Tag Archives: faith

Christianity – Distinct From All Others

I could have sworn I’d written previously about the uniqueness of Christianity from all other religious faiths, yet when I searched my archives to find it, I was unable to do so. Apparently it was something I’d _intended_ to write about and never did. Allow me to rectify that situation now.

One of the things that absolutely convinces me that my religious faith is the correct one, the only one that _can_ be right, is its very distinctiveness. In all the world, there is not another religious faith that is as unique, and simple, as Christianity. The one that comes closest, perhaps, is Islam, but as we “have seen already”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=315, even it falls away to be little different than all the others. What follows are a few of the things that set Christianity apart and spotlight it as being so very special.

*Nothing We Can Do, Nothing We Have To Do*

In every religious system, personal salvation is worked out by the deeds and actions of the individual. If someone desires to get to heaven or attain a higher position or status in the next life or to ascend to a nirvana-like state, that individual must first live a life that consists of more good deeds than bad. At the minimum, the scales have to be balanced, and at the maximum, they have to be tipped in favor of good deeds. It is a game of continual tension and anxiety, the individual never knowing if they have done enough to earn that special place in the next life.

Within Christianity, there is nothing that we _can_ do that is ever good enough to earn our way into Heaven. We are prohibited from doing so by our very sinful nature. But at the same time, there is nothing that we _have_ to do to earn Heaven, for what needs to be done has already _been_ done. The payment has already been made.

*God Himself Making the Way for Men*

Christianity is also unique in that it is the only religious faith where God Himself made it possible for human beings to get to Heaven. It is the only place where you will hear about God becoming a common man simply for the sake of taking on the punishment for sin. The gods of other religions have always traditionally been petty and cruel, warring and bickering amongst themselves and forcing humankind to perform all manner of menial and degrading tasks to earn a shaky place of security in the next life. Only in Christianity is admittance into Heaven a free gift, offered to any and all who would accept it, made possible by God Himself.

*Personal Relationship with God*

Christianity is also the only religious faith that teaches that men can have a _personal_ relationship with God Himself. It is the only place where God has literally reached down into history itself and spoken one-on-one with men, where He has walked with men and fellowshipped with them. It is the only place where God Himself took on the form of a child and grew up as a man, providing the bridge necessary for God and men to relate to one another in perfect harmony. The Greeks believed that the gods sometimes disguised themselves as men for a period of time, for any number of reasons, but always they returned to Olympus and never could common men maintain contact or continued communication with them. The gods were indifferent to the needs of men, caring more for their own comfort than for the welfare of men. The God of the Christians is different. He genuinely cares about His people and is fully accessible to all of them. We may go to Him personally to speak with Him and present our needs, our requests to Him. And what is more, He actually listens to and hears us. Nowhere else will you see this relationship between deity and mortal played out.

*Focus on Self, Focus on God, Focus on Others*

As a result of this relationship with God, the focus is not on ourselves, as it is in every other religious system. Everywhere else, the focus is on getting oneself into heaven, doing enough to insure that one has lived a good enough life to move to a better place when one dies. Within Christianity, everything that needs to be done has already been done, so there is no longer a need to do anything for oneself in order to get to Heaven. The focus, then, moves from self to God, and from God to others. We are able to focus on our relationship with God, following Him and serving Him. We are also able to focus on others with the joy that we have, urging them to also choose God, to choose Christ, over the cumbersome ways of self-righteousness and self-justification. We can tell them that it is so much easier than all that to make sure that one gets to Heaven, that the price has already been paid, that there is actually a personal, loving God who has already done everything for us that we need and that all we need to do is accept that gift He has offered us.

This is what makes Christianity so very unique in the world, what sets it apart from all others. The rest of the world religions may _look_ unique from one another at first blush, but when you boil it down to what each demands of its supplicants, what you find is that they all demand the same thing – good deeds of the individual in order for him or her to _earn_ his or her way into heaven. Christianity is the _only_ religion where the individual has to do nothing, where it is already done. Christianity is the only religion where its members are truly free, where the shackles of a legalistic and rules-driven life have been cut away and discarded forever.

This is what I believe sets my faith apart from all the rest, what convinces me without doubt that I have chosen the truth. There is no God like my God, no Lord like my Lord, no freedom like that freedom which He has given to me, and I will follow Him all the days of my life. I can give Him no more and no less than all of me, for He has secured my hope and my salvation.

Hurdling Pride

Christianity has always been viewed as something of a sub-culture, as has just about every other major religious system, but Christianity more so, in my opinion, because of its nearly unique exclusivity (Islam may be the only other that I can think of right off the top of my head that is equally exclusive). There is no room for other religious thinking in Christianity, unlike so many of our New Age, Eastern, and postmodern religions and philosophies that are so very accepting of other faiths. As a result whenever we as Christians suggest that something is sinful, we are merely written off as a wacko subculture that has absolutely no relevance on ‘reality’.

Why is it so easy to push Christians aside like this? It boils down, I think, to the fact that most people are content with their lives as they are. Very few people I know like change, let alone the kind of the drastic change that results from discovering that you have been doing incorrectly some of the daily things in your life. As I stated in my “previous article”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=298, no one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to find that their entire lives have been wasted, to some extent or another, that they have been lived in vain because of some ignorance or misunderstanding. That’s the sort of horrible reality they are faced with when they are told that some of the most fundamental elements of their lives are sinful and wrong. It means that all the time, energy, and resources that have gone into that activity have been absolutely and utterly wasted, thrown away and spent on something that, in the long run, yields absolutely no return. It’s almost like throwing money into the stock market, only to have it crash and lose the entire investment, or placing a huge wager on a casino game, only to be taken by the house and left with only the lint in your pocket.

That’s not an easy thing to swallow. It means that you made a mistake, an error in judgment, and as we all know, it hits the ol’ pride in an awfully sensitive place. Is it any wonder that the subject of sin is such a touchy one with most people? We really don’t like to be wrong, let alone find out that so many years were wasted on vain pursuits.

Fortunately, when we _do_ get it right, when we repent and turn our lives over to God, the rewards He gives for doing so far outweigh the prior squandered opportunities. It is just that swallowing our pride is so very hard to do, and for many people, it is an impossible hurdle. That is why we as Christians must be loving and accepting from the start. It is that kind of support that makes it easier for others to push past their own pride, the only true barrier between them and God. It also enables us to support and uplift one another, since Christians are still just as vulnerable to pride. ((We have not been perfected yet!))

However we are perceived and received by the rest of the world, our faith _is_ relevant, but more importantly, it is living and it is powerful because it is based on a living and powerful Savior!

Satan vs. God

There’s an interesting little discussion going on “over here”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=133813#133813:

the thing i always wonder about is how much evil was there in Satan to begin with? i mean if God hadnt cast him out of heaven and ostracized him so much, would he really have been that evil?

[…]what makes God so right and Satan so wrong? isnt God being just as selfish as Satan by not allowing anyone to disagree with him? what makes God’s rule any less tyrannical than Saddam Hussein?

[…]so i ask you, why is god any more worthy than Satan to be the supreme being?

There’s a lot of tough questions in this discussion, many of which do not have comprehensive answers, many that require a certain degree of faith. Partial answers have been supplied, though, so let me see if I can bring some of them to light.

It’s interesting that people tend to view good and evil in terms of quantity – “Oh, that’s just a little bit bad” or “Oh, that was just a little white lie. It wasn’t as bad as if I had actually stolen anything” or “He’s not that bad of a man. He just got a little confused and depressed there for a while.” – when the Bible pretty clearly delineates good and evil in terms of a “binary system”:http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=52&chapter=3&verse=9&end_verse=11&version=31&context=context. You are either 100% good, or you are 100% evil. There is no middle ground. So to question just how much evil there was in Satan to demand his eviction from Heaven is an incorrect starting point. The very fact that he went against God dictated that he forsake his righteousness and embrace his own will. In effect, his own selfishness is what turned him from an angel of light to an demon of evil. He gave up any hope of remaining in God’s fellowship for no chance of overthrowing God and usurping His throne.

Isaiah 14:12-15

12 How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

13 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”

15 But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit. “#”:http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2014:12-15

I love this statement:

what makes God so right and Satan so wrong? isnt God being just as selfish as Satan by not allowing anyone to disagree with him? what makes God’s rule any less tyrannical than Saddam Hussein?

It’s a tough question to answer, and honestly, it’s one that I’ve asked a few times myself (which is probably why I like it). The answer, though, is found by readjusting one’s perspective. We ask the question from the perspective of the created, from the viewpoint of one is who used to having one’s own way about anything and everything. By adjusting one’s view to that of the creator, however, we can again ask that question. You may find that you understand a bit better. If you were the creator of something, then that thing you just created belongs to you. You, therefore, have the complete right to set all the rules, to determine how things work, and to set your own image and personality upon the creation. It is an extension of yourself, an expression of who you are. The creation, as the created, cannot tell the creator how things ought to be. It has no rights with the creator, except for those rights that the creator grants the created. ((And fortunately, God grants the created a generous portion of rights, particularly to those who have accepted His Son, by making them co-heirs with Him.))

There’s an additional part of this, however. God is, by His very definition, holiness. He is the epitome of all that is good and right. As such anything that is a violation of God’s being, of His nature, of the rules that He has established is wrong and is sinful. Is it selfish of God to expect His creation to live in such a way as to abide by those things that are good and beneficial for it? God has demonstrated time and again that He is good and that He does all things for the good of those created in His image. He is not a tyrant, since it is clear that He allows people to live as they see fit, choosing whether or not to actually follow Him (along with all the consequences that go with that decision).

So why is God any more worthy than Satan to be supreme being? Because God created everything (including Satan, originally as Lucifer), He is the very definition of holiness and righteousness, He loves us and has our greatest good in mind (unlike Satan, who only wishes to destroy all that God has made), and He gives us multiple chances to choose to follow Him and allows us entire lifetimes to do so. I don’t know what more we, as the created, can ask for. Can you?

Disbelief At Differing Conclusions

One of the things that I think I find most irritating is when people make the assumption that, just because you hold a different viewpoint than them, you 1) must be mis- or underinformed; 2) must be spouting the standard ‘party’ line; and 3) must be unable to think for yourself, able only to blindly accept and regurgitate the viewpoint you’ve been taught all your life, since anyone who can and does think for themself would just _have_ to come to the same conclusion they hold. There is no room in these people’s minds that someone could look at the same evidence they have seen, experience the same events, or look at the same issues and still come to a _different_ conclusion about all those things. The same people who tell you to use your head and _think_ for a change are the same people who seem incapable of doing so themselves, because surely if they were to actually think about _this_ topic long enough, they would realize that people who think do often come up with different conclusions.

I see this phenomenon all the time in the world of politics and in the world of religion. One party touts their viewpoint and accuses the other party of being blind and of not thinking, so sure are they that if the other party were to think, they would have no choice but to embrace their own viewpoint. (How’s _that_ for a contradiction in terms, since so many of these people also do not believe in absolute truth?) Christians are continually accused of this by their antagonists. Part of this is because a lot of Christians _don’t_ think, _don’t_ exercise critical analysis, _do_ blindly accept answers they have never personally investigated. But part of this is simply unbelievers being unable to entertain the idea that anyone intelligent could possibly ever disagree with them. The latter we can do nothing about, but the former is something that anyone and everyone can continually work on. This is part of why I, personally, write, since the feedback I receive continually exposes me to new ideas and new questions. I, for one, believe that both faith and critical thinking _can_ co-exist, a notion at which many unbelievers scoff. Faith, by itself, can be just as blinding as rationality left to its own ends. I have seen people argue with incontrovertible scientific evidence, simply on the basis of their ‘faith’ (e.g. the Earth is flat, not round). Likewise, there are supernatural occurences that happen on a daily basis all around the world that science and rationality are wont to explain (e.g. keys that float through midair in someone’s home). This is why I believe that God asks us to first believe on Him, in faith, then provides us with further information, both about Himself and about this world around us and tells us that we should explore His creation.

Faith, without rationality, is dead; likewise, rationality, without faith, provides only half the answer. Only when the two meet and supplement one another can balance be found.

Pointless Speculation, Revisited

bq. What about questioning the existence of God, the legitimacy of the Bible, whether or not one should be living to bring glory to God? Are these also questions one should speculativly ask? “#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/69#comment-180

Absolutely. I think everyone asks these questions at some point in their life, and probably more than once. Growing up I was raised in a particular way of belief. As a teenager I took that belief system for granted. It wasn’t until I got to college that my belief system was challenged, both by practical living and by my academics. I asked myself a lot of difficult questions — does God really exist? what if He really doesn’t, what then? what would it mean for my life now and in the future if we really are all alone in this universe? could evolution be true? could Christians be wrong? how do we know the Bible is true? how do we know that Christianity is the one, true faith? is God really good? why couldn’t God have created man without the ability to sin? if God knew man was going to sin, why did He create him anyway? what was the point of doing all this? did God need company? I asked myself all these questions and so many more. And I didn’t ask them once or even twice. I ran through them many, many times over the years. I conducted heavy research, talked to a lot of different people, wept and cried and wrestled with the questions and the answers. I was no less a Christian, even though there were points when my faith flagged, even though there were times when I really thought maybe Christianity was a bunch of garbage and lies and myths.

Ultimately, though, I came back to Christianity as the only complete answer for everything. Part of what swayed me was the general revelation of the world around me — I found it impossible to believe that the level of complexity this world, this universe exhibits could come about by some cosmic accident, even one that took billions of years. Over the years I have systematically answered all of these questions for myself. In the process I have made my belief system my own and become more convinced than ever. It does not mean, however, that I am opposed to listening to new viewpoints and contemplating them for a time. But what it does mean is that I subject every viewpoint to the same scrutiny that I ran my own belief system through. What has happened is that every other viewpoint has folded up beneath that level of questioning, leaving my own belief system as the only one able to answer every question and to answer it well.

All this to say one thing — yes, I believe that these are all questions that one can speculatively ask. I believe that it is expected that we should ask them, that it is good and healthy to do so. Not everyone will arrive at the same answers, of course, and many who arrive at different answers will criticize and belittle those who come to different ones. But the process of searching out your own worldview is important, and I do not think that there is any question that is off-limits. Ask the questions, find the answers. Through the process everyone will have the opportunity to choose or reject God. Through the process He will get all the glory.

Hope, Faith, Belief…

hope, faith, choice, belief, truth, reality

“Jackal”:http://jackal.motime.com/ has asked an interesting “question”:http://jackal.motime.com/post/520232#comment going about which of the words above stand as most important and why. What is more perhaps more interesting than the question, however, is the discussion which follows it. Several people have pointed out that all the words are religious terms, but I propose that they are as much philosophical _and_ scientific as they are religious. For this discussion I want to focus on how these terms are also scientific.

hope. The scientist has questions about the nature of the world and the universe, questions that he hopes to have answered through intensive research and experiments. He hopes that his answers will bring truth and enlightenment, that the mysteries of the ages will be opened up and revealed before him, that he will learn something new and fresh and desirable that will change the way people look at things forever.

faith. The scientist also has faith — that his science is reliable and valid, that it can, indeed, perform the rigorous tests of observation accurately and consistently each time, that the information the studies reveal is true and descriptive. He has faith that the answers to the great mysteries are knowable, that they have only to be discovered by he who is brilliant enough to find them. His science is, to some degree, his religion because he places great faith in it that it will provide him with the answers he seeks.

choice. There are a lot of choices in science — what questions to ask, what experiments to perform, what evidence to collect, what information to look at, etc. There are so many choices to make in science, choices that have a great degree of importance on the outcome of each and every study. Every step of the scientific process involves making choices with bad ones leading to misinformation and confusion and good ones leading to truth, answers, and enlightenment.

belief. Belief is also a scientific term because somewhere along the process, the information gathered must be believed or disbelieved, with the former leading to new processes and technologies and the latter leading to more studies and experiments.

truth. Science is, by its very nature, a search for truth. Every study conducted, every experiment run, every microscope and telescope focused, every meter and dial and knob turned is a pursuit for truth, specifically the truth of how the world and the universe functions. Sometimes, the truth is easily found, sometimes it requires years of fruitless labor before truth is discovered, if at all. Yet, it is inherent in the study of science to seek truth.

reality. How can one have science is one does not have reality? Science can only function in the presence of reality. This is, perhaps, a philosophical point, but nevertheless in order for something to be examined, it must first exist.

As always, I believe that science and religious faith go hand-in-hand, with philosophical musings servings as the supplemental goodness that fills out the formula. Science complements faith complements philsophy complements science, and so forth. I see no reason why the three cannot work together in perfect unity, providing us with a richness and depth of discovery that must surely be pleasing to God. After all, why would He have created all this for us if not for us to explore it to His glory and pleasure?

In the Background

Christianity is a faith, I believe, that functions in the background. Or at least it should. The Christian faith is a personal one. It functions as the relationship of individual to Deity, but it is also a function of individual to individual. The most effective dissemination of the Gospel has always been on a one-to-one basis. Granted, God has blessed many great evangelists over the years with widespread ministries, leading hundreds and thousands to Christ at a time. But I think the numbers would show that the greatest spread of the Word has been through personal relationships with each other, with letting the Christian lifestyle speak volumes, with communicating our hope in casual conversation. When Christians take the Gospel to the public arena, particularly the political arena, the message somehow gets tainted and stilted. In that realm emotions like fear flavor the good news in a way that is often harmful because political-religious concerns involve protecting the right to worship. That fear drives that political action, and what starts as a movement to protect freedom of worship almost turns into a blanket action to forcefully establish a state religion, something that the founding fathers were very careful to protect against. (Of course, there are also those who use their beliefs to foster an attitude of superiority, who allow that attitude to breed anger, hatred, and bitterness, but those are the individuals that need to be separated from the whole because they clearly do not aid the Body. They are the cancer that brings the Body down and should removed.)

Christianity is a faith that operates best in the background. Our faith should be visible, but not obnoxiously so. Our faith should be presented with love and compassion but also with patience and understanding, two virtues that I think are all too often forgotten or ignored. No one can be forced to believe in Christ or in God, yet the practice of our faith should be compelling and awe-inspiring. This is why it is so important to develop active relationships with other people — with other Christians for the strengthening of our faith and the renewal of our spirits, and with unbelievers so that we may demonstrate with our lives and testify with our lips the power of the hope that is in us. Let us relate our hope to others and build the Kingdom one life at a time.

The Disservice of Contemporary Christianity in America

The discussion on homosexuality here resulted in a few thoughts on the counterproductivity of the contemporary Christian approach to evangelism.

I do believe that Christians in our society today have done a great disservice to the homosexual community in their very angry, judgmental approach, something that Wilkins apologized for on behalf of those individuals in his speech. The result is that it makes it that much harder for us who do not hate homosexuals or pass judgment on them to share our testimonies of faith. I have been bitter and cynical toward Christians in the past because of this, something that God has been gracious enough to remove
from my heart in recent days, but I do feel weary at the thought of trying to break down those walls that separate Christians and the Church from those who do not believe, and not just those who are homosexuals. Personally, I do view homosexuals as every bit as equal as me and as every bit in need of a Savior as me. Why would I do them the disservice of holding my joy in, of being neglectful of their need? Where would I be today if no one had shared the Good News of Christ with me? Christ loves the homosexual just as much as He loves me and He wants them to live a life of righteousness, too, following close to Him. Those who follow Christ must give up some things, specifically those things that will hinder their relationship with Him. But in return He gives so much more. The homosexual is asked to give up an impure lifestyle, and at the very
least they are returned a healthy, vibrant, joyful relationship with the Savior of their souls. Is leaving them alone worth the cost, worth the sacrifice of withholding such a blessing?

I believe that Christianity would be a much more vibrant, much more influential faith today, especially in America, if all Christians would actually remember Who it is they represent and what it is that He taught us to do — love, share the Gospel, disciple, minister, serve – and compare that against they way they actually live and act. Actions speak louder than words, my friends, and I fear that the actions of Christians in America are sending the exact wrong message. No wonder we’re such hypocrites…

Blessings!

What a great and awesome God we serve! Right after I posted the information about our burglarly, I checked our online bank statement and found that the problem there has been, for the most part, rectified. So we have access to our money again, which is a huge praise!

Elizabeth and I were able to work hard on Saturday night driving carriages, and God allowed us to earn enough money to replace what cash was stolen.

We have also had a couple of friends who were gracious enough to send us some money to help out in our time of need. To you, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have blessed and encouraged us more than you realize.

And now, for the most amazing part of this so far! Last night, I received a phone call from my band director from high school. He teaches a Sunday School class at a little church in WV. He told me that something new occurred this week — he was asked to teach both of the adult Sunday school classes in a combined setting. One part of the lesson talked about questioning your faith. Apparently, our story (and how we looked to God rather than blaming Him) impressed him enough that he felt led to share it with his class as an illustration. He did not ask them for anything, and yet, when class was over, people began coming up to him, handing him money to send to us. From a little 70-80 member church, they collected nearly $275! I share this story, not to impress you with our faith, but to boast in the faithfulness of our loving, compassionate God and the grace of His Body in reaching out to complete strangers in their time of need. Elizabeth and I have been so humbled by this, that God could choose to use us to encourage other believers and to, in turn, encourage us 10-fold.

We still do not fully understand God’s purpose in allowing this, and perhaps never will, but we can, at least, see how He uses all things for His own glory and for the edification of the saints.

Our sense of peace and security is still shaky at this time, so we continue to ask your prayers for this need. It is hard to feel safe in your own home when it has been so rudely violated, but we trust God to protect us.

Thank you for the many emails and phone calls expressing your love, encouragement, and support. It has meant so much to us.

Forced Worship

[Why is it that I always come up with my best thoughts when I’m driving down the road, listening to jazz, away from any venue where I could possibly actually record my thoughts as they come to me? I really ought to find my mini-recorder and keep it in the Explorer with me….]

I recently just finished up a CD series of Donald Carson, who spoke this past winter at Cedarville University during the annual Staley Lectureship Series. He spoke on the emergent church movement and integration of postmodernism into that movement. Something that he said really stuck out to me — postmodernism holds as one of its primary foundations the establishment of personal experience to determine truth. This method of finding ‘truth’ has crept into the church and influenced it in ways that I, personally, find somewhat alarming.

Something that has stuck in my craw for a few years now has finally been revealed to me, based upon this ‘revelation’. The worship times at Cedarville (during my five-year tenure there), especially the student-led times, often had a feeling of wrongness to them. A good friend of mine described it like this: “It was like they were ‘forcing’ us to worship, like they were saying, ‘Worship, dang it!'” This was in response to the call to worship, where the congregation was called to think on God, to think on all He has done for us, and to worship him with your heart, essentially with your feelings, your emotions. On the surface, this all sounded very good, but something still stuck out as being wrong about it. In reflection now, I see that this call to worship focused almost exclusively on the experience of God, little on the knowledge of Him and on His revealed truth through His Word. And the songs we sang, the worship choruses, were fantastic for building up emotion and describing the experience of God in our lives, but they also left me feeling theologically destitute, frequently neglecting words of Scripture, words of absolute truth to put all my experiences as a Christian, as a follower of Jehovah, into perspective in light of the Almighty One of Heaven, instead paving over them with poetic niceties. (Don’t get me wrong; I believe there is a place for this sort of worship, just not to exclusivity.) This is the wrongness that I perceived there, this almost single-minded focus on the experience, to the near-exclusion of the absolute and powerfully revealed truth of the Bible.

The weakness of this is that each individual interprets the same experience in a slightly different way, thereby gleaning a different version of the ‘truth’ than all the others. Truth suddenly becomes relative to the individual, based upon their own analysis of the experience in question. Multiple psychological studies have shown that people often define reality by their experiences, much more so in today’s world than in any other time in history. Their ideas of what is true and what is not is flavored by the circumstances they encounter each and every day. The trouble is, every single person encounters a different version of the ‘truth’ because of this approach. Of course, a postmodernist would probably now say that this all the more justification for their worldview, that nothing can ever be truly known because every person’s perspective is slightly different, that reality is constantly shifting for everyone because the only basis they have for ‘truth’ is their own experience of the world around them. They would even say that individual interpretation of the Bible as a standard for absolute truth is perpetually flawed and relative to personal experience because everyone is going to interpret the Bible according to the ways in which they perceive and experience the world. And yet, this is a flawed premise, in and of itself, for the Bible can be interpreted according to an unchanging standard and often be applied to a wide variety of circumstances and settings. All this is not to belittle the practicality of experience in determining truth. Paul himself, in many of his epistles to the early church, specifically encouraged the saints to test their faith against their own experiences and knowledge. But he also pointed them to Scripture, pointing out their sins and flaws, pointing them back to the path that leads to Christ. So, while experience is valuable for the testing of our faith and the working of our salvation, it cannot be held up exclusively as the only means for establishing truth because our own interpretations of experiences are frequently flawed and tainted by our finite sensory and cognitive capacities. The one source of truth that I am aware of that never changes (and has never changed over the centuries) is the Holy Scriptures, and while my own experiences help me understand this God that I love a little better and relate to my fellow man, they fall short of the true understanding of Him who I serve. Can I ever hope to know God and His truth fully? No. Not ever, for I am limited in my understanding, and I always, ever will be. But it is not enough to stop me from trying to learn more and understand more, from the only Source of true knowledge, for all the rest of my days. And I expect that I will often be wrong in my understanding. But I can frame my daily experiences within the context of the Word of God, and thereby gain truth and sanity and direction for my life.