Should we trust the Bible because it gives us a good feeling when we read it, or because it changes lives? How should we deal with the claim that we can’t trust the Bible because it’s only written by men?
Hello, and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for, our Christian convictions. Today, we’re going to talk about the Bible. We’re going to examine some reasons that are common for why people trust the Bible. And we’ll see, are they good reasons?
(0:23) But the first thing that must be said, is that in order for the Bible to be true, truth must exist. And this is why, a couple of weeks back, we talked about truth, and two views on it. Is it subjective, is it about me and my preferences and my opinions and my thoughts? Or is it objective, is it about something that’s outside of myself, that accurately reflects reality?
(0:44) Well, in order for the Bible to be true in any type of helpful way, it must be objectively true. It can’t just be my opinion or preference or thought. And so, for the next few weeks we’re going to look at how to make a case for the truthfulness, the objective truthfulness, of the Bible.
(1:01) Well, there are two views on how you should view the truthfulness of the Bible. The first is simply that you presuppose that the Bible is true. You could call this a presuppositionalist view. It’s a big word, maybe not that helpful. But, some people, as their starting position, say the Bible is true. It’s not a conclusion, it’s a starting position. And on this view, Divine authority is accepted unconditionally by Supernaturally-endowed faith.
(1:29) So, someone who holds this view would say that their faith enables them to unconditionally accept that the Bible is true. That they don’t need evidence. And if we try to reason with people, we’re putting reason over God. Now that sounds really compelling. No one wants to put something over God, right? Well here’s the thing, such an argument, saying “if we try to reason with people, we’re putting reason over God,” well, that seems pretty much the same as saying, “well in order to read the Bible, you need to know language and how to read, so we’re putting language and reading over God.” That doesn’t make much sense there.
(2:04) And in order to actually understand what Scripture says, we have to use reason. You use reason all the time, when you read a statement and you realize that statement means what it says and not it’s opposite. And you come to understand how two different statements fit together. That’s using reason. So, I don’t find the whole, “reason over God” argument very compelling.
(2:27) Additionally, someone who presupposes the Bible is true is probably going to reject all attempts to independently verify that the Bible is true. Because sinful, rational man has no legitimate standard that we could test God, or His revelation by.
(2:43) So that’s the first view. A presupposing, a presuppositionalist view. And on the other end of the spectrum would be the idea that you could prove the Bible. And you could do this by historical and logical arguments. There are some notable people who have used this approach and have actually come to Christianity because of it. Josh McDowell, who wrote Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Lee Strobel, who wrote A Case for Christ, A Case for Faith, and many other Cases. Jay Warner Wallace, who was a cold-case homicide detective, who set out to prove Christianity wrong and Atheism true, and was actually converted to Christianity in the process. He wrote a book called Cold Case Christianity. Nancy Pearcey, who wrote Total Truth and quite a few other books on truth, also came to Christ because of rational, evidentialist arguments.
(3:34) Now, when such a person says, “I came to Christ because of evidence,” what we actually understand as Christians is that the evidence is what the Holy Spirit worked on. So, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that you can only come to Christ via an intellectual endeavor. That is not true. But, for some people, the method, the tool that the Holy Spirit uses, is an evidentiary method.
(4:00) Most people are going to find themselves in the middle. Presuppositionalism to evidentialism exists on a spectrum, and a lot of people are going to be in the middle. We’re going to say, “we might presuppose the Bible is true but I’m also going to look for arguments and evidence to buttress and uphold my claim.” And that’s pretty much where I find myself. There are some areas, some things about the Bible, that I’m not totally sure about, I can admit that. And in those areas, I’m going to exercise active trust in what I have good reason to believe is true (that would be our definition of faith, if you remember). But, the reason I have good reason to believe it’s true is because of the evidence I have for the other sections. So that’s how that works out, just briefly in my life.
(4:43) Let’s look at some common arguments for the Bible and why we should trust it. “I get a good feeling when I read it.” That’s what some people will say. Well, Mormons get a burning in their bosom when they read their sacred texts, like The Book of Mormon. And this tells them that that book is true. So, how can we say, “no, our feeling is correct, your feeling is incorrect”? There’s not any good objective way to do that. So, this idea that “I get a good feeling when I read the Bible, so it’s true,” that’s not a good standard because you very well may read the Bible and not get a good feeling. If you come to accurately understand your state as a sinful man before a holy and righteous God, you probably won’t feel very good. Nor should you. However, maybe you read a little more and you come to understand that there’s grace and forgiveness at the cross. Now that might make you feel good. Undeserving, but good. I say all this to point out that the feeling you get when you read a book doesn’t tell you about the truthfulness of that book. We all can watch made up stories on t.v. or in movies that make us feel sad. That doesn’t mean that what we watched wasn’t true. And we can watch things that make us happy that are just as fictitious. So the feeling we get when we read a document or a book doesn’t tell us how true it is.
(6:07) What about the claim, “it changed my life”? People will say, “I believe the Bible, it’s true, because it changed my life.” Well, many other things change lives, and not always for the better, but quite a few other types of things can change lives for the better, like the Bible can. Self-help books can positively impact people’s lives. And we can’t say that other religions don’t help people. Many other religions are a force for good in our society. That whole phrase, “you can’t out-nice a Mormon,” Mormonism has changed the lives of Mormons. We can’t deny that. But that doesn’t mean it’s true.
(6:45) Alcoholics Anonymous is another example. One of the 12 steps is to find a higher power. Now it doesn’t matter if that higher power exists. You just have to kind of, I guess, think it does, come to believe it does, or regard it as existing. But it doesn’t actually have to exist, it just can’t be you. And Alcoholics Anonymous changes peoples’ lives. But not because it has the God of the Bible as its power source.
(7:11) So I say all of this to say, simply having your life changed by a book doesn’t mean that that book is true. Now what you’ve probably noticed is both of these are subjective. “It changed my life” and “I get a good feeling when I read it,” they both speak about me and my experience and my perceptions and my opinions and all of these things. They don’t say anything about the Bible itself. So they’re not good qualifiers of why the Bible is true.
(7:38) The last claim we’ll look at today is that “the Bible says it’s the inspired Word of God.” This is called self-attestation, the Bible attests to itself, it speaks for itself, it claims that it is true. And here’s how this generally works: why do you believe the Bible? “Well, God wrote it.” How do you know that God wrote it? “The Bible tells me that.” How do you know that the Bible is true? “Because God wrote it.” This is the song that never ends…Right? You get stuck in a loop. This is a circular argument, circular reasoning. It’s actually called begging the question when you use the thing you’re trying to prove to prove itself. We talked about this in a previous week in terms of science being used to prove science.
(8:21) So this isn’t a good argument. You shouldn’t tell people that the Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true, or because God wrote it. However, it is important that the Bible claims to be the Word of God. It’s a necessary piece of our puzzle because if the Bible didn’t make that claim, we would not be justified in regarding it as such. If the Bible just claimed to be the made-up tales of men sitting around a campfire, no one’s going to change their life because o it. People aren’t going to be willing to die for those claims because they’re made-up, campfire tales. So, since the Bible claims to be the Word of God, we all have to make a determination on if that is true. That’s extremely important. So, the fact that the Bible claims to be the Word of God is a necessary part of our case, but it should not be the most compelling part.
(9:10) Next week, we’re going to look at better evidences, better ways to prove that the Bible is true. But before we end today, I want to deal with two common statements of culture. The first would be that the Bible was only written by men. And by extension, such a person that would say this would say, “that we can’t trust what it says, it’s just written by men.” Well, let’s set aside the Christian doctrine that the Bible was written by God and men, that there was a dual authorship, we could talk about that later. But what’s interesting to point out is, you might ask such a person, “well, where did you come to understand this argument? Where was it pointed out to you that the Bible was only written by men?” “Well, in a Richard Dawkins book. That’s where.” Really? So you read this in a book written by a man and you believe it when it says we shouldn’t believe books written by men? That’s slightly confusing. The truth of it is, is that all books are written by men. And women, you know. Both genders write books. But, just simply because a book is written by a man, that doesn’t mean that we can’t trust it. All of our books are written by men and the engineer who builds a bridge or a tall skyscraper doesn’t say, “I can’t trust this textbook I have because it was written by men.” No, writing and men penning things, that’s one of the best means of communication we have.
(10:32) But who wrote a document doesn’t tell you about the truthfulness of that document, that’s another logical fallacy, called the genetic fallacy, rejecting an idea because of where it came from. You have to deal with ideas on their own merits, not because of who wrote them or who said them.
(10:47) The last claim we’ll look at today, “you can’t know what the original said. You just base your life off of copies.” Well it’s true, in a way, we don’t have the originals. And we are basing our lives off of copies. And next week we’ll talk a little bit about the type of manuscript evidence that we have, how many copies of what type, do they agree, do they disagree, are there contradictions, those types of things. But what’s important to be understood about this statement is that, once again you could say, “where did you learn this argument?” “Well, I read it in a Richard Dawkins book.” I’m just picking on Dawkins here because he’s one of the more famous Atheists. But lots of people have said this. “Ok, well did you read the original, hand-penned version of what Dawkins wrote?” “Well no, I didn’t.” “Well then how do you possibly know that that’s true or that he said what you are claiming he said? You just read a copy. You’re basing your perspective on reality and Christianity off of a copy.”
(11:43) You see, these arguments cut both ways. All books are written by men. Pretty much no one has read the actual autograph, the penned edition, or typed, of any book they’ve ever read. We’re not talking first editions because those are mass produced. We’re talking the actual document written by an author. We haven’t read those. And yet, nowhere else do we claim that you can’t know what was said unless you read the original. Only when it comes to Christianity do people want to make these claims about documents written by men and only having copies.
(12:16) Well, I hope you’ve seen that there are two different ways to look at Scripture. You can presuppose that it’s true. You can prove that it’s true. Most people will be in the middle. I also hope you’ve come to see that there are some bad reasons that are very common for why we should believe the Bible. And next week, we’re going to get into better and stronger evidences for the reliability of the New Testament. Thanks for watching Unapologetic. I hope to see you next week.