Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is the Bible Really the Word of God Part 2

The website Got Questions.Org is our starting point for part 2. Their article is entitled: Is the Bible truly God's Word?

Answer: Our answer to this question will not only determine how we view the Bible and its importance to our lives, but also it will ultimately have an eternal impact on us. If the Bible is truly God’s Word, then we should cherish it, study it, obey it, and fully trust it. If the Bible is the Word of God, then to dismiss it is to dismiss God Himself.

As you can see the article begins with an all or nothing response. That is if it is the word of God, to dismiss it is to dismiss God. But what if it was not the word of God but contained some words of God and some words of men and some teachings about history or then current events and peoples ideas about God? In other words in some aspects inspired by God such as leading people to Christ and salvation and some great ideas about dealing with people that God inspired someone to write. A useful book that God helped people put together for them to learn from in various ways. Could God not inspire such a book? Could not such a book be inspired and yet not be the Word of God? After all God really did not write it, may not have inspired all writings included in it and the book is the product of human beings?

It is interesting to see the polls on the subject. In 2007 Gallup polled on the subject:

About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word. This percentage is slightly lower than several decades ago. The majority of those Americans who don't believe that the Bible is literally true believe that it is the inspired word of God but that not everything it in should be taken literally. About one in five Americans believe the Bible is an ancient book of "fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man."

Most Americans believe in the inspiration of the Bible but not that it is the word of God, this is in spite of the long tradition of people calling it the word of God. They are still able to see past the logical fallacy of calling something the word of God when that something makes no such claims for itself, either in individual books nor of course as a combined whole. Since people had to seek out the books and through a process of church acceptance decide which books they thought belonged for use by Christians it is understandable that that assemblage of books could not make the claim to be the word of God. Which kind of explains why tradition does what logic could not do.
As we look at the list of external in internal evidence that the God site gives the first question to ask is do their evidences point to inspiration or to the Bible being the word of God. How would you tell the difference? We already know the answer from the very first paragraph that God uses. They won’t even consider the belief that the majority of Americans hold. Let’s look at a few examples:

One of the first internal evidences that the Bible is truly God’s Word is seen in its unity. Even though it is really sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years, by more than 40 authors who came from many walks of life, the Bible remains one unified book from beginning to end without contradiction. This unity is unique from all other books and is evidence of the divine origin of the words which God moved men to record.

Well unity maybe a little flimsy considering that people did put the compilation together. Jews compiled the Old Testament and Christians adding the New Testament. We won’t talk about the apocrypha, once accepted by Protestants and now mainly accepted by Roman Catholics. But you can see the problem of claiming unity of something that was made by selecting the books that people thought assisted their religion the best. Of course there actually are contradictions and really who can say that Ecclesiastes really agrees with the teachings of the New Testament.

That one does not work to well for being the word of God but it does work for inspiration. Because people can really pick out inspirational ideas and compile them and even when the ideas are totally different such as Ecclesiastes inspiration can be comprehended as God dealing with people where they were and stimulating ideas to create growth in understanding. It could even be termed inspiration that when we read about those people we learn what they thought about things.

We will quickly go over the next one:

Another of the internal evidences that indicates the Bible is truly God’s Word is the prophecies contained within its pages…

Again the prophecies were given to men so they speak of inspiration not the word of God, though certainly a prophet could at times actually record the words God used or the words they attributed to God. But again that does not make the entire document the word of God.

A third internal evidence of the divine origin of the Bible is its unique authority and power. While this evidence is more subjective than the first two, it is no less a powerful testimony of the divine origin of the Bible. The Bible’s authority is unlike any other book ever written.

This one does not count; the authority comes from the belief of the people involved, it is not really any kind of evidence.

There are also external evidences that indicate the Bible is truly the Word of God. One is the historicity of the Bible. Because the Bible details historical events, its truthfulness and accuracy are subject to verification like any other historical document.

How this applies to making the Bible the word of God I am not sure. That it records history is true, maybe not all the history is accurate, but a recording of history does not necessarily indicate either inspiration or being the word of God. Current events quickly become history and common knowledge can record history hundred of years after the fact or 5 years after the fact. It does not require divine inspiration for this one.

Another external evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word is the integrity of its human authors. As mentioned earlier, God used men from many walks of life to record His words. In studying the lives of these men, we find them to be honest and sincere. The fact that they were willing to die often excruciating deaths for what they believed testifies that these ordinary yet honest men truly believed God had spoken to them.

This one actually only speaks to inspiration, not at all to being the word of God as it refers to the people who were inspired to write some things. Inspiration of course is a wide subject; something can be a very important piece of inspirational thought at a particular time and generations latter be little more than a footnote to history. A story can be inspiration to hearers even if it is not literally true. And inspiration can be found in the writers as well as the hearers where ever in time they may be.

A final external evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word is the indestructibility of the Bible. Because of its importance and its claim to be the very Word of God, the Bible has suffered more vicious attacks and attempts to destroy it than any other book in history.

Again that would not necessarily be the case, even if the book and all its components were not the word of God it is possible for God to prevent its destruction. I am also not so sure that it has had more vicious attacks as there were certain Gnostic books which we now only read about in the writings of the Christian apologists writing against the Gnostic books. So some books were viciously and successfully wiped out. Some of those were only discovered in the 1800’s as what is termed the Nag Hammadi library, but still some are likely gone forever. In fact in the ancient world where everything was hand written it appears a lot of books were lost with the destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. It may seem kind of funny but in some respects the preservation of the Bible may well be tied to the empire of Rome when they made Christianity a state religion. What some people may think as the worst thing to happen to Christianity may have been one of the methods God used to preserve the Bible.

After all the evidence is looked at we arrive back where we started. Some will look at the Bible as the word of God because that is what they choose to believe and some see the inspiration in the book but do not feel it is appropriate to call it the word of God. Rather they look for God’s revelation in the book and like any book we have to weigh the statements against reality, both history and science and cultural knowledge help us to understand more about God and ourselves and that after all is really what inspiration is all about. Because God is really able to draw us closer to Himself as we seek to understand what He is like, what love is like and what we as people are like.

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