is right? Logically, Jesus or one other religious leader could be right; but they both can’t be right at the same time if they are saying contradictory things. What evidence will help us decide and come to a conclusion?

If you are a Christian, do you know how to answer the tough questions about God that people are asking? The Bible says, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” [1 Pet. 3:15] Can you do that?

On this edition of The John Ankerberg Show, we’ll present the evidence that will strengthen your own faith and help you assist those who are sincerely searching for the truth. Join us today as we examine some of the tough questions about God.

Ankerberg: Welcome. Why is it that Christians believe that their sole source of authority is the Bible only? And why would any thinking person live his life according to the teachings in the Bible? Further, why do the cults quote from the Bible when they really look to another source of authority that overrules what the Bible teaches? These are some of the questions we’re going to answer today. First, many assume that because a religious cult identifies itself as a Christian group, it’s only source of authority is the Bible. But as you’ll hear today, that is not true.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, The Way International, Sun Myung Moon, all quote from the Bible, but it’s not their main authority. In an interview I conducted with Dr. Walter Martin, the author of the classic book, The Kingdom of the Cults, we talked about the real authority behind these different groups that contradict the Bible. I’d like you to listen:
      • [Excerpt from An Interview with Dr. Walter Martin]
Ankerberg: First, the basic things of the Bible. You know, I’d like to talk to you from the writings from the Kingdom Halls from across the country, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is a statement that you find in their writings. I’m quoting verbatim here, “The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God as it was originally given and has been preserved by Him as the revealer of His purposes.” Now, we hear that, and yet when they come to our door, they’ve got this little magazine with them. Would you comment on what is the authority for the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Dr. Walter Martin: Well, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the authority for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They interpret the Bible for them, and the best illustration of this, John, is the concept of blood transfusion. They have told their people they may not under any circumstances take human blood, not because the Bible forbids it, but because the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society says the Bible prohibits it. Take a few verses out of context and deny blood transfusions to people. That’s a classic illustration of what they do.
Ankerberg: Okay, give me another one.
Martin: There are other illustrations of how they do it. For instance, on biblical prophecy; the Watchtower organization said in 1889 that the world organizations would cease in 1914 and that Armageddon would take place. It didn’t happen in 1914. They moved it to 1918, 1925, and 1975 was the last one. Each time they have done it on the authority of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and each time they’ve been wrong.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s jump to another group and that is the Latter-day Saints, the Mormons in Salt Lake City. Now, I’ve talked with them here on the program as well as on airplanes and in airports and at universities and so on. They will start out and say, “Well, yes, we agree with the Bible.” But then they have a few other books that they throw in, too. Would you comment on that book?
Martin: Well, Mormonism says, “The Bible is the Word of God insofar as it is correctly translated.” Now, that means that wherever the Bible contradicts Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, or the Book of Mormon, their three sacred books, that the Bible is no longer the authority. They and their general authorities are the authority. So when you are dealing with Mormonism, that’s exactly what you’re going to run up against.
Ankerberg: Okay. Do those books ever contradict outright a statement in Scripture? Give me an example.
Martin: Oh, yes. For instance, the Bible says there is only one God. In fact, Jesus Christ said the greatest of all commandments is there is only one God. “Hear, O, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” [Deut 6:4] And the Mormons say, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become,” which means that you can become a god through the priesthood of the Mormon Church, just as much of a god as Jesus or His Father. So they are polytheists.
Ankerberg: Okay. What do you do when they say, “Now, if you really want to know the truth, what you have to do is, you’ve got to go pray about it”?
Martin: Well, you don’t have to go and pray about something God has specifically said. For instance, God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” [Ex. 20:15] Now, it’s ludicrous when you have an opportunity to steal something to bow your head and say, “I’ve got to pray about it.” You know automatically God said it. So when the Mormons say, “Pray about the Book of Mormon,” you don’t have to pray about the Book of Mormon. All you have to do is take God’s Word, compare it to the Book of Mormon and Mormon theology, and God has spoken. You reject it.
      • [end excerpt]
Ankerberg: Well, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Christian Science, The Way International, the Moonies and almost every other religious cult and group look to other sources of authority than the Bible, why is it that Christians look to the Bible as their only authority? This is a very important question. To answer it, I’d like to turn to a professor who has two earned Ph.D.s and is now teaching law in Great Britain. His name is Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. In our program last week, Dr. Montgomery presented the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That act, Christ’s resurrection, demonstrated His claim that He was God. After He was murdered on a cross, He rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples. He told them that He would give everyone who would believe in Him the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life. That was the foundation, the beginning, the start of Christianity. But what did this One who proved that He was God in human flesh think about the Bible? How does He want us to view the Bible? Listen to my conversation with Dr. John Warwick Montgomery:
      • [Excerpt from Jesus Christ: Was He a Liar, a Lunatic, a Legend or God?]
Ankerberg: Now, if Jesus Christ did come forth from the grave, and verified His claim to being God, there is one particular area that drives intellectuals crazy, and that is when they hear Christians talk about the Word of God, the Bible. And I would like you to start us off in this area as to what should a person who embraces Jesus Christ and acknowledges Him to be very God and invites Him to be the Savior of their life, to forgive them of their sins, when they embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, what view should they also embrace concerning the Bible? Start us off.
Montgomery: Well, the simple answer to this question is that the Christian needs to take the same view of the Bible that Jesus took of it. There is that old line, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” And it’s essential that Jesus’ approach to the Bible become the position of those who believe in Him. And Jesus’ position on the Bible is perfectly plain. This may come as a shock, but Jesus was a Fundamentalist when it came to the Old Testament. He believed the whole thing, He quoted from all portions of it, He slapped a quotation from one book right next to a quotation from another, and He sometimes blended them. He had absolutely no interest in the sociological or historical circumstances of the writings. He considered the whole business to have one single author, namely God Himself. When Jesus quotes the Old Testament, He uses the formula, “It is written,” gegraptai. That’s a passive in the Greek with an implied personal agent, and the personal agent is God. It is written, by God, and therefore it is true.
Ankerberg: But some people will say, Dr. Montgomery, you know, Jesus was a Jew and was actually talking to other Jews that believed it was the Word of God, and so therefore He was just accommodating Himself to what other Jews believed. He wouldn’t go against the grain.
Montgomery: Yeah, that’s one version of the infamous “kenotic” theory or kenosis theory, that there is a limitation in Jesus. Interestingly enough, the people who maintain this take the things Jesus says as absolute when the things agree with them, but the minute Jesus says something that they don’t like, suddenly Jesus is suffering from a limitation. That makes one wonder about the theory in itself. But let’s look at the theory closely. There are two versions of it.
One is that Jesus intentionally accommodated Himself. The other is that in becoming man, He had to become accommodated; that this occurred apart from any decision on His own part. Well, if you say that Jesus accommodated Himself, then that means that He committed the worst of all moral faults, that “the end justifies the means.” He actually gave false information to people, knowing that it was false, but did so just not to disturb them, see? They weren’t up to higher criticism at that point, so He goes along with this idea that the Bible is reliable.
But this is ridiculous. For one thing, Jesus criticizes His contemporaries right, left and center on all sorts of things that are basic to them. For example, He goes after the Jewish religious leaders on their view of God. Do you think He would do that and accommodate Himself on their view of the Bible if that view of the Bible actually had been false?
The other version of this is that, in becoming man, He couldn’t help Himself. In becoming man He ended up limited to the knowledge of His time. This suffers from an extreme fallacy logically. If God becomes man, but in doing so He is limited to the human sphere of knowledge, the end result is that you get no revelation at all. You would only get revelation if God remained God in His knowledge when He comes to you.
For example, let’s say that I come to Chattanooga and I have my white beard and my long prophet’s robe and I say, “Greetings, you thought it was mere Montgomery. Not in the slightest. It happens to be God.” And then I give a speech containing historical errors, scientifically erroneous information, and after finishing it I kick a little dog who has been bothering me.
And you say to me, “Just a minute, didn’t you say you were God?”
I say, “Certainly, but you don’t seem to understand. When God comes to earth, He ends up exactly like anybody else.”
Of course, your reaction to this is, “That kind of a God I can do without!” because I haven’t given you anything that you didn’t have to begin with. So, if there is the genuine appearance of God on earth in Jesus Christ, you can rely on what He says.
Ankerberg: Dr. Montgomery, what is Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, including Genesis, including Adam and Eve, including Noah and including Jonah, these figures that have caused such a problem to many scholars? What do you think Jesus would say to that?
Montgomery: Well, it’s not what I think He might have said, He actually did make judgments on each of those Old Testament passages which modern man considers so silly and childish. Jesus considered all three of those passages to represent historical fact. He believed that there had been two first parents, Adam and Eve; He held that there was a flood and a Noah who escaped from it; and that Jonah was actually swallowed by the sea beast.
He says, for example, about the bill of divorcement, Moses’ bill of divorcement, “From the beginning it wasn’t so.” [Matt. 19:8] And then He quotes the passage in Genesis, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall be one flesh.” [Matt. 19:5-6] So Jesus considered the Adam and Eve story to be at the beginning, at the beginning of human history and the basis of the covenant of marriage.
And He says of the flood and Noah, “As it was in the days of Noah so it will be when the Son of Man comes again.” [Matt. 24:37] He parallels the flood with His own second coming, which He clearly believed was a historical event in the future.
And He says, as we’ve already noted in the series, that only one sign will be given unto this generation to prove the truth of His claims, the sign of Jonah. “As Jonah was in the beast, so I will be in the earth.” [Matt. 12:39-40] The Greek word there that He uses is the strongest comparative in the language, kathos—“even as Jonah was in the beast, so I will be in the earth and rise again.” So, He parallels Jonah with the central event of the gospel, the resurrection.
Ankerberg: Yeah, it wouldn’t have made sense to compare a historical event with mythology.
Montgomery: Hardly.
Ankerberg: About Jesus’ view concerning the New Testament? Obviously it wasn’t written at that time, so how do we know that Jesus even talked about the New Testament?
Montgomery:Well, what He did was to promise His apostles a special gift, a special gift from the Holy Spirit, and that gift is the basis of the church’s collection of the writings of apostles, and the writings of close associates of apostles, to comprise the New Testament. The gift is described in John. He says, “It’s expedient that I go away… [the] Holy Spirit will come and He will bring to your remembrance all things whatsoever I have told you.” [John 16:7; 14:26]
That’s in the same passage where He says, “He will lead you into all truth.” [John 16:13] Those are specific gifts given to the apostles; they are not general gifts for the whole church. Now, obviously, you and I can’t have the things Jesus told us brought to our remembrance. That has to do only with those people. We call that today, probably in psychological terms, the gift of total recall. The Holy Spirit provided total recall to that apostolic group; so, of course, the church collected their writings. Their writings consist of the teachings of Jesus which will be accurately set forth for future history. And we see that situation applied even in the case of Paul. Now, Paul wasn’t among those original apostles, but Paul is accepted by the original apostolic group as a genuine apostle when he comes to them.
And so it’s like this: Jesus puts His stamp of approval, His “Good Housekeeping stamp of approval,” on the foreheads of the eleven apostles to set forth accurately what Jesus said. And then the eleven apostles stick their “Good Housekeeping stamp of approval” on Paul as a legitimate member of their company.
And we see as early as Peter’s writings that this kind of thing is going on, that the New Testament writings are on the same level as the Old Testament. Peter says that some people are wresting or turning Paul’s writings out of context, they’re twisting them out of context “as they do the other Scriptures.” [2 Pet. 3:16] And he uses the expression ta graphe, “the writings,” which is the expression for the Old Testament. So as early as that, Paul’s writings are being treated as Scripture.
Ankerberg: Can we trust the Bible completely or just in certain areas? Is the Bible totally true in what it conveys, or is it true in just salvation matters?
Montgomery: The first thing to know is that Jesus made no distinctions as to truth and error in Scripture. Everything that Jesus says about Scripture speaks of its truth. So, if we introduce the distinction between, say, the spiritual stuff that’s okay and the secular stuff that isn’t, it’s our distinction, it isn’t Jesus’ distinction.
Secondly, what kind of distinction is this? It is a very poor distinction, because you can’t divide up the totality of knowledge except arbitrarily. To keep us from going crazy we divide up the sciences from the humanities and then among the sciences we divide physics and chemistry and biology and we divide art and literature and history and so forth. But we know that all of these blend. There are no sharp lines in reality at all, and the deeper you go into any field, the more it takes you into other fields. So, since all knowledge is one and interconnected, if we say the Bible is okay in spiritual matters but it isn’t okay in secular matters—geography, history, science—the fact of the matter is that we then will find that it’s not okay in the spiritual matters either, because these blend totally the deeper you go.
And in Scripture that’s especially the case, because Scripture deals with God becoming man, eternity entering time. And thus you can’t make ultimately a secular/spiritual distinction in Scripture that will hold. Example: The death of Christ on the cross. Is the death of Christ on the cross a historical event or is it a theological event? That’s like the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Any answer you give to that will foul you up. The fact is that the death of Christ on the cross is a theological event because it is a historical event. If it didn’t actually happen in history, if it isn’t sound as a secular fact, it’s worthless as a theological fact. Therefore, the liberals who tell you that you don’t have to go along with the secular stuff in Scripture are actually undercutting the foundations of the entire theology of the Bible.
Ankerberg: What does the word “inerrancy” mean, and how would we come to the conclusion that Jesus took a view on inerrancy one way or the other?
Montgomery: Okay. Inerrancy simply means that the Bible does not err: it does not have errors in it. Now, it may be an unfortunate term in the sense that it’s a negative term. Maybe it would be better to speak positively, to say the Bible is totally true, to speak of it positively. But as Humpty Dumpty says in Alice in Wonderland, I can use a word any way I want as long as I pay it extra. So it’s not a question of the particular word, it’s a question of the concept. And the issue is: Does the Bible always present the truth exactly as God wants? Jesus thought it did; contemporary liberal biblical scholars and moderates think it doesn’t. Now, there is a tremendous difference between the two. Jesus rose from the dead and is God. The last news bulletin that I have received does not indicate that the liberal biblical scholars or the moderates have risen again from the dead, nor that they are God. And, therefore, if you are presented with a choice between Jesus’ approach to the Bible and their approach to the Bible, the only rational and sound way to go is the direction in which Jesus went.
Ankerberg: Take us back; give us a summation of what you’ve said tonight concerning the character of the Bible, the truthfulness of the Bible, and how we got there, for the intellectual that is listening.
Montgomery: It may be having heard this program you think that there is some kind of subtle, circular reason going on in arriving at our conclusion that the Bible is totally true. Aren’t we actually beginning with Jesus’ own statements on it, and don’t they come from the Bible? Well, this isn’t circular reasoning. What we’ve done is this: we’ve begun with the New Testament documents as ordinary historical documents and checked them out as we would any other documents. They have led us to the conclusion that Jesus is God.
Then we look at what He has to say in these good historical documents and we discover that the whole Bible, including those very documents, turn out to be far more than anything we had expected to begin with: they turn out to be the inerrant Word of God. It’s sort of like buying a field and thinking that you’re going to use it for agriculture and you strike oil. What we’ve done is, by this process, to find that the Bible is totally reliable.
      • [end excerpt]
Ankerberg: Let’s summarize what we’ve seen today. The reason there are so many different religious beliefs is because the Bible is not the sole source of authority for the different religious cults and groups.
For example, for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their real authority is the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn. The Watchtower has come out with its own translation of the Bible and added to and taken away words from the Bible that disagree with its view. For the Mormons, they hold to the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, the prophet of the Mormon Church, and then the Bible. And on and on this goes with other religious groups.
For Christians, why is the Bible their sole source of authority? It is because the historical evidence about Jesus has led them to the conclusions that He not only claimed to be God, but proved His claim by His resurrection from the dead. Then, since Jesus has proved He is God, we realize we must listen to what He tells us about other matters. Concerning the Bible, Jesus informs us that the whole Bible is the inerrant Word of God, that it is totally reliable in all that it teaches, and we are to obey it. And since the Bible is the only book that Jesus has put His stamp of approval on, then it is our sole, our only source of authority.
Now, next week, I hope that you’ll join me when we look at another one of the tough questions about God. It will be: “Do Catholics and Protestants teach the same thing about how a person gets to Heaven?” I hope that you’ll join me.

Read Part 5


This transcript was put together by The John Ankerberg Show and includes guests Jack Harris, John Warwick Montgomery, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Paul Kurtz, Dr. Walter Martin, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. R. C. Sproul, and Dr. John MacArthur; ©1998.


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