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Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust The Bible
By Erwin W. Lutzer, Allan Sholes, Chris Reese
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2008 Erwin W. Lutzer
All rights reserved.
A Logical Reason
THE BIBLE CLAIMS TO BE GOD'S WORD
The Bible is the Word of God because it claims to be the Word of God!"
"That," said my philosophy professor, "is a perfect example of circular reasoning. Christians simply assume the point they wish to prove!"
Yes, there it was. My professor had found a column in a newspaper written by a prominent Christian who argued that the Bible was the Word of God because its authors claimed to be divinely inspired. The professor then took a moment to insist that this was equivalent to saying, "I'm telling the truth because I'm telling you that I'm telling the truth!" The implication was clear: the better we are able to think, the less likely we will be Christians!
Was my professor justified in his criticism? Of course, the bare statement "The Bible is the Word of God because it claims to be" is logically suspect. We all know how naive it is to be asked why we believed a stranger and then reply, "I know he was telling the truth because he told me he was!" We've all met people who expect us to accept their word without independent confirmation.
That said, let us not be too hasty in dismissing what the Bible has to say about itself. Let us suppose a foreigner would arrive on our shores and we would like to know something about his background, nationality, and history. We might call on a number of experts to investigate his clothing, others to study his facial features, and a third group knowledgeable about the history of rafting to make an informed guess regarding the age and origin of this man's mode of transportation.
Assuming our guest could speak our language, would it be illogical to interview him? Certainly we would want to test what he had to say, checking for consistency, but should we not presume he is telling the truth unless there are reasons to believe otherwise?
In fact, there are some truths about people that we might never know unless they were to tell us. Years of independent study and analysis might never yield the kind of details that an individual might share in a few moments of conversation. Common courtesy means that we give a person a chance to tell his or her story. Just so, we must have enough respect for the Bible to "hear it out," as the saying goes.
In a court of law the defendant is allowed to speak for himself. He is permitted to defend his integrity, to give reasons why his version of events is correct. He should have more to say than simply, "I am innocent." He must be given the opportunity to show that his report is consistent, worthy of belief. Cross-examination should either confirm or deny his version of the story.
Just as a defendant might be telling the truth about himself, so the Bible might be telling the truth about itself. In the end you might choose to reject what it has to say about its origin, but if so, I hope you have the courage to face the implications. If you board the train of unbelief, you will have to take it all the way to its destination. More on that later.
Of course we will also bring other witnesses to the courtroom. In subsequent chapters we will call history, prophecy, science, and Christ Himself to the witness stand. But we have every right to give the Bible a fair hearing and, as best we can, put it through a cross-examination.
We do not have to search for long to find what the Bible has to say about itself; the claims of divine origin are found on nearly every page. Let's examine a few. Then we will analyze what this means for you and me.
In the Bible's Own Words
Perhaps you think, "Of course the Bible declares itself to be inspired by God; why even bother presenting the evidence?" But there are reasons why we must review these claims and their implications. Stay with me as we take a quick tour of some fascinating biblical terrain.
"All Scripture is 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). This is one of the clearest and best-known statements in the Scriptures about the origin of the Scriptures. The English word inspiration, with its prefix in, gives the impression that after the various books of the Bible were written, God breathed into them, so that they were "inspired." But the Greek word means that God "breathed out" and the result was the Scriptures. In other words, the Bible, metaphorically speaking, is the breath of God.
In the Old Testament the "mouth of God" was regarded as the source from which the divine message came. "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host" (Psalm 33:6). That expression, "breath of His mouth," is the Hebrew equivalent of "God breathed." God, the Creator, used men to write the Scriptures, but they are God speaking. The same mouth that spoke all of creation into existence is the mouth that spoke producing the Scriptures.
Inspiration does not just mean that God approved of their writings, but that men actually wrote His words. His ideas became their ideas, and they accurately recorded what He wanted us to know. Let us survey the Old and New Testaments to see if this is a fair statement of what the Bible claims.
The Claims of the Old Testament
Let's reread, as if for the first time, a few of the claims that the writers of the Old Testament have made. Look for the phrase "The Lord said" or its equivalent.
"Then God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol'" (Exodus 20:1–4).
"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.'" (Exodus 7:1–2).
"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
"Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks" (Isaiah 1:2).
"The words of Jeremiah ... to whom the word of the Lord came" (Jeremiah 1:1–2). Five more times in the first chapter of Jeremiah we read that the word of the Lord came to this prophet (vv. 4, 9, 11, 13).
Of course there are hundreds of instances where God is described as speaking. He talked with Adam and Eve both before and after the fall (Genesis 1:28–30; 3:9–19). Then there is God's call to Abram (Genesis 12:1–3), followed by long conversations between him and God (for example, in Genesis 15:1–21; 17:1–21). We are all acquainted with the extensive dialogues between Moses and God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1–4:23) and the revelations of God to His prophets. In each of these instances God is portrayed as communicating with people in actual spoken words, not simply through general ideas. Human language is never viewed as a barrier in divine-human communication.
The distinguishing characteristic of a true prophet is that he does not speak his own words but the words of God (Deuteronomy 18:18–20). God says repeatedly, "I will put My words in his mouth." This accounts for the fact that prophets often spoke for God in the first person!
Nathan, for example, could say to David, on God's behalf, "I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed.... I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom" (2 Samuel 7:10, 12). Similarly, other prophets claimed to speak God's words in the first person (see, for example, 1 Kings 20:13; 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 12:5).
Isaiah, too, was so overcome by his message that he lapsed into the first person, as though it were God Himself who was speaking. He began by telling the story of a vineyard owner who was disappointed that his best efforts did not produce grapes. Then, without further explanation, he launched into a speech given by the vineyard owner: "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:3–4). Obviously, Isaiah was not the owner of the vineyard; he was just breaking forth with God's message. He spoke on God's behalf.
The prophets claimed incredible authority! Ponder the words of Samuel to Saul: "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure" (1 Samuel 13:13–14). This judgment came to Saul because he did not obey the previous message that had come through Samuel's lips. To disobey what Samuel had said was to disobey God!
There are other ways that the Bible affirms that the words of Scripture are the words of God. For example, David is the author of Psalm 2, which speaks about the heathen being in a rage and the nations being "in an uproar" (v. 1). Yet when the apostles quoted this psalm in a prayer, they ascribed David's words to God, "who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said" (Acts 4:25). When David was speaking, the Holy Spirit was speaking.
Finally, consider the descriptions of God's Word found in the Old Testament. Musing on the despair over the unfaithfulness of people, David declared, "The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times" (Psalm 12:6, emphasis added). The Hebrew word pure means freedom from imperfections and impurities. This claim is made for speech that came from God to the prophet, but can be applied to all "Words of the Lord."
"As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him" (Psalm 18:30, emphasis added). That word tried means flawless. The same thought is repeated in Psalm 119:140: "Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it."
The Old Testament repeatedly claims to be the Word of God, and those words are therefore as enduring as God Himself: "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). And again, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).
If you call the authors of the Old Testament to the witness stand, they will affirm with one voice, "We are speaking the words that have been given to us by God."
The implications, as we shall see, are staggering.
The Claims of the New Testament
New Testament writers have the same ring of authority. They cited the Old Testament as the Word of God and put their own letters on the same level.
God spoke directly out of heaven at least three times during Christ's ministry on earth: at the baptism of Jesus, at the transfiguration, and even when Christ groaned in agony as He approached the crucifixion. Jesus, you remember, was troubled in spirit and prayed that He might be saved from the impending hour of trial (John 12:27). Yet, more important, He desired that the Father be glorified (v. 28). The heavens responded, "Then a voice came out of heaven: 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again'"(v. 28). Yes, God can speak, and does. The authors claimed that they were both recording and writing God's Word out of their own experience.
Paul, who authored at least thirteen books of the New Testament, claimed to have received revelations from God and wrote what he was told to say.
"If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized" (1 Corinthians 14:37–38).
"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:15).
Peter made a direct link between the word that he was preaching and the unchangeable words of the Old Testament.
"For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 'All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.' And this is the word which was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:23–25; cf. Isaiah 40:6–8).
John claimed that the visions that comprise the book of Revelation are the words of the Lord and warned that if anyone added to these words, "God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18–19). For Paul, Peter, and John to have made such claims for what they wrote would have been sheer madness unless, of course, they were, in fact, speaking the words of God.
What if we were to systematically page through the Bible, listing all of the instances in which it claims to be of divine origin? Either directly or indirectly we would find some fifteen hundred statements that claim its divine origin. The sixty-six books speak with a consistent voice that these are the words of God.
Still, accusations fly of deception on the part of biblical authors, even if they don't stick: "Many of the claimed fulfilled prophecies in scriptures were actually made after the prophesized [sic] events took place," writes one atheist professor, though he doesn't explain how the writers could have pulled that off.
To say that the writers were either deceived or lying just does not wash. If so, the Bible is surely the most fraudulent book that has ever been written! It would be a matter of incomprehensible irony that the very book that has inspired the highest standard of morality, the book that has given the world the most coherent worldview, the book that has given us a Christ who is admired even by skeptics—that this book is based on multiplied deceptions is beyond belief.
In effect, God signed every page of the Bible. We have every reason to believe that His signature was not forged. God has spoken and He has told us so.
The Unity of the Bible
Joseph Smith claims to have received a message from an angel and thus the Book of Mormon came to be. But his claims are suspect for at least two reasons. First, the Book of Mormon has been shown to be hopelessly untrustworthy at every point of its history; not a single geographical site recorded has been discovered nor has any event in the book had independent confirmation. Second, there are no other prophets who claimed to have a revelation that was consistent with his. The Book of Mormon has but one author, a man who plagiarized much of his material and whose personal character is suspect. Subjected to the same kind of evaluation, Mohammed, the author of the Qur'an, would fare no better.
In contrast, the Bible is really a library of sixty-six books written by about forty different authors over a period that spans fifteen hundred years. If one of the most important characteristics of truth is consistency, we must ask, does the Bible present a unified story line? Since God's message cannot contradict itself, we must investigate whether the sixty-six books each tell a separate story, or whether they present one story told in sixty-six different ways. In other words, if we were to put the Bible on the witness stand and scrutinize it for consistency, how would it fare?
The Unity of Authorship
Consistency is not the only test for truth, but it is one of the most important. Prosecuting attorneys tell us that a lie can seldom withstand close scrutiny. Under cross-examination the words of a witness will almost always either be confirmed or come unraveled. If the truth is not told, at some point it will simply not "add up."
Obviously, a purely human book can also be consistent. A book on, say, physics, astronomy, or biology can be free of contradictions. Such books can present a unified view of the subject at hand. But the unity of the Bible is much more remarkable for the following reasons.
Excerpted from Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust The Bible by Erwin W. Lutzer, Allan Sholes, Chris Reese. Copyright © 2008 Erwin W. Lutzer. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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Table of ContentsTABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: Waiting to Hear God Speak
Reason One: A Logical Reason-The Claims of the Bible
For Further Consideration: How Much Evidence Is Proof?
Reason Two: A Historical Reason
For Further Consideration: The Dead Sea Scrolls
Reason Three: A Prophetic Reason
For Further Consideration: Bible Codes
Reason Four: A Christological Reason
For Further Consideration: Could the Disciples Have Invented the Stories About Jesus?
Reason Five: A Scientific Reason
For Further Consideration: The Demise of Evolution
Reason Six: A Providential Reason
For Further Consideration: Noncanonical Books
Reason Seven: A Personal Reason
For Further Consideration: The Path to Personal Transformation
For Doubters Only