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Apologetics – Lesson 3: What Kind of Book is the Bible?

February 9, 2012

“Ad fontes.” This is Latin meaning, “to the sources.” Why do I bring this up in a discourse on apologetics? Glad you asked. What we believe in the world around us depends greatly on the source of the information. For example, if you were to read a headline that said, “Killer Virus Strikes the United States!” would your reaction be different if you read this in a tabloid magazine as opposed to a reputable newspaper? I would hope so. The source of our information is everything. It tells us whether we can rely on the information or not so we can make decisions based on the information. This is a very real issue in the world since we, as a society, have been conditioned to take nothing for granted. We live in an age of skepticism where everything is subject to doubt and criticism. The Bible is no exception to this.

Attitudes Toward the Bible:

When we seek to make a defense for the faith we are finding that many of the questions and objections we are facing today go to the very source of our faith, the Scriptures. In years past this was not an issue as there was a healthy respect for the Bible even among unbelievers. Today this is not so. Critics of the Christian faith have come to realize that the key to dismantling Christianity in people’s minds is to dismantle the Bible, which is the source of our information concerning Christ. Thus we face many different attitudes concerning the Bible:

  1. Historical View: The Bible is just a book of history.
  2. Mythological View: The Bible is a book of myths and legends.
  3. Unreliable View: The Bible is inaccurate and incomplete.
  4. Irrelevant View: The Bible is not relevant to people today.
  5. Errant View: The Bible is full of errors and contradictions.
  6. Relativistic View: The Bible can be made to say whatever you want it to say.
  7. Uncertain View: There are to many versions of the Bible to know which one is right.
  8. Orthodox View: The Bible is the Word of God.

How do you suspect these attitudes would reflect the way a person responds to the Bible’s message? Needless to say that, unless you support the Orthodox View, you would be hard pressed to base your life and eternal destiny on its message.

In order to address these attitudes we are going to ask and answer some important questions about the Bible over the remainder of these lessons. The following is a summary of the subjects that we will look at:

  1. Fact or Fiction: Is the Bible a good book? (Lesson 3)
  2. Canon: Do we have the complete Bible today? (Lesson 4-5)
  3. Textual Criticism: Do we have the Scriptures today? (Lesson 6)
  4. Accuracy: Is the message of the Bible reliable? (Lesson 7)
  5. Translations: Why are there so many versions of the Bible? (Lesson 8-9)
  6. Clarity: Can we understand the Bible? (Lesson 10)
  7. Authority: What authority does the Bible have? (Lesson 11)

Understanding these issues will go a long way toward being able to give an answer to those who ask questions concerning our faith.

Fact or Fiction?:

As you may have figures out we are not going to be able to address all of the attitudes toward the Bible in one lesson. Much of this will be spread across the remainder of this series. For this lesson we want to deal with the question, “Is the Bible a good book?” To answer this question we need to look at what the Bible claims for itself. If it claims to be the Word of God but proves itself to be something else then its trustworthiness is in obvious question and it is not a good book. We also have to understand that the Bible is either the Word of God or it is not. If it is then there is nothing we can do to make it the Word of God nor can we prevent it from being the Word of God. We will pound this point in upcoming lessons. To understand the answer to this we need to take a walk down a theological road.

Revelation:

The concept of revelation means the unveiling of what was previously hidden. The question we need to ask is, “Has God revealed Himself?” As we have seen in previous lesion He has made the knowledge of Himself plain to all men (Romans 1:18-20.) This is a necessary condition because if God had not revealed Himself we would have no way of knowing Him. He has done this is two primary ways, General and Specific:

  1. General Revelation: This is general in content and audience. It has been given to everyone and providing basic information which is sufficient to hold everyone accountable before God. This type of revelation is most obviously seen in the universe around us. As we saw in Lesson 2, all of creation points to a designer.
  2. Specific Revelation: This is unique in scope and application. It is directed to a specific people for a specific purpose. We have many examples of this in the Bible: Dreams & Visions, Theophanies (Burning Bush), Angels, Prophets, Miracles, and Scripture itself.

This is how God has made Himself known to us. There are a variety of ways he could have done it and some people enjoy getting caught up in “what if.” The bottom line is this is how He did it. General revelation is sufficient to hold all people accountable to God. It is not, as some people may claim, sufficient to save people from their sins. It takes specific revelation for God to show His complete plan for the redemption of His people. Our main concern is the specific revelation provided via the Bible. This was done through the process of inspiration.

Inspiration:

The means by which god communicates and records His specific revelation is through inspired Scripture. For Scripture to be inspired literally means it is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16.) Basically this means that the words of the Bible are the words of God. It is as much a book from God as if God had simply said, “Let there be a Bible.” Christians believe in the inerrant (without error,) verbal (the very words,) plenary (all the words,) inspiration of Scripture. This is necessary to preserve the revelation of God. It guarantees the accuracy of the revelation. May people are quick to point out that the bible was written by human beings and therefore cannot be from God. They are half right. To say that the Scripture is inspired means that the Holy Spirit “carried along” the human authors of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21) so that the end result was that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. It is shown many times in the Bible that people will quote one of the Biblical authors as the very words of God (Acts 1:16; 4:25; Hebrews 3:7.) How can this be since people wrote it and we know that people are flawed? Do you think the sovereign Lord of the Universe is not capable of drawing a straight line with a crooked stick? Our God is big enough to work through fallen humanity to write the oracles of God. He did this through pain, suffering, and despair (as seen in the Psalms.)

How did this take place? What was the process of inspiration? The truth is we don’t know. God has not chosen to reveal this to us. We know what the bible says about itself and that it is divine in origin through the means of human authors who were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21.) There have been many errant views of the process of inspiration. Here are a few examples so you are aware of them:

  1. Natural Inspiration: No supernatural activity. The writers were men of unusual insight.
  • The Bible says that God is involved in inspiration (2 Peter 1:20-21.)
  1. Partial Inspiration: Some parts are inspired and some are not. The Bible may not be inspired in matters of history.
  • The Bible is a historical book. Real events taking place with real people.
  • How do you determine what is inspired and what is not?
  1. Conceptual Inspiration: Only the concepts or ideas were inspired but the words were not.
  • The Bible affirms verbal inspiration (Matthew 5:18.)
  1. Divine Dictation: God dictated the Bible to the writers.
  • This does not explain the clearly different writing styles.
  1. Neo-Orthodox: The Bible becomes the word of God if/when it points the person to an experiential encounter with Christ.
  • The Bible either is the Word of God or it is not.
  • This view represents an abandonment of objective truth.

Testimony of Christ:

Challenges to the doctrine of inspiration come from within and without the church. For all those who name Christ as Lord it is relevant to note what Jesus had to say about Scripture. If He is Lord of our lives then we should take seriously his view of the Bible. Jesus quoted the Bible (what we call the Old Testament since the New had not been composed yet) as being the very Word of God. In Matthew 15:4, Jesus quotes from the book of Exodus (20:12; 21:17) and attributes what was written by Moses as being the words of God. We see another example of this in Matthew 19:4-5 where he quotes from Genesis. Jesus also saw His life as a fulfillment of Scripture (Luke 24:44) He clearly viewed the words of the Old Testament as being the very words of God in the context of His purpose on this earth. He quoted the Scripture with authority. If Jesus clearly viewed the Scripture as the Word of God then we, as Christians, are not free to ignore the inspiration of Scripture if we claim Him as Lord.

Conclusion:

None of what has been said here will absolutely “prove” that the bible is the word of God to someone who is determined to be a skeptic. We can obviously see that it claims divine authorship for itself. Someone will no doubt accuse us of circular reasoning here. We claim the Bible is the Word of God based on the fact that it claims to be the Word of God. This is an understandable objection. How can we accept this without objective proof that it is what it claims to be? Keep in mind that we accept the Bible as the final authority in our lives and in the church (more on that in Lesson 11.) If I have to go to an outside source to prove authority am I not then making that source the final authority? This is the way it works for absolute authorities. There can be no appeal to an outside source without subjugating the authority to that source. In a similar fashion someone will make reason or logic the final authority because it is reasonable and logical to do so. For the Bible there is evidence we can look to in support of this:

  • Fulfilled prophecy.
  • Consistent message (40 authors and 1500+ years.)
  • Historical accuracy.

None of this is conclusive but it is good evidence. The final evidence to the Word of God has to be the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The power and authority of the Bible primarily rests in how God uses the truth contained within to change hearts and guide lives. The apologist should be saturated in the Word of God and always seeking the wisdom contained within rather than the wisdom that is in this world.

 

God bless.

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