One question that many Christians fear to be asked is “Why do you believe the Bible is God’s Word?” There could not be a more important question for believers today as more people are becoming skeptical of the Bible. This is article is provided to help you understand why you can absolutely trust the Bible. We will look at what the Scripture say about the matter and look at how some of the greatest theological minds have helped the church to think faithfully about this issue. But first we must take time to look at how we come to know anything is true. Then we will examine how we know the Bible is true.
People believe a large variety of things for all kinds of reasons, some are very erroneous. We believe the sky is blue. We believe that we have two parents. We believe that the square area of the US is 3.79 million miles. But not everything we believe turns out to be true. So which beliefs are reliable? What is the justification of our beliefs?
If we can’t justify a belief it is merely arbitrary and cannot be considered true knowledge. Merely having a belief is not the same as knowing something is true, even if by coincidence you are right. Let’s say I believed that there are over a 10 billion red dwarf stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and lets say by coincidence it happens to be true, even though I have no proof. My believing it didn’t mean that I knew it. Believing is not the same as knowing.
Knowledge requires that you have a sound justification to authorize believing. For example, the authority we have for believing sugar is sweet is firsthand sensory experience. The authority for believing we have two parents is generally accepted scientific necessity, even though no one ever studied every single birth in human history. What justifies believing the US is 3.79 million square miles? It can be found from sources that are generally considered to be reliable. What generally passes for authorization are direct experience, scientific observation or expert testimony.
All three of these justifications ultimately rely on human observation. But this begs a prior question that few people ask. What authorizes you to believe that your beliefs, based on experience, science or expert testimony, are justified? What is the authority of that particular authority? If someone says, “I only believe what I can see touch, taste and feel,” the next question should be, “on what basis are you authorized to rely on that authority?”
Of course, there is the obvious problem of the profound limits and gross fallibility of human observation. But the truth is “observation” never really is anybodies true, final authority. Why? Can anyone observe that observation is the final authority? Where can one go to see that? It is not something that can be observed even with the best microscope or strongest telescope. So when some one says their final authority is observation then they are either trying to deceive you or are themselves deceived.
It is very important to help people come to grips with and justify their real final authority. A final authority is the last place to which one can appeal. You cannot appeal to something more ultimate. If someone does, it would cease to be their ultimate authority.
Everyone has a final authority, but not everyone has the right one. When you finally run down the string of reasons back to the very beginning it ultimately comes down to people trusting in their own ability to independently determine what is true. Their beliefs are made up of an amalgamation of their own life experiences, reasoning and feelings, plus the influence of trusted authorities like parents, teachers, authors, mentors, etc. This kind of independent, autonomous reasoning is exactly what Satan used to tempt Eve. “You will be as gods knowing…”
THE BASIS FOR KNOWING THE BIBLE IS TRUE
In the Bible we read some very interesting words. “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” (Hebrews 6:13) There is no higher authority to which God can appeal, so in his dealing with man He invokes His own faithful and true character as the basis for man’s confidence.
You would not expect God to say to believe the Bible is the Word of God because some great theologian says so, or even some great group of theologians or church says so. That would mean the ultimate authority for the Bible would reside in a man. But, the Bible is objectively the Word of God even if no man affirms it as such. By necessity all Truth comes from God and is derived from Him and apart from Him there is no truth. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” (Psalm 89:14)
All rival claims to God’s ultimate authority have to be challenged because they all are ultimately false. Man’s observations are at best limited and very often wrong. Man’s science is constantly changing and correcting itself. “Experts” can usually be found on opposite sides of any issue.
Some might say arguing from the Bible to prove the Bible is illegitimate circular reasoning. But this is what every other competing worldview does. Man must begin his reasoning from some place. Logic demands that this ultimate authority must be a self-authenticating source. Christians start with Almighty God and His self-authenticating Word. Everyone else starts with fallible, finite man and his reasoning. So the question remains, “Are you justified in your starting place?”
Only God is justified in his own truthfulness. Even on the basis of observation only God has observed all things because he is eternal and has created and caused all things.
The Apostle Paul systematically lays out the case that all men are guilty before God because all men have sinned. They have violated God’s law revealed in nature, in their conscience and written by Moses. But, sinful man objects. Man presumptuously puts himself in the place of the judge and puts God on trial. How did Paul respond to the unbelievers’ objection against God? What does Paul say when man turns to put God on trial? “Let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You [God] may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged." (Romans 3:4)
Not even “good men” or even your favorite TV minister is to be the basis of your confidence in God’s Word. Nor should we believe the Bible is true based on the testimony of any church or any church council. That would make the church lord over God and His Word. But God’s self-authenticating Word is the measure of the all things, including the church and its ministers. God will judge the church and all people according to his unchanging moral standard revealed in the Bible.
Here is how some very wise men have articulated it.
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chap. 1, para. IV)
The whole authority for believing is to be found in God alone. Not partially from God plus other evidence, testimonies or arguments from manmade sources. The Bible is its own divine, self-authentication.
Today in France there is a platinum bar held at the International Bureau of Weights and Measure called the standard meter. It makes sense that there has to be a standard for all the other measures. How do you know the standard meter is a meter long? It is a meter long by definition. It is the standard that judges every other meter. Therefore, the standard meter is self-authorizing.
Likewise God’s Word is by definition self-authorizing. Jesus unequivocally commanded his followers to believe and obey his Word merely on the authority of His speaking it. This would be the height of presumption unless he can self-authorize his message. Because Jesus is divine He has the absolute right to demand our faith and obedience.
That offends the sensibilities of proud, autonomous man that says, “I am my own final authority and a law unto myself.” The Bible calls for complete, unconditional surrender to its authority. The offense of the Bible is that it does not come as just one more human opinion you can take or leave with no consequences. Rather it comes as the authoritative Word of God and demands that your every thought be subject and obedient to it. The grave consequences for rejecting biblical authority are both temporal and eternal. So, the Bible is to be believed because it claims to be and is the Word of God.
PURSUADED BY GOD
Why do Christians affirm the Bible and others don’t? Why are they persuaded and others aren’t? Jesus explained it this way, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
Christians hear the voice of God in the Bible because we are His flock. But our belief does not make the Bible the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God even if no one believes it, just as God is God even if no one believes in Him.
But just because God has all authority over his creation means there ought to be some kinds of evidence of that authority. We would also expect God’s Word to be unique among human literature. But our being induced or persuaded by the evidence does not make God’s Word binding, it is binding independent of our subjective response.
But there are in fact abundant proofs the Bible is the Word of God. There is the testimony of the God’s people over the centuries. Internally the Bible speaks of heavenly and spiritual realities in a manner that you would you would expect from God. The power of the teachings of the Bible has enlightened and liberated whole nations and convicted and converted even the most wicked of sinners, transforming them in to godly saints.
When you read the Bible it is written with a majesty and authority that comports with God’s authority as the Lord of His creation. Even though it was written over 1,800 years by over 40 different authors on the three different continents in three different languages, the message of the Bible has an internal agreement. The purpose of the Bible is evident through out, which is to give all glory to God in the redemption of His people and by His victory over His enemies.
Not surprisingly we find the revelation of the only way of man's salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But there are many other incomparable excellencies, like the hundreds of fulfilled predictive prophecies. Like God himself, we find in the Bible God’s perfection in its infallibility and inerrancy.
It is expected that God’s Word would be a wondrous book. But, even with an abundance of irrefutable evidence it will be still be disputed and dismissed by the unbeliever. For example, the Jews of His day asked Jesus for a sign. Jesus replied by saying that the only sign that he would give them was the sign of Jonah, referring to his resurrection on the third day. Even though the Jews heard from eyewitnesses, many who died for their testimony, that Jesus was raised, they did not repent and believe.
In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Jesus concludes the parable with this statement. “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) Even if we could present Jesus physically alive today to skeptics they would find a way to dismiss it. They might say we simply don’t understand science well enough. Eventually we will figure out how Jesus was naturally resuscitated. All the evidence in the world is not enough to persuade a sinful heart.
So where does the real persuasion come from? While man ought to believe the Bible based on its own authority and because of its internal and external proofs, yet it is God the Holy Spirit who must convince us to believe the Bible. Only He can change our stubborn unbelieving mind so we might believe. “[O]ur full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of the Bible], is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts." (W.C.F. Chapter 1. Para. V)
The Word and Spirit work together to convince us. The Spirit does not add authority to the Bible, rather it is the work of the Spirit that causes us to stop resisting God’s Word. It is not surprisingly the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word of God written works with that same Word in the life of the believer, convincing him of the authority and truth of that Word.
But Christianity is not merely pure subjectivism, a blind leap into the dark. It is a leap into the arms of our loving Heavenly Father who has graciously revealed Himself by His Spirit by His objective covenant promises. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) God graciously causes us to hear and believe His Word based on the authority of His own nature as the fountain of Truth. Jesus affirmed that every tiny jot and tittle of God’s Word is true and He promises to send the Spirit of Truth to convict us of the truth of His Word.
FOR EXTRA CREDIT
There is one more very profound proof that the Bible is true. It is the impossibility of the contrary. The claim of biblical authority is not just a bare claim, but it is supported by the truthfulness of what it teaches, both internally in its system of doctrines, and externally in the world in which we live.
One way that you can prove the Bible is true is because without it you can’t prove anything else. This is true whether the competing worldview is atheistic or some other rival religious system. Only a biblical worldview can account for reality because this is God’s world.
Without the Bible’s teachings you can’t prove anything to be true. You are left with either false, demonic gods or with matter and motion or time and chance signifying nothing. Apart from the biblical doctrine of creation you cannot account for science or logic. Everything is reduced to meaningless chaos. When you deny the truth of God’s Word you are left with utter foolishness, not just partial truth. There is only one sound starting point. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
But other religions claim they have revelations from God, too. But can they stand up to scrutiny? We can compare what the Bible says against the Koran or the Book of Mormon. We can look at their worldviews and all that they claim, including their authority claims, based on the reliability of Mohammed and Joseph Smith as opposed to Jesus Christ. You will find that their “revelations” contradict what the Bible teaches, even though both systems say they believe the Bible. But the Bible says that all prophecies have to be tested by its conformity to previous revelation. (Dt.13:1-5, 18:20) In this respect both the Koran and the Book of Mormon have glaring defects and practices that do not comport with the Bible and a Christian Worldview.
You can have the highest degree of confidence in the Bible as the Word of God. Why? Our eyes have been opened to its Truth by the grace of God by the Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done on the cross and by His Resurrection. God the Holy Spirit confirms the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, self-authorizing Word. God the Son told us that every detail is completely accurate and the scriptures, which all bear witness to Him, cannot be broken. If you reject the Bible you end up reducing your life to utter foolishness now and eternal contempt and perdition in the next.
May God grant us the boldness to never be ashamed or apologize for believing His Word. It is the power of God unto salvation and light unto the path of all who believe. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20)
2 Peter 1:19-21: And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
1 John 5:9: If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.
1 Thessalonians 2:13: For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.