Sunday, August 30, 2009
Why I Believe the Bible
A question I am often asked is "Why do I believe the Bible to be truly God's Word?" This is a very good question as the reason which I hold to the positions and views I do all spawn from what I see Scripture as teaching. The Bible is the sole authority that governs my life and what I have devoted my life to studying and teaching. Unfortunately, many Christians respond with a "deer in the headlights" look upon receiving such a question. They are unable to think of the reasons why they hold to the Bible being God's Word and what distinguishes it from any other book available. While I cannot speak for others, here is my attempt to answer such a question:
I. The Bible's Testimony about the Bible
One reason I believe the Bible to be God's inspired, inerrant, and infailable word (at least in its original manuscripts) is that it claims itself to be. At least 3,808 times the Old Testament authors refer to a statement as being Thus said the LORD. The prophets are described as having the word of the LORD coming down upon them before they spoke His words (Jeremiah 1:1-2; Ezekiel 1:2-3; Joel 1:1; Hosea 1:1). The clear implication is that the prophets spoke what God had told them to speak and thus were delivering His message.
The New Testament authors also viewed the Old Testament writings as being God's very word. Peter tells us that But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21). Though written down by the instrument of man, the ultimate author of Scripture is God whose Holy Spirit moved men to write down His very words. Paul refers to all Scripture as inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Literally, the Greek reads that all Scripture is God-breathed. The all Scripture that Paul refers to is the Old Testament as that would have been Scripture for both the apostle and Timothy. (A fuller exposition of this text may be found in a previous blog post here) The author of Hebrews even states that the author of Psalm 95 is ultimately the Holy Spirit and not David. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, . . . (Hebrews 3:7). A similar case may be found in Peter's discussion of the necessity to choose Judas' successor based on Scripture in Acts 1:16. He states that the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David (Acts 1:16) indicating the Holy Spirit as the author and David as the means. The New Testament writers are unwavering in their testimony to God's inspiration of the Old Testament writings.
Although the New Testament as we have it today had yet to be completed at the time, there is evidence that the New Testament authors considered their own writings as Scripture, God's very word, as well. For instance, Paul quotes a statement of Jesus recorded by the author Luke and calls it Scripture in I Timothy 5:18. The quote is alongside one from Deuteronomy. Luke's writing is deemed authoritative by Paul in teaching that elders should be paid for their service. Also, Peter explicitly labels Paul's letters as Scripture. He states that the untaught and unstable distort his writings as they do the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). So, according to Peter, Paul's letters are a part of Scripture. Furthermore, these letters were intended to be read aloud to the congregations and admonish them (Colossians 4:16). One cannot persuasively argue against the fact that all of the writers of Scriptures deemed the words as not being their own but God's.
II. History's Testimony about the Bible
Another reason I hold to the Bible to be God's word is due to the evidence from history as to its authenticity. The Old Testament contains several prophecies of the coming Messiah that God planned to send for the redemption of His people Israel as well as hints of including other nations as part of the plan. If the Old Testament is God's word as it claims to be, then these prophecies must be fulfilled precisely as they are written. All of these prophecies did find their fulfillment in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, about 300 predictions pertaining to the first coming of the Messiah are seen clearly in Jesus. The parallels between the descriptions of the psalmist in Psalm 22 and 69 to the events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion are striking. To claim that those who were responsible in crucifying Jesus intentionally orchestrated and performed His death as it occurred would be preposterous when they were upset at His popularity and claims to be God. There are several places in the gospels where the authors explicitly make the connection of something in Jesus' life to be a direct fulfillment of a prophecy God made in the Old Testament. Jesus' birth in Bethlehem was no mere coincidence but occurred just as God had promised it would. But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, / Too little to be among the clans of Judah, / From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, / From the days of eternity (Micah 5:2). Also, there is no other reputable case in history where a virgin has conceived a child apart from the account of Jesus' birth from Mary before she came together with Joseph. Isaiah predicted such a miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14) and such occurred just as prescribed (Matthew 1:18). (A fuller exposition of Isaiah's miraculous prophecy can be found here). While a few of these predictions corresponding to certain things in one's life could be possible, the possibility of all of them, particularly the more miraculous ones (ie. the virgin birth and the resurrection three days later), is an impossibility unless God has predicted and orchestrated things as such.
Also, no significant archeological discovery or finding has yet to prove Scripture historically inaccurate. In fact, the most recent finds have done quite the opposite. Names of certain Biblical Hebrew kings have collaborated with extrabiblical writings and materials of the same time period recorded. Historical sites described in Scripture have been uncovered and the details provided by Scripture shown to be true. Scholars believe they have found the location of Sodom and Gomorrah where there is indeed evidence of destruction from an earthquake or volcano that would have led to fire falling from the sky and bringing destruction. Lack of archeological findings for certain events or descriptions in Scripture in no way disprove anything that occurred. It just means that remains were not left or that they have yet to be found. What has been discovered though has only pointed to the authenticity of the Bible being God's word and not cast any doubt on it.
III. The Coherency and Consistency of the Bible
The Bible is a collection of 66 different books written by possibly 35 different authors living in different areas and eras and yet as a whole does not contain any errors or contradictions. Moses' account of creation and the beginning of man and John's record of his revelation of Jesus Christ he received on the island of Patmos are separated by approximately 1500 years! While many have claimed to find apparent contradictions between books and authors, a closer study of the problems reveal the contradictions to be just that, apparent. I have spent much time, particularly during my undergrad studies in college, closely examining such so-called "contradictions" and found them not be contradictory but harmonious. Those who think that they have discovered a contradiction may just need more time to study both passages and figure out what they really are saying. After extensive study, they may find that there really is no contradiction at all. Such coherency and consistency all throughout the Bible leads me to conclude that God must have been behind the authorship of this book. I know of no other anthology by different authors that fits together as well as these 66 books. In fact, I have read a book by one author where within it he or she contradicts himself or herself. Only God could work through the various authors of Scripture to bring about His very word pure and unaltered.
IV. Personal Testimony about the Bible
There is something about the Bible that sets it apart from any other book. The impact this book has had on individuals throughout history cannot be overlooked. Close to 2000 years old and the book still plays a major part in many peoples' lives. To date, it is the most bought and most stolen book. Though the authors addressed a different audience in a different time period it still speaks directly to issues we experience in our everyday lives. What church does not have problems similar to those addressed to the church of Corinth? Many lives have been changed from reading this book. By God's grace, through this book, many have become better fathers and husbands, wives and mothers, and sons and daughters. Humans are stubborn creatures (just think about yourself for a minute for proof) and one of the hardest things is to attempt to convince them to change something in their lives. For someone to undergo a complete transformation from hating God to loving Him, from living for themselves to living for Him, and from loving themselves to loving others after reading this book must be the work of God in their lives. I have no other way to explain it. This is just what Scripture describes that it does. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16). So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23). God uses His Word as the means of drawing people to Him. What other book has such an effect? It was through the preaching and teaching of this book that I saw how holy God was and how much of a sinner I was and in danger of the damnation of Hell. It was through this book that God convicted me of my sins and brought me to place faith in Christ as my only hope of salvation.
V. The Holy Spirit's Testimony about the Bible
While all of this evidence appears to me to be crystal clear pertaining to the Bible being more than just an ordinary book but the very Word of God, the ultimate reason I have come to see the Bible as God's Word is due to the deep seeded conviction in my heart wrought by the Holy Spirit that it is so. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bible is God's very word and must be my standard for how I am to live my life to bring glory to Him. All of these facts sit before everyone and several still deny the reality of this being God's Word. I think that the conviction came first and then with the conviction God opened my eyes to see the evidence that was there before me the entire time. I pray that God would open up any eyes who are currently closed to these facts and not only would He give them a conviction that the Bible is indeed His Word but give a desire to read, study, mediate, and live out this Word. And if you have been given eyes to see that the Bible is true, you must deal with the ramifications of what God's Word says about God's holiness and your sin. May we not only honor the Word of God but in so doing also honor the God of the Word.
Soli Deo Gloria!