What is the Bible? The Bible is God’s written communication. God has given information to many writers; in a variety of ways, over periods of time, to tell us what we need to know that otherwise could not be known. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Having recognized that these writings were given by God, God’s people collected them and put them into what we know as The Old and New Testaments. Basically, the Bible tells us that God created the world; that His creation became corrupted by evil, and that God cares about us and intends to restore all things through Jesus Christ. He tells us that we can become a new creation in Christ and re-establish good relationships with God, and with each other; that the world will end, and that God will eliminate all evil by creating a new universe for His people to enjoy forevermore. Persecuted people have longed to have a copy of this book; people have died to preserve it, others have discovered that it answers their deepest questions about life’s meaning and purpose. It has helped many to overcome their life’s problems.
Can the Bible be trusted as absolute truth? I have faced my own doubts and skepticism, have come to a conclusion, and will share what I have come to know and believe about the Bible, and why. This is an important issue for me because life has very few certainties that serve as an anchor for the soul. The winds and storms of life can twist us around until we are not certain who we are, or what life is about, or where we should be headed. Things go wrong, deceptions and confusions can easily sway our minds. We need a compass we can count on to always guide us in the right direction. I know there are lots of self-help books and well-meaning professional people and friends with their advice and counsel. They can give us encouragement and some helpful words when we are hurting. But, most of all, we need a reality that can provide us with solid ground to stand on, and a true knowledge that everything will ultimately be all right. The Bible tells us that it is better to trust God than to trust the kind of human wisdom that lacks godly input. (Psalm 118:8; Jeremiah 17:5, 7) At some point we must decide whether or not we will accept the Bible as our anchor to reality. After all, if the Bible is God speaking, there really is no greater authority that can truly guide us right.
I accept what the Bible says about itself. God has spoken. Holy men wrote as they were inspired by God’s Spirit to write and they wrote what God wanted them to say. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) When Paul says to Timothy that the Bible was inspired, he is saying that it was God-breathed; meaning that what God wanted said is what the authors were influenced by the Holy Spirit to write. Even though the Bible was written by human personalities with their own styles of writing, it is not like any other human book. The Bible claims to be God’s word. The authors of the Old Testament are saying their words have come from God. (Jeremiah 23:1; 25:1) Moses says he received his information from God (Deuteronomy 6:1), as did many other prophets. On nearly every page of the Old Testament we find the words, “God said…”, or “the word of the Lord came…”. (1 Samuel 3:10-11; 2 Samuel 12:1; Ezra 1:1; Isaiah 7:3-4; Ezekiel 6:1-3; Amos 3:1; Haggai 2:20; etc.) Concerning New Testament writings, Jesus promised that the apostles would have the Holy Spirit to remind them of His words. (John 14:25-26) He also promised that the Spirit of God would guide them into all truth. (John 16:13) When the author of John’s gospel tells us the reason for his writing (John 20:31), can it not be concluded that what he writes was the work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said would come to His apostles? Concerning Paul’s letters, it is an interesting comment Peter makes, that he considers them on the same plane as the rest of the Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16) Because the Bible is God-ordained, He tells us that no one should add or take away from its content. (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19; Proverbs 30:5-6)
There are other religious writings that claim to have come from God, for example, Islam has the Koran, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the Book or Mormon. What are we to think of these, and others? God gave His people three ways to test whether or not a message is from God. (1) If the message defines God differently from the way God has revealed Himself in the Bible, even if there are miraculous signs accompanying the message, it is to be seen as false and not to be followed. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5) (2) When the message contains predictions about things that are going to happen, those events must happen. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) (3) Miracles are a part of what God provides to verify His words as true. (Exodus 4:1-9; John 2:18-22; Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:3-4) If other writings claim to be from God, but lack these three verifying tests, we should be suspicious of accepting them as from God. A fourth can be added: If any other writing presents a gospel different from the one proclaimed by Paul, that word is to be rejected. (Galatians 1:6-9)
How the writing of the Bible was accomplished is a mystery. Many years ago, while visiting a person, I found out that he was into spirit-writing. He heard from spirits and wrote what their voices said to him. By being with the person and talking to him at great length, I became convinced that this was demonic-driven. One thing this experience showed me was that it is possible for a person to write down information through the influence of supernatural beings. Regarding the Bible, people have haggled over the issue of whether the writers wrote word for word what God dictated; or whether God somehow revealed truth to them, but let them express it in their own words. Truly, in our use of language, statements can be made in a variety of ways without losing the meaning. People have also argued over whether every word written in the Bible was factually accurate, or not, and if not, is God’s truth is still present. Is it necessary to have to explain exactly how the Bible was written in order to believe that God did it and that it is His intended truth for all to know? I have concluded for myself that the Bible is factually accurate. I sometimes think, “Why would God go to all the trouble of having His book written and then not preserve its accuracy for future generations”? I have made the decision to trust the Bible as God’s word and to rely on it as the guide for my daily living and future well-being. I do have questions about some things I read in the Bible. Some are answered and some are not answered. I keep those unanswered questions in the back of my mind, thinking that one day the answers may come, but these unanswered questions do not keep me from believing. I remember something that Mark Twain supposedly said, “It’s not the things in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the things I do understand.” I don’t need to understand everything before I can benefit from its message of salvation and practice its teachings for right living.
Following are some of the facts that have helped me work through my doubts and questions so as to come to accept, without hesitation, that the Bible is God’s word of truth?
(1) I am convinced that the Bible, as copied over time, was accurately passed on to us. I met a man on a plane who said he did not believe the Bible because, being full of copying errors, it had been changed over time and is not the Bible that was originally written. But, is the Bible full of errors? When theologians say that the Bible is inerrant they mean that in the original writings there were no errors. However, we no longer possess the originals, only hand-written copies. And, it is true that thousands of errors have been made in copying the Bible. This is what causes some to question whether the Bible handed down from the originals is accurate, or whether the Bible has been changed so that we no longer have the Bible as it was originally written. There is a field of study which has the sole purpose to determine, from the thousands of hand-copied New Testament documents that are available, what the originals had said. I learned from reading the results of these studies that most discrepancies (99%) are accounted for as simple fixable errors, such as spelling mistakes or omitted words. Other copying errors, less than 1%, may be more difficult to decipher, and although some scholars would claim these alter a few Biblical teachings, actual evidence seems to indicate that none of them affects any major truth of Scripture. This is because, if one text is questionable, the teaching still appears clearly in another text. I no longer question whether or not we have an accurately preserved text.
(2) I believe the Bible is God’s word because of its fulfilled prophecies. How are these to be explained if there is not a God who has foreknowledge, a plan, and power to make His words happen as He says they will? Many religious books have made future predictions, but only the Bible has a perfect track record. One example of Bible prophecy: hundreds of years before Christ’s birth it was prophesied that He would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6)
(3) I believe the Bible is God’s word because Jesus believed it. (Luke 24:44-45; Matthew 12:38-41) His quotes of the Bible were made with the understanding that it was God’s word and was to be believed and lived. Jesus referred to David as speaking by the Spirit. (Matthew 22:43; 2 Samuel 23:2) If we know that Jesus came from God (John 8:43), and was Himself God, (John 1:1-2) and spoke the words of God (John 8:28), then there is good reason to accept what He said about the Scriptures being God’s word.
(4) I believe the Bible is God’s word because I have seen that it is an accurate description of the way people in the world really are, including me. And for people who do what it says, it produces the saving results it claims. Many people, by reading and obeying the gospel, have experienced a new and changed life. The word of God has the power residing in its words to change people. (Romans 1:16) “My word shall not return to me void”, God said. (Isa.55:11) “We are born again by the word of God”, says Peter. (1 Peter 1:23) Believing the Bible has turned my life around, and the lives of countless others. The Bible’s promise of a new birth is a miracle of God; His power at work. Those who have experienced this miracle know that they have genuinely come alive in Christ, and they see it in others. (1 John 5:12)
(5) It helps to confirm God’s word as true when archaeological discoveries have often verified the Bible’s factual content by showing that people and places named in the Bible really existed in history. Bible critics have, at times, said something in the Bible could not be true, only to have an archaeological discovery prove that they were wrong. The Smithsonian Institute, I am told, approves the Bible as a valid guide to possible archaeological dig sites.
Following are some problem issues I wrestled with in order to keep faith in the Bible. In the five listed below, I include a question or two, that when answered with available facts, point toward solutions that helped me.
(1) Ethical issues can be a problem. These issues can bother people, or tempt them to be turned off and not want to believe in God or the Bible. For example, sensitive persons may ask, “How can a loving God command His people to go to war and kill men, women, and children?” Or, “How can a loving God permit evil to keep going?” It seems like God lets innocent people die, and lets evil people thrive. This can be very difficult to accept. Abraham dealt with the issue of God destroying innocent people. (Genesis 18:20-33) Habakkuk dealt with the issue of God allowing the wicked to get away with evil. (Habakkuk 1:13) Actually, God does not promote injustice, and certain Bible passages help us to know that He has good and valid reasons for what He does. (For example, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-9) Doesn’t the judge of all the earth do right in all He does? If God is good, loving, and just; can we trust that He is not committing wrong in any of His actions? Is it possible that we may not be able to understand His goodness, love, and justice due to our limited views?
(2) There are problems raised by form critics, those who say that the Gospels do not really contain Jesus’ words and deeds, but only what the church people wanted to say to promote their own purposes. In other words, the Biblical writers made up what they wanted people to believe. But, why can’t the Gospels be first-hand accounts, accurately passed down by honest eye witnesses? (1 John 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:16) Why can’t God’s Holy Spirit make sure his words and deeds were remembered and recorded? (John 14:26) Indeed, these are strong probabilities.
(3) Many point to what they see as contradictions or inaccuracies in the Bible. For example, if the Bible is true, why don’t the gospel writers agree on their facts? One way they differ is the number of women who went to the tomb and how many angels were at the tomb during the resurrection event. (Matthew 28:1; John 20:1; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4) Could not each writer have his own purpose for writing which did not necessitate sharing the same facts? Or, it may be that all of the facts were not available to them? Perhaps it would be quite possible to explain discrepancies if all the facts in the case were known. I was told the story of a person who received a report that a friend was hit by a car and rushed to the hospital. Another report he received was that his friend was hit by a bus. It seemed contradictory until the true facts became known. He was first hit by a car and as the ambulance was rushing him to the hospital, they were hit by a bus. Both reports were true. Books have been written that identify hundreds of supposed contradictions in the Bible, and they give plausible answers that make sense. I am not suggesting that every explanation is the correct answer, but the point is that there are reasonable explanations that could remove these supposed problems. Persons can choose not to believe by making these issues to be an insurmountable problem, but often they are not willing to hear any explanations, or discuss solutions. Some people don’t want to believe, are not open to consider other ideas, and will use any reason not to believe.
(4) Some claim that miracles are not possible. Miracles, it is believed, were primitive ways for uniformed people to explain life’s mysteries. Today we know that modern science and the philosophy of naturalism can explain all events in the universe scientifically and naturally. There is no need to use “other worldly” explanations. But why can’t the universe be open to Divine intervention instead of being closed to Divine intervening possibilities?
(5) Some say no one can really claim that the Bible’s truths are the same for everyone because everyone reads the Bible according to their own subjective views and interpretations. But why can’t there be one interpretation intended by the author of Scripture so that if we set aside, as much as possible, our own ideas, and objectively seek to understand the message intended, we are more likely to see it? After all, if I write a letter to someone, I don’t intend that those who read it can take it to mean whatever their minds imagine. Total agreement between people may never be reached, but should we not give proper effort to trying to learn what God intends? There are rules used for any literature that help us interpret the Bible.
These and other problems can stand in the way of accepting the Bible as God’s word to us. Having read, and thought through many of these issues; I have decided that the Bible is trustworthy and that I will build my life on its teachings. I would hate to be on the wrong side if it proved to be true in the end. Also, I realize that believing the Bible is not what makes it true. Belief isn’t what makes things true, but real things are true whether we believe them or not. By my believing the Bible’s message of salvation, and as a result, practising its truths as best I can, I am expecting that there will be great reward, both in this age, and in the age to come. This is based on the promises of God’s book. (Proverbs 13:13)
I use the Bible in a variety of ways. By reading, I get an overall sense of who God is, and I am giving God an opportunity to say to me what He wants. (Colossians 4:16) We need reminders to keep us on the path. (2 Peter 3:1-2) By studying, I learn more of its truth about living life. (Ezra 7:10; Timothy 2:15) I use the Bible as a counsellor to learn who God says I am, and to give me direction for right living. (Psalm 73:23-24) I use the Bible for comfort and encouragement when I am hurting. (Psalm 119:50, 82) By meditating, I get deeper insights and I am able to draw intellectually and emotionally closer to God. I rely on God to speak to me about my life so I can become better; and, for wisdom so I am helped to make good daily choices. (Psalm 119:97-100) I also teach, so that others, including myself, can perhaps have a better understanding of what the Bible says and means. (James 3:1; Hebrews 5:12; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4)
I do not use the Bible to come across as one who knows more than others. Nor do I use it to unquestionably support my personal biases instead of trying to be open to what the text is really saying. I try not to use it, as cults do, to control people by manipulating them through guilt or fear. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to speak to each person’s life and needs.
Others have made the following point, and I like it. The Bible needs to be seen as a true and ongoing story. The Bible invites us to enter into its story, become part of it, and experience its amazing adventures.