THE RELIABLE BIBLE
“The spades of a thousand over the centuries have not discredited the truth of Scripture nor has the turned-over earth proven the Bible to be untrue.” Harold Lindsell
There is a distinguished professor of religious studies who is given much space in the local paper to express his “enlightened” beliefs. He considers the Bible to be the product of men who expressed their religious hope and beliefs but not historical facts or divine truth. He still claims faith in God, but not the God of a literally interpreted Bible. He sees himself as a sincere seeker of truth whose spiritual journey has led him to the conviction that the Bible is not the inspired, inerrant Word of God. He still has ‘faith,” but it is not in Jesus Christ, Son of God, born of a virgin, Savior of the world, resurrected Lord. For him, that is myth, promoted by unenlightened, uninformed, fantasy lovers.
I have engaged him in person and in the religious section of the religion page of the paper. The difference between us is rather simple: He believes that the ultimate authority for truth is reason, his reason; and I believe the ultimate authority for truth is revelation, God’s revelation. His “reason” allows him to sit in judgment over the declarations of Scripture. He belongs to the notorious “Jesus Seminar,” which claims to seek the “authentic” words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. The method they use is shockingly simple: they vote. A passage is put before the conclave of religious scholars and they decide if the words adequately reflect the Jesus they believe in. A vote is taken using a “bead system.” Here is how it works:
Red beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus did say the passage quoted, or something very much like the passage. (3 Points) Pink beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus probably said something like the passage. (2 Points) Grey beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus did not say the passage, but it contains Jesus’ ideas. (1 Point) Black beads – indicated the voter believed Jesus did not say the passage—it comes from later admirers or a different tradition. (0 Points) A tally of the average produces what these scholars claim to be the authenticity status of the words.
The professor emphatically denies any ulterior motives for the conclusions that he or his compatriots have come down on. They are just sincere seekers and the conclusions they come to are based on academic honesty and personal integrity. But, what he does not admit is that all of these scholars start with assumptions and presuppositions. They don’t believe in supernatural intervention into the lives of men. Let me say it another way. They don’t like a God who judges sinners or comes to earth to die for sinners. They don’t like the incarnation, the virgin birth, miracles, a bloody cross, resurrection, the final judgment, an eternal hell or an inerrant Word. So, they vote them out of existence.
Soren Kierkegaard, addresses a similar attitude in an article entitled, “The 100,000 Dollar Gift.” He wrote,
Suppose it was said in the New Testament- we can surely suppose it- that it is God’s will that every man should have $100,000: do you think there would be any question of a commentary? Or would not everyone rather say, “It’s easy enough to understand, there’s no need of a commentary, let us for heaven’s sake keep clear of commentaries- they could perhaps make it doubtful whether it is really as it is written. [And with their help we even run the risk that it may become doubtful]. But we prefer it to be as it stands written there, so away with all commentaries!”
But what is found in the New Testament [about a narrow way, dying to the world, and so on] is not all the more difficult to understand than this matter of the 100,000 dollars. The difficulty lies elsewhere, in that it does not please us- and so we must have commentaries and professors and commentaries; for it is not a case of “risking” that it may become doubtful to us, for we really wish it was doubtful, and we have a tiny hope that the commentaries may make it so.
Some of you might ask, “Are you questioning the motivation of these scholars?” My answer is, “Absolutely!” We are continually exposed to the latest exposé that claims to have found the lost words of Jesus or the facts about the fraudulent conspiracy that is behind the establishment of the Christian faith. Men and women from all backgrounds, touting impressive academic credentials, seek to enlighten us so we can escape the foolish confidence we have maintained in the claims of Christ found in the Holy Scriptures. I am saying that their conclusions come not from the facts but from their bias.
This is not a minor skirmish between “ivory tower” intellectuals. The local professor believes that Jesus did exist and considers him an admirable man, “inspired” by God. He considers the Bible a good source of information about Christ and what his followers thought of him. But, he does not consider the Bible and what it says about Christ to be historical truth. He has assembled his own view of Christ without accepting the Bible’s declaration of him. Charles Spurgeon dealt with a similar movement in the 19th century. Here is what he wrote in response to the theologians that held a similar view.
“Men talk about building upon Christ, and not upon the Scriptures; but they know not what they say; for our Lord continually established his own claims by appealing to Moses and the prophets. They would be Christo-centric, they say: I only wish they would. But if they take Christ for a centre, they will inevitably have the Scriptures for a centre too; and these men neither want the one nor the other.
Attacks an Scripture and its authority is a direct attack on the person of Christ. Christians are a people of the Book because it is through the Book that we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. [2 Cor. 4:6] Everything depends upon what we believe about Jesus. Paul wrote, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Rom 10:9] And, everything we know about Him is found within Holy Scriptures.
Because of the “press” that is given the latest expose, the evidence supporting the reliability of the Scriptures teachings is often overlooked. For every scholarly work seeking to dismiss the divine authority of the Scriptures, there are ten written by just as distinguished scholars defending their holy origin. In the December 30, 1974 edition of Time magazine, one writer summed up the results of all the attacks have had upon the credibility of the Bible: “After more than two centuries of facing the heaviest scientific guns that could be brought to bear, the Bible has survived- and is perhaps the better for the siege. Even on the critics own terms, historical fact- Scriptures seem more acceptable now than they did when the rationalists began the attack.” That brings to mind the monument in Paris, dedicated to the Huguenots. It declares, “Hammer away, ye hostile hands; your hammer breaks; God’s anvil stands.”
I would also submit that the external witness of the reliability of the scriptures is overwhelming. Distinguished Jewish archeologist, Nelson Glueck, wrote, “In all of my archeological investigation I have never found one artifact of antiquity that contradicts any statement of the Word of God.” Dr William F. Albright adds, “Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”
But, ultimately, the problem is not external but internal; not of the head, but of the heart. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” [1 Cor 2:14] Although the evidence for the authenticity of the Scriptures is convincing, acceptance and understanding of the truth displayed there is dependent upon the work of the Spirit in our hearts. We are convinced that the Bible is true because the Holy Spirit has given us that assurance in our hearts. [1 Thes. 2:13]
Here is the bottom line. We need not be intimidated by the claims of the unbelieving scholars. They will come and go. Our heads and our hearts are secure in our trust in the testimony of Scripture. To be sure, there are still things that are hard for our finite minds to understand and our sinful hearts to accept. But, with J. C. Ryle we can boldly declare, “Give me the plenary, verbal theory of the Bible’s inspiration with all of its difficulties, rather than doubt. I accept the difficulties and humbly wait for the solution. But while I wait, I am standing on the Rock.”