a) Can people know anything about God apart from the Bible?
If so, what can they know about him?
They can know His general qualities as the creator, that there is someone (or something) bigger than them which preceded them and determined the rules by which they must live.
And what can they only know if they are exposed to the Bible?
That this “something” is a singular Being who loved them enough to die on a cross.
b) Do you know of any proven fact in all of history that has shown something in the Bible to be false? Can the same be said about any other religious writing such as the Book of Mormon or the Qur’an?
To be honest, that feels like a very unfair question. There are certainly many interpretations of the Bible that have been proved false — but we trust that with a deeper understanding of how to best interpret and analyze Scripture that we will find that it is ultimately true. That doesn’t mean we’ve resolved all possible contradictions, though; and I’m sure Mormons would say the same. The Qur’an is in a different category, but I don’t feel qualified to comment on that (since I don’t read Arabic).
What have you experienced in your own reading of the Bible that has confirmed it as God’s Word?
Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion questions.
Bible 101 – The Bible
Worksheet 1 – Revelation
Essential Truths #1 Divine Revelation 1. How would you change the sentence, “He revealed Himself in ancient times via dreams and visions” on p. 4 (p.17 in the PDF version) to make it more accurate than it is? You will find clues in Joel 2.28-29 and Acts 2.17-18.
I suppose to say “various times” instead of just “ancient times.”
2. Why is one way God reveals Himself called “general” revelation? (p. 4; p.17, PDF)
Because it reveals “general truths” about God’s character to a “general audience.”
3. Look at the top few lines on page 5. (This is the first paragraph on p.18 in the online PDF version.) Does it surprise you to read that nature is powerless and barren? What evidence is there in nature that this is the case? How does the Bible make this clear?
As usual, it depends on how you define “nature.” To be sure, nature apart from God is impotent, which is why nature worship per se is foolish. But, nature apart from God is not entirely well-defined, since nature itself exists solely as a (imperfect) reflection of God’s character. From that perspective, the real problem with worshipping nature is that it confuses the “proximate source of created things” with the ultimate “creator.”
4. Is general revelation a very significant influence in a person’s life? From what you read on p. 5, (p. 18, PDF) suggest how Sproul would answer this question.
I actually think the line between “general” and “special” revelation isn’t always as sharp as we think, and thus that it influences us far more than we realize. Nature, tradition, and community all strongly shape how we interpret God’s written word — and even more how we live it out in practice.
I think Sproul might say that it ought to be a significant influence, but often isn’t due to our folly in suppressing truth.
5. What judgment does God hold and bring against the fool? (p. 5; p. 18, PDF)
That “what may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain” but we in our folly “suppressed the truth by our wickedness.”
6. What is an agnostic? (p.5; p. 18, PDF) Is being an agnostic a more honest position for a person to hold than being an atheist? Explain your answer. Is being an agnostic a more acceptable position?
I distinguish between a “soft agnostic” who simply claims that they have not yet seen sufficient evidence for believing in any specific God, vs. a “hard agnostic” who claims that there is not sufficient evidence to justify belief in any God. The former can be honest, if they are willing to seriously consider evidence when it is presented. Otherwise, it is more like the latter, which in some ways could be considered (and in fact, by serious atheists is considered) a cowardly form of atheism.
7. What sort of revelation does Psalm 19 present?
In the first half, it is General. The latter seems more Special, in that it is about God’s commands and judgements.
8. Why is the law so precious (Ps 19.7-11)?
It is the source of wholeness, wisdom, joy, light, etc.
Is the law still this precious for us as Christians? Explain your answer.
Yes, though the riches of grace are even more precious.
9. What specific fact about God’s revelation does 2 Tim 3.14-17 feature?
That it is breathed by God, and capable of telling us everything we need to know.
How significant in the whole process of revelation is this means God uses to reveal his will to you?
Considering what this text is saying, what would be the best way to begin to discover what God is saying about a particular matter?
Persevere in looking in Scripture.
Essential Truths #2 Paradox, Mystery, and Contradiction
10. Write “True” or “False” for each of the following three statements:
- TRUE We may expect to find paradoxes in the Bible.
- “FALSE” (at least in the sense we aren’t allowed to in this class 🙂 We may expect to find contradictions in the Bible.
- TRUE We may expect to come across mysteries in the Bible.
11. How is a paradox different than a contradiction?
Technically, a paradox is something that appears to be a contradiction because of our imperfect understanding. In practice, though, that means we can only be sure we have found a true contradiction if we have perfect understanding!
12. What is the law of noncontradiction?
It is a feature of Aristotelian logic: In short, that both “P” and “not P” can’t be true at the same time.
How important is it?
Not nearly as important as Sproul thinks it is. To be sure, it is an extremely powerful tool, but far from absolute — and easily abused. For example, just because we know “P” is true, does not mean that every theory that affirms “not P” must necessarily be false; sometimes, “not P” might be an equally valid perspective which needs to be integrated with “P” to gain a fuller understanding.
What marks the difference between rationality and irrationality? (The answer to this is not specifically stated in the book.)
I would describe irrationality (in thought) as the failure to consider both the logical consequences and the necessary assumptions behind the beliefs we hold.
Has irrationality ever been an acceptable way of thinking about things?
As defined above: sure, all the time! In my view, we can never fully articulate all our assumptions, since we can never enumerate all possible perspectives (just the “conceivable” ones). That is why we need to start from a position of humility, seeking to integrate other truths into what we know rather than fight against them.
13. Write out the last sentence on p. 8 together with the sentence that follows it at the top of p.9. (These are the last two sentences in the last full paragraph on p. 21, PDF.)
It is a great insult and unconscionable blasphemy to even suggest that the Author of truth would ever speak in contradictions. Contradiction is the tool of the one who lies — the father of lies who despises the truth.
Ouch! Sproul really gets carried away here. Sure, God does not contradict Himself, but He often speaks in ways that appear contradictory. Moreover, I’m pretty sure Satan rarely deals in direct contradiction; he much prefers to wrap lies in partial truth, to keep us from thinking too much about them.
(as you can tell, the way classical theologians idolize Aristotle really bugs me)
14. Why are we not able to understand mysteries according to page 7 (p. 20, PDF)?
Some truths are too “high” for us to fully comprehend.
What other reasons do you find in the following texts?
- Deut 29.29 God keeps some secrets to Himself
- Psalm 18.25-26 God only reveals Himself to the faithful and pure
- Matt 13.11 God chooses to show it to some (those who ask?)
- I Cor 2.1-5 It depends on God’s power, not human wisdom.
- 1 Cor 2.14 Only those with the Spirit can accept it.
- 1 Cor 13.12 We only see partially while on earth.
In 1 Cor 2.6, Paul gives a qualification for receiving wisdom and then goes on to explain what he means. Write down the qualification -and what Paul specifically has in mind.
Who knows the mind of Paul except the Spirit within him? He says he only gives words of wisdom to the “mature”, in the context of contrasting God’s wisdom with earthly wisdom. In Dick Hockett’s terms, he presumably doesn’t want to give fodder for mockers who seek wisdom for their own ends; rather he only gives wisdom to those who can understand it, presumably in the context of Fearing God.
Essential Truths #3 Immediate and Mediate General Revelation
15. What way of coming in touch with divine revelation is being discussed on p. 11 (p. 23, PDF)?
The “mediate” communication through nature.
16. What is immediate revelation?
It nominally means without an intermediary, but in practice appears to mean through our spirit and psyche.
17. Read Rom 1.18-21. Is the revelation mentioned in each of the following verses mediate or immediate?
To be honest, I don’t get it. Verse 20 seems to be more about “mediate” revelation through nature, while verse 21 emphasizes the (lack of) revelation in their hearts (“immediate”). But I don’t really see a significant distinction, or anything in verse 19.
18. Comment on the quote from John Calvin (p. 12; p. 23, PDF). Write down any information about revelation that is new to you in this quote.
Nothing new, but I do agree there is some sense of transcendent Divinity in all men — though not all ascribe it to a personal Deity.
19. How is Sproul proving that God has revealed something of Himself within every person in the second last paragraph on p. 12? (This is the last paragraph on p. 23, PDF)
Anthropologically, by the existence of religion in every culture.
20. Sproul specifies that there two things we know deep within our souls. What are they?
- That God exists
- He has given His Law to us
Read Acts 17.22-31. Write down the words from this passage that support each of these two.
“in every way you are very religious”
“God did this so that men would seek him”
Alas, I don’t see much about the second aspect.
Which of these two is being discussed in Rom 2.14-15?
What evidence for this aspect of revelation does Paul present here?
The conscience of the Gentiles.
21. What does “innate” mean?
Built-in from birth, rather than acquired from culture.