Thursday, May 26, 2005

Can We Trust The Bible?

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have
become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how
from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise
for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed
and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Timothy 3:14-17 NIV

1) Introduction

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines valid as 1) actually supporting the intended point or claim as in a valid criticism or 2) executed in compliance with the law, that is legally or officially acceptable..

The aim of this essay is to demonstrate arguments that validate the scriptures, that is to give a broad outline of the concept of biblical apologetics and allude to those techniques which assert beyond "reasonable doubt" the legal validity of the scriptures. During the course of readings the author has found that there has been a plethora of material written on this subject, and much of the superstructure of this essay relies heavily on the thoughts and writings of others far more qualified.

This essay consists of two parts:

Firstly, we examine the nature of the Bible, its uniqueness and the singularity of its message . Brief reference is made of the centrality of its divine inspiration. This part of the essay concludes with a description of the ability of the scriptures to meet the needs of and mend the human heart..

Secondly, this essays looks at some of the objections and criticisms that have been raised against the scriptures. Reference is made to a ready defence for some of those objections. While the archaeological record and the world of science provide interesting insight and proofs for the truth of Gods word, the primary focus remains the person of Jesus Christ. We will examine evidence for his life, his death and resurrection. We will also look at what the bible itself has to say about the importance of the historicity of Christ.
This essay concludes that in spite of numerous and acceptable proofs for the validity of the bible, belief in it as the inspired word of God is a matter of faith, and requires a reader who approaches the Bible with humility.

2) The Unique Nature of the Bible
a) The inspired nature of the scriptures

At the foundation of all Christian thought is the understanding that God inspired the books of the Bible. Charles Finney in his book The Necessity of Divine Teaching states; "The doctrine of the necessity of divine influence to enlighten and sanctify the minds of men is very abundantly taught in the Bible and is generally maintained, as a matter of opinion at least, in all orthodox churches." Not only does this undergird the Christian faith, biblical inspiration is taught by the scriptures themselves.

The Book of Hebrews begins, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (1:1–2). Special revelation has come through dreams, waking visions, and by "face-to-face" communication with God. This revelation has been shared in stories passed down verbally, expressed in ritual and sacrifice, and recorded in Scripture. Separate revelations, unfolding over the centuries, have been gathered into a harmonious whole, together giving us in our Scripture a clear portrait of God and his purposes.

The divine nature of the scriptures is not without its critics, W.E. Vine acknowledges that "the objections which have been raised against the divine inspiration and accuracy of the Scripture are almost innumerable. They have served the purpose of turning the attention more carefully to the Word of God with a view to weighing the evidences. The result has been to vindicate it at the points at which it has been attacked."

b)The unity of the scriptures.

There is a thread that runs through scripture, through allegory, metaphor, prophecy and psalm which forms a complete story; Gods redemptive plan for fallen man.
"One amazing characteristic of the Bible is its unity. The Bible is composed of sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. Yet those sixty-six books form a cohesive whole, one dynamic message of God’s dealings with humankind."
John R.W. Stott is alluding to both the inspired nature of the scriptures and its unity when he writes: " The biblical authors also made similar claims for each other. We find in scripture an elaborate cross-authorization. For example, they endorsed the law, and the psalmists extolled its truth, beauty and sweetness. Above all the New Testament confirms the Old, the apostolic authors drawing from it a rich variety of quotations as divine warrant for what they were writing."

c) the application of the Bible to the issues facing humanity.

No other book is more adept at addressing the deep needs of the human heart. The Bible has done more for the understanding of the human soul than any other book. Addressing Christian counselors, MacArthur writes; "They are realizing what they have actually always believed: that Scripture is superior to human wisdom (1 Cor. 3:19); that the Word of God is a more effective discerner of the human heart than any earthly means (Heb. 4:12); that the Spirit of God is the only effective agent of recovery and regeneration (Eph. 5:18–19); and that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ Himself (Col. 2:3)."
In the forward of J.E Church's book the publisher alludes to the overwhelming demand for modern translations of the Bible and goes on to assert the applicability of scripture to the problems of the human heart when writing;

"What are these readers seeking?... What they want is to find out for themselves the message of the Bible, to discover the secret of its extraordinary power to change lives and restore relationships, to lift the burden of guilt, to bring peace and joy to sad and restless people. In fact although they may not consciously realise this, they want to hear God speaking personally to them. In spite of the fact that this is rarely a wholly comfortable experience, they are prepared to go through with it because they know, with growing certainty, that in studying the Bible they are in touch with Reality."

3) Skepticism and defence of the Biblical record

a) Science

Mans dependence on science to help him make sense of his world has lead some to question their faith. Jack Hayford writes; "I have met Christian parents who have been afraid to send their children to college. Individual Christians were afraid of intensely studying fields like biology, medicine, psychology, and physics for fear of losing their faith. The problem is that these people had a faith built on a religious experience that somehow had become separated from reason. They did not understand that Christianity is Truth and not a religion.
These people did not have the proper intellectual foundation for their faith.
Apologists argue that the Bible does not aim to be a scientific treatise but is accurate as far as it concerns Gods redemptive plan. That having been said Josh McDowell makes the following observation:

"One of the wonders of the Bible is its scientific accuracy, even though the Bible is not primarily a scientific book. Whenever the biblical writers touch on scientific matters, their observation about nature, man, history, and society are generally accurate and free of the ancient and unsophisticated scientific inaccuracies of their contemporaries.

b)Attacks on the person and historicity of the Christ.

One of the best defences for the gospel is the effect that the scriptures have on the lives of believers. "Belief results in obedience; what we practice provides evidence of our faith. Faith is not merely a propositional affirmation. It determines action, produces obedience, and, through overcoming, becomes fruitful."

Ultimately, however, as Jesus is the central figure around which the whole Bible is focussed, skeptics have been keen to discredit Him. Josh McDowell writes, "Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him."

The Scriptures themselves attest to the centrality of Christ and the importance of the historicity of his bodily death and resurrection.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the
dead, how can some of you say that

there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no
resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ
has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than
that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified
about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in
fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has
not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is
futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in
Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be
pitied more than all men.
1 Cor 15:12-18 NIV

J.N.D Anderson, Lawyer and professor of Oriental Law at the University of London is states; " The empty tomb stands, a veritable rock, as an essential evidence for the resurrection. To suggest that it was not in fact empty at all, as some have done, seems to me ridiculous. It is a matter of history that the apostles from the very beginning made many converts in Jerusalem, hostile as it was, by proclaiming the glad news that Christ has risen from the grave- and they did it within a short walk from the sepulchre. Any one of their hearers could have visited the tomb and come back again between lunch and whatever may have been the equivalent of afternoon tea."

c) skepticism concerning miracles;

Attempts to discredit Christ are not only a contemporary issue, but even occurred during Jesus' own lifetime. Miracles in particular posed a problem for the Jewish authorities as they appeared to support Christ’s claims and teaching.
The Jewish leaders of Christ’s own time attacked Jesus’ miracles. They couldn’t deny that what Jesus did constituted extraordinary events. There were too many witnesses. Nor could they doubt that the events had religious significance. So the Pharisees started a rumor that Jesus’ miracles were not caused by God but by the devil (Matt. 12:24). If Satan were the source of his power to cast out demons, Jesus answered, Satan would be fighting against his own, and unable to maintain his authority (Matt. 12:26). Thus, the charge is foolish and inconsistent. If we believe in the God of Scripture, no compelling argument against miracles will force us to doubt their reality.

The great biblical historian F. F. Bruce echoed these thoughts:
That Christianity has its roots in history is emphasized in the church’s earliest creeds, which fix the supreme revelation of God at a particular point in time, when "Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord... suffered under Pontius Pilate." This historical "once-for-all-ness" of Christianity, which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems which are not specially related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of first-rate importance.
Clifford Ross acknowledges that "some people suggest that the Gospel testimony is full of embellishment. They base this assertion on the fact that the gospels were not written until some years after the death of Christ and therefore as the story of Jesus was told and retold, it must have become more fanciful. As one examines the Gospel testimony," (the evidence) "strongly mitigates against embellishment." Clifford goes on to argue that the disciples did not change the tough teachings of Jesus or downplay their own failures. There is also the remarkable agreement of the Gospel accounts and their failure to pick up on the "hot topics" of Jesus' day such as occupied the writing of Paul e.g. Circumcision are largely missing from the Gospels.

4. Conclusion

Apologetics concerns itself with arguing that the Bible is valid, plausible and believable. These arguments rely on evidence from a wide range of disciplines, from science , logic, Law and philosophy. Despite all evidence, "ultimately the inspiration of scripture is an article of faith, which must be accepted like any other doctrine".
Thomas Morris in his critique of Francis Schaeffers Apologetics adds "It is only by the grace of God that anyone believes as a Christian, but God often chooses human undertakings, such as apologetic arguments, as vehicles or instruments for his grace. Thus, there is value in examining how it is that human arguments can be related logically to Christian belief."This sentiment is born out in scripture in John 6:44:

"No one can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw him, and I will
raise him up in the last day."

Much of what we receive from scripture depends on the attitude with which we approach Gods word. The great reformer Martin Luther attests that "the Holy Scriptures require a humble reader who shows reverence and fear toward the Word of God and constantly says, ‘Teach me, teach me, teach me!’ The Spirit resists the proud. Though they study diligently and some preach Christ purely for a time, nevertheless, God excludes them from the church if they’re proud."
We can say with confidence as Luther did "Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura."


The NIV Study Bible 1995, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids MI
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary Revised Tenth edition, {Electronic Ed}, 2002, New York
Chant, Ken. Authenticity and Authority of the Bible. Vision Christian College. Australia
Thomas V. Morris. Francis Schaeffer's Apologetics: A critique. 1976. Moody Bible Institute. Chicago
Darby, J. N. 1996. The Holy Scriptures : A new translation from the original languages . Logos Research Systems: Oak Harbor
Heritage of great evangelical teaching : Featuring the best of Martin Luther, John Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, C.H. Spurgeon and others. 1997, c1996. Thomas Nelson: Nashville
F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1960), p. 8.McDowell, J. 1997, c1991. Josh McDowell's handbook on apologetics (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville
Clifford, Ross. 1996 Leading lawyers case for the Resurrection. Albatross Books. Canada

Macdowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Vol.1. 1979. Thomas Nelson. Vancouver.
Richards, L. 1998. Every miracle in the Bible. Includes indexes. T. Nelson: Nashville
Richards, L. 1998. Every miracle in the Bible. Includes indexes. T. Nelson: Nashville

Hayford, J. W. 1997. Becoming a Leader after God's Heart : A study of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. Thomas Nelson: Nashville
McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. 1993. Answers to tough questions. Originally published: San Bernardino, Calif. : Here's Life Publishers, c1980. T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville
NIV Study Bible, 1995, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids MI

Hayford, J. W., & McGuire, P. 1997, c1994. People of the Covenant : God's New Covenant for Today. Spirit-Filled Life Kingdom Dynamic Study Guide. Thomas Nelson: Nashville
McDowell, J. 1997, c1991. Josh McDowell's handbook on apologetics (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

MacArthur, J., F., Jr, Mack, W. A., & Master's College. 1997, c1994. Introduction to biblical counseling : Basic guide to the principles and practice of counseling (Electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Dallas, TX
Church, J.E. Every man a Bible student.1976. Paternoster Press. Cape Town

Vine, W. 1997, c1996. Collected writings of W.E. Vine. Thomas Nelson: Nashville
McDowell, J. 1997, c1991. Josh McDowell's handbook on apologetics (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville
Stott, John R.W. P. 1975, c1972. Understanding the Bible. Anzea Books: Surry Hills

Richards, L. 2001. Every name of God in the Bible. Includes indexes. Everything in the Bible series . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, Tenn.

1 comment:

Nautita said...

Hi Tim; invite to Zep to Argentina, Is beautyfull and chip, but one suggestion, tell him about Jesus and Baptiz, accept you this suggestion, I believe that all his friends will do a festival.