About Substance And Evidence

This special issue has been prepared as an apology, used in the sense of a de-fense and proof for God's Truth. In this issue, the subjects that are addressed provide evidence of those things unseen including the authenticity of the scriptures, the sure word of prophecy, the witness of Israel, the witness of archaeology, miracles and undesigned coincidences.

Where does conviction come from? What is it that has the power to convince and change us, to move us to action on behalf of our Creator? Is it not the absolute conviction that what we believe is truth? Our Lord said, Know the truth and the truthshall make you free; he challenged the Pharisees by asking them why they would not believe him when he had spoken to them the truth. We are told that when the men of Samaria believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. The conviction that these things were true moved them to action, moved them to become new creatures in Christ, born again! God's servants are to be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh (us) a reason of the hope that is in us. Who has not been personally strengthened by an earnest study to present or prove a point of scripture? The word of God is a powerful motivator when understood and believed.

God has not left us without witness. In every age and circumstance, He provides the witness necessary for the sustenance of active, robust faith. At the same time that many doubts are cast upon the truth of the Scriptures in general and Christadelphian understanding of God's plan in particular, God has provided abundant witness for those who seek for it. The first witness is the Bible itself. Its origin has to be accounted for. It is either a cunning forgery or a declaration of the only true and living God. The more familiar one is with the Bible itself, the more likely one is to come to the conclusion that it could not be a forgery. In a section of his letter in which he addressed the problem of unbelief, the apostle Paul expressed this point when he wrote, So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). There is no substitute for firsthand, personal, intimate familiarity with what is written. Those who are inclined to disbelieve the Scriptures most are those who are acquainted with it least. The second witness is the correspondence between what is written in the pages of Scriptures with the external world, the latter confirming and testifying to the former. This correspondence may be historical, in the research uncovered by archaeology; it may be contemporary, in explaining the alignment of the nations in accordance with the plan foretold in Scripture; or it may combine elements of both in the witness of fulfilled prophecy, as history marches inexorably forward to the destiny appointed by God. The purpose of this issue is to highlight elements of that abundant witness, both internal and external.

The world today treats the concept of truth as if it were relative. As a result, challenges to belief in God abound. Christianity is blamed for many ills. The Bible is denounced, denied and rewritten to reflect the values and attitudes of men. Its authority, as the voice of the living God, is weakened, diluted and compromised in the hands of its supposed friends to the point where it has little relevance. Though humanity is desperate for something to believe in and hold on to, the Bible is for the most part held in contempt and the absolute standards which it defines are set aside. Yet fanciful speculations and books espousing new discoveries or promise seem to find societal acceptance as something to latch on to, something that might give meaning and purpose to life. Though we as believers may observe with pity and sadness those tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, we must guard against human reasoning in our own lives! The commands of our Father do not naturally appeal to the flesh. We live in a society that equates belief in the Bible with ignorance and shallowness. Paul declares that not many wise men...are called...for hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? As has been wisely observed, "The influence of human philosophy must be numbered among the thorns which sometimes choke the Word and prevent our final preparation for the Kingdom of God. It is always difficult to resist fashions, whether in clothes or theology, and when we think we are quite unmoved by the stream, it often only means that we are lagging a little way behind" (Islip Collyer, Conviction and Conduct, Chapter 3). The reward is to those that believe, those that endure to the end and are found patiently watching and waiting with oil in their lamps!

Truth is not just something we comprehend and declare to be correct. The intellectual realization must be accompanied by a spiritual and emotional involvement; it has to move and transform us! Paul instructs, For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. Belief is the basic element in our relationship with our Creator, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is. It is our 'heart' upon which the law of our God must be written, for it is the heart that He knows, searches and tries. Solomon declares as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Therein lies our conscience and our opportunity to know if truly we love in deed and in truth...for if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things...if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God (1 John 3:18-21).

One of the great statements of Scripture is Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). In a world in which iniquity abounds and the laws of God are flaunted at every turn, it is sometimes helpful to ponder, what is the cause and effect relationship between faith and sin? Are we inclined to sin because our faith is weak? Or are we inclined to weak faith because we sin? Certainly, if we choose to follow the ways of this world and abandon respect for the law of God, it eases our conscience if we can reject the authority of that law and lapse into unbelief. Thus, to keep ourselves from sin is as important a measure in sustaining our faith as it is to know and understand the reasons for our convictions. Many people have abandoned their faith because they resent the idea that there is a higher authority that holds them accountable for what they do. However, this is a philosophical choice rather than the outcome of intense intellectual reflection and investigation. Some surveys indicate that far too many of our young people have succumbed to behaviors of this world that are displeasing to God. What is the reason for this participation in evil? Is it because they did not understand those behaviors were sin, or is it because they lacked the strength of conviction to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul? If the root cause of the problem is the latter, then our most urgent need is to work on strengthening those convictions so that behavioral choices will be made by believers of every age which give glory to God. As one Christadelphian writer expressed it, "Righteous conduct is simply right doctrine in practice" (Islip Collyer, Conviction and Conduct, Chapter 2).

The words "belief" and "faith" are frequently used interchangeably although there are distinctions that are apparent in specific contexts. Both words have the meaning of steadfastness and persuasion. Although we note the word faith is only used in the Old Testament twice, what we find there is not the doctrine of faith but the example of faith. The writer to the Hebrews describes those Old Testament worthies who obtained a good report through faith by an accounting of their works! Our faith must be cared for as a living thing. It can be influenced by others but it is up to each individual to nurture and keep it alive and strong. We accomplish this by a steady diet of the words of life and confidence in the exceeding great and precious promises made unto the fathers. These promises are but a fantasy to the world, but to the spiritual mind, strengthened with substance and evidence, they constitute the full assurance of hope. Our Heavenly Father requires our total commitment to and confidence in those unseen realities as manifested in loving obedience to His will, For we walk by faith, not by sight.

The Christadelphian Advocate Publishing Committee