Is the Bible Reliable for Truth about Jesus Christ?
- 2008 15 Jan
One of the most interesting stories of 2008 involved the CERN laboratory outside of Geneva, Switzerland. On Wednesday, September 10, 2008, scientists turned on the Large Hadron Collider, an eight-billion dollar experiment, designed to see what happens when protons crash into one another at ridiculously fast speeds. "We can now look forward," said the project director, "to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe." Christians can and should be excited about this kind of research. Our knowledge of reality, however, is not limited to what science can prove.
Christians believe God has spoken (which presumes, of course, a God who can speak!). As the apostle Paul wrote Timothy, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16). If this text is not true—if Scripture is not inspired by God—the gospel, the church, and Christianity itself are all just smoke-and-mirrors—a mirage that disappears upon closer inspection. Confidence in the Bible as God's Word is essential to Christianity.
The Christian worldview assumes and requires an inspired word—the Bible. The Bible is God's revelation, "the self-disclosure of God by which He makes known truth about Himself, His purposes, His plans and His will which could not be known otherwise." Consider how your relationship to someone else changes dramatically when the other person is willing to open up—a casual acquaintance becomes a close friend. Likewise, our relationship to God is founded upon the principle that God chose to reveal Himself to us.
All that sounds good, but why should anyone believe that what the Bible has to say is true? Isn't the belief in the historicity of biblical texts similar to faith that Zeus reigned from Mount Olympus? This is an important question that deserves a clear response from those who bear the name "Christian." Why do we believe the Bible? There are many reasons. Here are two.
First, we should believe the Bible because Christ believed the Bible.
Such reasoning may sound circuitous or circular. It is not. As the British theologian John Wenham argued, Christianity is rooted first and foremost in faith in a person: "Hitherto Christians who have been unaware about the status of the bible have been caught in a vicious circle: any satisfactory doctrine of the Bible must be based on the teaching of the Bible, but the teaching of the Bible is itself suspect. The way out of the dilemma is to recognize that belief in the Bible comes from faith in Christ, and not vice versa." In other words, confidence in the Bible rests upon confidence in Christ. Is Christ who He said He was? Is He just a great man or is He the Lord? The Bible may not prove to you Jesus Christ is the Lord, but the lordship of Christ will prove to you that the Bible is the very word of God. This is because Christ regularly spoke about the authority of the Old Testament (see Mark 9). He claimed authority for His own teaching by saying, "I tell you" (see Matthew 5). Jesus even taught that the teaching of His disciples would have divine authority (see John 14:26). If Jesus Christ is trustworthy, then His words about the authority of the Bible should be trusted as well. Christ is trustworthy and He trusted God's Word. So should we. Without faith in Christ, you will not believe the Bible is the self-disclosure of God. With faith in Christ, you cannot help but believe the Bible is God's Word.
Second, we should believe the Bible because it accurately explains and powerfully changes our lives.
How does it explain our lives? The Bible makes sense of the universal feeling of guilt, the universal longing for hope, the reality of shame, the presence of faith, and the exercise of self-sacrifice. Such categories loom large in the Bible and are obvious—to differing degrees—in our own lives. What about good and evil? Some may try to deny their existence, but the Bible best explains what we all experience—the presence of good (the reflection of a perfect, holy God) and the presence of evil (the expected results of a fallen, corrupt creation).
Consider also how the Bible powerfully changes our lives. Philosopher Paul Helm wrote, "God [and His Word] are proved by hearing and obeying Him and finding that He is as good as His Word." Our very lives become evidence of the Bible's reliability. The Christian's life is supposed to be evidence of the Bible's truthfulness. The psalmist urged us to "taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him" (Psalm 34:8). As we experience God, as we take refuge in Him, His words are proved to be a reliable standard. Like the captain of a ship in days of old who trusted in his map to bring him to his final destination, the Christian trusts in God's Word as an infallible guide because the Christian sees where it has taken him. Don Carson made a similar point when he described what first attracted a friend of his to the Bible: "his first attraction to the Bible and to Christ was prompted in part by intellectual curiosity, but more particularly by the quality of life of some Christian students he has known. The salt had not lost its savor; the light was still shining." A changed life is evidence of a true Word.
If this is true, what should we do? First things first: praise God—He did not remain silent. God was under no obligation to speak; yet He did. He broke forth from the silence and made Himself known. The fact that some would like God to reveal Himself differently or more does not change the fact that God revealed Himself as He saw fit. Second, because God spoke, we should strive to know Him with the passion of a young man pursuing a young woman. That young man wants to know her more and better. He wants her to speak and when she does he soaks in every word. We should desire to know God with a similar, youthful, even passionate zeal. Read the Bible, get to know God. It's the New Year so consider going through a Bible reading program like M'Cheyne's Calendar for Daily Readings. It will take you through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once. Finally, look for evidence of the Bible's truthfulness in your own life. Make no mistake; the truth of the Bible does not depend on you. Nonetheless, your life gives evidence of Scripture's reliability. If your day was recorded, would someone be more or less convinced of the truth of Scripture? The Christians in Corinth were Paul's letter of commendation. If people wondered if they should trust Paul, they had only to look at the people to whom Paul ministered. Their lives gave evidence of the truth of Paul's words. The same is true with us. We should be the Bible's letter of commendation (2 Cor. 14:26). This requires a sincere (and perhaps painful) examination of our own lives. We may discover ways we are ignoring God's Word. The Christian's life, however imperfect, should reflect just the opposite. As we examine our own lives we should find compelling evidence that God has spoken, and His Word is true.
Aaron Menikoff (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA and a contributing writer at 9Marks Ministries. Article originally appeared January 15, 2009.