Christianity Worth Thinking About
Testing "New" Revelation
Sunday, September 4, 1994
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|Bob Passantino and his wife Gretchen Passantino, the
directors of Answers in Action, have written a number of books that have
been very encouraging and helpful to me as a young apologist. Bob made a
comment once and I think it's a very valuable comment to keep in mind. He
said this: "If a thing is false, the flaw in the thinking will be
evident sooner or later." So when he goes to talk to a cult member or
has to deal with something that is patently false based on Biblical
revelation, he knows all he has to do is keep at it and keep looking and
sooner or later the flaw will be evident. It's a great encouragement for
us when we are facing formidable foes, if indeed we have the truth, that
the truth will come out eventually if we take our time and be careful
about our thinking and we listen closely.
Sooner or later, if something is false, the flaw will
|Something else needs to be added to that though to make it
really work. You've got to know what to look for. You've got to know what
the truth is and have a good idea of what the truth is. Not only that, you
have to have a fairly good idea of what bad thinking is so that you can
know it and you can spot it when it pops up. Then if you know what to look
for and you keep looking, sooner or later if something is false, the flaw
will become evident.
What I want to talk to you today about is a conversation I had with my
roommate, Daniel. Just yesterday as I was eating my breakfast, Daniel and
I got into a conversation about spiritual things. Now Daniel is a
Christian. He is a wonderful roommate. I really enjoy him. He is very
challenging to me because he asks a lot of questions about things that he
doesn't understand and he's always looking for a better explanation, which
is a good thing.
He showed me a book that he had found, Fundamental Principles of
Life , which includes the writings of Jacob Lorber. I think he was
something like an 18th or 19th century mystic. In the mind of Daniel, as
he was reading through this, he found that it not only made the Christian
case, but it made it better than anything he had heard before, in
particular with regard to the nature of the Trinity, which was an issue he
had been struggling with. I'm not surprised, as many Christians struggle
Daniel found that he had stumbled upon, in this book, an explanation of
things that made more sense than he had ever encountered before. We had a
conversation about it and as he began telling me about this book, The
Fundamental Principles of Life , and describing to me the format and
what it really entailed, I realized there was a problem immediately
because this was a record of Jacob Lorber's conversations with or
revelations from Jesus Christ. In other words, the book was a "thus
saith Jesus" kind of thing. Jesus is speaking to Lorber and Lorber is
writing down what Jesus says. So we have the gospels and we have Lorber's
revelations which purport to be the actual words of Jesus explaining these
other kinds of things.
These modern day revelations have always followed the
same kind of pattern. I know when such a revelation is offered to me it's
going to be false.
|Now, I have a rule of thumb which I have from experience.
I'm not going to try to defend this theologically at this point, though I
think a case can be made for it. Any prophet speaking for Jesus, in other
words, as a conduit for Jesus' own words, with a clearer explanation of
spiritual things than the Bible gives us, is going to be false. All I need
to know is that much. Jacob Lorber is giving us a revelation in which he
is writing down the words of Jesus as communicated to him for us--I know
it's false. Not because there is no theological possibility that Jesus can
speak in revelation to someone today, though I think a case can be made
against it. Even if I granted that as a theological possibility, I have
never seen the real McCoy. These modern day revelations have always
followed the same kind of pattern. I know when such a revelation is
offered to me it's going to be false. I know it from experience.
And I told Daniel that. I said, "Daniel, you don't have to read me
any more. All I need to know is that this person claims that he has
revelation directly from Jesus Christ that explains things like the
Trinity in better detail and more accurately than the Bible can. All I
need to know is that, to know this is a false prophet. I know from
experience. But I'll give you a shot. You start reading and I know I'm
going to find the flaw. You keep reading and I'll find the poison."
Why could I say that? Because I know what to look for. There are many
examples of this kind of thing. The Song of Maria Valtorta (I think
that's her name) was a book that was given to me by a Roman Catholic which
purports to be the same thing in the Roman Catholic tradition. That's not
a shot at Roman Catholicism. It's a shot at this particular thing that
claims to be a revelation of Jesus giving all of the detail of what
happened that is not recorded in the Bible. Joseph Smith in the Mormon
tradition offers the same thing. The words of Jesus as a Latter Day
prophet which he offered as authoritatively on par with the Scripture. A
Course on Miracles is an example of the same thing in the New Age
tradition. All of these things purport to speak Jesus' words to us for
today. In so doing they seek to clarify what we may have a hard time
interpreting in the Bible or by adding new information, new revelation
with authority, and this authority is based on the phrase "thus saith
Whenever you hear that kind of thing, there is a very important
question you have to ask. I know what the truth is, and when I compare the
first revelation to the second revelation, I know the second revelation
couldn't be Jesus speaking through whoever that prophet is. It is not
enough for someone to say, "Jesus told me this thing, therefore you
ought to believe the revelation." Though many people leave it at
that, quite frankly. I'm really surprised that there are so many so-called
prophets of Jesus here now in these latter days, and they make a
bald-faced authority claim and say, "You ought to believe this."
Why? Because Jesus is speaking here. Well, the very question is, and the
question you ought to ask then is, Why should I trust that any of this new
material is a genuine revelation of Jesus? Why should I trust that?
Now, the Biblical answer to that is signs and wonders and miracles, and
the authority of the resurrection, and the authority of the apostles, and
all those other things that substantiate the Scriptures. The apostles
themselves walked with Jesus. They could speak first hand for His
teaching. Now, Paul was an exception here, but even in his case he brought
his teaching before these same apostles who had actually walked with Jesus
during his earthly ministry and these same apostles authenticated his
gospel as being sound. We read about that in Galatians 2. He received the
right hand of fellowship, and it was demonstrated there that he had not
run in vain, and God had indeed spoken to him and that he was preaching
what was true. Peter even referred to Paul's writing as Scripture in 1
Peter 3. So you have this tight group of people close to Jesus that can
authenticate what is true.
What about people who pop up nearly 2000 years later and claim to have
the most recent word from Christ after a couple millennia of silence?
Often times you will get this response, "Well, it feels right. I
really have this feeling that it's true. I have a burning in my heart that
authenticates the truth of this alleged revelation." This response
just won't do because what they're offering is a mere subjective test for
something that is supposedly objectively true. Yet this objective truth is
not patently obvious on the face of it.
Intuitions only apply to truths that are self-evident,
that any reasonable person would acknowledge is true on its face.
|Let me say that again in a different way. In other words,
the subjective test is a kind of appeal to intuition. It's like saying if
you focus in on it and you reflect on it, then it will be obvious to you
that it's true. It's an appeal to intuition. But intuitions only apply to
truths that are self-evident, that any reasonable person would acknowledge
is true on its face. Like 2+2=4, or it's immoral to rape a woman or to
torture babies for fun, or something like that. These things have a
self-evident quality to them and we can appeal to our intuition, which is
a kind of feeling, to establish the truth of the statement. But these
other revelatory, theological truths in question are not self-evident
truths. That's why they come to us via special revelation. If they were
self-evident truths we wouldn't need a special revelation to know them.
And if they are not self-evident, any appeal to intuition is going to
No, there are all kinds of different opinions that individuals hold
that they feel are true, but these individual opinions that people feel
are true are contradictory with each other, and that teaches us that
feelings or this internal witness kind of thing cannot be the proper way
of determining truth, because people will have a witness about things that
contradict each other and obviously both can't be true at the same time.
That's the nature of rationality. Therefore, the feeling test fails.
Now there is a follow-up response that people offer. The follow-up
response is, "You would know this truth if you were genuinely
seeking." This response doesn't work either. And the reason is that
this kind of response is a mere authority claim that can be wielded with
equal force by either side. In other words, anybody can say that. I could
say that you would know my truth if you were seriously thinking. Anyone
can merely assert that the truth of a revelation is not obvious because
your heart is not right. But what objective basis does any person have for
saying that? That's my question. There has to be more than a bald-faced
assertion. I'm right and you're wrong. Why? Because I know it is. I feel
that it is. Why don't I feel that it is? Because you're not sincere.
Either side can play that game. There's got to be more than that, is what
I'm saying. It's not a sufficient basis to authenticate an alleged
There is a place where such a thing fits, though. If the fact of a
divine revelation can be substantiated by external objective evidence
first, and a person still rejects it, then it is fair, it seems to me, to
question the person's sincerity. Because when there are many infallible
proofs, to use the apostle Paul's words in the book of Acts, and a person
still ignores them and clings to his feeling that this new revelation is
valid, then his claim that he is seeking truth is clearly disingenuous in
my view. In other words, if you can show through objective proofs that
something is God's word and a person refuses to accept it because they
don't feel it is, then you have an objective test up against
a subjective test. The subjective test has always got to give way
at that point. And if it doesn't, then it shows that the person who says
he is seeking is not interested in objective truth. He is interested in
finding something that appeals to his feelings, not something that is
In actual practice, however, answering these claims is not very hard.
All of the sources I have noted consider the Bible to be authoritative,
and also the Bible comes before and is prior to this new alleged
revelation. If that's the case, then the Bible becomes the test for the
accuracy of the new revelation and you can test the second by the first. I
will tell you, every one that I've ever seen fails the Biblical test,
including all those we've just mentioned. That is, the new revelation
clearly contradicts that which has come before it. And if it contradicts
what comes before it, it cannot be an extension of it. They both can't be
the Word of God. One has to be false.
The Bible, from everything that I can see, has already been
authenticated by objective infallible proofs, therefore this establishes
the second alleged authority as no authority at all, but merely the
opinions of men. By the way, that's why it's critical to know the Bible
first and above all.
Remember what I said. You have to know what to look for. And if you do
and you keep looking, you will find the flaw.
This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio
show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made
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