Can the Bible Be Trusted?
Many in the broader church do not believe that all of the Bible is the Word of God. This allows them to approach Scripture in the way one eats fish: accepting the tasty parts and putting the bones on the side. One of our members told of attending a funeral in which the officiating minister read comforting words from John 14 (“In my Father’s house are many rooms…”) but skipped over the verse (14:6) in which Jesus claims, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In a local nursing home chapel service the chaplain read a gospel passage in which Jesus spoke about eternal judgment and hell and then she explained, “Jesus didn’t really say that. A later editor inserted those negative words.” Oh, really? By what criteria does she determine which parts of the Bible are God’s Word and which are not?
How does the Bible view itself? What corroborating evidence exists to support the Bible’s internal testimony?
The uniform testimony throughout the Bible is that it views itself as the Word of God. Phrases like "the Lord said," "the word of the Lord came," "God spoke" and so on occur over 3800 times in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophets never give the impression that they are writing their own insights or opinions. They are constantly asserting, "This is what the Lord says."
The New Testament speaks similarly. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (II Timothy 3:16). Benjamin Warfield, the early twentieth century Princeton theologian, wrote, "When Paul declares ... that all Scripture 'is God-breathed,' he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically divine operation."
Peter wrote, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21).
Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica "that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers" (I Thessalonians 2:13).
How did God speak through the human authors of Scripture? The writers of Scripture were not passive agents through whom God dictated his words. This is evident in that each writer has a unique style. God did not override their particular personalities and experiences. Rather, in his providence God caused each human author to be born at a particular time and place and to have certain gifts, abilities and experiences that influenced the content and style of their writings. But in the end each author wrote precisely what God intended him to write.
To those who object, "Sure, the Bible claims to be the Word of God, but what if I don't believe the Bible?" we need to consider some of the corroborating evidence.
First, there is the fulfillment of predictive prophecy. The Old Testament contains over 2000 predictive prophecies. Josh McDowell, in his little book, More Than a Carpenter, notes that there are sixty major messianic prophecies and about 270 ramifications that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The probability that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled eight of those prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. That’s comparable to covering Texas with silver dollars two feet deep and expecting a blindfolded man to pick out a particular one of those coins.
Those who counter that the Old Testament prophecies were written after Jesus' time should note that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, was completed 200-150 B.C. That means there was at least a 150-year gap between the recording of the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment in Christ.
A second line of evidence that supports the divine origin of Scripture is that the Bible is consistent within itself. Though the Bible was written over a span 1500 years on three different continents (Africa, Asia, Europe) in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) by more than forty human authors from a variety of backgrounds, the message of the Bible is one. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture tells the unfolding story of God's plan of salvation for mankind. And the biblical writers speak with one voice on hundreds of other issues.
The third indication of Scripture's divine origin is simply that when you put its principles into practice, they work. Christians have discovered that life, though not easy, is nonetheless easier when we do things God’s way. Self-discipline and hard work (I Corinthians 9:24-27; II Thessalonians 3:10), sexual purity (I Corinthians 6:18-20), lovingly confronting those who have offended us (Matthew 18:15-17), forgiving (Luke 17:3), loving male-headship in the marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33), acknowledging our sins (I John 1:8-9), and so on works in the long run. I have yet to meet a Christian who regretted handling a situation in a biblical manner.
These three lines of evidence have to do with the Bible’s self-authenticating character. If you have doubts about the divine origin of Scripture you should put yourself in a position where God can authenticate it to you.
God must open your eyes before you can recognize the divine origin of Scripture. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14). God has to open your eyes, but he uses means.
Immerse yourself in the Bible. Read it, study it, sit under the teaching of it. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
Then put it into practice. Jesus said, "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (John 7:17).
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8).
Peter Kemeny, Pastor
Good News Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 1051, Frederick, MD 21702