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He's Greater Than You Know: Essays for a Doubting Christian Paperback – October 12, 2012
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About the Author
Phil Weingart is an Information Technology geek who started writing Christian apologetics on the Internet long before the Internet was a household concept, and has been doing it ever since. Phil attended the University of Pittsburgh and earned a BA in Speech (Rhetoric and Public Address) and an MBA emphasizing Information Systems. He lives with his wife, Shelly, on Cape Cod, where he tutors, works part-time as a computer technician, and preaches in the local church.
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One issue I had though is stating that the Bible is important and I trust it to don't make the Bible too important or too much of your focus. At least this is what I picked up. The author acknowledges this might happen more than once:
"Yet, as many times as I say how much I love the Bible, a lot of people will read the next three chapters and charge that I want to throw the Bible out the window. It is not true, but people frequently say that when they hear me say what I am writing here."
From my perspective I see what the author is trying to convey, but this book is not targeted at me. I agree that we need to have a living personal relationship with God where we live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the book encourages. I agree that the Apostles were led by the spirit. However it concerns me that looking at it from the view of a doubter some may come away with the message. The Bible is not as important as I thought or at least a bit confused. I say this from my experience in speaking with thousands of people about Christ. Most want to trust their feelings and Christianity is often about believing the Bible in spite of our feelings. From my experience people confuse feelings with the leading of the Spirit quite often. The Word is a rock and unchangeable like God. That is a huge blessing considering the Bible calls us sheep and sheep are stupid. Without the Bible I know I would be lost and confused. I know from communicating with the author that his intention is not to detract from the value of knowing and studying the Bible. He wants to encourage you to live out what the Bible teaches with the help of the Holy Spirit. This will allow you to really experience what God has for you. I am just saying that in my opinion as a sheep, whatever you think you hear from the Holy Spirit you should always screen through Gods Word. The author does not disagree with this point but I think it gets buried somewhat in the back and forth stance on the importance of the Bible.
The second point I noticed and flagged in my mind is where Salvation by Grace plus works is hinted at or at least grace is given to accomplish good works to be saved. The author does often say this is not what he is saying and it is all Gods doing. He does say we are saved by grace alone but again from the perspective of the doubter, I saw room for confusion when I see the following:
"Because we all know what is expected of us, we are all going to be judged by the same standard. The judgment on the last day will not be on the basis of faith, it will be on the basis of what we have done, and all men have an equal and fair chance at pleasing God. In Christ, God gratuitously offers us the answers to the Final Exam; faith is how we get the answers. But the exam is about conduct, not theology, and everybody will take the same exam."
Like reliance upon the Bible, the author then goes on to admit that his presentation is going to cause reformed believers to be in an uproar and asks them to hold off their opinion until we read further.
I agree that no one is going to hell because they did not know about Jesus or accept Jesus. The primary reason they are going there is because of their sins, their conduct, their law breaking. The primary reason a person dies if they do not put on a parachute and jump out of a plane in not because they did not put on the parachute. It is because they violated the law of gravity. The same truth applies here. The primary reason a person is lost is because of their violation of Gods law written on our conscience. The fact that they chose not to accept or put on the Savior/parachute is secondary. Nothing about salvation is about me controlling my conduct. If my conduct changes it is because God changes it through the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a gift and if I am not saved there is nothing I can do about it. I cannot earn it if what the Bibles says is true. So I need to quit trying and here we end up back at what the author does encourage you to do. Get hooked up to the Holy Spirit. I would add just not at the expence of ignoring the Bible.
As a new believer and then through years of doubting, one of the hardest things to grasp for me was it is a gift, completely unearned. If I add anything to grace it is no longer grace. I struggled and had doubts for years because I looked at my sins. Actually satan paraded them in front of me. Encouraging me to do the wrong thing and then condemning me after I did it. That is when I realized that the only thing I could do was take God at his Word. God has removed what I thought were the big sins from my life but If I honestly examine God's standard of perfection I realize I will never stop sinning. The Bible tells me anything that is not of faith is sin. A sin is a sin as stated in James and I cannot perfect my conduct to God's level. When I hear salvation is about our conduct I sense that the author is categorizing sins because I am certain he would not tell us he no longer sins. -The Bible says my salvation is stable and that kind of stability only comes from action upon Gods side not mine. I am unstable on my best days compared to God. I would not know that without the Bible. My senses tell me I need to work for things and that salvation by grace is too good to be true.
This is where these two points come together. As a new believer or a person with doubts, you need to make a decision. Am I going to trust my feelings or am I going to trust what God says in His Word in spite of my feelings? As I mentioned from my encounters, many people can confuse feelings with a leading from the Holy Spirit. They then just run with the feelings, fall flat on their face and now check to see what it says in the Word. For example it is important to read and then believe that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin but does not condemn us. Without knowledge of what the Bible says to filter things I could end up thinking that feelings of condemnation come from God.
He's Greater Than You Know is a good read and I am fairly certain that the author would agree with what I have written. However I think the author himself admits the possibility of confusion and misunderstanding by the reader when he prefaces himself several times. Taking into account the fact that the book is addressed to the doubting believer, I see the possibility of misunderstanding being magnified. I believe his points could have been made without creating this tension and possible doubt about the Bible's importance. Maybe he will further clarify things in his responses to comments like mine.
My personal suggestion for the doubting believer is to do an in depth study of the evidence for Gods existence and identity. As the author would probably point out, much if not most of this material is outside the Bible, but the evidence does not contradict the Bible. Plus a knowledge of the evidence makes the Word more precious to the reader. When I really studied the evidence, I found out just how little faith I needed to believe and at the same time gained great faith. I suspect the author would tell you the same thing happened to him.
It really comes down to what is true not what I believe is true. If the Bible is the truth like the evidence overwhelming displays. Contrary beliefs are just a waste of time because truth never has and never will respect contrary beliefs in the end. Learn the evidence and get rid of those emotional doubts.
Nearly the same time Phil began his three weeks at church, I was periodically immersing myself in reddit.com/r/atheism posts and youtube: atheist experience videos in a self-serving attempt to sharpen my faith. In the end, it always becomes some kind of pride contest, and God abhors that.
In church, Phil said, "Satan is NOT God's adversary, Satan is our adversary; God does not have adversaries." That's the kind of absolute that I needed to realize. With that in mind, "He's Greater Than You Know" offers similar answers to the following concerns: "does it really matter whether we understand what sort of transformation makes a person a Christian, what limits God's ability to talk to us, how God chooses to communicate, what happens if we do not listen, and why we live in a difficult world?"
Phil's tone remains confident throughout, but he is not beating the reader with elitist theology or pretentious cow crap. Instead, each chapter articulates reasonable understandings of God's character as expressed in Scripture. This reliance on Scripture remains true even when Phil shatters preconceived notions regarding the written Word of God.
Right off the bat, I enjoyed the emphasis on God's logic which becomes a premise of sorts for the entire discourse. Also, the insight regarding the extra-dimensional reality of God and heaven was a powerful, sensible revelation to my inner man.
Throughout "He's Greater..." a fellow brother in Christ challenges the reader to seek God. Along these lines, the book freaked me out (in a good way) with the revelation regarding the marriage of judgment and grace in Chapter 8. It is relatively simple what God requires, but I seem to complicate it with built-in humanism and the need for control. By being born of the Spirit through the redemptive work of Christ, we are simply a tree producing good fruit for the glory of God.
The problem of a benevolent God allowing suffering has become a stumbling block for many free wills the world over. Every time I talk with my old college buddies about god, in general (not even the Messiah), they always bring up the suffocating reality of suffering in the world as evidence against God. The assertion is gut-wrenching, and I have most often been unable to offer any convincing rhetoric. I was relieved to know that Phil has struggled with the same notion... As an aside, I just watched Life of Pi today which attempts to rationalize this issue a well. I am thankful to know Christ beyond the religious notion portrayed in that story.
Considering the human propensity for independence and splinter groups, there could be some debates here, but I was not bothered by the theological positions. In my estimations, Phil is sensitive to other perspectives while remaining honest to his convictions which he has clearly developed by seeking the Lord. Most of all, I am thankful for this little book, and it has greatly encouraged me at this point in my relationship with the Almighty.