By: T. M. Moore|Published: November 15, 2006 9:22 AM
But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words." Acts 26:25
It is fashionable among certain intellectuals to dismiss Christianity as irrational and, therefore, unreliable as a true perspective on life and the world. Most conspicuously, as we've been discussing here, Richard Dawkins has taken over the chair formerly occupied by Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould -- although Gould modified his views shortly before his death -- in warning the public against the evils of this most unscientific pretender to truth.
But this warning is exactly contrary to the claim of the Apostle Paul, who insisted that he was speaking true and rational words, and that his audience knew as much. On what basis could he make such a claim? We may observe three pillars of the Pauline claim to truth.
First, the pillar of experience: only the Gospel of Jesus Christ could explain the dramatic change in Paul's own life (vv. 4-20). The religious leaders who had Paul arrested and sought to condemn him before the king and governor knew what he was like as a young man, knew that he had had some kind of encounter with the God of Israel, and knew that he was now passionately and effectively proclaiming the Good News of the risen Savior who called all people to repentance and faith. The change in his life was inexplicable by merely human means. Something supernatural had intervened in Paul's life, as he was bold to declare.
Second, for Paul the truth and reasonableness of the Gospel can be seen in the way it accounts for the facts of history. Both Festus and Agrippa knew the story of Jesus, that He really lived, that He was a good man Who was unjustly condemned, and that it was reported that He had risen from the dead (and no evidence to the contrary ever adduced). These things were public knowledge, demonstrable and widely known historical facts (v. 26). So much that has happened in human history since the days of Christ's incarnation can only be accounted for by the historical facts of the Gospel. Ask Ambrose or Augustine, ask Patrick or Columba, ask Francis of Assisi, ask Bach and Rembrandt, ask Newton and Boyle, ask John Newton and Wilberforce -- ask them all what facts of history led them to their chosen course in life, and they will all tell you the same thing as Paul.
Finally, Paul's claim that the Gospel was true and rational was based on the way that it satisfies all the other teachings of Scripture (vv. 21-23). No other book tells such a singular story, with such remarkable consistency, from so many angles, over so many years, through so many voices. The unity and continuity of Scripture in telling the story of Jesus must be accounted for in some way. How shall we make sense of this, other than to say that it is God's Book telling God's story about God's Son and the Good News of salvation and the Kingdom He has brought to the world?
The Gospel and the Christian faith to which it leads are true and rational. Only those whose zeal is to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:21ff) will be able, faced with the facts of personal experience, historical reality, and Biblical exegesis, to maintain otherwise.