We had reached the point in our last letter where we were talking about faith—especially as it stands connected to the Scriptures. I think I mentioned to you that Scripture does not mean by faith an acceptance of unproved assumptions or of unprovable presuppositions. This is a view of faith which is extremely common today especially in the so-called Science—Scripture debate or Creation—Evolution debate. And there is sometimes misunderstanding about this matter also in connection with our faith in Scripture as the Word of God infallibly inspired in all its parts. When we claim that we hold the Scriptures to be infallibly inspired by faith, we are said to hold to a doctrine which is fundamentally unprovable. That we accept this by faith means that we accept it even though we cannot prove it, and perhaps just because we cannot prove it. I deny this, and I think we ought to be clear on this point.
The whole thing revolves around the question: What is faith? The Scriptures make it very clear that faith is the bond which puts the believer into living contact with Christ so that the believer lives in fellowship with Christ, draws his life out of Christ, is part of the mystical body of Christ, and continues in organic union with Christ for all of life, through death, and on into eternity.
But because faith is the living connection between the believer and Christ by which the life of Christ becomes the possession of the believer, it is also a very great power which changes in a profoundly spiritual way the whole life of a man who possesses it. Do not get me wrong. Faith does not change man in any psychological sense of the word. Faith does not make alterations in one’s character. As far as his character is concerned he is the same kind of man before he has faith as after he has received this gift. Nor, if he has an IQ of 95, does faith raise his IQ to 135. Faith is a spiritual power. But as a spiritual power it enlightens the mind and changes the will.
Our Canons speak of this as a couple of very beautiful articles. It is true that our Canons are talking about regeneration or conversion, but it is also obvious that our fathers, in these articles, meant to include faith. They write in III & IV, 11, 12: “But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.
“And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture . . . it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares . . . Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Whereupon also, man is himself rightly said to believe . . .”
Now the point I want to make is this. If faith is such a spiritual power, faith is exactly the power to put the believer in contact with heavenly things—with the things of God, of His revelation, of His Word, of Christ, of heaven and of all things spiritual. I say, faith is the power to put him in contact with all these things. Without faith this is impossible. Faith is the power to do this. But if faith is such a power, then faith is, so to speak, its own proof. I want to make this as clear as I possibly can. To ask one to “prove” that the Bible is the Word of God is to ask an absurd question of one who has faith. Let me see once if we can illustrate this. Supposing that you are in your living room looking out of the window on a day in which the rain is falling from the skies in torrents. Supposing further that there is a man who is standing on the street comer in front of your house waiting for a bus. But because he has no umbrella he has literally become soaked to the skin. The water is dripping off the brim of his hat. He is huddled inside his coat trying to preserve a little warmth against the chill of the drenching he is getting. He is completely and totally miserable. Now supposing that you rush out of the house and run up to the man to ask him why he is so miserable. He will probably wonder a bit about your sanity, but will, no doubt, answer that, generally speaking, his misery is due to the fact that the rain is falling, he left his umbrella home, the bus is late in coming, and this combination of circumstances has resulted in a thorough soaking for him. But if your next question would be: “Prove to me that it is raining,” the man would either become furious because he would think you were mocking his discomfort, or he would think you out of your mind if your question was asked in seriousness. The point is that there are some things which are so totally obvious that they are beyond the reach of proof. They are so obvious that, if to a given person, they are not obvious, there simply is not any kind of evidence one can muster which will make the point any more obvious than it is. If the man who is standing in the rain and is gradually getting more and more soaked, seeks seriously proof for the fact that it is raining, there is no evidence one can produce which will make it any more obvious than it already is.
Now this was the way it was in Paradise with Adam. All the creation shouted aloud the Word of God. And Adam heard this Word of God in every living thing. He knew God, knew God as a friend knows a friend. He had living and abiding fellowship with God. His joy and happiness was to live with God surrounded on every side by God’s Word. If someone had come into the garden and had asked Adam: “Prove to me that there is a God,” Adam would not have known what to say. And he would not have known what to say because every flower, every bird, every piece of fruit, every ray of sunlight, every part of the blue sky above, shouted itself hoarse in praise to God the Creator of all. About all Adam could have said was: “Look around you at every thing. And if you are not persuaded that God is, then there is nothing at all I can do or say which will make this truth any clearer than it is.” God was so obvious in all things that there was no proof possible.
Sin changed that. And sin changed that, not because the speech of God in the creation is any less clear. It may be a different kind of speech in the creation, for the creation speaks loudly of God’s wrath, of His curse and of His punishment of all wickedness. But the speech is still there. God did not cease speaking in creation. The trouble lies with man. Sin has made him completely blind and deaf to God. We must understand once again that this was a spiritual loss. It is true that man was also affected by sin physically and psychologically. Death came into his existence. And the powers of mind and will which he possesses from a natural point of view are only “remnants of natural light.” But the spiritual loss of man’s spiritual powers was fatal. He is now an enemy of God, filled with bitter hatred against God. And it is this spiritual enmity and hatred which makes the sinner totally blind to God and to all the things of God. To use Paul’s expression inRom. 1:18, he holds the truth in unrighteousness. It is exactly this spiritual blindness which makes all proof really irrelevant to the unbeliever. You will recall what Moses said to the rich man in hell (Luke 16.) The rich man wanted Lazarus to go back to earth to warn his brothers about the consequences of their sinful lives. Moses told the rich man that he would not send Lazarus back, because the rich man’s brothers had Moses and the prophets. But the rich man did not think that Moses and the prophets were adequate. He was of the opinion that if his brothers had something extraordinary, had a visitation from one who had been through death and who lived on the other side, that this unusual happening would surely persuade them to change their ways. Moses’ answer is definite and final: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” There is no way in which an unbeliever can be convinced of the truth of heavenly and spiritual things. There is no proof which can be brought to bear on the problem which will be sufficiently convincing to persuade him to change his mind. And this is simply because the whole matter is spiritual. The wicked are spiritually blind, not intellectually blind. And their spiritual blindness makes it impossible to see anything of the kingdom of heaven. There is an old adage, “No one is so blind as he who will not see.” This is eminently true of the unregenerate.
And it is exactly because of this that faith is such a great power. For faith is the power whereby our spiritual blindness is taken away. And faith is such a power because faith enlightens the mind and changes the will. By the power of faith, we will see, for our wills are renewed. By the power of faith, we love the things of God and of His Word.
Hence also faith is its own proof. And faith is its own proof, not because faith is blind acceptance of the unprovable, but because faith is the spiritual power to see the completely obvious. The believer needs no proof that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Faith makes this so completely obvious because faith places the believer in living contact with Christ. Faith believes that the Bible is the Word of God. To the believer this is obvious. If the unbeliever says to him, “Prove to me that the Bible is the Word of God,” all that the believer can do is say, “The Bible says so.” And if this is unsatisfactory, so be it. You cannot prove any further something so completely and totally obvious. You cannot prove to a man standing in a howling blizzard that it is snowing. You cannot prove to a man dying of cancer that he is sick. You cannot prove to a man who has just eaten himself full that he is not hungry. If all these things are not completely obvious to the individual, there is something wrong with him that no amount of proof is ever going to change. You cannot prove to a child of God that the Bible is God’s Word, that Christ is His Christ, that all that Scripture says is very truth. He knows this with such total conviction that proof to him is irrelevant. He knows Christ’s Word as truth because He knows Christ Who speaks that Word. He knows Christ as his Friend and Savior. He knows that he belongs to his faithful Savior. And he knows that that is his comfort.
But now I must say farewell for the time being. Sometime in the near future I shall finish this discussion by tying the loose ends together and relating this to Hermeneutics and to preaching.
With Christian greetings,