How Liberal Christianity Made Me More Conservative

As we walk through life, we change in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons. One of the most important ways we change is in our worldview – our understanding of the world and everything in it. Our answers to life’s biggest questions can be reshaped several times throughout life, and to varying degrees. When people go to university, maybe more than any other time in life, they often find themselves radically reinterpreting the world, how it is, and how it should be.

The following is an intellectual partial-autobiography, of how and why my views on certain things changed: namely, my view about the Bible. This is the story of how I changed from a Christian with liberal inclinations who had a low view of the Bible, into a Christian who would submit his entire worldview to whatever the Bible says. And all because I ran into the views of radical pluralistic Liberal Christians – not because I reacted emotionally against liberalism, but precisely because the liberals had good arguments.

Who I Was

Most of this story takes place in my second year of uni – 2010. At the beginning of that year, I was unambiguously a Christian, and I subscribed to all the major doctrines of protestant Christianity – the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, his atoning death for our sins, etc. But when it came to the Bible I was a lot more hesitant than my Christian friends were to believe whatever the Bible says just because that’s what it says.

I have always been a philosopher. I was engaged in philosophy in the confines of my own mind before I knew what the word “philosophy” meant, and when I learnt what it meant I knew I wanted to study it. So as a philosopher, I believed strongly in the power of reason. I was very comfortable letting abstract reasoning, rather than scripture, have the final say on doctrine. I did happen to think that the theological claims of the scriptures mostly held up pretty well to rational scrutiny (better than the theologies of Islam, Hinduism, or Ancient Paganism), but in principle the fact that I believed the core Christian doctrines was more because I thought they were philosophically reasonable than just because the Bible said them. In other words, I believed in Christianity, but my source of information was not scriptural authority – it was pure philosophical reasoning. I believed that I could argue for the truth of Christianity itself, as well as sort out its internal doctrines, by reason alone. I would use the books of the Bible as a helpful input, but I was willing to believe that Paul and John could have got certain things wrong about God, and I considered it possible to bypass scripture entirely and come to Christian theological truth.

This methodology was about to prove unsustainable when I ran into philosophically sophisticated religious pluralism.

Encounters with Pluralism

Now one thing I was pretty certain about going into second year was the pluralism was a stupid notion. Anybody who could think for half a second should have known that Christianity and Islam or Buddhism can’t all be true at the same time – there are direct and irreconcilable contradictions between them all. So in first semester of that year when I went into a unit in Philosophy of Religion, and found that there would be a section of the course devoted to religious pluralism vs. exclusivism, I couldn’t wait to crush the pathetic arguments of those ignorant pluralists. But I’ll never forget my experience of that semester. Not only was it an academic challenge (second year philosophy proved to be a lot harder than first year), but it turned out to be the greatest challenge to my Christian faith that I had had up to that point. My lecturer was in fact a pluralist himself, and the most adamant pluralist that I have still ever met. He sure let you know that he was a pluralist. He ran the sort of classroom where any view that was out of line with his way of thinking was laughingly dismissed, along with any scholar or student who proposed it. Looking back, he has become to my mind an exemplary figure of dogmatism (something not usually associated with liberalism). But his class really was one of the most outstanding examples that I have experienced of the outright indoctrination of a particular worldview.

But if the personality of the educator wasn’t intimidating enough, then the arguments he presented finished the job. To my great surprise, I discovered a breed of religious pluralism that was far more sophisticated than I anticipated, with arguments that weren’t that easy to defeat. (At this point I should clarify that I largely equate religious liberalism with religious pluralism, since most liberals of any religion tend to have pluralistic beliefs. Philosophical religious pluralism then, which largely spawned out of the Western Christian tradition, I would say is Liberal Christianity in its most final form.) The pluralist philosophers I came to meet in the books I read weren’t arguing that all religions are the same, or that they don’t contradict each other, or that they can all be true. They acknowledged real differences between the world religions, and in fact argued from the fact of these differences, that no single religion could have the monopoly of truth, but rather each is a mere facet or angle of an ultimate divine reality.

These pluralists, such as John Hick, argued that with all the religious diversity, or disagreement in the world about religious things, the probability that any one of these particular religions is completely true is very low. There are several premises. The first is that it seems like all the great religions are equally effective in producing personal moral transformation; no one religion takes the gold medal for piety and charity. The next premise is the epistemic parity of all religions; there has never been any conclusive, demonstrative argument to silence all counter arguments for any one religion; the answer to the big questions, it seems, is still up for grabs. Further, the pluralists point out that the way people become adherents to a religion is not usually by rational inquiry. People aren’t usually convinced into a religion by arguments, but rather they become part of a religion be means of prolonged exposure to that religious community. It is this religious “experience” that produces religious belief, rather than rational argumentation. On top of that, the main predictor for which religion an individual is exposed to, and thus comes to adhere to, is birthplace. That is, there is a very strong correlation between religion and place of birth. Essentially, the logical integrity and rational plausibility of a religious belief system has little to no bearing on whether or not individuals, including you and me, come to believe it.

So here’s the thing. If religious beliefs are primarily caused by religious experience and exposure to religious community, then they statistically produce false beliefs, because if there is only one true religion, then most of the religions on Earth have to be false, and so when a person undergoes exposure to religion and religious experience, it is more probable that they will come out believing in a false religion than a true one. So if there is no knock-down argument to end all arguments for your religion, and your religious beliefs were originally caused much more by your religious experience than by argument (your own reasoned arguments for your religion probably came after your religious experience; I’ll admit mine did), then who are you to say that yours is the one true religion? If we’re honest, we’ll probably have to accept that we have had far more exposure to one religion than to all the others. Given that this is probably the way you came to follow that religion, the only reliable way to know that your religion is better than the others, or that your “experience” was more real than anyone else’s, is to spend an equally long period of time immersed in every other religion in the world, and that would take more than one lifetime.

What we have here is essentially skepticism. A kind of agnosticism about religions. It is largely founded on a particular notion, one which was treated as an axiom in my Philosophy of Religion course: the notion that God, if he exists, is not sensually accessible by us humans in the natural world. We can’t sense him, basically. There’s nothing we can do to access God by our direct sensory faculties. There’s nothing we can point to in the empirical world that couldn’t possibly exist if there is no God – nothing in nature that decisively, objectively, and unambiguously points out his existence. And so the only way we might come to know about him is by rational contemplation – arguing with each other about whether he exists and what he’s like. But what the pluralists say is that none of these reasonings are, or can be, in themselves conclusive enough to prove a religious belief system beyond reasonable doubt – given our lack of sensual access to him, reasoning about God can never be any more than speculation. And because we have been profoundly influenced by our geographical and social circumstances, and our religious experiences, we may think we are being objective about the religion we choose to follow, but we are not. We cannot be objective about these religious arguments because we are too influenced by our subjective experiences. When I explain to someone of another faith why Christianity is the most reasonable religion, it makes sense to me, but to a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jew it is unconvincing. To them it doesn’t make nearly as much sense as their own faith, because that is the faith that they have been exposed to and had their experience in; it’s the religion they have grown into, the one that feels like home.

Pluralism offers a solution to that problem. Pluralism says that none of these religions are completely true, but they are all an expression of an ultimate truth. Pluralism says that there is one ultimate, ineffable, divine reality (John Hick calls it “The Real”; yeah, pretty wanky if you ask me), and this divinity has revealed itself to all sorts of people throughout the ages; people like Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth, Moses, Muhammad. And according to each of these people’s cultural contexts, they interpreted this divine experience in different ways. So each of the world’s religions is the product of a divine revelation, as manifest in its own historical context. They are all essentially worshipping the same being, but just calling it different things, and ascribing to it different (what Hick would call) superficial qualities.

Problems with Pluralism

In the middle of this semester I was faced with the most honest and serious challenge to my Christian faith that I had ever encountered. But it didn’t last that long, because by the end of the semester, with the help of Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, I had to some extent understood the serious problems with this liberal pluralist worldview. I’m now much more confident in the finality of these problems, and better at articulating them, but at the time I understood pluralism’s flaws enough to be able to dismiss it. Here’s the problem. When you ask enough questions to a pluralist, you force them into a level of specificity such that they make claims that defy the premises they used in their arguments for pluralism. Let me explain. Does this ultimate ineffable divine being care if we eat meat? Buddhism teaches us not to eat meat. The Bible allows us to eat meat. What does the God of pluralism think? If you say he doesn’t want us to eat meat then you arbitrarily favour Buddhism over Judeo-Christianity. If you say he doesn’t care whether or not you eat meat, then you’re essentially saying it is permissible to eat meat, which sides you with the Christians. If you say that God, for reasons of cultural relativity, requested that Indians don’t eat meat while Palestinians may, then you’re forming a theology that is so specific and detailed that it cannot be reconciled with the agnosticism on which pluralism is founded – you’re making a claim about God that cannot be empirically verified.

How about this: which religions were inspired by “The Real”, and which ones weren’t? Of course we think all the “great” world religions are revealed from divine reality, but what about Satanism? What about Scientology? What about ancient cults that employed child sacrifice? When it comes to Islam, are some sects a more faithful manifestation of the divine reality than others? When homosexual people are legally executed in Muslim countries, is it wrong, or is it just the culturally specific manifestation of divine reality in the Middle East? If you say that it’s wrong to execute people for homosexuality, how do you know that? At the end of the day, a pluralist either has to bite the bullet and say that the ineffable divine being doesn’t care what we do or how we treat each other, in which case we really do live in an amoral universe; or they have to decide somehow what God wants us to do and not do. But if they conclude that God doesn’t ultimately care for morality, doesn’t really mind what we do in the end, then surely they should immediately cease all their wasted efforts on any social justice activism they might be involved in. But then, if they ever make any conclusion about what God’s moral preferences are – in the midst of disagreement between religions – then they claim to know the very kind of thing that they say cannot be known. According to their abstract reasoning, executing homosexuals is not in line with the God they understand, but they say themselves that we can’t understand God. They say themselves that our abstract reasoning about God is not reliable enough to justifiably choose one religion. How then can it land us on any beliefs about God’s will, and how can it land us on pluralism?

See, pluralism is really an outstanding case of intellectual hypocrisy. Its conclusions defy the arguments it created to get to them. If God really is sensually inaccessible, and unknowable by reason alone, then really none of us should be making any conclusions about him of any kind. Thus the pluralist explanation for the world’s religions proves itself to be just another system of religious beliefs – just another opinion about God. How can we possibly know that God revealed himself to many peoples? How can we know that it was an unspecific revelation that was culturally shaped? How do we decide which “religions” were the product of revelation, and which were man-made? Shall we just compile a canon of religions that count as the real ones, based again on what seems right to us? In the end, pluralism turned out to me to be a profoundly self-destructing, hypocritical, and unsustainable worldview. Just another speculative claim about what God is like, no more enlightened than any of the other religions.

Encounters with Islam

Now at this point, I had comfortably dismissed the pluralist worldview. I was quite sure that pluralism was not the way to go. But at some semi-conscious level, lurking in the back of my mind was the problem that the pluralists had presented me with. See the problem with pluralism was not that its arguments were bad; it was that the worldview didn’t do justice to its arguments. The arguments that pluralists had given successfully raised a deep and genuine problem – a problem that pluralism didn’t solve. But what does solve the problem? How can we know anything for sure about the nature of God? How could I know which religion is the true one when abstract reasoning is just inconclusive speculation, and when I knew that I had picked the religion I had by far the most exposure to? It seemed the most reasonable religion to me, but was that a reliable judgement? It was in the second half of that year that these questions were given an application in the field, as it were. In the middle of second semester was Islamic Awareness Week, the first one I had ever noticed happening. The Sydney Uni Islamic Society took it pretty seriously; they had stalls all throughout the campus, stationed by serious Muslims who wanted to talk to you about Islam. They also had several events with lectures about the truth of Islam. While earlier that year, pluralism had been the greatest challenge to my faith up to that point. The challenge I received from Islam in the second half of that year remains as what was the most confronting challenge to my Christian faith to date.

I learnt a lot about Islam in that couple of weeks. I met a lot of Muslims at these stalls and had lots of conversations with them. And I had a lot of trouble convincing them that their religion was a lie. I discovered that it was almost impossible to convince a Muslim that the doctrine of the Trinity makes any sense – I mean, we claim to be monotheists, but we say he’s one God in three persons? What does that even mean, right? I was confronted by this figure, Muhammad, who was illiterate and without any formal education, and yet produced (by oral recitation) the entire Qur’an, which all the Muslims kept telling me was considered by scholars to be unmatched in literary beauty and sophistication (I don’t speak Arabic; how was I going to prove them wrong on that?), and then who became a staggeringly brilliant religious, political and military leader. Could he really have done all that by natural power, or does such a feat require supernatural assistance? I was confronted by this community of people who woke up in the dark hours of the morning to pray, who seemed exercise such devotion and self-discipline that I wasn’t sure was matched by Christians like myself. I watched a lecture by white American man who left Christianity in favour of Islam, having been convinced it was the truth. I don’t remember all of his story, but among the aspects I remember is how, when he was first given a copy of the Qur’an in English, he read the whole thing in one night, and he was immediately convinced that “it was perfect”. In every way you could mean that something was perfect, he was convinced the Qur’an was perfect.

I hadn’t even read the whole Bible. And I had just begun to read a few snippets of the Qur’an. How was I to make any decent judgement about which holy book was superior? There were some things I didn’t like about what I saw in Islam. They idolised a human man, Muhammad, and claimed he was perfect – a quality I would be inclined only to reserve for God, they required that all Muslim men grew a beard just so as to imitate Muhammad (I already had a sweet beard, but I thought it was just whacked that God would require it of me). They were closed to any notion of the Qur’an being faithfully translated into another language, since they believed that it was word-for-word perfect in a way that was so idiomatic to Arabic that its perfection could not be detached from that precise language; an English copy of the Qur’an was not the Qur’an – if you really wanted to read the Qur’an, you had to learn Arabic. This, and other aspects of it, made Islam a religion that was so embedded in a particular culture that one could not embrace the religion without the culture, something that was surely going to make things difficult if God actually desired that Muslims proselytise around the world. I also found the Muslims I talked to, for the most part, to be quite argumentative, very defensive and anxious to get their point across to you – an unexpected, yet very noticeable correlation. Yet I had to try to disregard all of these problems, because these were just aspects of the religion that I happened not to like – but what if it was all true? What if Muhammad really was perfect? In that case it wouldn’t be blasphemous to believe he was perfect. If Islam really was true, then assimilating myself into Arabic culture is not too much for God to ask of me. Who am I to tell God that it’s not fair of him to expect me to learn Arabic? If Muhammad really did receive the Qur’an from an angel of God, then I’d better suck it up and submit to its teachings by whatever means necessary. I was also trying to keep in mind that for centuries the Catholic Church was totally embedded in Roman culture and the Latin language; if you didn’t know Latin you couldn’t read the Bible. But eventually the Church was reformed in all sorts of ways. I thought perhaps Islam’s attachment to Arabic culture is a misunderstanding of Qur’an, which will eventually be corrected by Muslim reformers, and I was simply assessing a true religion in the wrong century. In this case it would not be enough for me to say “the Muslims are making it too hard for me, so I’m just giving up on Islam.”

If there was truth to this religion, I needed to find out based on the evidence, and not on the attractiveness of the religion. The most terrifying thing about all this was that Islam didn’t ring true for me. When I heard its doctrines, they didn’t sit well with me. But I was trying to figure out the difference between “ringing true” and “ringing familiar”. I was unable to discern whether or not the doctrines of Christianity were well received by my psyche because they were more reasonable, or they had a ring of divine eternal truth, or God spoke to me through them or something like that; or because they were simply what I’d grown up with, and that perhaps the only thing that made the doctrines and theology of Islam so difficult to swallow was nothing but unfamiliarity. I was beginning to realise that I needed something more than a subjective affinity with the teachings of a religion, more than some feeling of peace or a vague spiritual resonance with its doctrines. I needed to choose a religion based not on an internal feeling but on something external, something objective and reliable.

It had been sitting under my nose my entire life: the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus: the Solution

That very semester, around the same time as Islamic Awareness Week, the main Christian society on campus held a large evangelistic campaign with Christian speakers from around the world (and local pastors) coming to speak to the students, hold debates, give lectures, and so on. What I happened to find during this campaign was that, in attempts to give a defence of Christianity in their talks, the majority of this handful of evangelists placed a striking emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus. Until that time I had mostly considered Christian apologetics to be a philosophical exercise, utilising philosophical arguments (the moral argument, the cosmological argument, etc.). But these speakers largely ignored those arguments, and focused much more on the historical claim that Jesus was a real man who claimed to be God, was publicly executed, and then was raised back to life.

Let me show you where I’m going with this. Islam is a religion founded by Muhammad, who composed the Qur’an. According to Islam, Muhammad received his series of revelations from an angel in a cave, in private. Neither the Qur’an, nor the hadith, nor any mainstream Muslims that I am yet aware of, claim that Muhammad performed any public miracles; rather, they say the Qur’an itself is a miracle. Now think about this. If you were one of Muhammad’s disciples, and he started claiming that the one true God had spoken to him, that God was calling the nations to submit to him, with Muhammad as his prophet, and that this was God’s final revelation to all mankind, wouldn’t you be thinking “Muhammad, is there something you can show me to prove that you’re speaking the truth of God?” I mean wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect something a little more concrete than the fact that Muhammad is a generally very trustworthy guy, and that the literary characteristics of the Qur’an are very impressive? If this was really a message coming from the all-powerful creator of the universe, then why did Muhammad need to receive it in private? Shouldn’t he be able to produce some unambiguously miraculous sign, such that people would have to be stupid to not follow Muhammad? Surely God could give Muhammad’s contemporaries a clear indication that he was speaking the truth of God, other than that the doctrines sound very reasonable and the language is beautiful; even if the Qur’an seems like an unlikely product of an illiterate, uneducated man, this still isn’t such an impressive sign that it could only have come from a God who really wants to persuade us. Even assuming that all of Muhammad’s claims were true, I don’t think he gave any of his disciples adequate reason to believe that he had a revelation from God.

Let’s compare this with the Christian narrative. According to the Christian story, God wanted to speak to his people, and he wanted them to listen. And he wanted them to know that he was talking so bad that he came to Earth himself, and he left no ambiguity as to who he was. He walked around, catching crowds of thousands, claiming that he was the God of the universe, and while he did this he performed miracles day in and day out, such that everybody in the land knew he was a miracle worker and a healer, and finally after having been brutally, publicly executed on a Roman cross, he was raised back to life days later, and appeared to hundreds of people. Now, just assuming that this story was true, it would surely be fair to say that all of the disciples of Jesus had ample justification for believing that Jesus had authority to speak about matters of Heaven and Hell, God and the human soul. This man walked around making claims about the will of God and the nature of the afterlife, but he didn’t leave it to us to figure out by abstract reasoning whether or not his claims were true. He demonstrated that they were true, by publicly exercising his authority of nature, over sickness, and over death. Neither Islam nor any other religion I know has a founder who even claims to have performed such unambiguous self-authenticating deeds. There have been all sorts of people across the ages who have claimed to know about God and the afterlife, but most of them have their case rest only on the reasonableness of their claims and their theologies. In the Bible, Jesus is a character who demonstrated his authority to speak about these things. This means to me that the God of Christianity is a God who knows how to, and really wants to, convince us to follow him. This is a God who would do something dramatic to get our attention – a God who would raise the dead.

Now this doesn’t immediately even suggest that Christianity is true, but the inevitable consequence of this fact about the New Testament narrative is that, more than any other religion, Christianity makes massive claims that are historically falsifiable. What do I mean? Whether Islam is true, or whether it is false, will make little difference to what we would expect to find in the historical evidence. Islam claims that Muhammad received a revelation from an angel in private. This is not the kind of claim that can be proven wrong by examining witness testimonies and archaeological evidence. Whatever happened in that cave, happened in private and left no trail of testable evidence. It is safely hidden from the reaches of historical investigation. None of Islam’s central claims are so bold that we can actually test them against historical scrutiny. Christianity, on the other hand, makes all kinds of testable claims. It makes claims about public, dramatic, miraculous events – Jesus multiplying food for 5000 people, healing blind and sick people on the street, raising dead people from the grave, and finally being resurrected himself after being dead for 3 days, and appearing to hundreds of people. These are all historically falsifiable claims. Their truth or falsity will affect dramatically the kind of picture that historical investigation leads us to. If Jesus did not come back from the dead, then this would become very apparent after enough historical scrutiny: the resurrection accounts would have major disagreements about the central facts, the accounts of the closest and earliest witnesses would conflict greatly with resurrection stories, the accounts that claim a resurrection would come into the picture very late, and they would show evidence of being the product of an evolving legend. Or other such characteristics of fabrications. In my opinion, the claims of the New Testament show no evidence of fabrication. They hold up to historical scrutiny, displaying every reasonably expected characteristic of the writings of a group of people who had really seen something extraordinary.

I had found an objective, external, reliable, hard, empirical reason to believe in the spiritual claims of Christianity. It was after this experience that I realised I didn’t need to figure out whose theological claims were the most intrinsically reasonable via philosophical argumentation; I just had to find out who it was that had the authority to talk about it. And there is one man in all of history who had proved that he knew what he was talking about when it came to God and the afterlife – Jesus of Nazareth, the man who came back from the dead. I no longer followed Jesus because found what he said to be philosophically superior; I followed him because I found by impartial empirical evidence that he was the trustworthy authority on the topic. I now believe the evidence of his authority on supernatural matters is so great that, before even knowing what he said, one is justified in believing whatever Jesus claimed about God and the afterlife. We can be categorically committed to the message, regardless of its content.

The Bible: the only source

So here we arrive at the Bible. And perhaps you can guess how this intellectual journey would have changed my perception of the Bible. You see, before, I thought the Bible was a book that told us things that we were able to figure out ourselves by philosophical reasoning. But because of the arguments that pluralistic liberal Christians gave me, I have come to understand that this is not the case. We actually don’t have the resources and the faculties to figure out theological truth. We can’t come to understand the will of God of our own accord because we simply don’t have enough information. Much like the blind man can’t discern the difference between the red pen and the blue pen, we can’t know unless we are told. We are in utter need of a revelation. But a revelation is no revelation at all if it can’t be differentiated objectively from a hallucination. No, thankfully God has given us a better revelation than that. He made an earth-shattering entrance to the human world. He made himself known to us, identifying himself by nature-defying signs of power. And he told us something that we couldn’t have figured out on our own: the Gospel of Grace.

That means there is only one place that I can go to to find out God’s character, his will, his plan for humanity, and his perception of me. Now I’m not stupid, and if you’re also not stupid you may have recognised that I haven’t completed an argument that starts from “Jesus was raised from the dead and is the incarnate Son of God,” and ends with “therefore the Bible is the infallible word of God.” There are a bunch of logical steps missing between the divinity of Jesus and the authority of the Christian canon of scripture. It is much more messy than I’d like it to be, none of it having been written by Jesus himself, some of it having been written by anonymous authors, and all of it having been compiled and canonised as “authoritative scripture” over a period of more than 300 years by fallible men. On the other hand I do know that most of it was written by the people who were closest to Jesus, as well as the Apostle Paul, who performed more miracles than even Jesus did. All of it is in accordance with i) the teachings that Jesus gave in his lifetime, and ii) the prophecies, teachings, and trajectory of the Old Testament, which Jesus repeatedly assigned authority to. It’s complicated, but basically, given that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he himself commissioned his disciples as Apostles, with the task of preaching the Gospel to all the world, we are pretty safe in betting that the Gospel they preached was the Gospel Jesus was intending them to preach when he commissioned them. It’s pretty reasonable to think they had authority to speak about the will and character of God, especially considering all the miracles they performed themselves, which I take as a demonstration of God’s affirmation of their campaign.

But even though I haven’t yet found an argument for the infallibility of the scriptures that is as deductively sound or inductively strong as I’d like it to be, I am still willing to submit my entire worldview to the Bible. Because here’s what I know about God apart from what the Bible tells me: nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing that I can bet my life on anyway. So starting from the assumption that I know nothing about God, we can say that there is no theological claim that I can read in the Bible that I have any positive reason to disagree with. If the blind man asks his neighbour what colour his pen is and is told that it is blue, shall he throw the pen to the ground and declare, “No, I insist to you the pen is red!”? Surely not, because just like us he is starved for knowledge; he has no grounds for disagreement. When the Apostle Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1), or that God wants us to respect governing authorities (Romans 13), or even perhaps that homosexuality is a sin (1 Cor 6:9), what am I to do? On what grounds can I possibly disagree with him on such matters where I have no knowledge? It would be just egotistic for me to think I could know better than the Apostles Jesus commissioned, about a subject that no human has the capacity to know about.

You see, it was a humbling experience to come to these realisations. It was hard to admit that I didn’t have the capacity to figure out God, and the ultimate answers. I had to realise that humanity just can’t discover some things in her own capacity. All of the scientific, historical, anthropological, and philosophical investigations in the 2000 years since the New Testament was penned have in themselves done nothing to gain us insight into the nature and will of God, and any illusions to the contrary are merely the product of chronological arrogance. It is not merely in practice that we can’t know about God, but in principle; we know no more about the meaning of life than we did any number of millennia ago. We are in absolute need of a revelation from God himself, and thus if we come to find that God has spoken, that he has revealed his will to mankind, then we would be crazy to disagree with his revelation.

It is because I was forced to admit that I can’t figure out the answers, that I realised I have an utter dependence on the Bible. And because I have come to understand the degree of this necessity of scripture, I have become a far more Biblically conservative Christian than I used to be. I have come to trust and treasure the Bible, willing (given all the relevant and accurate historical and literary interpretation) to believe whatever it says. Not just because I’m fond of it, or because it rings true to me, but because it is the only reliable source of information that I know of that can answer categorically unanswerable questions – that can settle all the mysteries of the universe.

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