Yes, I Believe!
Final Reflection Paper: Statement of Faith
A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Course
Authority of Scripture and Epistemology
The purpose of this paper is my attempt to express my personal “knowing” as it pertains to my faith in God and the authority of Scripture. I do not by any means believe that I have all of the answers, but I am confident that through years of relationship with the Godhead my insight has blossomed to the extent that others may glean from my understanding. The Scripture that I have taken from this course that has riveted my soul is Proverbs 2:3-5 “If you indeed cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding and search for it as for hidden treasures then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God?” This work is my attempt to articulate that which I know in my heart to be truth. It is a faith in which I am willing and have willingly laid my life down for. It is a faith built of love and devotion. With this in mind I begin…
Knowing What I Believe
- What does “to know” something or someone means to me?
To know in Hebrew is yada` or yä·dah’ and in Greek it is ginōskō or gē-nō'-skō meaning to know, known, knowledge, perceive and understand. My personal belief or perspective of yada will be addressed here. My faith began from as far back as I can remember. In fact, I cannot remember not knowing God or being known by God. This is a gift as so many people I meet struggle with their faith. Therefore, I count it my most precious gift in my life – knowing and being known by God. To know the revelation of the Godhead is the greatest free gift humanity could ever have this faith is testable and available for everyone.
I had the faith as a child and that faith has only grown throughout the years. People have asked me how I “know” that God is real. Some just do not understand, they do not get it, but that does not change my belief. For me, my belief began as a series of personal encounters. I saw God, I talked to God, I trusted God, or my invisible friend (Heb 11:1). I believed in the invisible and the visible for there are times that I see into the invisible. Many times I feel His presence. He gives me dreams and visions which came to pass so I knew they were from Him. I am not afraid because I know in my heart that God is “good” and that “He loves me.” He tells me things that were going to happen before they happened and I am amazed. I just talk to Him all the time, confiding my greatest desires and secrets. I know that it is God. He has trained me in what right and wrong. He speaks to me and tells me little things like which way to go and who to trust. I listen; most of the time. When I do not listen, it does not go well. So I have learned to make better choices and obey His voice when I hear Him (Jn 10:16 & 27).
What is unique in my story was when I was a child no one else in my family confessed to be Christians. Mom did drop us off at vacation Bible school and special events at the Lutheran Church down the street. My dad said that when I was about two I use to talk to the crakes in the floor, to the devil, and tell him that he was to stay there. When I was ordained my dad cried as he expressed to everyone present that he always “knew” I was called to serve God. This is my experience! My knowing came from a personal relationship with my Savior and Lord. It was a passion demonstrated through intimacy as time revealed the true nature of my God (Phil 3:10).
- How this “knowing” relates to my view of the authority of Scripture?
The authority of Scripture is paramount to my belief system even though my faith first came through a personal encounter with the Lord. As mentioned above I knew the Lord as a small child because of my experiences with Him. Because of these special times with the Lord I wanted to know Him better so I went to church. I did not know what church to go to so I went to many different churches, and I learned Bible stories. But mostly I went to the Lutheran Church as it was closest to my home. I loved Bible stories and I loved to sing and praise Him. I would sing to Him all the time. In fifth grade a little girl gave me an old dilapidated new testament Bible for Christmas at a Girl Scout party. I remember this well because I was upset because I wanted something else. When I complained to my mom she scolded me and explained that it was probably the best gift the girl had to give.
My mom shared with me why the Bible was important. Suddenly, I wanted to know what was in this Bible, but the problem was that I had a learning disability and could barely read. I kept that pocket new testament Bible for many years never forgetting the story or the importance of Scriptures. I learned the Scriptures through listening to people teach and preach as I could not read well into my twenties. (By the way, I learned to read while in the Army as a wonderful friend would have me read to her every night from the Bible.) I believe in the Nicene Creed in its entirety as it was written by Fathers of the early Christian Church in 325 A.D. I learn this as a child in the Lutheran Church, and it has been foundational to my core belief system.
There have been Scriptures that I have struggled with, yet I trust the Word to be truth and inspired by the Holy Spirit. 2Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” As God is a good and loving God – His desire is to teach and equip His children for ‘good work’ so that we may touch lives for the kingdom and glory of God. We cannot adequately teach if we do not know the Scriptures. Therefore we must study to show ourselves approved. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The tension created by what appears to be conflicting Scriptures does not negate truth. I rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine the “best” logical course of action to live by at a given time. Galatians 5:16-25 states,
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Knowing why I believe what I believe
- Why I believe what I believe, and the criteria employed to confirm and affirm what I believe?
In the late 1970’s I served in the United States Army Security Agency. The ASA is affiliated with Army Intelligence or what today is known as National Security Agency (NSA). One of my responsibilities was to collect information (spy) on our own troops to make sure they were not giving away classified information to the enemy. At the time the United States was in the cold war with Soviet Russia. What is interesting here is that the military has a policy in place to protect soldiers as well as our secrets and it is called a “need to know.” This “need to know” policy actually provided a form of protection in that the soldiers did not give off intelligence unaware because they were oblivious of that particular information. Only those who were essential to the operations success were privy to the intelligence. The strategies and details of exercises where handled with the utmost of care in hopes that secret material was not leaked to the Soviets. My job was to find out if information was being passed through the communication lines and analysis the material to determine the classification being leaked so that we could divert the operation if needed.
You are probably thinking - what does this have to do with the criteria that I use to determine my belief system? It is simply on a “need to know” basis that the mysteries of the kingdom are revealed to those who seek Him and who are in the kingdom. “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cr 4:1).” And Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Just as when I served in the Army, I have been taught to analysis data and in this case the material is the Word of God. I was taught to examine the evidence as well as the historical character of the subjects and their companions. I have used this same process throughout my adult life not to trust merely with my heart or with my eyes, but to look at the evidence presented. The mysteries of kingdom have been revealed as I have trusted the Lord as my provider, protector, and friend. Just because someone speaks something and says it is true does not make it so. I look things up for myself instead of just believing it. I make sure that what is being said lines up with Scripture.
The Scripture has become truth to me as I have used it in the course of my life to see if it was true. It has been a series of exercises, if you will, as I used foundational principles to live by. I have based the entire premise of who I am on this data because of the character of Christ. His life in the Gospels and his guidance in my heart and life have proved his existence. It is one of reason, informed analysis, history, experience, and pursuit that have shaped my belief system. My “need to know” attitude of seeking kingdom mysteries and relationship with the King has opened the heavens on my behalf so that I in turn may bless others so that they too may discover the truth of his goodness and love.
- How does this “knowing” apply to my personal view of the authority of Scripture?
I will begin here with Psalms 119:89-94,
“Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, For all things are Your servants. If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me. I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.”
The truth of my life is that without God I would not be here. I have not had an easy life as I have had many medical issues since I was born. At age four I actually died due to heart issues, but the Lord brought me back. Jesus came to give abundant life (Jn 3:17) and he suffered much on our behalf (Jn 3:16). Relational, health, learning issues did not stop me from loving God, but only brought me closer to Him.
The principles that I have been taught through the Holy Spirit’s guidance has led me to believe fully in the Scriptures (1 Cr 2:13). God knowing my compassion for mankind - has honored me by taking me to heaven where He spoke to me. The Lord knew that I might be swayed to other belief systems because I love so much and did not want to see anyone parish. During this experience I was dancing with Jesus on a glasslike lake. He told me that “He was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one could come to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6).” He took me right back to Scripture in this encounter as I was transported outside myself.
It is this “need to know” quest for truth that has drawn me to study Scripture as well as the encounters with God that seem to always point to His Word. The Scriptures fill in the blanks. They help me to see more clearly the love of God and the plan that He has for my life and humanity. The Scripture reveal His son. The Holy Spirit speaks to me through Scripture telling me where to find verses which line up with the “best” virtuous decision to guide me and others. Not everything is in Scripture, but virtuous behavior is. There are wonderful examples of how others acted in the past which please God. Every story demonstrates how we should or should not act and is helpful to daily living. This may seem simplistic, but it is how I have learned and it is truly what I believe. I believe in the authority of Scripture because it has been proven over the course of my life to be accurate.
There are Pauline verses that I struggle with. I trust that one day the Lord will reveal more accurately what He is relaying through them whether they are simply cultural or social issues of the time. I have studied and read up on Theological explanations regarding them. But I take the Word pretty literal so questions continue to stir me to search out greater understanding. I see these puzzles as some of the mysteries within the Scripture which God continues to unfold on a “need to know” basis as we search for answers as hidden treasure. My lack of understanding or education does not negate truth. I rely on the Holy Spirit and Scripture to live a life that would be pleasing to God. And I have come to the conclusion that there are some things that I may never fully understand, but that will not sway my faith.
Knowing how I live and/or how I plan to live what I believe
- How do I and/or how will you apply what/why you believe to the daily living out of your life?
“Knowing” God is love (1 Jn 4:8) is critical to my faith. To know God is to love God and to love God, is to love myself and my neighbor (Mk 12:30-31). The essence of this love affair is tangible and measurable through my personal testimony and confirmed through Scripture as the use of the word “love” is used over 349 times. Meeks states, “The one who loves sees truly the possibilities of the beloved.” Yet, I wonder at the “knowing” that my amazing beloved can somehow woo me and deepen this passion beyond even that which I thought was possible. I speak so much on love because it is out of this passion (the relationship of intimately knowing God) which I give my life as Christ did. It was all for the sake of love. He loves me and I love Him therefore I sacrifice my life for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have not been coerced into this relationship, but courted as a suitor woos his beloved. It was Jesus’ compassion that won over the hearts of the people, disciples, Mary, Martha, and the Samaritan woman. He loved them where they were.
I appreciate Paul’s words: 1 Timothy 1:11-16,
“…according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
It is Jesus Christ, a loving Savior to whom Paul and I fully commit our life. My life verse is Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” My devotion to God is that through my life other may see Him and know Him. All the glory of my labor will go to Him. My suffering, my pain, rejection and loss is nothing in comparison to his. The message of hope is ringing in my heart as I have found solace and joy in my Savior.
I can bring this message of hope - the message of Jehovah Ralph - the God who heals. It will encourage others to seek Him and love Him despite their pain or past sin. He will comfort them as He has me. He will love them as He has loved me. For my God is great and greatly to be praised; He is faithful and true to all that believe.
If this “knowing” that I “know” is purely illusion than reason would say that my life and my life testimony also would be a mere illusion. My life is not an illusion, but one of demonstration and power of a loving God who reached down from heaven to touch a child and guide her throughout her life. The end of the story is not complete for there is much work that needs to be done. I am grateful for like Paul, I am strengthened by God and in His mercy He has found me faithful to fulfill my calling for the next generation to be established in the kingdom of God.
- How does this reflect my personal view of the authority of Scripture?
My personal view of the authority of Scripture is reflected by how I live my life. While I appreciate the theological virtue of intellectualism nothing could separate me from this profound “knowing” that has been revealed through His love, mercy, and grace. Walking in Godly virtues with proven character is very important for our witness to others. I believe that we are called to walk in Holiness for He is holy (Lev 11:44). But, because God is a loving and redeeming God we are given opportunity to confess our sins and He forgives us. My knowing that God is good, loving, and forgiving gives me confidence to go before the cross and to tell others of His faithfulness to forgive as He did even those who crucified Him (Lk 23:34). Yet, this gift of forgiveness does not give me license to sin, but dependence on Him so my life would be virtuous and fruitful. It is not because of the intellectual pursuits of life that I am believer. I believe because I have an intellect that “knows” God through relationship which has pointed me to Scripture.
Therefore, I have a “need to know” more fully. Faith has given me an innate desire for truth within the Scripture so that I can articulate that which I believe in love. Through demonstration and power, signs and wonders are manifested here on earth as it is in heaven. I believe spiritual gifts are for today as lives are being touched through miracles, signs and wonders. “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Heb 2:4).”
The Scriptures reveal the passion of Christ and tell us that He was perfected through His suffering. “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone (Hbr 2:9).” Romans 5:1-6 states,
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…
Since it is my belief that the Word of God is truth, I can stand before humanity boldly teaching from it hoping revelation knowledge will come to those who hear the Gospel. And they will receive personal salvation through the freedom offered by Christ and spoken of in Scriptures. They may not have had a personal encounter like I have up until this point, but the Scriptures are for everyone who believes. At the time of their conversion, I believe they will have an encounter with the tangible presence of God. It was by faith, I believed in the past. Now I see peoples’ lives being transformed all the time.
My faith has grown in power and authority through relationship and Scripture. We have been given access to use and speak life from Scripture into this earth bringing heaven down and walking in kingdom authority and power as priests and ambassadors for Christ. Knowing the power and authority of Scriptures gives me confidence to trust that the Word is truth and to speak it out “knowing” that God hears my voice and will respond for the good of the kingdom as my actions are in line with kingdom principles.
Through joy and celebration, suffering and pain - I have always known “The Living God” to “be” faithful. The Scriptures tell us that in this life we will have hard times. It is wonderful to know that we do not have walk through these battles alone. It is also good to know that our battles are not with this world, but against powers and principalities of darkness (Eph 6:12). Knowing that I have a real enemy gives me strength and determination. I know that the only way to fight is through Scripture. This also helps me to not feel sorry for myself. It make me stronger in knowing that I do not have to be angry with people, but with spiritual forces of darkness.
My sites are awaken to the possibilies of relationship and harmony with all mankind with a loving heart knowing that they are being used by the enemy to try and cause me to react in an ungodly way or discourage me. Now I just laugh at the devil because he has tried just about everything to take me away for God and failed. How could I possibly leave a loving God that has always been faithful? Therefore, as one who has been given authority, I live to confess my faith before humanity walking out the commission of Jesus because I unequivocally believe in the God I serve.
- How does this reflect how I know what I know? (Epistemology)
Here I would like to tell a short story of an experience that I had a few summers ago that has to do with Epistemology. One beautiful summer day I was walking along the Sacramento River trail when I saw a man push a woman to the ground. My instinctual reaction was such that I yelled at the man, “Hay, I saw that!” I ran to the woman to help her because I thought that he might hit her or do something else that would hurt her. My heart was beating fast as I ran for I was not entirely sure what I was going to do, but I knew I could not just ignore what had happened.
When I got there the woman was brushing the dirt off her clothes and hands. The man was helping her. She was startled; not fully aware of what had just happened. The man began to explain that there was a rattle snake on the trail and that his wife was just about to step on it. All along this man’s intent was to protect the woman and neither she nor I had seen the rattle snake. As we looked closely in the direction he pointed to sure enough there it was…off in the thicket. My perception of what was happening at first was faulty, yet on closer examination I saw the truth.
The moral to this story is that things are not always what they appear to be. Sometimes we do not understand why the Lord allows bad things to happen in our lives. But, if we have true intimate relationship with Him we can trust that He will turn it around for our good. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). I trust God and I “know” Him to be true. The man did not put the snake in the path. The snake was there and the man’s response was to protect his wife by pushing her away from danger. I believe that God’s response is one to protect and nurture His creation.
When I was in the service I discovered secrets that made me frustrated with our country and after I got out of the service I became a peace activist. I would do peace marches and protest against all forms of violence because I had became disillusioned with our government. Over time my heart changed and though I do not trust our government completely, I know now because of all my overseas travels, that our government is better than most.
My experience with the government of the kingdom of God is different. The government of the kingdom of God has never done anything, but good in my life. I have never been hurt by God or blamed God for my circumstances. Man has hurt me and even people in the Church, but the Lord has taught me to love and forgive. I have seen my shortcomings and His hand is trying to guide me correctly and gently. He has never failed me even when I have failed Him. The faithfulness of God is tried and true and no one can convince me otherwise.
In the discovery of knowing God it is vital that people first know of His goodness and love. To know God is to have relationship with Him. It is a continuous journey of discovery and truth. The authority of Scripture is an essential key to unlocking revelation, but not the end result. One cannot fully express the dimensions of God visible and invisible. God is eternal and as saints we too walk out our lives with an eternal promise and hope. It is one of expectation and revelations into the mysteries of the kingdom. Knowing God is a special gift and I am delighted to say that I am blessed with this gift. I am humbled by His love and passionate about the job before me. To know as an ambassador for Christ I have a purpose of advancing the kingdom on earth is a great responsibility and privilege which I do not take lightly. Epistemology is how I know what I know without a shadow of a doubt and for me it has been through relationship, time, history, testimony, and experience that I have come to this profound understanding. This yada is logically based in reason through real encounters with a “living God.”
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Carson, D. Scripture and truth. Grand Rapids Mich.: Baker Book House, 1992.
Lockman Foundation (La Habra, Calif.). New American Standard Bible. 1st ed. Carol Stream Il.: Creation House, 1971.
Meek, Esther. Longing to know. Grand Rapids Mich.: Brazos Press, 2003.
Moser, Paul. The evidence for God : religious knowledge reexamined. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
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Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ today : why we can trust spiritual knowledge. 1st ed. New York: HarperOne, 2009.
Wood, W. Epistemology : becoming intellectually virtuous. Downers Grove Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ today : why we can trust spiritual knowledge, 1st ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 202.
 “Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry”, n.d., http://carm.org/nicene-creed, (accessed November 30, 2011).
 Carson, Scripture and truth, 19, 58, 79,.
 “Blue Letter Bible - Search Results for NASB”, n.d., http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/translationResults.cfm?Criteria=love&t=NASB&sf=5, (accessed November 30, 2011).
 Esther Meek, Longing to know (Grand Rapids Mich.: Brazos Press, 2003), 128.
 Wood, Epistemology, 31–47.
 Paul Moser, The evidence for God : religious knowledge reexamined (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 90–121.
 Lockman Foundation (La Habra, Calif.), New American Standard Bible., vv. Rom 10:9 & Mat 28:18–20.