A challenge to "Why should I believe the Bible?"

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: I understand you are associated with Got Questions Ministries. I read their article Why should I believe the Bible? They say that when a Bible verse states something that is factually true (like that Jerusalem exists), then all Bible verses are true as well. So, since Jerusalem is real, then we should believe that Moses’ staff turned into a live snake and that a donkey conversed like a man. But men do not do things like walk on water or get superhuman strength by growing their hair — or more importantly —  dead men do not crawl out of graves.

What archeological find has ever supported any of those assertions? Yet that article says, “When it is put to the test, the Bible is proved true in every area.” Yet the important stuff to them — like claims of the supernatural events, miracles and eternal reward or punishment cannot be tested. This is why I can’t believe that the Bible gives an accurate representation of reality.

Finally, the article states that “it is important not to let circular reasoning become the justification for believing the Bible” … but in the next paragraph, it says, “The internal evidence of Scripture’s veracity provides many compelling arguments for why one should believe the Bible.” Isn’t that circular reasoning?

Answer: Greetings friend. Thank you for touching down with us at Mainsail Ministries. I see that we have some demographics in common — and let me say right up front that I appreciate the care you took in reading this article. I wish everyone would do the same… because I’m the same way! But unlike you, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible is indeed God’s word, so I’m glad for this chance to address your concerns.

Let me begin with your challenge that archeology has failed the Bible. That’s just not true. Archeology overwhelmingly supports the Bible. So, take a lesson from the Hittites (see Why Should I Believe the Bible, paragraph 7). It’s a bad idea to count the Bible out before all the digging is done. (Click here for an additional perspective.)

Now, archaeology can’t prove miracles — this, by definition — and no one is arguing for that in this article. It’s telling us to take a look at the Bible as a whole and compare it to historical and scientific data because no truth contradicts the Scripture… although things people thought were true often do… like the prevailing scientific thought that the universe had no beginning. But now, science understands that it did have a beginning... and this is the Bible’s first stated fact.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NIV)

So, love it or hate it, this has stood as God’s statement of truth for about 3300 years. But starting with Aristotle, “science” started to push the idea that the universe had no beginning — that it was itself eternal — and for about 2400 years — and as recently as the 1960s! — this was a growing consensus.

But today, even the most secular scientist understands that the universe had a beginning. “Big Bang” cosmology demands it. So, science has ceded that a sufficiently powerful and transcendent entity caused the universe… and that’s pretty much a definition of the Judeo-Christian God… along with a description of his work in creation.

What we have, then, is the Bible being vindicated after millennia of brow-beating by the scientific establishment. The problem here is that individual people do not have millennia to wait for more data and then decide about God. Each of us is responsible for the light of our time. But the more we discover the universe, the more that light seems to be shining on God. This reflects favorably upon his word, of course, and it makes one wonder what other dated “truths” are due for a biblical smackdown.

Also, we realize that miracles and metaphysical realities cannot be examined with tools designed to examine the physical creation… so we will never be able to “prove” anything about these to a materialist atheist’s (reductionist’s) satisfaction. But we Christians don’t ask them to be satisfied — and why should we! Metaphysical realities manifestly exist — we have data! It’s just not the kind of data that fits the physicalist’s anti-metaphysical philosophy. That’s not a threat to the Bible, and it’s not a threat to my Christian worldview.

What data? Take morality, for instance. It is ubiquitous. Morality exists around the world and it has existed throughout time. But morality demands altruism, and altruism works against the Darwinian (physicalist, materialist, etc.) paradigm. So, what data do I have that proves morality exists throughout the world?

Prisons! Prisons are everywhere in the world… yet prisons would be absurd in the absence of the behavioral standards that are based on human morality. This is a characteristic of humanity that the Bible predicts… and I’ll remind you that the ability to predict future conditions is a hallmark of a good theory.

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)” (Romans 2:14–15, NIV)

In general terms, a Christian worldview makes the best sense of the physical creation, the nature of human beings, world literature, metaphysical realities (like the persistence of human self-awareness and morality) and metaphysical predictions (like the existence of spiritual realms, God’s eternal justice and the necessity of a new creation).

You can probably tell that I fear no data— past, present… or that which comes over the transom. But this is because the Bible fears no data. God has my back, so to speak… and my front… and my sides….

So, if we can trust archaeology… just not always its interpreters… and if we can trust science… just not always its keepers, who can we trust? This is the place I should say, God! But I don’t think you can pull that off until you first trust yourself. You demand truth from us… but how about from yourself? Are you doing your own thinking here, or are you just restating someone else’s ideas?

With that in view, would you do me the courtesy of reading Mainsail Ministries’ An Alternative to Death? This article starts outside of the Bible, and it explains the most critical components of the Christian worldview. Whether or not you believe them, understanding them will help you understand a Christian’s assumptions…. which will give you a glimpse inside the Christian worldview… which might be a refreshing change from a reductionist point of view. (Click here to go to that article.)

As to circular reasoning, the fact that Got Questions’ article gives a warning about it means that they know the Bible’s witness to itself can be seen as circular. But one of its best features is its congruency… and they are “selling” here. So, although these internal self-verifications are circular, they are important to people who use the Bible — so they cannot be absent. However, they have built a cumulative case for the Bible’s veracity, not just an internal one. As such, I do not agree that this article as a whole commits a logical fallacy.

As to the miracles, you don’t like them… and I get that. Materialists tend not to. But how about the Bible’s poetry or its histories… like the Psalms, the Hittites or the historical Jesus? I know of no credible scholars who dismiss the Bible out of hand as a literary or historical source.

Now, I am not saying that everyone who uses the Bible believes it to be God’s authoritative word as I do. But as ancient literature, it is Mount Everest! … and other documents are mere molehills by comparison. Whether or not you believe the Book, the Book changed the Western world… and objective commentators have to deal with that.

There are many extra-biblical corroborations of Jesus, and I have dealt with these in another question. If you’d like to eavesdrop, click here.

Concerning your comment “Dead men do not crawl out of their graves,” I agree with you on two points. First, sans a miracle like that of Lazarus, they don’t! Second, Jesus’ resurrection did not involve any crawling. It was — and definitively so — a victorious event… although I realize that you were likely just saying that as a way of speaking. I just can’t let it go unchallenged.

Discussions about the historical Jesus — and particularly about Jesus’ resurrection — are too involved for me to address after (what seems to be) an offhand remark. But I’ll give you links to two credentialed experts in the field: William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas. These are YouTube links… so you can take a break from all this reading.

William Lane Craig:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8lkuuhVkOI

Gary Habermas:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M

In closing, I believe in God and in the veracity of his Scripture. But I do so because these beliefs make the most sense of all the data — both the empirical and the metaphysical. God tells us that we should examine the creation — and that even without Scripture we can learn enough about him to understand his power and his eternal nature (Romans 1:18-20) — and I’m definitely there… but I’m not alone.

For this reason, I think it is both reasonable and congruent to postulate that a God who exists on that level created us human beings with a capacity for learning and for faith and that these two human characteristics are not mutually exclusive under the Christian worldview. They are, in fact — and necessarily so — inclusive.

We Christians do not hang up our brains at the cross — just our sins — so consider joining us.

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)