“My concern (in the last few chapters) . . . has been to find a way to have a well-grounded confidence in the truth of the Bible based on evidence that a person can see, even if he has no historical training and little time to devote to rigorous study” (Piper, p. 167).
HOW CAN I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN MY WIFE?
Compare this approach, writes Piper, “to the confidence I have that my wife is faithful to me” (p. 167). He says he has confidence because he has come to know the kind of person she is. He has seen holiness and the fear of God in her.
It’s the same with Scripture. I can know the truth and faithfulness of God’s word, “as the divine glory of his character appears through the Scriptures he inspired” (Piper, p. 168).
Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician and philosopher. He proposed a wager over how one decides whether to believe in God or not. Simply put, bet that God does not exist and the result is eternal loss. But betting he does exist results in little loss. “If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing” (Pascal, p. 169).
THE WAGER AS SIMPLE AND MISLEADING
Piper argues that Pascal’s wager is misleading “because it gives the impression that saving faith in God is a choice we make without seeing God as true and compellingly beautiful. The wager says, ‘You do not know if God is really there. God himself is not a reality to you’” (p. 169).
That, says Piper, is not saving faith. Saving faith “is rooted in the sight and foretaste of happiness in supernatural reality—in God himself” p. 170). Repentance (given by God) must precede saving faith, not a mere “choice”.
THE WAGER AS COMPLEX AND CHALLENGING
Pascal’s basic cure for unbelief is to act as if you do believe, and you will soon see the certainty of it all. Saving faith, on the other hand, is coming to God through Christ, being “irresistibly drawn by the convincing and compelling foretaste of the enthralling beauty of God in the gospel” (Piper, p. 172).
Pascal’s wager is like choosing between two women to marry by a coin toss. Faith in God’s word means seeing “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Only then are Christ and his word honored.
UNNAMABLE EXPERIENCES AND SERIOUS DOUBTS
Millions of people have come to true faith in Christ without adequate words to describe the experience and without being able to sufficiently explain why. For example . . .
THE CONVERSION AND EXECUTION OF TOKICHI ISHII
This man was a brutal murderer who was hanged in Tokyo in 1918. Just before he was sentenced to death, two missionary women read him the account of Jesus’ trial and execution. He was riveted by Jesus’ prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Ishii said, “I stopped: I was stabbed to the heart, as if by a five-inch nail. What did the verse reveal to me? Shall I call it the love of the heart of Christ? Shall I call it his compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that with an unspeakably grateful heart I believed” (p. 173).
This is the faith-awakening power of God’s word, even if the believer can’t describe what has happened.
THE DOUBTS OF BILLY GRAHAM
At a particular point in his life, even though he had seen God work powerfully through Scripture, Billy Graham had doubts. He could not resolve the question of Scripture’s authority. He writes . . .
“So I went back (inside after walking in the night) and I got my Bible, and I went out in the moonlight . . . and put [my] Bible on [a] stump. And I knelt down, and I said, ‘Oh, God; I cannot prove certain things. I cannot answer some of the questions [people] are raising, but I accept this Book by faith as the Word of God” (p. 176).
“What his experience . . . teaches us is that the sight of God’s self-authenticating glory in Scripture is often an embattled sight” (Piper, p. 176).
That God doesn’t sustain the clearest views of his glory is seen in how Paul prays . . .
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17,18).
Piper comments that there is a self-authenticating reality seen by the eyes of the heart when God’s strength of sight is given.
Similarly, Jesus prayed . . .
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world . . .Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name– the name you gave me– so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled . . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one . . . Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John17:6-17).
Seeing God’s glory in his word is an embattled experience, but not an uncertain one. God doesn’t give “new eyes” only to let his people go blind for eternity.
AUTHENTIC FAITH IS NOT A WAGER
There is no authentic faith–no saving faith–based on a bet. The only kind of trust that truly honors God is a well-grounded trust.
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Jonathan Edwards (18th century Puritan preacher and theologian) wrote: “the mind ascends to the truth of the gospel [and the Scriptures] but by one step and that is its divine glory” (Piper, p. 151).
God must show us his glory in his word; otherwise we’ll see “parts” of God–his love, wrath, holiness, mercy, etc.,–but we’ll not see God as beautiful and glorious. We’ll believe in him, worship and follow him, but not be enthralled by him.
And life in this fallen world has a way of dulling God’s glory to our eyes.
O God, when I open the pages of your Book, I want to see you in all your beauty and glory, May the bright lights of the world’s entertainment and luxuries not dim my eyes to your glory. May my suffering and what sometimes seems your silence not make you appear uncaring and ugly. When I think of you, keep me from thinking of you in “parts”–God is love, God is grace, God is faithful, etc. Open my eyes to see all these “parts” make up you. And to see that you are the most enthralling being in the universe. Then may I trust you with a trust grounded in the glory that you are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.