In the original lecture series (Conversations About God) done in 1984 at the Loma Linda University Church, Graham Maxwell spoke for about a half hour each Friday night following by written questions and answers from Lou Venden and also from the audience. The next several posts contain questions and answers from the third presentation, “All God Asks Is Trust.”
Lou: You have said a great deal about trust in this chapter. I can hear a person saying something like this, “When are we going to get on to the really important things, like justification and sanctification, expiation, propitiation, atonement, substitution, and so forth. Haven’t we spent long enough on trust?”
Graham: I think we have been talking about justification, but we’ve given it another name. We’ll even use those familiar names along the way, because they are an important part of our history. And when we talk to our friends for whom those are the words, then we should use them if we are going to communicate at all. But I’d rather use the words the Bible uses. And some might respond, “Well, aren’t those the words the Bible uses?” No, it’s going to be interesting to arrive in the Kingdom and settle all debates about Paul by going up to him and saying “Give us the last word, Paul. What did you mean by justification?”
He’ll say, “Could I hear that one more time?”
“Justification. You know, your favorite word.”
“You think so? Actually, I never used it.”
“How about sanctification?”
“Not that one either.”
“You mean you used none of those terms? What about expiation?”
Paul never used one of them. Neither did Jesus or anybody else in the Bible. You see, many of our favorite theological words are actually Latin and Greek terms that came from a period when Latin and Greek were the main languages used for theology. Take Sola Scriptura, for example. That’s pure Latin, meaning “the Bible only.” Or think of the word I used in a previous chapter, the Christomonistic principle. That’s based on the Greek. Christos (Christ) and monos (only). Very few people study Latin and Greek these days. So why do we keep using these words? Why not simply say “the Bible only” or “Christ alone?” I would much rather use plain and simple terms to describe these things, but each of these terms has a history and it is good to mention them, so we can see where they fit into the larger picture. But we should keep in mind that Jesus described the whole truth about His Father and how we can be saved without ever using one of those words. Jesus spoke Aramaic, rather than Latin or Greek.
Lou: I wonder if the words become a sort of scholarly shorthand? But the danger of that is we think we understand what we are talking about when we may have loaded the word with meaning that really isn’t fair to the Scripture.
Graham: That’s certainly the hazard. So it’s good to go back to how these things were described in the beginning, and we’ll try to do that in a later chapter.
Lou: All right. Let’s move along to another question. “You’ve talked about faith meaning trust rather than just ‘knowing’ something. Aren’t there some things that we could legitimately say we only know by faith, such as that statement in Hebrews, ‘by faith we know that the world was made’” (Heb 11:3)?
Graham: I would want to reply, “By faith in what? What do you mean when you say you know something by faith? Do you have a feeling of conviction inside perhaps?” Where Hebrews says “we know by faith,” what would the writer mean? Faith in something, to be sure.
How do we know anything about where the world came from? We have to read it in the Scriptures, don’t we? So we read the record. By faith in the Scriptures we believe that God created the world as recorded. But that leads us to another question. Can the Bible itself be trusted?
When we say we know these things by faith and they are things described in Scripture, we are not saying, “I know this because I have a warm feeling down in my heart.” That warm feeling could come from indigestion! So when you say, “I know something by faith,” I would want to know what you are having faith in, and in Hebrews eleven it is faith in the Bible. We will cover this question in some depth in chapter five, “The Record of the Evidence.” Can the Bible really be trusted? Can you say in the most critical company, “I have found the Bible to be utterly reliable from cover to cover?” I believe you can, and I’ll lay that out in chapter five.