Monday, January 9, 2012

Is J.P. Holding Correct that Faith is Founded on Evidence? We Deny.

In his essay on faith, J.P. Holding states:
Peter's primary appeal here was threefold:

He appealed to the evidence of the wonders and signs performed by Jesus; he appealed to the empty tomb, and he appealed to fulfillment of OT prophecy.

In short, his appeals were evidentiary. One of course might wish to dispute the validity of the evidence, but in context this is beside the point. The point is that Peter grounded belief in Christianity on evidence -- or, as the definition of pistis in Acts 17:31 would put it, proofs.
In his article on biblical faith, J.P. Holding asserts that Peter grounded his belief in Christianity on evidence. This is in keeping with the Roman Catholic/Arminian concepts of God, man, and sin. Holding refers to Acts 2:22-36 to support his argument. In so doing, Holding leaves out the beginning of Peter's sermon, which begins at v. 14. Peter begins his sermon by referencing Joel 2:28-32. Step one, Peter argues to the crowd that the phenomena they see was prophesied by Joel. A startling new work of God is progress. The Messiah has come! This Messiah, Jesus Christ as Peter exclaimed in v. 22 was attested by God among you, using signs and miracles that no man could do. God worked these miracles through Christ! Peter begins with Scripture, not pure miracles. Miracles prove nothing outside of the presupposition of God's revelation. These miracles served to show that God's prediction in Scripture of the Messiah had been fulfilled in Christ! Peter's evidence was not evidence in a vacuum. The evidence of miracles had its PROOF in Scripture. The evidentialist's argument for probabilities is nowhere present in Peter's argument. Peter begins his sermon with Joel 2:28 and exclaims that Jesus is the reason for the event they are now witnessing.

Secondly, Peter then claims that Jesus was raised from the dead and this serves as proof that He was the Messiah! Why? Was it merely because a resurrection had taken place? It was not! It was because David had long ago prophesied that the Messiah would be resurrected. In other words, God promised to raise the Messiah from the dead. God has raised Jesus from the dead. Again, Peter calls on Scripture to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. In the first place, the Messiah would come, perform many miracles according to Scripture, He would be rejected by His people, He would be killed, and He would be raised from the dead according to Scripture! Jesus of Nazereth came, worked these very miracles, was rejected and killed and raised from the dead ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE. Then, and only then, Peter proclaims "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified.

Now, autonomous human reason, still captive to sin could argue that just because the Scriptures speak so of the Messiah, it does not follow that Jesus was the One! From a logical standpoint, that is a valid argument. One could say that the Messiah may still be yet to come and that Jesus just happened to resemble him a great deal. They could have taken up an attitude of wait and see who else comes along. And that is exactly what most of them did then and for different reasons, it is what many do today.

Was it the signs and wonders that served as the ground of Peter's faith? I think not! Of the 22 verses mentioned in this pericope, 13 were direct quotes from Scripture! First Peter calls upon Joel to prove his point. Then He pulls David into the conversation and shows David's words of God to be certain proof that Jesus was the Messiah. Holding's view of faith exposes his Roman Catholic/Arminian orientation through and through. Holding's faith is a natural faith, something existing in fallen man. It is not the supernatural gift of God mentioned in the NT, given to God's elect in the process of His gracious conversion. Holding takes the simple word faith and overlays on it the Greco-Roman cultural understanding of faith. This faith was a natural faith, a simple trust between human beings in various relationships. Biblical faith transcends such human notions and is far more than that. Biblical faith takes as its obect, God, its ground, Scripture, and comes to us through the redemptive act of Christ in the atonement, being itself a gift, given to us as the Holy Spirit applies that redemptive work of Christ to our hearts. More than once Scripture talks about faith as a gift and the idea that belief in the Messiah is something that must be granted by the Father! If this is true, how can natural faith or trusting be the equivalent of biblical faith? (John 6:65; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Pe. 1:3-4)

The miracles of Christ were enough to cause anyone to pause, and closely examine this Person in light of God's revelation. These miracles should have provoked faith, grounded on Scripture, that God had sent His promised Messiah! Unfortunately, they did not. Rather, they served as grounds for God's indictment of men whose fallen sinful nature preferred rather to serve the creature more than the Creator who is blessed forever. Man knows that God is there and this knowledge is clear enough. However, man sinfully prefers to worship himself by surpressing his knowledge of God and perverting the image of God into something he can live with as opposed to the God of Scripture. Man has no interest in an authoritative God with full right and power to judge him for his sinful acts. That sort of God simply will not do.

The gospel presentation along with apologetics has been clouded by a distortion of the God depicted in Scripture. Men like Holding have conjured up images of a god that is far different from that revealed to us in the text. Ideas like libertarian freedom, middle knowledge, open theism, process theology, and others have flooded evangelicalism and have served to downgrade God, elevate man, and devalue the atonement. Human reason is exalted above all things and even Scripture itself is subjected to the bar of human reason. Man sits on the bench while God and His word are in the docket. This is even true with supposedly evangelical ministries like Tekton Apologetics.

What is the difference, the deciding factor in those who believe and those who do not? Since it is not sinful, fallen man, it must be something else. It must be God's gracious act of regeneration. Sinful men do not conclude and decide that Jesus makes all the sense in the world. The world, by its wisdom does not know God. To them, this Christian message is offensive and foolish! (1 Cor. 1-3) God has sovereignly determined to display His glory, justice, and grace by punishing evil while also choosing to save the undeserving, according to His divine plan and for His own good pleasure.

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