A friend sent me a question. It was a good question, an honest question, and one from which we, as Christians, should not shy away. He was asking how we know the Bible is what it claims to be.
A comment on this blog asked a similar question. Why do you believe there is a God? Really, it is the same question. If the Bible is true, is what it claims to be, there is a God. Of course, it would be logically possible for there to be a god who is not the God of the Bible, but for a Christian, the two questions are the same. We believe in the God of the Bible, so to ask why I believe the Bible, or why I believe there is a God, are asking the same question.
Evidence vs. Proof
There is a difference between evidence and proof. I actually discussed this in today’s sermon, so I’ll use the example I used today. If you hear the sound of breaking glass, look out your window, and see someone running down the street, that is evidence that may indicate he broke a window, but it isn’t proof. If someone else saw him throwing a stone towards the window that broke, that might be more evidence. If they saw it was a yellow brick he was throwing, and a yellow brick is inside the broken window, and it is the only yellow brick in the vicinity, the evidence becomes very strong.
I can point to evidence, but I cannot prove my faith. I cannot prove there is a God, I cannot prove the Bible is true, I cannot prove that it is God’s Word. Hebrews 1:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” God comes to us on His terms, and His terms are faith, not proof.
That may not seem fair, but it is logically consistent with the idea of a supreme God. A supreme God is not going to submit to human intellect, human logic, and human demands for proof. If there really is a supreme God, He might choose to approach us on our level, but He would not be expected to approach us on our terms. That would be to make us supreme, and thus He would be less than God. The person who asks for absolute proof of a supreme God is asking something contradictory, for “absolute proof” and “supreme God” cannot go together.
So I will not be talking about “proof” when I come to the question, “Why do I believe the Bible is true?” or its corollary, “Why do I believe the Christian God exists?” I may not always be as logical as I could be, but I am logical enough to recognise that if such a God does exist, He would provide us evidence, but not proof. He would expect us to consider evidence, but He would not submit to our demands for proof. He would expect us to respond in faith. (See Everyone Has LOTS of Faith for further discussion on the relation between faith, proof, and evidence.)
So I will give “evidence,” not “proof.” There are many ways to answer the question, and entire books have been written on the subject. I won’t even begin to cover everything that could be said on it, but I wanted to discuss one part of my answer that I think might be helpful to others who might ask the same question. To me, one of the strongest evidences for the truth of Scripture is this: the Bible rings true.
The Bible Rings True on Human Nature
The Bible tells us people are sinful, and we see it all around us. Crime, selfishness, lack of self-control, violence, greed — people can be downright unpleasant. What the Bible tells us about people having an innate desire to do wrong, and giving themselves over to follow those evil desires, describes the world as we see it, and it rings true to us.
The Bible also tells us that people are made in God’s image, and that also rings true. Despite all the evil around us, evil that often runs wild in their hearts, people have a desire for goodness, too. People know what justice means, and they think true justice is a good thing. They can be truly generous and kind.
There is great good in man, which has been corrupted by sin. That’s what the Bible tells us, and that is what we see.
The Bible Rings True on Creation
The Bible tells us that God is a God of order, and when we look around us, we can see it in His handiwork. Anyone who has ever studied mathematics knows the tremendous mathematical patterns which are all around us.
The Bible says God is powerful. I was living in Portland, Oregon when Mt St Helens erupted. I heard many people say that they had never believed in God before, but when they saw that eruption, then they believed that there must be a God. We see many evidences of great power in creation, so the Biblical account of a powerful Creator rings true.
We’re told that God is creative, and we can see it in the tremendous variety and beauty of the world around us. Everything that we see around us in creation is completely consistent with the Bible’s description of a Creator-God.
The Bible Rings True on Emotional / Mental Well-Being
The Bible tells us people who focus on themselves will not be blessed, and we see that selfishness generally leads to unhappiness. It tells us that those who rejoice in trials will benefit, and we see that those who refuse to let their trials control them are more well-adjusted, happier, and better able to cope with life.
The Bible tells us thankfulness is vital, and counselors of all stripes tell people to turn their thoughts from negative thoughts and to focus on the positive. The Bible tells us to be honest about our failings and take responsibility when we’ve done wrong, and everyone knows that is far healthier than dishonesty and denial.
The Bible Rings True on Human Interactions
The Bible tells us of love, and gives a definition of love that will strengthen marriages, families, and relationships if lived out, while the world’s emotion-based definition of love does not build strong relationships. It tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive, and we find it to be true — receiving is blessed, but giving is more blessed.
The Bible tells us there are basic and important differences between men and women, and everyone knows this to be true. Even those who choose to act as if they are of a different “gender” adopt dress and mannerisms suitable to their “new gender.” In so doing, they reaffirm the truth that there is a difference.
Scripture calls children a blessing, and a gift of God. It says they are to be protected and treasured. We instinctively know that to be true, and politicians constantly tap into this innate sense that we have. The Bible not only tells us that children have a special place in God’s heart and His creation, it gives some of the reasons why. What the Bible says about children and God fits with what we instinctively know.
Scripture tells of the importance of work, that we should not expect others to provide for us, and we know that no society will function well, or for long, if that is not the general mindset of the populace. It tells us to work so that we have the ability to be generous, and we instinctively know that generosity is good and right.
The Bible Rings True on Spiritual Well-Being
The Bible tells us we need to be forgiven, and we find that to be true because we know we are not perfect. It tells us we would need to be perfect, and deep down we know that to be true as well. Even if we mostly do well, we still feel guilty or make excuses at other times when we haven’t done well. When people say, “I know I’m not perfect,” they implicitly acknowledge there is a standard of perfection.
The Bible tells us not everyone pleases God or goes to Heaven. While we may not find that particularly pleasant, it rings true, because we know the world produces Hitler and Stalin and child abusers. There are many who should not be in Heaven unless they have been changed. We may be slow to accept the Bible’s standard as to where that line should be drawn, but we all instinctively know there really is a line. If there is a God, we know He would not just accept everyone, no matter what, and that’s exactly what the Bible describes.
The Bible tells us of second chances for those who repent, and we instinctively know that if there is a good God in the universe He would have to be a God of second chances. And the Bible tells us of a solution by which the second chance could be provided, one that satisfies both justice and mercy. Justice demands that a penalty be paid, and mercy provided the means for paying it. He sent His only Son to die and pay that penalty.
If there is a God, we would expect Him to be both just and merciful. The God of the Bible took justice and mercy to the infinite level, by sending His own Son to die to give us that “second chance.” That rings true.
Well done article. Succinct and pointed.
I found this well-written article to be a very nice complement to what we studied in our Sunday class. Question #2 of the Westminster Larger Catechism.
Q. How doth it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.
Thank you, David. What you are saying is that the Catechism said everything I said in a lot fewer words. 🙂
It does fit well, doesn’t it?