We pursue some thoughts triggered by Psalm 36:9: ‘In your light do we see light.’ And these thoughts are provoked further by the catalyst of a famous quote from C. S. Lewis: ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’
Ordinarily when we seek to have a well-grounded conviction about some claim to truth in this world, we bring all our experience to bear on the claim and try to make sense out of it. What we know from experience before we hear the claim, we apply to the claim to see if it measures up. Does it cohere with what we know to be true? Does it make sense in the light of what we already know? What we know from experience is the standard, the arbiter, the measure of truth.
But what happens when we encounter a claim that says, “I am the Standard, the Arbiter, the Truth”? This claim is unique. It is not like other claims to truth in this world. When the ultimate Measure of all reality speaks, you don’t subject this Measure to the measure of your mind or your experience of the world. He created all that. When the ultimate Standard of all truth and beauty appears, he is not put in the dock to be judged by the prior perceptions of truth and beauty that we bring to the courtroom.
The eternal, absolute original is seen as true and beautiful not because he coheres with what we know but because all the truth and beauty we know coheres in him. It is measured by him, and it is seen flowing from him. He does not make sense, and thus have plausibility, in the light of this world. He brings sense to the world. He is sense. The light that we have in the world does not shine on him and reveal his truth. He is the light of the world, and in his light we see light.
—John Piper, A Peculiar Glory, 158-159
In part III, section V. of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, Edward’s helpfully explains the Holy Spirit’s inward testimony to scripture’s divine origin. In short, Edwards argues that the gospel itself is directly “self-evidencing.” Namely, that the Spirit enables individuals to apprehend and taste the excellencies of God in the Gospel, which, when perceived, are direct evidence of its divine origin and thereby grants sure conviction of its truthfulness.
He goes on to say that (what we might call) more “evidentialist”-type arguments are helpful inasmuch as they are serviceable to “awaken unbelievers” or “confirm the faith of true saints.” Yet “there is no spiritual conviction of the judgment, but what arises from an apprehension of the spiritual beauty and glory of divine things.”
Below is a compilation of select quotations from this section of his book as they address this subject:
It is evident that there is a spiritual conviction of the truth, or a belief peculiar to those who are spiritual, who are regenerated, and who have the Spirit of God, in his holy communications, dwelling in them as a vital principle. … [This] spiritual conviction of the truth of the great things of the gospel is such a conviction as arises from having a spiritual apprehension. … [And this spiritual apprehension] consists in a sense and taste of the divine, supreme, and holy excellency and beauty of those things. So that then is the mind spiritually convinced of the divinity and truth of the great things of the gospel, when that conviction arises … from such a sense or view of their divine excellency and glory as is there exhibited. …
A view of this divine glory directly convinces the mind of the divinity of these things, as this glory is in itself a direct, clear, and all-conquering evidence of it. … He that truly sees the divine, transcendent, supreme glory of those things which are divine, does as it were know their divinity intuitively. … The manifestations of the moral and spiritual glory of the Divine Being (which is the proper beauty of the divinity) bring their own evidence, and tend to assure the heart. … Continue reading