I watched an interesting debate on “Nightline” last night. The topic was, “Does Satan Exist?” The debate was held at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington and featured four speakers. Two argued for the existence of Satan and two argued against it.
Arguing for Satan’s existence were Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church, and Annie Loberts, a former prostitute who now runs an organization that seeks to win prostitutes to Christ. Arguing against Satan’s existence were Deepak Chopra, a new-age spiritualist who has written several books on the subject of God, and Carlton Pearson, a former Pentecostal preacher who now teaches that the love of God is so all-encompassing that there is no eternal damnation for anyone.
All four speakers passionately expresed their viewpoints, and everyone was generally cordial. The audience members, for the most part, believed in the existence of Satan. This wasn’t surprising considering that the debate was held at Driscoll’s church. There were, however, some who cheered the remarks of Chopra and Pearson.
But what really struck me was that the core of the debate wasn’t so much about Satan, or even Jesus, as it was the Bible. You see, if the Bible really is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative word of God, then Satan is real. Why? Because the Bible says he is. Chopra and Pearson didn’t even attempt to back up their claims by using the Bible. Everyone in the debate knew it couldn’t be done. All the two had to say concerning the Bible was that it is not God’s book to man, but rather man’s book about God. Chopra characterized it as an ancient book that was written from superstitution and is, thus, now outdated and irrelevant. Pearson flatly stated that we can pick and choose what parts of the Bible we believe because the book isn’t so much God’s inspired word to man as it is man’s inspired word about God.
This morning, as I was thinking about the debate, I was reminded of Billy Graham. When he was a young preacher, he came to a moment of crisis in his ministry. The crisis involved the question of the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy. Graham walked out into the woods one day, laid his Bible on a tree stump, and prayed. He came out of those woods with a deep-settled conviction that the Bible really is God’s written word to man. Out of that conviction came his dedication to preach the Bible to the best of his ability.
Do you know what the great problem is with Deepak Chopra’s and Carlton Pearson’s beliefs? It’s the fact that they have no authoritative basis upon which to rest them. Chopra contends that God is too big to be confined by the bounds of any religion, including Christianity. But that contention is merely his opinion. The only authority upon which he bases it is the authority of his own mind, a mind which, hopefully, even he would admit isn’t perfect. My mind isn’t perfect either, but let’s say that I hold the opinion that God is a big, green frog out in the middle of the universe. I’ve got just as much authority for that belief as Chopra does for his. It’s all personal opinion.
The same can be said of Pearson. In his mind, who decides what parts of the Bible are true and what parts aren’t true? It’s him. He’s the judge. But his mind isn’t any more perfect than Chopra’s or mine. He would say that passages such as Matthew 4:1-11 shouldn’t be believed because they speak of a literal devil. But that’s just one man’s opinion. It’s merely a conclusion he has reached in his own mind. I can go around saying, with just as much human authority, that I have reached the conclusion that such passages should be believed. Do you see what I mean? When you throw out the authority of the Bible, anybody is free to believe anything.
The limitations of the human mind must always be taken into account. It’s like that joke about the atheist who confidently proclaims, “There is no God.” A man says to him, “Sir, do you know everything?” The atheist answers, “Of course not. No one knows everything.” The man replies, “Then maybe God exists in that part you don’t know.” I could say to Deepak Chopra and Carlton Pearson, “Maybe Satan exists in that part you don’t know.”
You ask, “But how can we even know that what the Bible says about itself can be trusted? It claims to be God-inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), but can’t we just chalk that up to the book bragging on itself?” Well, that’s a valid point, but there is a comeback to it. First, we must establish the Bible’s trustworthiness from sources outside the Bible. This is done by using four distinct categories of evidence:
1. Archaeological Finds: In scores of digs down through the years, archaeologists have unearthed evidence that verifies the Bible’s record of human history.
2. Fulfilled Prophecy: The Bible currently holds a perfect record in the fulfillment of its prophecies.
3. Internal Consistency: Even though the Bible was written over a period of fifteen hundred years, in two languages (Hebrew and Greek), by forty different writers, on three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), there is a remarkable consistency to its record that simply cannot be attributed to human genius.
4. Changed Lives: No other book ever written has impacted lives the way the Bible has.
Then, after we have used these four categories of evidence to establish the trustworthiness of the Bible, we can go to the Bible and see what it says about itself. We read the 2 Timothy 3:16 verse: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” This gives us the authority of the Bible.
Deepak Chopra and Carlton Pearson need reliable doctrine. They need reprooof. They need correction. They need instruction in righteousness. But, unless they change their views concerning the Bible, they will never receive these things. They may attract audiences, sell books, and appear on t.v., but it will all be built upon their opinions. And you know that old line about opinions: Everybody’s got one. The only opinion that truly counts is God’s. Has He spoken? Has He laid down the rules? Has He put forth a standard? Has He given us a word about Satan, about hell, about damnation? Yes, He has. And where can we find it all? You know: in the pages of the Bible. So, I’ll finish up this post by asking you the obvious question that comes out of it, “How’s your Bible study these days?