Announcer: Hello and welcome to the Taco Tuesday Theology Show with your host, Danny Powell! For many of us, going through life in an increasingly secular world is proving a challenge to navigate. Each week, we take your questions about modern life and answer them using the lessons revealed in the scriptures. Now, grab yourself a taco, and let’s get to this week’s question!
Question: Hey, this is Tyranny from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and my question is, how can Christians think their personal, religious experiences with God are any more true than those of adherents to other belief systems?
Danny: This question is interesting in that it cuts to the very soul of everyone that follows any belief system, how do I know what I believe is the one true religion? How do I know I’m right? How do I know “they” are wrong? To answer this question, we have to make one assumption, that there is a world beyond the physical one we experience through our five senses. All the major world religions assume this so we will too. If all the major world religions teach about the supernatural, how can the Christian assume their experience is any more genuine than the Buddhist or Hindu, Muslim, or New Ager? In those faiths, there are reports of the supernatural, healings, visions, and prophecy.
In Exodus, we read about people other than the children of Israel performing signs and wonders. There are multiple, but for brevity, we will recount two. This is the first one before Pharaoh in Exodus chapter 7, verses 9 to 12:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Perform a miracle!’ then you shall tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it become a serpent.’” Moses and Aaron went into Pharaoh, and they did so, as Yahweh had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers. They also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing with their enchantments. For they each cast down their rods, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” (Exodus 7:9-12, WEB)
Danny: The magicians and sorcerers of Pharaoh were able to duplicate the sign that Yahweh provided. Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers were certainly adherents of a different religion than Moses and Aaron. However, the experience of turning their staffs into snakes was very real to those magicians. They were convinced their experience was true.
The second example we will take from Exodus is the very next demonstration. These are verses 15 to 22:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and overall their ponds of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’” Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, and the river became foul, and the Egyptians couldn’t drink water from the river, and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing with their enchantments, and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he didn’t listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken.” (Exodus 7:19-22, WEB)
Danny: Again, the magicians of Egypt duplicated the same sign Yahweh commanded Moses and Aaron to perform with their enchantments. Were their signs false, i.e., not true?
When I first heard the question you asked, my first thought was a New Testament example. From the Book of Acts:
Scripture reading (Rachel): “As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune-telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.” (Acts 16:16-18, WEB)
Danny: In this example, Jesus has already been crucified and resurrected, the Day of Pentecost has already occurred, birthing the church age, and we know from Acts 11, verse 26, that the world is now recognizing Christians as a religious sect. In this example, the slave girl has been fortune-telling using a different belief system than the Christians and the results have been very profitable to her masters and she and they would certainly believe in the experiences they’ve been having as real, if not true.
The three examples given demonstrate that it is possible to have supernatural experiences outside of Christianity. The question you asked is, “how can Christians think their personal, religious experiences with God are any more true than those of adherents to other belief systems?”
This begs the question Pilate asked Jesus in John 18:37, “Quid est veritas? or What is truth?” Since Pilate asked, we know this question isn’t new, but it has taken on a whole new meaning in modern culture. Many subscribe to the idea that “what is true for me might not be true for you.” This is called “Truth Relativism”. Truth relativism is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. Many Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism actually embrace relative truth as part of their doctrines. The problem with Truth Relativism is that there cannot be absolute truth if the truth is relative to a situation or culture. The very statement, “there is no absolute truth” is an oxymoron because that statement is presented as absolute truth. If there is no absolute truth, there is no absolute morality, no absolute right, and no absolute wrong. The question then becomes, who decides what is truth, what is right, and what is wrong?
“You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan trolled in Genesis 3:5 The devil promised an experiential knowledge of good and evil. Mankind would now be able to choose between what is good and evil instead of having a god impose a code of right and wrong.
Break in Transcript
Danny: If truth is relative, then mankind becomes the arbiter of what is truth. To take it further each individual gets to decide what is true, what is right, and what is wrong. Seven times in the book of Judges, the Scripture screams out, “in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he addresses this very thing. “For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts;” (2 Timothy 4:3, WEB)
Let us begin looking at whether Christianity is the truth by looking at the Bible. The Christian will claim that the Bible is the written word of God. All our doctrines originate in the Bible. One difficulty discussing absolute truth with a relativist is they do not accept the Bible as the final authority when there is a disagreement regarding truth. How can we know that the Bible is actually the written word of God? Back in Episode 1, I spoke about the continuity of the Bible written over fifteen hundred years on different continents with multiple authors. I won’t revisit that here; you can listen to it in the podcast archives. I will add to it here in that one way to qualify the Bible as absolute truth is through fulfilled prophecy. In the Bible are some twenty-five hundred specific prophecies. Of those, two thousand have already been fulfilled with uncanny accuracy! There hasn’t been a human psychic or medium that has been able to verifiably claim that level of accuracy and never with the degree of detail the Bible does. I want to use two examples, one from before Jesus’ crucifixion, and the second one that made Bible prophecy real to me personally.
Some 400 years before crucifixion was even invented, both Israel’s King David and the prophet Zechariah described the Messiah’s death in words that perfectly depict that mode of execution. Further, they said that the body would be pierced and that none of the bones would be broken, contrary to customary procedure in cases of crucifixion (Psalm 22 and 34:20; Zechariah 12:10). Again, historians and New Testament writers confirm the fulfillment: Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross, and his extraordinarily quick death eliminated the need for the usual breaking of bones. A spear was thrust into his side to verify that he was, indeed, dead. This fulfillment isn’t only in the Bible, it has been verified by other sources.
The skeptic will point out that the event prophesied here was fulfilled over two thousand years ago and Scriptures could very easily have been rewritten to make the facts fit the prophecy. So, a more modern fulfillment that defies that logic needs to be found. I found one. A prophecy was fulfilled in 1948 when the nation of Israel quite literally sprung into existence in a single day. Isaiah prophesied in chapter 66, verse 8,
“Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she gave birth to her children.” (Isaiah 66:8, WEB)
The prophet Ezekiel not only predicted the reformation of Israel in one day, but he also gave a very specific timeline and to the YEAR the prophecy was fulfilled. We don’t have time to run through the whole prophecy here, but I will link to an explanation of it on the transcripts page. The prophecy not only gives the date, but it describes how the nation will suddenly appear in one day through peaceable means and not military conquest, exactly how it happened, in our modern age! When this was spelled out for me the Bible suddenly became alive for me. Studying enough fulfilled prophecy should satisfy the skeptic of the truth of the Bible.
Ultimately, in order to decide if Christianity is the correct religion, we should look at the object of Christianity, Jesus Christ. We know from both the Bible and multiple secular sources that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist and that He was crucified on a Roman Cross. Extrabiblical sources also confirm the disciple’s claims that Jesus’ tomb was empty and that they believed He was resurrected. The vast majority of the world today uses his birth as the starting point of the calendar. All of history is divided into before Christ and after he was born.
Jesus Himself claims to be God. Take for example His words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” We need only to look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement to know He was claiming to be God. They tried to stone Him for this very reason: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming. John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!” This is a reference back to Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself as the “I AM.” The Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded (Leviticus 24:16). Scripture also records Jesus receiving worship whereas other beings like angels always admonished people from worshipping them reminding the people to worship God only.
Jesus states that He is the only way to God. He does not allow for multiple paths to God.
CS Lewis presented a trilemma in his book, Mere Christianity. He presents a logical argument that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or is Lord. Here is it summarized by CS Lewis in his book:
Quote from CS Lewis (read by Keith Hassell): I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . .. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity, 55-56)
Danny From our examples, we have seen that it is possible for people that do not declare Jesus as Lord and Savior to have supernatural experiences. However, all those are counterfeit experiences if we accept that Jesus is indeed God in flesh, born of a virgin, crucified, and raised on the third day just as the prophecy foretold. Jesus warns us, “For there will arise false christs, and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:24, WEB)and the Apostle Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as Christ’s apostles. And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, WEB)
Ultimately, it is up to the individual to accept that Jesus is Lord or to reject Him. Our job as believers is to tell others the good news about Jesus. Jesus said that He would draw all men to Himself. For those who reject Him because they have made themselves to be gods, deciding good and evil, right and wrong for themselves, Scripture says:
“Even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” (Romans 1:28, WEB)
Announcer: Thank you for listening to this episode of Taco Tuesday Theology. If you have a question you’d like us to answer from a Biblical world view, please go to our website, www.tacotuesdaytheology.com and click on the “Send Message” button. You can send the message right from your smartphone or computer. Maybe next week, we’ll answer your question. New episodes post every Tuesday afternoon. Until next time, keep praying and pass the guacamole!