DURING THE STORMS OF CHANGE:
“Hold Fast Our Confidence”!
Adult Bible Study Fall Quarter 1997
Lesson One: “Why Is Confidence Difficult?”
1. Transparency 1/1 The destruction of the Christian’s
is the result of Satan’s subtle strategy to undermine
the comfort of hope given by the gospel (cf 2 Co 4:1-18; 10:3-6; 1 Pt 5:6-10;
etc.). When believers survey society’s attitudes toward spiritual matters,
they are disheartened. The callous immorality, cynical criticism toward
religious things, and, blatant blasphemy unite to destroy their confidence.
It is all to easy to surrender confidence for cowardice (cf 2 Ti 1:7-8).
Too often Christians do not understand how the confusion of society has
infected their Faith and planted the cancerous doubts of faith and compromises
of convictions. This point is addressed in this lesson. Its answer is found
in understanding the philosophy of society. This lesson may appear to be
totally removed from the scope of the series. Yet this lesson is one of
the most important, if not the most important, in setting the foundation
of our investigation.
a. How important is "philosophy" to Christians?
To the world?
1) C.S. Lewis asserted that everyone in life has
a philosophy -- the only question is whether it is a good or bad
2) G. K. Chesterton - "There are some people -
and I am one of
them - who think that the most practical and important
things abt a man is still his view of the universe. We think that
for a landlady considering a lodger it is important to know his income,
but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general
to fight an enemy it is important to know that enemy's philosophy" [quoted
by William James, "Pragmatism," Writings, p. 487].).
3) Realize that philosophy is not restricted to
the stuffy halls of academics -- it is a topic that touches all.
b. There are problems with philosophy.
1) Many are bored and with grief anticipate philosophical
2) Some are mesmerized by philosophy and set themselves
up as the supreme authority of "reality."
3) Most are dazzled by philosophy's vocabulary
and are fearful of its probing questions and seeming unanswerable theories.
4) But, like all monsters and myths of fright,
philosophy is not
difficult. The student will discover that if it is not
"fun" it is at least "interesting."
2. Transparency 1/2 Specifically we examine philosophy
lesson as various philosophical positions (and tenets)
have impacted the study and interpretation of Scriptures. In considering
these positions we will be able to observe the underlying principles that
have melded together to form the governing philosophy of our society (i.e.
the post-modern mindset). Once this philosophical mind is described we
will be able to see why the believer’s confidence is ruthlessly attacked.
Our observations will present a basis for explaining why modern “changes”
in beliefs and practices should be rejected. It is an interesting survey
that is seldom contemplated, but it is critical for Christians to understand!
a. Influential factors in modern society's philosophy.
1) FRANCES BACON (1561-1626) is known as the "father of
ductive reasoning." To understand Bacon's role we need
a quick review of history.
a) During the Middle Ages it was generally
assumed the Ro-
man Church was the supreme power. Her clerics were empowered
with decisions that originated from an "inspired" choice. The Roman Church
ruled with a heavy hand which would eventually result in a backlash
toward all religiously rooted principles.
b) The Protestant Reformation offered an
Scripture interpretation that dramatically opposed Rome's
edicts. Freed from the repression of Church Traditions courageous hearts
began to urge biblical authority for all religious practices.
c) The Renaissance Period coincided with
and together they urged a serious reexamination of religious
practices. New interests and discoveries in Science flourished and these
resulted in a "reawakening" of independent thought and a reactionary rejection
of all religious authority. All elements of this period began to come together
and a new perception of "man" resulted -- the general view of man, prior
to this time, focused upon the spiritual (he was created by an Almighty
God). Following the reawakening man was viewed as "natural" (he was all
material evolving from the primal mist). Thus, man was elevated from the
"creature” to the "Creator."
d) During this reawakening Bacon formulated
his philosophical concept that is now recognized as the "inductive study
method." This applied reasoning in a systematic method in which scattered
facts are brought to support a general conclusion. Bacon's system cautioned
that these perils would prove disastrous to a logical conclusion:
1) Wishful thinking
2) Personal bias in the study
3) Failure to give adequate definitions
4) Blind allegiance to traditions
e) The "Age of Reason" was a logical consequence
to this cli-
mate. Following the reawakening men saw mortal reason
as the superior method of revelation. Hence, religious revelation was replaced
with a "rationalism" of mortality.
2) JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704) was a major figure in
who utilized Bacon's method. Locke's works are numerous
but one especially brought a focus upon the reasonable nature of Christianity
as a logical conclusion. Although Locke focused upon the gospels and opposed
any Church doctrine, his writings were influential and had a great impact
upon religious thinkers. The fact we need to remember is Locke's insistence
upon how facts, arriving from a general investigation, validates a conclusion.
3) WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910) was a philosopher
who made an
impact upon modern thought that is seldom admitted. James
was religiously inclined yet swayed by the naturalistic philosophy of Darwinism.
James struggled with the radical critics of Scripture and sought to accept
a "middle road" position which allowed him to hold to naturalism and theism.
The prevailing thought of his day prevented James from a satisfactory dualism
and he struggled to find a system of thought that would "give and take"
so he could equally believe in religion and naturalism. James found his
answer in the "pragmaticism" that was suggested by Charles S. Pierce in
1878. Pierce, James, and Dewey are recognized as the three leading advocates
of pragmatic thought in modern times. James is recognized as applying pragmatic
philosophy to religion. James was able, by application of pragmaticism,
to resolve the conflict that had plagued him so long. There are many points
of James' thought in this regard but some of the major ones are . . .
a) "Interested in no conclusions but those
which our minds
and experiences work out together ... If theological
ideas prove to have value for concrete life, they will be true ... [The
Age of Analysis, p. 170]. Note: He thought that a religious belief/practice
had meaning ONLY if one thought so by it bringing profit. If a belief did
not have profit for the person, it could be discarded. "Truth" became defined
by personal experience not objective standard (i.e. Scripture).
b) James developed a concept of "Truth" which
is still echoed in modern times -- "An idea is 'true' so long as to believe
it is profitable to our lives" [Age , p. 170]. He maintained that
"Truth" is verified only as far as it was practiced. Thus "Truth's reality"
became a capricious state which was to be defined solely by one's experiences
and moods! James stated that "Truth" was validated for each person just
as each would validate terms such as "wealth," "health," "strength," etc.
In this manner "truth" (especially biblical "Truth") lost its absoluteness
and could be modified to accommodate any challenge [Writings, p. 581].
c) James addressed the issues of opinion
and Truth. He ob-
served that "Truth" and "opinion" are exclusively in
the eye of the student. Whatever "works" is "true," if it does not work
for one then it is the "opinion" of another and may be "Truth" for him
but not "Truth" for another. [Age, p. 149]. James viewed practices of the
past which have no merit for the modern man as "Truths grown petrified
by antiquity" [Writings, p. 515]. Note: It is amazing how similar the change
advocates are today with James' thoughts almost a century ago. Today we
hear that the Church suffers from, "Fozzilization of some wooden commands."
The charge may be coincidental but the roots feed from the same stream
-- pragmatic thinking! The same deadly result occurs -- the believer’s
confidence is destroyed!
d) In order to reconcile the contradictions
James wanted to believe and what the old "logical inductive"
system would allow him to believe, James maintained that "To a certain
degree, therefore, everything here is plastic" [Writings, p. 513].
e) Since "truth" is ever in a process of
being modified (so
it can become "profitable"), James explained that "new
opinions" must be grafted into the stock of old opinions and the resulting
"new" doctrine is to be adopted as the "true one" [Writings, p. 512-513].
f) The critical litmus test for "Truth" in
James' system was
the simple question -- "Is the belief, practice, or teaching
practical? Will it end with a profitable result?" Of course this necessitated
"Truth" to be redefined by each person. Each situation requires new assessment.
What was “adultery” in the past, may not be “adultery” in the present!
What was "Truth" yesterday could very well be "untruth" today! The only
constant in pragmatic decision making was there are no constants,
everything is fluid!
b. Transparency 1/3 Consider some terms that are
used in philosophical discussions. These have a practical impact for us
today. We may not use the exact term but we do use the concept.
1) RATIONALISM -- This is the reliance/dependence
upon mortal reasoning to obtain valid truth. This rejects revelation from
God and rests upon man.
2) REASON -- A thoughtful and careful application
in a logical, consistent manner so that parts will be
brought together and the whole concluded. This simple thought process allows
men/women to determine what is truth. It studies all available sources
-- especially revelation and acknowledges that it is incapable of knowing
Truth upon its own intuition.
3) UTILITARIANISM -- Is a philosophy that applies
tenets to life's situations. One is to practice/believe
only that which "works" for him/her. If something "works" then there
should be no objection to its practice. Modern society is guided by this
philosophy as it contends that, "Faith does not have to be rational (reasoned)!"
This thought suggests that we should consider the "utility" of any belief/practice
before it is condemned. We are urged to believe anything as long as it
"works" and has a good goal!
4) PLURALISM -- Refers to a philosophy that says
is in the midst of many religious ideas and each idea
has equal validity. We should not condemn any idea, even if it possess
contradictions, because it may be "truth" for another. Since there are
so many different beliefs we must accept all and judge none as error!
5) SUBJECTIVENESS -- Refers to man's feelings as
a basis for de-
cision-making. This is often referred to as a "personal
leading/decision/relationship." As such it has NO universal Truth -- all
is to be judged only when personally accepted as applicable to one’s life.
The term "intuition" is often used in connection with this concept to refer
to that which "feels right" [See Smith, p. 128).
6) RELATIVISM -- Refers to the philosophy that
meaning (reality) for me unless it has a realistic meaning
for MY time (i.e. "I want what is relevant!"). This is often interpreted
in light of culture and custom -- if MY culture/custom is different from
that in Scripture, then Scripture has NO significance for ME. Focus is
solely upon Self.
7) EXISTENTIALISM -- This philosophical position
arose as Ratio-
nalism crumbled. Since man could not find "truth" from
mortal reasoning, it was decided that "Truth" was absent from mortal mind
and accessible only through a non-rational source. Primacy was given to
feelings, intuition, and subjective basis. One was thus able to find "Truth"
by transcending logic and finding a mystical source of "truth." In this
view "Truth" varies from person to person, hence there is no universal
"Truth" binding all. The Bible is a good book and may or may not have Truth.
c. When these terms are considered by the Scriptures
the following will be observed :
1) RATIONALISM -- The radical elevation of mortal
the Divine is wrong. This has been historically verified.
In Eden man thought he could elevate himself above Jehovah, but it was
catastrophic (Gn 1-3). Other references reveal the same tragedy resulting
whenever man trusted in his own reason for guidance and standard of Truth
(cf Ro 1:18,20; 1 Co 1:18-26). Man tragically learned that rationalism
(mortal reasoning alone) was incapable of providing the answers to his
2) REASON -- This is commended by God and urged
upon all (cf
Is 1:18ff; 1 Pt 3:15). This "reason" uses logical tenets
to determine a common sense conclusion.
3) UTILITARIANISM -- Although practiced in modern
is an old philosophy (2 Ki 17:33, 41). The error of this
view is illustrated in Scripture -- just because something" works" does
not mean it is acceptable (i.e. I may eat something that will satisfy
my hunger but if it has no nutrients I will starve to death!). The
ethic of utility has been condemned:
a. It did not work for Saul (1 Sa 13:13;
b. It did not work for Nadab and Abihu (Lv
c. It did not work for Uzzah (2 Sa 6:3ff).
d. It will not work for anyone who trusts
in his own reason- ing rather than God's revealed Will!
(Pr 14:12; 16:25).
4) PLURALISM -- This fails to admit that there
is a distinctive-
ness characterizing God's will! (Cf. 1 Pt 1:15; 2:11-12;
etc.). God is never satisfied with the "ordinary" -- He wants that which
is unique! There is a distinctive "oneness" that characterizes God's
system (cf. Ep 4:4-6). God has never tolerated a pluralistic philosophy
(cf 1 Co 8:5-6; Josh 24:14-15).
5) SUBJECTIVENESS -- The Word of God DOES NOT operate
a subjective basis. Those who trust in subjectiveness
are destined for a shocking eternity (cf Mt 7:21ff). One cannot trust “feelings”
6) RELATIVISM -- The Word of God (Bible) is always
Ti 3:16,17). To appeal to “relevance” to validate teaching
is tragic error! (cf Mt 7:13,14, 21-23; 2 Pt 2:1-19; 2 Ths 2:1-12; etc.).
7) EXISTENTIALISM -- This philosophical approach
denies an ab-
solute Truth. The Word of God (Bible; Scriptures) is
absolute Truth and is knowable to any honest searcher! (1 Jn 5:13; Ep 3:1-5;
etc.). It does not take some mystical, intuition!
d. Transparency 1/4 Consider some points that arise
from these considerations.
1) The concept of "Truth" has been affected by
philosophical infectious germs!
a) Many today deny that there is an "absolute
have been impacted by William James' pragmatic "Truth."
The remarks he made 9 decades ago are being rephrased and repeated in our
modern times. They are uncannily similar!
b) The statement that "truth is unknown and
except via personal intuition" is contradictory to Scripture
(Jn 14:6,17; 16:13; 17:17; 1 Jn 5:13; Lk 24:45; Ro 16:26).
2) To eliminate all "reason" and "logic" from the
Scripture is an illogical position! How can one hope
to "understand" when s/he approaches the topic in a manner that is opposed
to the very principles of "understanding"? How can we "examine,"
"take heed," "give diligence to," and "reprove" without applying reasoning
and logic? (Ac 17:11; 1 Co 10:12; 2 Ti 2:15; 1 Ths 5:14, etc.). The ONLY
WAY this can be done is to accept the "subjective truth' of pragmaticism
and believe only those things which "work."
3) To trust upon the basis of subjective feelings
and emotions is to act foolishly (2 Ths 2:12; 1 Jn 4:1;
2 Co 13:5).
3. Transparency 1/5 A philosophy that enables us to approach
this series with confidence possesses three important aspects.
a. The first factor, of any workable philosophy,
focuses upon its
logical truth. Whenever one examines any belief or practice
s/he must ask, "Is this tenable?" If one's belief/practice cannot be supported
with valid reasoning, it is unwise to hold it as a central belief or governing
principle! As much as the change advocates are repulsed by "logic" in their
"spiritual discernment," it occupies a critical role in their belief system.
Logic alone is insufficient to provide a working philosophy. Logic needs
the element of feeling/intuition/emotions to be a proper standard.
b. The second factor of a working philosophy focuses
applicability to daily life. When one examines a belief/practice
s/he must ask, "is this livable?" Any belief must provide a harmony in
practical living. This explains how the logic of the belief/practice is
to be lived. This factor details how feelings/emotions are restrained
by logic. Many have failed to note the danger of philosophies based solely
upon this level. These allow feelings and "practicality" to outweigh the
logic of reason. It is on this level that pragmaticism is based and this
is why it is an erring philosophy! Standards based upon feeling alone create
absolutes in doctrine and morality that are contradictory. In this second
level one's imagination (intuition) will allow that which reason forbids
(i.e. those ensnared will admit, "Oh, I know what the Bible says, but my
heart tells me otherwise."). Whenever a philosophy is based solely
upon this level it allows man to be guided by emotions, unchecked by reason,
and, will eventually justify the most unconscionable belief/practice!
c. The third factor focuses upon the practicality
of urging others to live right. In addressing any situation
one must ask, "Do I have the right to regard such-and-such as wrong? Am
I to urge caution and repentance regarding this belief or practice?" In
short we must ask, "Is this transferable to another?" It is this third
level that brings our belief/practice down to the "nitty-gritty of life."
A logical conclusion or an emotional belief that fails to prescribe is
meaningless. This is where we "exhort" one another. But this level cannot
stand alone -- how can one prescribe belief/practice without levels one
or two? Those who live on this level (without the other two) allow culture
to decide behavior as "individual tastes." Yet a most interesting contradiction
is seen -- those who advocate a "non-judgmental" attitude in life’s choices
have this level as their standard, but they condemn others who disagree
with them! They fail to allow for the "taste" of the individual who disagrees.
To be true to their position they cannot rebut anyone who criticizes
d. A proper philosophy must incorporate all three
of these levels -- logic, feelings/emotion, and real-life application.
Logic tells us what we believe. Feeling/Emotion tells us why we live
as we do. The real-life application tells us why we prescribe certain
beliefs/practice for others. None of these levels is acceptable by itself.
Each depends upon one another. We should argue from logic, illustrate
from feelings, and apply to all others. Our lives move from Truth, to experience,
to prescription. If we rest upon feeling/emotion one's life is not livable
because it faces constant contradiction. If we rest upon application without
Truth, it is similar to the ethic of feelings. When we begin with Truth,
discerned by logical investigation we can move to enjoyable feeling and
practical application that is justifiably prescribed for others. The vital
point of beginning is the discernment of objective Truth! This is
only possible if we utilize all three of these points. Note: The current
change advocates seek to persuade us to question the foundations of our
confidence by telling us we should live only on levels two or three. They
look with chagrin on any "logic" being applied!
4. Transparency 1/6 As you consider "Hold Fast Our Confidence!"
it must be understood that you are asked to decide a fundamental question
regarding your philosophical perspective -- "How do YOU view Scripture's
competence to direct one in modern society so s/he will possess the calm
confidence of Faith in God?"
a. There are only 2 responses -- it is either with
a logical, reasoned response or with a pragmatic, utilitarian response.
1) One provides a sound, consistent, objective
2) One provides a shifting, ever-changing standard.
b. Your response will have a tremendous impact upon
1) How one should obey God.
2) How one should know God's will.
3) How one should view the conditions of salvation.
4) How one should view the Church of the New Testament.
5) How one will practice the teachings of the New
c. Sadly some have opted for the subjectiveness
of pragmaticism. Their choice has prodded them to call for "change" in
basic doctrines and practices. They see futility in maintaining the absolute
Truth, and, thus the absolute authority of Scripture. They choose to accept
a pragmatic philosophy in religion that finds any absolute intolerable!
Such a choice deprives them of the wonderful confidence offered by God
to all in our confused world!
Copyright 1999 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no
cost to others.