The Bible – Letter Explaining Why I Believe
Thanks for writing back and being honest about where you are at. I find that extremely refreshing. Too often people hide what they really feel because they fear others will look down on them. On the contrary, I am not at all disturbed by where you are at. Your honesty helps me to know how to better address what you are working through. I don’t gasp at your upfrontness at all. I think it is very healthy.
God wants you to be honest with Him about what you are thinking and feeling. After all, He already knows. That is one of the things I love about the bible: it is so honest. You see all these great men of God and pillars of faith struggling and wrestling with it. You see there terrible sin and failures and how God works despite it. You see people wrestle with believing and trusting God and reconciling that with what they see happening around them. Here are a couple of my favorites:
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.” (Psalm 22:1-2)
“I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?” (Psalm 77:1-9)
It’s OK to be honest and tell God that you are having doubts or that you are struggling with having faith.
I hope that I can at least help you some with the points you briefly mentioned in your response. You said that you aren’t convinced that Jesus is the “end all be all” or that the bible is “the truth”. I don’t pretend to think that I can totally persuade you to agree with these points in a single letter. I do hope and pray that I can give you just a little to think about. I pray that I can shed a little more light and wipe the fog away just a little bit so that you might be intrigued to look deeper. Again, I know I am pushing the limits of your attention span here, but even by just skimming the surface of these ideas, this letter is going to be very long. I hope you will give me some additional grace.
I guess the first place to start is the bible. It is fundamental to Christianity that the bible is the inerrant word of God. I can certainly understand why this is an area that you wrestle with. It is a difficult concept that the bible was written both by men and by God. It seems difficult to believe and understand. However, there are many reasons that I hold this view; some of which are theological, some empirical, some historical and some experiential. I’m going to attempt to briefly hit the highlights of each.
1. Theological Reasons
Let me start by explaining my theological reasons for believing the bible is the truth. I think the theological reasons are probably the most important. You have stated a sincere belief in the existence of God (the Father) and the Holy Spirit. If there is really a God that created the universe according to His design and plan, then it follows that He is VERY big and powerful. His power and control is evident in everything that exists. His control is total and He is sovereign over all of it. If He indeed created intelligent life on the earth, it follows that we were created for a purpose. If He has revealed Himself to us (which He has or we would know nothing of Him) then it follows that He desires us to know Him, to have a relationship of some kind with Him. If God created us to know Him it seems obvious that He would provide us a way to know Him.
God has revealed Himself to people throughout the history of mankind on earth. However, without a record of these encounters there would be no way for every individual person to actually know God. Unless He literally appeared in a burning bush to every person in the world and talked with them how could they know Him?
In the bible we have the collected experiences of thousands of people with God throughout history, written down by 40 different authors. Amazingly, despite the many authors, generations, cultures, and styles of writing they come together to form a unified, cohesive body of work that describes God in a very consistent way. How could this happen if people were making up God from their own minds or inventing the stories about Him? For comparison, look at how the ancient Greek and Roman authors describe their gods. From the limited sources we have, you see an extremely varied, inconsistent, maniacal, and flawed picture emerge of what the “gods” were like. The same is true in almost every culture from Chinese to Native Americans. Again, how could the descriptions in the bible be so consistent? How can the themes, focus, ideas, and descriptions of God be so uniform?
I submit to you that the theological answer for this is that God has caused it to happen. We have seen that it follows from creation that God is massively powerful, His control is total, and He desires for us to know Him. It therefore follows that He has both the capability and the desire to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and completeness of the book that describes Him and allows us to understand our relationship with Him. The bible describes this as one of the main roles of the Holy Spirit (in whom you say you believe). The Holy Spirit guides the people of God and helps them to understand God more. This includes guiding those people who wrote the bible and inspiring the very words that were written.
“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16
“Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21
To me it seems odd to believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit (who is God) but to not believe that He has the power to guide the apostles and prophets who wrote the bible. Pardon my bluntness, but that line of thinking strikes me as really neutering God, robbing Him of the power to influence and guide people and events. It really places God in a pretty small box. The crux of my theological reason for believing the bible is that when I look around me at the earth, the beautiful mountains, the sunsets, the vast expanse of space and all the stars and planets, when I look at the human body and how intricately woven together it is and how every part functions in harmony, the delicate balance of chemical reactions, electrical signals, and all the living organisms that are brought together to form us, when I see fetus in the womb grow from an embryo to a baby, I can’t but stand in awe and realize that no, it is I who have in fact pictured God too small. He is so clearly more powerful, intelligent, loving, and sovereign that I can fathom. I believe this is why the bible says:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them [us]. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew Him as God, they did not honor Him as God but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools . . . they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the creator, who is blessed forever, Amen!” ~ Romans 1:19-22, 25
2. Empirical Reasons
The second reason I believe the scriptures are indeed the words of God are what I would call empirical reasons. This is the supporting evidence that clearly validates or supports the truth claim of the bible. One example is the authenticity of the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments. Many people prior to 1947 said that the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament) were not historically accurate or validated. There have been many that have claimed Christians wrote it up after Jesus came and added the prophecies that He fulfilled and made sure the themes and points were unified. This has never been a very good argument, but it was completely destroyed in 1947 with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a collection of ancient manuscripts what were buried in a cave along the Dead Sea. In mason jars were contained over 900 documents, almost the entirety of the Old Testament, including all the relevant prophecies to the Messiah. The scrolls were dated to 150 years before Jesus was born. These scrolls completely validate the reality and accuracy of the Old Testament and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prophecies that point towards Jesus as the Messiah were written down generations before He came. If you want to know more about the DSS, you can read more on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_scrolls)
But what about the New Testament? After all, we can’t be sure the bible we have today is based of accurate manuscripts, right? That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the New Testament is the most completely and thoroughly documented ancient manuscript in the world. For comparison, there are no surviving original manuscripts of Shakespeare (which was written in the 1600’s)! There are only 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad (the most renowned book of Ancient Greece). There are 7 original manuscripts of Plato. There are 5,686 Greek original manuscripts of the New Testament, and more are being found all the time. These many copies are VERY consistent and make the New Testament the most supported and cross-checked book to ever be written.
Additionally, many of the manuscripts can be dated to within 100 years of the events they describe. That is unheard of in ancient texts. For comparison, the first history of Caesar was written down 1000 years after his life. Aristotle, 1400 years, Plato 1200 years, and Homer 500 years. In fact, all of the New Testament (except eleven minor verses) can be reconstructed outside the Bible from the writings of the early church leaders in the second and third centuries AD. Renowned Bible scholar F.F. Bruce declares:
“There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”
Ravi K. Zacharias in his book, “Can Man Live Without God?” says:
“In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.”
With the great body of manuscript evidence, it can be proved, beyond a doubt, that the New Testament says exactly the same things today as it originally did nearly 2,000 years ago. If you’re interested in this you can read more here (http://www.carm.org/manuscript-evidence)
Additionally, another piece of empirical evidence is what has been learned from archeology. There has never been a single archeological excavation that has uncovered evidence that refutes the history recoded in the bible. However, there has been so much evidence that has surfaced that supports things that are only recoded in the bible and no where else. This is really a fascinating subject. If you like this kind of thing (and I do) I’d encourage you to research more on it. I could give you some resources. I don’t have the time or space (and probably your attention span) to go into a lot of examples here. But I will give one.
When I was a freshman in college, I was taking a world history class (general education requirement) my professor was teaching about the city of Jericho. She said that they had recently realized there was another level to the city (underneath) and had just completed an excavation. She said, “For those of you who read the bible you will find it interesting that they have located massive walls around the city. The other interesting thing is that the walls appeared to collapse outward, away from the city. There currently isn’t a theory about why the walls would topple outward instead of inward or just crumble.” My professor was in no way a Christian. She was very vocal about that point. She was just being honest and reporting the archeological facts . . . that completely align with the biblical account from Joshua. More on the archeological excavation of Jericho can be found here (http://www.christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a011.html)
Here is a very short list of archeological finds that reinforce what is written in the bible:
Herod’s temple Jerusalem Lk 1:9
Herod’s winter palace Jericho Mt 2:4
Early synagogue Capernaum Mk 1:21
Pool of Siloam Jerusalem Jn 9:7
Pool of Bethesda Jerusalem Jn 5:2
Pilate inscription Caesarea Lk 3:1
Remains of crucified man Jerusalem Lk 23:33
Peter’s house Capernaum Mt 8:14
Jacob’s well Nablus Jn 4:5-6
There are so many more. You can look in these two places for more evidence.
I find it very interesting that the bible alone has withstood the scrutiny of archeological investigation while none of the other religions documents can claim the same. For example, the book of Mormon makes wild claims that there was a race of white men in North America that had an extremely advanced society. The Mormon Church has spent millions funding excavations to uncover any evidence of this civilization and has totally failed. Recent excavation of early Muslim mosques from about 670 AD shows that prayer was not towards Mecca as the modern Quran text states. This is verified by written accounts of that day as well.
Probably the biggest and most amazing piece of empirical evidence for the truth of the bible is the tremendous amount of fulfilled prophecy. The evidence here is simply overwhelming. These prophecies were made hundreds of years before Jesus was born. This is documented fact as proved by the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Jewish Scriptures pre-date Christianity by over 800-1000 years. There are over 300 individual, separate, and specific prophecies of the Messiah in the Jewish scriptures that Jesus Christ fulfilled. Do you realize how significant, how compelling this evidence is?
Peter Stoner was the Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953, and Chairman of the Science Division of Westmont College from 1953 to 1957. Stoner calculated the probability of one man fulfilling only 8 Messianic prophecies was one in 1017. He further calculated the odds of one person fulfilling just 48 of the over 300 prophecies was one chance in 10157! It’s ludicrous.
The fulfillments were witnessed by countless people and are some of the most well documented events in all of recorded history. Many of these events are recorded, not only by followers of Jesus Christ, but also by Roman and Jewish officials and historians. Here are just a few of them. I don’t have time to go into each relevant scripture and show where it is fulfilled, but I encourage you to look them up in the bible. You will be amazed.
The day Jesus entered Jerusalem and was hailed as “King” was predicted down to the very day! (Predicted in Daniel 9:25 and fulfilled in John 12:1, 12-13)
- That the Messiah would be born from a virgin (Predicted in Isaiah 7:14 and fulfilled in Matt 1:22-24)
- The small village of Bethlehem was prophesied as the birthplace of the Messiah. This is amazing, especially when you consider the events that had to take place for this to occur since Jesus’ family was from Nazareth (100 miles from Bethlehem). It is also said elsewhere in the Jewish scriptures that the Messiah would be from Nazareth and that he would “come out of Egypt” (Predicted in Isaiah 7:14, Judges 13:5, Amos 2:11, Lam. 4:7, Hosea 11:1and fulfilled in Matt 2:1-2)
- That Jesus came to the downtrodden and brokenhearted. He would heal and perform miraculous signs. (Predicted in Isaiah 35:5-6, and Isaiah 61:1-2 and fulfilled in Luke 4:18-19)
- That He Would Be Rejected By His Fellow Jews (Predicted in Isaiah 8:14, Isaiah 53:3, and Psalms 118:22 and fulfilled in Luke 4:18-19)
- The Jewish scriptures predict that Jesus would be betrayed by a close friend. They also name the exact price paid for this betrayal. (Predicted in Psalms 41:9, Psalms 55:12-13, and Zach 11:12-13 and fulfilled in Matt 27:3-10)
- That the Messiah would be killed. (Predicted in Daniel 9:26, Isaiah 53:3-6, and Zach 12:10 and fulfilled in John 19)
- That the Messiah would be killed before the destruction of the temple. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 AD, only 37 years after Christ’s death. (Predicted in Daniel 9:26 and fulfilled in John 19)
- How the Messiah would be killed (hundreds of years before the execution method of crucifixion was even invented). (Predicted graphically and accurately in Isaiah 53:3-6, Zach 12:10, Psalms 69:21, Psalms 22:14-18, and Psalms 34:10 and fulfilled in Matt 27:35-43 and John 19)
- That the Messiah would die without changing the political environment (Daniel 9:26)
- That He would be found innocent and yet killed with no decedents (Isaiah 53:8 and fulfilled in John 19)
I could literally go on all day with this. I won’t, I promise. But, there is so much more compelling prophecy in the bible. For a deeper look at these prophecies check out the page I wrote on my web site “Evidence You Can’t Ignore” or check out all 300 messianic prophecies here (http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/messiah.htm). And, those are just the ones that deal directly with Jesus as the messiah. Beyond that there are hundreds of other fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament.
The final piece of empirical evidence that I’ll briefly mention is scientific knowledge that is contained in the bible. The bible is not a “science book”. That isn’t its purpose. Its purpose is to reveal God to us and help us understand His plan to restore our relationship with Him. However, it does contain many “clues” that indicate the supernatural source of the words. This can been seen in wisdom and scientific knowledge that was not understood or known by the people at the time the words were written down. Here are just a few examples.
|What the Bible Said
(2,000-3,000 years ago)
|What Science Said Then||What Science Has Learned|
|The earth is a sphere (Isaiah 40:22).||The earth is a flat disk.||The earth is a sphere.|
|There are innumerable stars (Jer 33:22).||Only about 1,100 stars.||Innumerable stars.|
|Earth floats in space (Job 26:7).||Earth rested on a large animal.||Earth suspended in space.|
|Everything comprised of invisible elements (Heb 11:13).||Science had no explanation for this subject.||Everything made of invisible elements (atoms).|
|Each star is different (1 Cor 15:41).||All stars were the same.||Each star is very unique.|
|Light moves (Job 38:19-20).||Light was fixed in place.||Light moves.|
|Air has weight (Job 28:25).||Air was considered weightless.||Air has mass and weight.|
|Winds blow in cyclones (Ecc 1:6).||Winds only blew straight.||Winds frequently blow in cyclones.|
|Blood is the source of life and health (Lev 17:11).||Sick people should be bled to cure them.||Blood source of life and health.|
|Ocean floors contain deep valleys and mountains (2 Sam 22:16, Jonah 2:6).||The ocean floor was flat.||Ocean floor contains deep valleys and mountains.|
|Ocean contains springs of water (Job 38:16).||Ocean fed solely by rivers and rain.||Ocean contains springs.|
|When dealing with disease, hands should be washed in running water (Lev 15:13).||Hands were clean if washed in still water.||When dealing with disease, hands should be washed in running water.|
Here are a few more of many that I could list:
- Medical science has only recently discovered that blood-clotting in a newborn reaches its peak on the eighth day, then drops. The Bible consistently says that a baby must be circumcised on the eighth day following birth.
- Science has discovered that stars emit radio waves, which are received on earth as a high pitch. God mentioned this in Job 38:7.
- Most cosmologists agree that the Genesis account of creation, in imagining an initial void, may be “uncannily close to the truth” (Time, Dec. 1976).
- Dinosaurs are mentioned and described in the bible (Job 40:15–24). They were not discovered by science until 1822.
- Grant R. Jeffery said in “The Signature of God” that, “During the devastating Black Death of the fourteenth century, patients who were sick or dead were kept in the same rooms as the rest of the family. People often wondered why the disease was affecting so many people at one time. They attributed these epidemics to ‘bad air’ or ‘evil spirits.’ However, careful attention to the medical commands of God as revealed in Leviticus would have saved untold millions of lives. Arturo Castiglione wrote about the overwhelming importance of this biblical medical law: ‘The laws against leprosy in Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of sanitary legislation’ (A History of Medicine).”
There is no other book in any of the world’s religions (Vedas, Bhagavad-Gita, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc.) that contains scientific truth. In fact, they contain statements that are clearly unscientific. As Hank Hanegraaff said, “Faith in Christ is not some blind leap into a dark chasm, but a faith based on established evidence.”
3. Historical Reasons
The third reason I believe the bible is the word of God is the historical evidence that backs up thee stories, statements, and events it describes. One place this can be seen is by looking to non-biblical historical accounts of the time that Jesus Christ lived. There is not a ton of historical material written about what happened in Israel during the life of Christ (other than the bible). However, the few sources that have survived certainly back up what the bible says. Two such examples are Josephus and Tacitus. These were both contemporary historians to Jesus and neither one was a Christian or had any vested interest in falsifying the events around Jesus.
Josephus was a first century Jewish historian who wrote about the events that occurred during his lifetime and particularly about the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. He was a Jew both nationally and religiously and didn’t believe the teachings of Jesus. Josephus is particularly relevant to get a non-biased account of the life of Jesus. He doesn’t write much about Him, but what he does right is extremely important:
“Now there was at this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, — a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets has foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.”
Every time I read this account it makes a shiver run up my spine. There you have a non-biblical historian faithfully recoding the events of his day and he just casually mentions, “oh yeah, there was this guy named Jesus who performed tons of miracles, won over a ton of people to his cause, was crucified on a cross by Pilate, and rose again on the third day, just like the prophets said he would.” He even calls him the messiah (the Christ). He questions whether he was really a man or not. This is nothing short of complete confirmation of the gospels.
Historically, no one doubted that Jesus Christ existed, performed miracles and died on a cross. The Jews who had Him killed believed this. So did the Romans. In Jesus’ day, everyone knew he was something special. Even His enemies could not deny the fact that He performed the miracles. The only difference between His enemies and His follower was to whom they attributed His power. The Jews believed He obtained His power from Satan. The Romans thought He was a powerful magician. Jesus and His followers claimed the power came from the Holy Spirit.
But maybe Josephus was just a closet Christian. After all he was a Jew. Are there any non-Jewish accounts of Jesus? Yes. The Roman historian, Tacitus, mentions the origins of Christianity while describing how the emperor, Nero, blamed them for the fire that burned Rome. Tacitus was also writing shortly after the death of Jesus.
“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”
This account describes the hatred towards Christians and persecution they underwent. Which is a good segue into my next historical reason for believing the bible, the testimony of eye-witnesses.
Earlier, I showed how the evidence shows that the New Testament we have today accurately depicts what was actually written by the disciples and eye-witnesses. But how do we know they didn’t just make it all up? What about the liar, liar, pants on fire theory? After all, didn’t they become famous, powerful, and respected people because of their wild claims? Hardly. In fact all of Jesus’ disciples were killed for what they claimed. It was so unpopular in the Jewish religious and Roman controlled world that it got them whipped, beaten, stoned, thrown in prison, executed, boiled alive, and even crucified. Yeah, sign me up. These were the eye-witnesses to these events. It is clear they firmly believed them to be true and even worth dying for. One is only willing to die for something they really believe is true. Devout radical Muslims are willing to die for Allah because they earnestly believe it to be true. You can be sincere and also be wrong. However, these men walked and lived with Jesus. They were there at His crucifixion and saw Him resurrected. They have no motive to claim these things even to death if they weren’t true. This theory just doesn’t tack.
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” ~ 2 Peter 1:16
It is interesting that the founders of other religions received great status and power from their claims. Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism) was attempting to set himself up as a mini King and was running for president of the United States when he was killed. Mohammad became a powerful in influential military leader and died while on a military campaign.
Additionally, the disciples were claiming these things during the lifetime of people who remember what happened. Jesus’ ministry didn’t occur in a vacuum. Everyone knew about it and saw it (as attested to by Josephus). Christianity wouldn’t have been able to spread so much in Jerusalem if it didn’t track with what people had seen and experienced. If the disciples were making the story up, it would have been easy to refute. All it would take is to ask one of the purported eye-witnesses to the resurrected Jesus (many of which were listed in the bible by name) and he’d tell you, “Those guys are full of it, I never saw that!”
If I tired to start a rumor today that there was this guy in my city who had risen from the dead, no one would listen because there are no witnesses to it. It would be easy to refute my wild story. They’d call me a lunatic and that’d be that. Also, if someone held a gun to my head and asked me if I still believed it, I’d back down because a lie isn’t really worth dying for. Any possible gain I could get out of the lie would be over when the trigger was pulled.
At the end of Jesus’ life history records that there were 120 people who were avid followers of Him, who claimed He had risen from the dead, and they had seen Him. In one day this expanded to 3000 as the church exploded in the city of Jerusalem, the city that had seen His miracles and watched His death. This just couldn’t happen if there was no truth to it.
This leads to another historical reason to believe. I call it the cause-effect reason. The effect of Christianity is massive and obvious to see. It is by far the largest religion in the world and changed the course of human history. The birth of Jesus literally split time in two; BC (before Christ and AD (Anno Domini, Latin for in the year of our Lord). Within 300 years of the death of Jesus, Christianity had spread to the point where it became the “official religion” of Rome (the known world). The point here is that this massive effect must have a cause. If Jesus didn’t do something pretty amazing then He wouldn’t have been able to have the enormous effect He had.
One unique thing about Christianity is that the claims around Jesus’ ministry are public claims, public events (feeding 5000 people, raising Lazarus from the dead, healing people, being crucified, raising from the dead and appearing to hundreds of people, etc.). The claims that other religions are based off of (like Islam, Buddhism, and Mormonism) are private events and revelations. They are based on things God supposedly revealed to “prophets” privately. My point is that the effect of thousands of people believing the claims about what Jesus did publically wouldn’t have been possible if he didn’t actually DO them publically. If I was a really persuasive speaker maybe I could persuade some people that God told me something new. But, if I started saying that last week there was a man in downtown Seattle healing hundreds of people and that he fed the whole city with a sack lunch, no one would believe it because it would be so easy to refute.
4. Experiential Reasons
The fourth and final reason to that I believe the bible is the Word of God is for me the most personal and possibly for you, the least relevant; that is, my personal experiences with it. These are reasons based on my own experiences and things that have affected me from the bible. While they may not be persuasive to you (since they can be discounted as just my experience), they, nevertheless, are a large part of why I believe and so I wanted to mention them here.
I have found the bible to be completely reliable. Time and time again, I have chosen to trust the words written there and they have proven to be faithful. God has indeed kept all of His promises towards me (also my family and all those I know who trust Him) that are contained in His word. I have seen such wisdom there on those pages. The truths there have proven to me to be wiser than any person I have ever known (and I’ve know some very wise people). For me the words of God have proved to be like an old, well-worn in chair. I trust that when I sit in it, it will support my weight. Why? Because I have sat in it thousands of times before and it has always done so. I have “sat” on the promises of the bible through some of the most difficult and darkest times of my life. God has never let me down, and neither has His word.
Another personal or experiential reason I believe is the honesty of the bible. Like you, I have completely read the bible numerous times. I still continue to be amazed by what an honest book it is. It doesn’t pull any punches or make what happened look rosy. It just tells it like it is, warts and all. To me this shows it was inspired by God because no one would record those things about their own people, nation, and especially themselves. “Great men and women of the faith” are described as they really were; flawed humans who stumble badly, sin horribly, and have no hope of redeeming themselves apart from the work of God.
Other religions speak of their prophets and founders as examples of how you too can earn your way to be right with God. They say, “You must do this and be like me in order to please God”. The bible is much more honest than that. The message in the bible is you can’t get it right. No matter how hard you try you’re still going to fall short of becoming “good enough” to be right in God’s eyes. You think you’re good enough? Look at these great men of faith, even they couldn’t do it. You need God to step in and pay for this sin, to fix you’re heart so that you will want to love Him and have the ability to carry it out. The picture in the bible is that it is God who makes the action to redeem us, to bring us back to Him because only He is powerful and holy enough to do it. This just strikes a “truth” cord in my heart. It aligns with my own struggles of not being able to do the things I want to do and know I should do. The Apostle Paul describes this struggle like this:
“The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. . . I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ Romans 7:14-25
If I was going to make up a religion and convince a lot of people to follow me the last thing I’d make up is that people are all sinners and they can’t do anything to earn their way to God. There are two huge problems with that statement. One is that it is massively unpopular. No one wants to be told they suck. It would be a heck of a lot easier if your message was that you’re basically a good person and that you just need to search deep within yourself to find your inner strength (insert Scientology, new age, pantheism, Oprah, Deepak Chopra, etc). It’s an uphill battle when you are basically telling people that every part of their being is tainted by sin so they can no longer do anything that is truly pure or good, apart from the work of God to change them.
The second part of that statement that is a huge problem is I’d never make up a religion that is anti-religion. That’s right, Christianity is anti-religion. I talk a lot about this on my page called “Why Christianity is NOT a Religion”. Basically, the bible says the Jesus came to pay our debt for us and die in our place. We don’t go to heaven because of anything WE do. Instead, it is because of what Jesus has already done. Therefore, it isn’t about what I do or what a good person I am. The control of religion is removed.
If I was making up a religion, so that I could become powerful and exercise authority, the last thing I’d want to tell people is that I have no authority (it all belongs to Christ) and that it isn’t about people’s behavior. Religion is all about controlling behavior. Christianity is all about freedom from the law.
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. . . For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. . . What is important is faith expressing itself in love. . . For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.” ~ Galatians 5:1, 4-6, 13a
Religion puts people in bondage, slavery to lists of rules and the control of others. The message of the bible is that through Jesus Christ we are free from slavery to the control of rules and others. Again, not exactly a recipe for power. Now, people have certainly abused the bible to gain power, but that is NOT the message of the bible, nor is it what those who first spread it taught.
Another reason that has personally supported my faith in the validity of the bible is some of the details that get reported. For example, I think it is telling that the first people to discover that Jesus had risen and wasn’t in the tomb were women. Today that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was huge in the culture of the time. Women had no rights at all. This is the same culture today in the Middle East. Women can’t drive, go to school. It was so extreme then that women couldn’t testify in court. There testimony was considered worthless. The fact that the gospels tell us that women were the first to see Jesus alive should not be ignored. If the disciples really made this up why would they pick the most unreliable and irrelevant witnesses in their culture?
Another minor detail that personally is telling to me is that even Jesus’ own family believed in Him. His mother and His brothers were among the loyal followers after His death and resurrection. In fact, the book of James was written about Jesus by His brother James. One of His other brothers wrote the book of Jude. The reason that is important to me is that if Jesus isn’t who He claimed to be, if He didn’t live a sinless life, if He had any skeletons in the closet, His own family would know better than anybody. If I tried to start a movement and claimed that I was the perfect Son of God the LAST people to believe me would be my parents and sisters because they know better. My mom may love me but she is under no delusions that I’m perfect. My two sisters would literally laugh at the very idea.
But Jesus’ family not only believed Him, but shared in the suffering that was to follow for it. James became one of the key Elders of the church in Jerusalem. This church underwent tremendous persecutions to the point that all its followers scattered except the elders (Acts 8:1-2). This historian Josephus records that Jesus’ brother James was executed by Herod in AD 66.
Well, there you have it. Those are a good portion of the reasons I believe the bible is literally the inspired word of God. There are certainly others, but I know this letter is too long and I’m probably boring you to tears. I hope that it at least gives you some things to think about and consider. I should reemphasize that I believe the theological reason that I mentioned at the beginning of this letter is the most important. God has revealed Himself to me as a loving God who desires to have a relationship with us. Indeed He has redeemed me so that I can, and do, have a close, personal, and genuine relationship with Him. His Word is the primary method that He uses to help people know who He is, what He is like, and what He has done.
(Letter continued in next post: “Jesus – Letter Explaining Why I believe”)