The positive case for the Bible

In the last post I answered several objections to the Bible as God’s Word. In this post, I want to offer a positive case.

The Bible is unique

Why should we think that the Bible might be such a word from God in the first place? For one thing, the Bible claims this position for itself. That’s not sufficient to believe that it is, of course, but if it didn’t make that claim we could rule it out. Second, the Bible stands out among all the other books. Most astounding to me is its breadth, depth, diversity, and unity.

The Bible was written over a 1500-year period by over 40 authors. The authors were from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. They spoke and wrote in different languages. They wrote using different literary genres. They spoke about many controversial topics. And yet, the Bible is remarkably unified. It tells a single grand story. All the pieces fit together (though how they fit together is often the topic of fierce debate). It bears all the marks of human authorship that you would expect from a such an array of authors, but its overall continuity speaks to a grander scheme.

The Bible transcends cultures. Each book, of course, is written in its own cultural context, with its own questions and concerns. Yet none of them simply accept the norms of the culture out of which they were written. They affirm and reject different aspects of that culture, and the basis of that affirmation or rejection is the same: the presence and character of an unchanging God. When the books of the Bible are taken together, we see clearly how the Bible stands above culture. This isn’t a typical line of reasoning for a defense of the Bible, but a book that transcends culture is what I would expect from a God who transcends culture.

A church member who just started reading her Bible came up to me and said, “the Bible is weird.” It sure is, and that’s often the case because it doesn’t fit our own cultural expectations. And what else should we expect from such a book, if it really came from God? Unless you think any single culture is the embodiment of the whole truth, you would expect such a book to affirm and challenge aspects of any culture in which it was written and is read.

The Bible constantly shows itself to be reliable

As I’ve read the Bible, it has shown itself to be a reliable witness of the truth. First, I find in it great wisdom. Even those who don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word recognize the truth with which it speaks on any number of topics. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is widely recognized as an ethical masterpiece. Second, its historical accounts reliably match what we know from archeology and cultural investigation. We can’t prove the Bible through archaeology, but because the Bible contains historical accounts, those accounts can be checked against other historical data.[1]

The Bible interprets my world

Finally, I find in the Bible an interesting scenario in which if fits with and interprets the world around me. Let me give an illustration:

The Bible says that people are made in God’s image but that they have fallen into sin. This doctrine fits with what I see in both myself and the world around me. I see both beauty and ugliness, goodness and evil. The Bible helps me see where the goodness and beauty come from, God’s creation. And, it helps me see where evil comes from, the rebelliousness of man. I see both in my own soul, recognizing that I am a person, higher and distinct from the animals, and at the same time, that I am a worm, fallible and driven by selfish desire. In that sense, then, the Bible provides a worldview with which my own experience fits. I spoke in a previous post about the explanatory scope of theism. The same is true for the Bible. The worldview it presents has a broad explanatory scope for the ethical and spiritual world available to my senses and intuitions.

The Bible also surprises. For instance, it tells me that I can be saved from my guilt and sin by the sacrificial death of the man Jesus born 2000 years ago. What!? Where did that come from? And, incredibly, I believe it! Is that something I would have come up with on my own? No way. Is that something I think humanity would have come up with on its own? I don’t think so. The “be good and God will accept you” seems like a lot simpler path to salvation to me! In fact, that’s the path every other theistic religion presents. They are all about how we get to God. But in the Bible we have the story of how God reached down to us.

When I consider the message of the cross this story makes perfect sense! If God is holy and we are not then we’re not able to save ourselves. And if we need someone to save us, that person would have to be both God and man. And that Person would have to take the punishment we deserve, etc. So, there’s a logic to it, but it’s a logic that is clearly from God, and not from man. It’s a wisdom, but it’s a heavenly and not an earthly wisdom.

Not proof, but confidence

The reasons given above do not prove that the Bible is God’s Word, but they do give me confidence that it is what it claims to be, and that is sufficient for me.

If you’re unsure about the Bible, I encourage you to read it. Even if you don’t think that it is God’s Word, I suggest that you familiarize yourself with its contents. I can describe it in a post, but there’s really no alternative to reading the source material. From there perhaps you’ll be able to discern if it is from God or not.

A different way to get to the Bible. Looking ahead…

There’s another way I get to the truth of the Bible: The historical resurrection of Jesus. But how those two relate, and why it’s not a circular argument, is the subject of another post.

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