Establishing A Baseline

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1).
I have always perceived surveying as an interesting and significant exercise. There is an element of exploration in it, as one searches for boundaries. Early explorers often were surveyors, sent to map and define perimeters of previously unknown territories. There is also a challenge reminiscent of working puzzles or solving mysteries, as one works from known “clues” to deduce the unknown. Most importantly, however, is the substantiality of the exercise. When the surveyor sets his stakes, draws his map and signs and seals his work, there is truth and authority to any claim of territorial boundary based thereon. Property may be bought and sold with confidence, walls or fences may be erected and buildings built.
Having experienced that process here in Bangladesh as part of purchasing property, I have come to realize that whereas the goal of the surveyor is essentially the same everywhere, the manner of achieving that goal may vary. Different tools and techniques are in use here from those in the U.S.A. One thing is the same however. Every survey is dependant upon a beginning reference point. There must be an established place from which measurements may be taken. Without that, no boundary can be drawn, no corner known. The base reference line or point is absolutely essential -? one may say it is “everything” to the work of surveying.
Those who study and practice religion have much in common with surveyors. Ours is also a process of finding boundaries and establishing territory. Within what rules, practices, and attitudes is fellowship with God to be found? What are the limits of acceptable behavior? Where does one find the “state” of salvation? These are categorically the same questions as that asked by the plotter of geographic maps and land boundaries.
Our process must also begin in the same way. We must first find the base line. Until there is a known and acknowledged fact from which other conclusions may be deduced, we have no hope of establishing certainty on anything. Therein lies the division and confusion in religions today. There is agreement on nothing, including the fact of whether or not God exists. Even to those who confess deity, there is disagreement as to the number, identity, and nature of “god(s)”. How can there be unity or confidence when one does not know where to start?
The Bible is the acknowledged base reference point for all those who accept it as inspired and authoritative. From it we find other “corners” or lines. First there is faith in God the creator:
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible… But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:3,6).
Second, there is confession of Christ, the incarnate, resurrected Son of God:
“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:2,3).
“Now if Christ is preached that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).
Based on these two eternal, absolute truths the perimeters of fellowship and communion may then be established. All religious study and practice must begin with some unassailable foundational fact. In Christianity, that beginning is God, and his Son, Jesus. But God is transcendent, unknowable from frail humanity’s perspective. So we depend upon his revelation and we function by faith. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This does not mean that Christians are weak, uncertain, never knowing whether our faith is valid. We have a reference point that is absolutely reliable. We have the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4) that will never move or shift, and upon whom we may be assured.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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