Admitting the Possibility

(4:50) “Please pray for us? It seems to me as though Joshua’s prayer leading up to this debate, and my prayer, are a bit different. I’ll let you follow his posts so that you can check that out. My prayer for the upcoming debate is not that what I think is the truth will in fact be made out to be true. Because I quite frankly admit the possibility that I might be wrong about this; I don’t think that I am, and I think that the Scripture is clearly in support of the position that I’ll be advancing. But I could be wrong about that. My prayer is that regardless of which one of us is correct, whether it’s Joshua or myself, my prayer is that the Lord would powerfully make evident the truth of His Word, using Joshua to make the truth of traditionalism clear, if that’s the case, or using me to make evident the truth of the position that I’ll be arguing. Please join me in that prayer. Also, that we might treat each other humbly, or respectfully, even though we think that our respective positions are wrong, even seriously wrong. Please keep all that in your prayers.”[1]

I appreciate the spirit of Mr. Date’s comments, for the most part, and I echo them – for the most part. I’m gratified that he has already noted the part of them that I cannot echo, as well, if perhaps not for the same reason I am going to affirm in the following. The tendency of most in our day – as well as in that of most days in history – has been to mistakenly identify certainty with arrogance. This is not to say that this is Mr. Date’s intent – but there is (and I’m glad there is) a notable difference between us – and not merely that of the debate’s thesis. There is, of course, the common tendency to mistake our convictions for truth; but immediately at this point, we have to separate out the presuppositional commitment underlying the conviction. If one’s conviction is, as is asserted, “traditional”, then one has no solid basis for that conviction to be considered the truth – and one is open to the charge of arrogance. If, however, one has the testimony of Scripture and the witness, guidance, and teaching work of the Spirit to authenticate this conviction – then certainty is not only warranted, but necessitated. At that point, if we do not confess our certainty on the matter, we are guilty of doubt, and in need of repentance. The subjectivistic character of conviction held on the basis of one’s persuasion regarding one’s own reading of the text is what is often confused with the certainty of conviction held on the basis of one’s prayerful study, exegesis, and recognition (by the power of the Spirit) of what the text actually teaches. Consider the canon of Scripture, for an example. The canon did not float down from heaven upon golden tablets, accompanied by angelic choir singing hosannas! As Dr, White says, “The nature of Scripture determines the canon of Scripture; that is, the canon must be defined in light of what Scripture is. … The canon is an artifact of revelation, not an object of revelation itself. It is known infallibly to God by necessity and to man with a certainty directly related to God’s purpose in giving the Word to the church.”[2]

Mr. Date’s intention may not be to accuse me of arrogance – that’s not the point of this post – but when, for the sake of what is often (falsely) considered humility, you begin to admit the “possibility” that what you are teaching is wrong – of something you yourself say is taken from the Scriptures – you undercut your entire argument at that point. You gave up the debate. This is one fashion in which neutrality is pretended – sometimes without any intention of doing so. Here’s why. When you admit to doubt, you’re then in diametric opposition to faith. I discuss this subject here. The corollary to this is, if you cannot say that the denial of your position is impossible, you cannot say that it is true. Thus, if you cannot teach with certainty – you should not teach it at all. Mr. Date’s position is that it is possible to deny his position. He will not make a case that doesn’t involve qualifiers such as “favors” or “likely”. It is not considered to be “impossible to deny” or “the sole possibility.” I discuss the implications of this position here. This is the difference between apologetic methodologies – and the difference between a hermeneutic which provides certainty, and one which does not. So yes, I will not pray that “if my opponent’s position is true, that the truth will prevail” – I cannot – because I could not hold a position on that basis at all. That is impossible to do. Similar to Dr. White’s comments above – I deny that it is possible that his position can be true expressly because the nature of Scripture determines what can be considered possible and true. Any Scriptural position is an artifact of revelation, if not an object of revelation itself. My position is known infallibly to God, and known to me with a certainty directly related to God’s purpose in giving the Word to the church.

It is not a mark of humility to frankly admit that you “could be wrong” – I can be wrong, about a great many things, this is true. Why, however, am I wrong when I’m wrong? Because I was acting or reasoning autonomously. When, however, I prayerfully exegete the Scriptures, trusting in Scripture alone, by the power of the Spirit alone – I cannot say “I might be wrong.” The source, the content, and the conclusion are, of necessity, Scriptural. When this is the case – when we truly are engaged in Sola Scriptura in an apologetic context – to admit, whether frankly or otherwise, that the position you hold to is wrong is utterly impossible. Only upon the frank admission that you are thinking God’s thoughts after him can you speak with forthright certainty on any subject. Upon those grounds, we must stand – for all other ground is shifting sand.

“So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things Of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth That you may correctly answer him who sent you?” – Pro 22:19-21

“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:31-32

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” – John 16:13

“I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” – 1 John 2:21

“The finite mind cannot thus, if we are to reason theistically, be made the standard of what is possible and what is impossible. It is the divine mind that is determinative of what is possible.” – CVT[3]

“Man does not need to know exhaustively in order to know truly and certainly. When on the created level of existence man thinks God’s thoughts after him, that is, when man thinks in self-conscious submission to the voluntary revelation of the self-sufficient God, he has therewith the only possible ground of certainty for knowledge for his knowledge.” – CVT[4]

  1. [1]Theopologetics: Episode 87
  2. [2]White, Scripture Alone, 101
  3. [3]Defense of the Faith, 62
  4. [4]Christian Apologetics, 77

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