|For an Answer Home||Studies Index||Bibliography||Glossary|
|The Bible Gateway||The Blue Letter Bible||The Greek New Testament||Greek & Hebrew Lexicons|
Got the Right Doctrine?
How Do You Know?
A Story About "the Truth"
Evangelicals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians - all acknowledge that the Bible is God's Word. All claim to derive their doctrines from the Bible - and yet, they differ sharply on critical issues like the Deity of Christ, the requirements for salvation, and the eternal state of those who die outside those requirements.
People often ask me, how do you know your particular 'brand' of Christianity is correct? How can you be sure.
This story is an attempt to answer that question:
Once upon a time, there was a man named Robert. Robert was an agnostic. He had grown up in a nominally Christian home, but got his naive Christianity knocked out of him in college, by professors and fellow students - so much smarter than Robert - who ridiculed Christians. Robert internalized their beliefs: The Bible was a bunch of myths; Jesus was likely not a historical figure; there was probably no God in Heaven, and if there was, he wasn't interested in us humans one lick.
But somehow, deep in his heart, Robert could not quite give up on the idea of God. It would surface from time to time - the death of a relative or favorite family pet. Once, Robert had a sudden onset of heart palpitations. He thought he was dying. All the way to the hospital, Robert prayed to Jesus - the one he thought was a legend.
Years later, Robert became a committed Christian. He thought it was because he had decided to make Christianity a 'front-burner' issue in his life and he read all he could about the evidence for the resurrection and the historical reliability of the Gospels.
Then he read in the book of Romans how even the most unrighteous knows - deep in his heart - that God exists. Robert understood. "Yes," he said. "That was me. I was an agnostic, lost, a slave to sin. Yet I knew. Somehow, I knew." Many, many years he had kicked against the goads. "If God is out there - really out there," he had said, "then I have to change my life. I have to do what He says - and I'm not ready to do that."
Robert learned that it was not his intelligence and diligent scholarship - uncovering all those facts about the resurrection and the textual history of the NT record - that led him to Christ. Those facts were true, and they were the proximate cause - yes. But underneath - down where it really matters - the truth was already there. Robert just finally gave in and stopped denying it.
In the end, Robert came to understand that it was God who sought him, not the other way around. It was God who - for reasons only God knows - reached down to a prideful, angry, dishonest, lustful, covetous, and idolatrous man and called him home. Not because Robert was worthy - he surely wasn't - but because God is gracious and loving and kind. The shockwave of God's grace still reverberates through Robert's soul: Thank you, Father! Thank you, Lord Jesus! How awesome and amazing is your grace!
So, now Robert does not boast in his knowledge or his reason or his theology. Robert boasts in the Lord - for it is by His doing - and His doing alone - that Robert is in Christ. (Well, that's what Robert TRIES very hard to do - to let the Father conform him to the image of His Son; but Robert is a work in progress and fails often).
How does Robert know that he's right about the doctrines he believes? He trusts that Christ, who dwells within him, will open the Scriptures so that he may understand them correctly. Apart from Christ, Robert can understand nothing; with Him, Robert can understand all that He wishes him to.
At this moment, Robert can say that he is at peace, theologically. There is no hint of the self-deception that he practiced as an agnostic.
I think God works in precisely the way He did in Robert, when he was an agnostic, to bring His children into a right relationship with Him and His Son. If one follows false doctrine, yet seeks the Truth of God's Word through prayer and study, God will change that one's heart - as He changed Robert's. One may kick against the goads for a time, as Robert did. One will try to convince oneself that the doctrines one has been taught must be correct. But one will come to know - somehow, deep in one's heart - that they are wrong. It may start as a simple doubt - or reading a little story on a website like this one.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Cor 1:30-31)