Search Site

Why Should I Believe the Bible?

Picture a seed drying on a sun­-baked sidewalk.

Jesus tells a story about a farmer casting seed all around, letting it land wherever—in rocks, in weeds, in soil. For now, notice the kernel that lands on a hard, hard path. Birds come along and snatch it away before anything good can happen at all.

If the seed is God’s Word, what is this snatching away?

You tell me. Are there things you’ve heard about the Bible that have kept you from hearing what it actually says? Have convenient potshots made the message of God’s disturbing holiness and his costly love far too easy to dismiss?

“It’s full of discrepancies and contradictions.”

“It’s nothing but myths and fables.”

“It’s been proven false by his­tory and archaeology.”

Just so many mockingbirds feasting on priceless seed.

Other writers—serious histori­ans, archaeologists, and scientists —have dealt with these objections at length and to the satisfaction of anyone who really wants to know. My purpose is only to chase away the birds long enough for the seed to have a chance. If just once you would set aside the propaganda about the Bible, the half-truths and lies that many swallow uncritically and repeat unthink­ingly, what then?

I only want the voice of God to settle once into your soil like a seed—“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” Let it rest a minute there on the surface of your mind. Turn the ground over one more time. What might that tiny bit of life become? Only the faith that saves. The hope that endures.

The love that never dies.

Please read Matthew 13:1-23.

Will I now prove the Bible to you? Yes and no, well, sort of. You see, when the Bible can be tested—when the Bible records historical peoples, places, and events or when it touches on the nature and experience of humanity—it passes with flying colors. Yet the really vital thing the Bible says is different. It is a spiritual message that stands beyond the reaches of empirical proof. It centers on the relationship with God in Jesus Christ. When I read the Bible, I am con­fronted by a Person revealing his goodness, bent on break­ing my sinful heart, professing his love, and speaking trust into me. Yes, trust.

This is not to say that a reasonable defense of the Bible is not possible; it is, on those matters which can be tested. I eagerly invite your close inspection of the biblical data. The steady integrity of our Scriptures is no Achilles’ heel for the church, the body of Christ. Although I would much rather talk to you about what the Word of God says, the following issues may be the ones that seem important to you now, so let me indulge you.

Go looking for the supposed tangle of contradictions and be shocked to discover how weak the examples are that are most often cited—the fact that Abraham told the same lie about Sarah three times does not meet any definition of contradiction I’ve ever heard. Instead it sounds suspiciously lifelike. Complaints about multiple creation accounts in Genesis, for another example, are failures to grasp the ancient literary style and the rather ingenious (easily demonstrable) literary structure. Recall that the Scriptures were written in a time and place very distant from ours. Step outside of the bias that goes looking for problems, and be stunned at how few apparent difficulties there actually are. Although written by some 40 authors over 15 cen­turies, the Bible presents a perfectly unified treatise of humanity’s salvation and a cohesive explanation to the meaning of our existence.

“Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Go looking for the myriad contradictory religious opin­ions that have twisted and changed over time, and be star­tled by the single Voice that speaks from Genesis to Revelation. Grasp the phenomenon of a book written throughout a period seven times longer than the life of the United States in which hundreds of complex and controver­sial topics are treated with an essential harmony. Scan the consistent answers to the soul’s most persistent questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Who made me? How do I know him? How do I live with him in peace? Find the teachings of the New Testament, supposedly evolved over the centuries (such as the righteousness we have by faith or the physical resurrection of Christ), written with surprising clarity back in the days of Moses and King David. With this the Old Tes­tament falls open as a startlingly Christian book.

The Bible is, in fact, so clear about Christ that even schol­ars (so often the least prone to take things in a straightfor­ward manner) ought to be able to understand. The words of Job ought to take our breath away: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Listen closely as a single theme recurs in book after book, whether written by a king of 1000 B.C or by a physician 1,100 years later. Some 40 writers collaborated across the centuries on a single fascinating story. What consumed them all is Christ.

“These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” he said.

When someone says, “Who knows what the original says?” go and examine for yourself the more than five thou­sand pieces of manuscript evidence for the New Testament alone—a measure of support that utterly eclipses the evi­dence for any other ancient writing, not to mention the more recent works of Shakespeare. Consider that, based on five pieces of manuscript evidence, no one bothers to ques­tion whether we can know what Aristotle really taught. Indeed professors of classical antiquity salivate over the over­whelming mountain of documentary evidence at the heart of Christian scholarship and, frankly, think that liberal reli­gious scholars who suggest otherwise are nuts.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Or perhaps you’ve heard the old saw that the biblical documents that have come to us as copies of copies are shrouded in uncertainty as to the original words. There is a serious science of textual criticism that, by comparing copies from all around the ancient world, convincingly assures any­one who is listening that not one iota of Christian teaching is in doubt due to conflicting readings. Investigate for your­self the painstaking care of the Old Testament copyists and the extreme measures they took to verify their work, such as counting the occurrences of letters and discarding entire copies if their number of letters didn’t match the original’s.

This constancy of the Bible texts through the passing cen­turies is what the fuss of the Dead Sea Scrolls is all about. From a manuscript one thousand years older than those pre­viously available, came a symbolic handshake from centuries past, promising that nothing of consequence was lost to time or tampering. The texts we read today do not differ in any substantial way from those fresh off the authors’ hands.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Others try to inject doubt based on the issue of canonicity—how do we know which ancient writings belong in the category of authoritative Scripture? The church did not so much decide which documents belong in the Scripture as rec­ognize those that had the credentials. Does a given document belong to the set of Old Testament writings—“the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44)—that Jesus clearly affirmed? Is a candidate for inclusion in the New Testament an authentic work of an apostle and witness of Christ? Does a document speak with that common spirit of the entire body of Scripture? These are issues of scholarly objectivity, and historic Christianity has provided exhaustive, disciplined, and satisfactory answers. No one could have pre­vented the actual words of God from becoming the canon of Scripture. The writings that were divinely inspired rose to the surface of the sea of human words by their own power . . . as surely as the music of J. S. Bach could be trusted to distin­guish itself from the pile of music I myself have tried to write.

“My sheep listen to my voice,” called the inimitable Shepherd.

Press those unbelieving scholars for the real reason they handle the Bible as they do—ridiculously elevating other sources above the Scriptures, spinning ingenious theories about its formation without a scintilla of evidence—and it becomes clear. The Bible conflicts with their worldviews. That’s the reason. There is no other. If you listen closely to the simplistic attacks people make on the Bible’s credibility, you may just find yourself persuaded to my point of view by the sheer emptiness of their arguments.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness.”

So the God of the Bible seems to think he has the right to destroy human life? He’s not playing God. He is God. Do not evaluate him as if he is a mere human being like us. Humble yourself before the One who not only created human life in the first place but has the ability to recreate it, that is, to resurrect it on the Last Day and render upon it a righteous verdict. You may complain about how the Bible so vividly demonstrates that there is such a thing as God’s wrath; you may fret about the psychological discom­fort such a demonstration causes people. I only ask which is the greater danger, to believe in God’s justice . . . or not to? Open your eyes to the world in which you live and to the damage and pain that comes precisely from those people who do not believe in eternal consequences to the awful things they do. Let us not conveniently forget what happens when antitheism weds to political theory and social engineering—mourn the one hundred million killed by communism so far. The Bible’s messages of God’s holi­ness and his love are precisely what the world most needs.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

You may try to dismiss the Old Testament Scriptures as the nationalistic writings of the Israelites, like those of any other ancient people. But first, for the sake of your own integrity, read for yourself the carefully documented history that is unique for its unblushing, brutal honesty about the nation’s own persistent moral failures and those of its greatest lights— Abraham, Moses, and David. It is inconceivable that such a history was fabricated. Similarly, you may call the New Testa­ment an invention written with a religious bias to benefit an emerging church. Discover instead the same unblinking frankness about the church’s own pillars, detailing Peter’s rashness and Thomas’ doubts, John’s temper and Paul’s crimes. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” is not the sort of thing you make up. And I remind you again of the unimpeachable character the entire New Testament has. The Scripture named its witnesses and disseminated its accounts within a time frame that allowed for testing and contradiction by its opponents.

“That which was from the beginning . . . which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

When someone claims the Christian “myth” has been exploded by archaeology, ask if they’re aware what the archaeologists themselves are saying about this Book and how its historic reliability is more and more taken for granted. Why not sift through the 25,000 archaeological sites that show connections with accounts of the Bible? Myths do not concern actual people and places! Ask about the ruins of Jericho, where the walls have collapsed outward, and compare the ruins to Joshua chapter 6. Ask about the Pool of Bethesda, which was found just where John said it would be in chapter 5 of his gospel. The truth is, modern visitors to lands of the Bible cannot help but come away impressed with the real geographic and historical backdrop of the biblical text. The underpinnings of negative biblical criticism are themselves pre-archaeological. They were all advanced before the utter vindication of the existence of written language in Abraham’s day, the dating of John’s gospel, the impeccability of Luke’s history of the life of Jesus, and the birth of the church (to name just a few of a hundred examples). No historical statement of the Bible has been proven false by archaeological research.

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

Is the Bible just a collection of religious writings like many others? The phenomenon of prophecy can persuade otherwise. Hundreds of prophesies of Christ written in the Old Testament came true in the New with incredibly precise detail and against staggering odds. A few close calls by the likes of Nostradamus, culled from endless pages of bad guesses, don’t hold a candle to the perfect prophecies of God. Always right. Never wrong. Let the hairs on your arms stand up as you read for yourself—read just once with an unresisting mind—the prophetic clarity of Psalm 22 or 69, or Isaiah 53.

“Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.’”

There is no dispute about the uniqueness of the claim the Bible makes for itself as the very words of God, intoning hundreds of times, “This is what the Lord says;” about its unique endorsement by the one truly unique Man, Jesus Christ; or about its unique dissemination to the ends of the earth, according to the audacious prediction of our Lord.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world.”

Do you assume there are other writings of antiquity with similar qualifications? I answer, without fear of contradic­tion, that every single one of these credentials is unique to the Bible. The Koran makes no prophetic gambles. The Hindu Veda can only exempt itself from the test of contra­diction. The Book of Mormon lacks so much as a single, corroborating piece of a broken clay pot. There you have it; go and find another book like the Bible.

You’ll find instead the worn-out hammers lying broken beside a pristine anvil, the divinely accented Word. It uniquely has survived centuries of vicious verse-by-verse assaults. Gone are all those who have attacked it, while the so-called myth remains, outliving its adversaries and defend­ers as well. Each dated denial becomes passé and passes away, revealing itself as the myth and shadow before the solid, living Voice of the Lord.

And here, at last, is the point. There is no great leap of faith when it comes to believing the Bible. To listen and fol­low is not to take an unthinking step off a high, dark ledge. The Voice behind the Scriptures has never lied to you. You may find ten thousand things in the Word of God that, when tested, turn out to be absolutely true. This Word tells you things about you that will resound within you again and again, if you’ll only listen.

So then, when it matters the most, when you read the one other thing that stands outside the arena of physical evidence—the transforming love of Christ expressed in his own crucifixion—that love asks for no leap . . . only a falling into someone’s arms. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

This is your relationship to God, its beginning and end. “I love you,” he says in Christ by his Word. You answer, “I know.”

And now, to draw closer to the Word . . . is to draw closer to him. There is no difference. To hold tightly, in a dark night of soul, to one of his promises . . . is to hold tightly to him. To make room in your mind for this seed to quietly grow, to save a place for it . . . is to save a space for him.

From More Prepared To Answer © 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Image credit: "Bible Johns Gospel 3 16" is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

More Prepared to Answer Image Map