Part IV: In the Beginning was the Word
Can we trust the Bible?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
Undeniably, the Bible makes sweeping declarations about realities we could never reach through human reasoning or deduction—declarations about the beginning of all things, the eternality and pre-existence of God, and prophetic visions of glory to come. Spoken with authority and finality, the claims of the Bible can never be relegated to merely “good, moral teachings.” The content of the Scriptures can only lead to two conclusions: it is either an insane book that propagates falsehoods, or it is the Word of God.
I’m going to work directly off the second point from the previous essay: why faith in the Bible is not blind. There are massive tomes of apologetics dedicated to these topics, but I will just briefly touch on a few major points.
Falsifiability: the Bible is grounded in history and reality
Falsifiability is simply the ability to be proven false. Most the world religions are not falsifiable—you have eastern religions that consist entirely of abstract spiritual philosophies, which you either adopt or don’t. They make no historic claims that could definitively render them untrue. You have other major world religions that begin with one leader’s private, unverifiable encounter with God (Muhammad or Joseph Smith).
Christianity, on the other hand, began in a public forum. Christ’s earthly ministry drew thousands of eyewitnesses. The Old Testament itself is also rooted in historical narratives, with genealogies, locations and famous figures. With the advance of science and archaeology, the text leaves itself easily exposed, easily disproved if it proclaims falsehoods.
Christianity stands or falls with the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you think about it, that’s an absurdly difficult lie to perpetrate for centuries. I would not have wanted the job of keeping that façade up. All critics had to do was produce a dead body.
But instead, they never do, and rather you see eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ boldly preach the Gospel in the face of persecution and personal ruin. That’s a foolish, unlikely price to pay for a lie.
Consistency: the Bible was written over 1500 years, made up of 66 books, and resounds with 1 consistent message
The 66 books of the Bible were written by 40 different authors—prophets, kings, fishermen, physicians, and more—over 1500 years in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic) on 3 different continents (Africa, Asia and Europe).
For the Bible to be the Word of God, we believe God worked uniquely through these authors so that the books of the Bible were divinely inspired and entirely true. This wasn’t some massive, ancient-day social network collaboration—most of these authors didn’t know each other, and didn’t work together to maintain consistency or avoid contradiction.
Yet the message of the Bible, throughout all of its books, resounds with one consistent message: God’s creation of all things, the fall of man, God’s holiness and wrath towards sin, God’s love and provision of redemption, and a way of salvation through Christ.
About 2,500 prophecies foretelling events of the future appear in the Bible, and about 2,000 have been fulfilled (with remaining ones reaching into the future). In the Old Testament, God sets the standard for identifying a true prophet: they must be 100 percent accurate in their predictions (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
If you like math, the probability of 2,000 independent, accurately fulfilled prophesies about very specific events and people is—I don’t know, but extremely, insanely small. If you consider this to all be random and by chance.
Here are just a few examples:
- In about 700 BC, Micah said Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2). This is fulfilled at the birth of Christ.
- Before 500 BC, Daniel prophesied that the Messiah would begin his ministry 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26). He prophesied the Messiah would be “cut off” prior to Jerusalem’s second destruction. King Artaxerxes of Persia issued the decree in 458 BC, and 483 years later, Jesus began ministering in Galilee. The rest of the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus’ death and later destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70.
- Daniel also interpreted two dreams (Daniel 2 and 7), accurately predicting the course of major empires in the next five centuries: he describes the rise and fall of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. He predicts the rise of Alexander the Great, and the division of his empire by 4 of his generals.
- The famous prophecy of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, fulfilled fully in Christ: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities… He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5-7)
Correspondence to reality
We are unable to see the spiritual realm with our physical senses, and we are unable to discover things of eternity past on our own. But we can look at the world around us, and we can look at our own hearts, and see how the Bible explains reality to us.
For instance, what’s wrong with the world? How do we understand why there is so much suffering, evil and brokenness? Apart from God, people are desperately searching for answers and solutions in political systems, economic reform, psychology, social reform, you name it. But do we believe any of these can really save us? Turning to these systems or philosophies for hope implies that we believe they address our deepest need: that our deepest need is political, or economic, or psychological.
The Bible says our fundamental problem is sin, that we are separated from God by it, and that is the cause of all our trouble. No man-made solution will fix this.
A newspaper once posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” Renowned Christian thinker G.K. Chesterton apparently wrote a brief response to them: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
And what about our conscience? Why do we have an innate sense of right and wrong? The Bible says it is because there is a real moral law, and that is written on our hearts. Philosophers can explain relative morality theoretically, but I challenge you to find someone practicing it. Imagine parents letting their kids do whatever they want. That doesn’t happen, does it? But if morality is relative, why enforce some arbitrary standard on your children?
I could go on. But I’ll leave it at that, and leave you with this thought. As I mentioned in the last essay, no one can ultimately prove the Bible to you. No one can prove who the authority on truth is but the truth itself. I believe the Bible because as I read it, the text manifests God’s glory and its divine origin. I read it and cannot believe it was man-made, or resulted out of human speculation and philosophy.
Ultimately, it takes faith. But remember, it also takes faith to hear the message of the Bible, understand the evidence for it, and reject it as untrue.
The beauty of the Bible is that it takes faith to believe, but with faith, you see the truth with deeper and greater clarity. Augustine said: nisi credideritis, non intelligetis. “Unless you will have believed, you will not understand.”
Consider the analogy of getting married: When you marry someone, no one, including you, can prove he/she will be a good spouse. You take a (huge) step of faith in marriage, but its not blind—you’ve seen evidence for his/her good character, kindness, reliability, etc. But it is only when and after you take that step of faith, you accumulate greater evidence, even proof, that he/she is a good spouse. Similarly, the manifestation and reality of God’s promises become more evident and personal as you place faith in and walk with Christ.
And another Lewis quote:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” –C.S. Lewis
That’s all for now, friends. Next time: What is the Gospel?