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Testing "New" Revelation

Gregory Koukl
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 become evident.

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 with that.

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 Jesus."

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 fail.

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 revelation.

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 true.

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 available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only.

1994 Gregory Koukl 1-800-2-REASON
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