We’re in a series called ‘The Christian Dilemma’ where each week we’re looking at one (and there are many) issues that people have with Christianity. God has opened some wonderful doors for me in regards to walking with people who are still ‘in process’ when it comes to their faith. The unchurched, the alienated, and the seeking. And I’m so grateful for that. And because of that, I end up being exposed to the issues people have with Christianity in a way some Christian ministers aren’t.
We talked last week about the fact that Faith is under tremendous scrutiny right now. Important for us to be able to think about and even articulate our faith in an intelligent way. And so today, we’re going to talk for a few minutes on the Bible.
The Objection: Literalism
The Objection: There’s some good stuff in the Bible, but you shouldn’t take it literally. The bible also contains legends, and fantastic stories that cannot be real. The end result is a book that is historically unreliable and regressive.
What do we say to that? I would like to argue, to the contrary of course, that the Bible is in fact trustworthy.
And I hate to be a disappointment to the nerds out there, but I’m NOT talking about is inerrancy, and infallibility. I personally find those to be insider debates, that I’d be happy to talk about at some point. But for this series, I want to make a much more basic point. And that’s this: the Bible is a trustworthy source of information.
I like to ask you two questions
- Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?
How do I know the Bible is the word of God? Because the Bible says so! (Well-known Evangelist)
Now, if you’ve been following God for a long time, that might sound pretty good to you. But I need to tell you, that to an outsider this is a horribly unconvincing position. And I can prove it to you. Are you ready?
Slide: This slide is the word of God. Give all your money to David now.
Now why don’t you believe THAT’S the word? It says it’s God’s word. So I would say that almost certainly, there are more reasons for why you believe the Bible is God’s word, than just ‘Because it says so’.
The Bible is not the only thing that claims to be the word of God. In fact, here’s 10 ‘Holy Books’ that all claim to be the Word of God:
- The Bible
- The Qur’an
- The Vedas (Hinduism)
- Bahá’í scriptures
- The Urantia Book
- Yazidi scriptures
- Zoroastrian scriptures
- Raelian scriptures
- Tenrikyo scriptures
- Manichaeist scriptures
I ended up going a different direction than I was expecting when I studies for this message. Because I didn’t want it to just be us dissecting the origins of the Bible for a super long time. So instead I have 5 steps, that are the steps I’ve taken to get to the place where I consider the Bible trustworthy.
I believe it’s very important for a Christian to have a high view of scripture. If for no other reason that if we didn’t have scripture, none of us would know Jesus. You might be thinking ‘That’s not true! We don’t need the bible. Nature declares the glory of the Lord. Yeah that’s true. And thanks to nature, you might understand that there is some God of the universe in some broad way, but to understand specifically that a man named Jesus, who was the son of God, came down and died a brutal death on the cross to save us all. If you believe that, it’s because of the Bible.
We don’t worship the Bible, that would be idolatry. We worship Jesus, and the Bible is one of the primary means through which we see Jesus, so that’s why it’s so important for the Christian.
1. The Gospels are historically valuable.
Not talking about inspired by God, or God’s word, just historically valuable. Effectively everyone, all pastors, all professors, all historians, all agree that the Gospels (and by that I mean the first 4 books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are first century documents. – Some would argue for more MID first century, others would argue LATE first century, but effectively no one debates that the gospels are first century documents. They are.
And in historical terms, that’s incredibly close to the events they describe. That is helpful of course, because it reduces the risk of stories getting inflated over a few hundred years. Think of the telephone game you would play as a kid. Where the phrase would start out with “I love Elvis” or something and by the end it has something to do with pizza. But also, there’s a lot more accountability when you’re writing about current events as opposed to ancient events.
So for example, let’s say someone came out and said ‘Plato never existed’. Well they would get a lot of criticism for that, but it’s kind of difficult to “PROVE” that it’s untrue. Now let’s say someone writes and says “Donald Trump never existed.” They would be a laughing stock. It’s much more difficult to deceive someone when they’ve personally experienced it.
I could tell you that the grand canyon is a huge government conspiracy and doesn’t actually exist, and you may or may not believe me. But if you’ve personally BEEN to the grand canyon, it’s much harder to deceive you.
Jesus became very well known and influential. So if people were writing all kinds of made up stories, all the people who went through those experiences would come and discredit them. That didn’t happen. With the Bible, we see even in the first century, that people gave their lives to follow the miracle working Jesus that was recorded in these 4 books.
Contrast that with the earliest writings of the Buddha, that come about 500 years after his historical time on earth. That’s kind of a long time to say super specific stuff that he did. “And then he winked.” – 500 years ago?! You’re gonna remember a wink from 500 years ago?!
Another reason the gospels are historically valuable is because they document who is probably the most influential person in the history of the world. The leader of the most influential movement in the history of the world. So even if you just want to understand the world, and understand why things are the way they are, these documents are incredibly valuable.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, (Luke 1:1)
just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. (Luke 1:2)
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, (Luke 1:3)
so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:4)
In the first century, writing was an incredibly expensive thing to do. It’s not like now where anyone can just get a blog for free and spew whatever nonsense they want.
So a community or sometimes someone of wealth, in this case, theopolis, would sponsor the project. But this was a very expensive thing to do. So the people paying lots of money to sponsor the writing of these historical documents would NOT have tolerated made-up stories.
The Gospels are valuable because they document the most influential man in the history of the world. And they were written in a precise way very soon after the events took place, by people who were motivated to get the facts right.
2. Jesus is trustworthy.
This is the next step. – To learn about Jesus, to be impacted by Jesus, and to find Jesus trustworthy. And to let him become your teacher.
So here we’re not worried about whether or not the Bible is the word of God, any of that. We just recognize that the gospels are historically valuable, and so we read and learn about Jesus, and even in that small move, Jesus is compelling us.
3. Jesus validates the Hebrew Bible’s divine origin.
I hope this isn’t confusing for you. When I say the ‘Hebrew Bible’ I mean the Bible they would have had at this time in history. Which is essentially what you know as the Old Testament.
Jesus recognizes the Hebrew Bible as scripture. As the Word of God. Jesus does. I’ll be perfectly honest, if it wasn’t for that, the Old Testament would be really hard for me. I would feel like a lot of it is fable. – A huge fish swallows a man who hangs out in the fish stomach for literal days and then is vomited out onto the beach and survives. – How stupid. A huge Flood, yeah right.
In fact, there’s an early church movement called ‘Marcionism’ where effectively – You believe in Jesus and all he taught, but you reject the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. And in a sense, it sounds pretty good. As long as you don’t think about it. Here’s the problem: Jesus recognizes the Hebrew Bible as scripture. As the Word of God. Jesus does.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)
“The Law & Prophets.” – What’s he talking about? The Hebrew Bible
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
This is not the talk of someone who finds scripture untrustworthy.
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Matthew 19:3)
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Matthew 19:4)
and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:5)
Haven’t you read that before? Genesis 1. So here Jesus is basing his opinion about divorce on something he read in Genesis 1.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, (John 5:39)
yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:40)
Jesus here acknowledges the Hebrew Bible as Scripture and says that the scriptures talk about him.
While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? (Mark 12:35)
David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ (Mark 12:36)
That’s amazing. Jesus quotes Psalm 110 and says that David was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he wrote it.
Obvious implication: If you follow Jesus, you need to take the Bible as seriously as he did.
Right? He’s the model for how you are to live. Not always easy.
Collection/Library Writen over at least 1500 years, by lots of different people with different attitudes, ideas, starting points,
With that comes a long journey to rightly understand the bible. So I’m not saying “If you want to follow Jesus, you have to have this super fundamentalist view of the bible. No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying: If you find Jesus trustworthy, you have to take the Bible seriously – because he did.
4. Jesus promises God’s spirit will inspire his disciples.
It makes sense to me that if Jesus really is showing us a new way to be human. That he’s wanting his message to not just die after one generation, that he would have a plan on how to get that information out. – And writing, at this point in time was the primary means to make this happen. – And so it makes sense that Jesus would think through HOW he’s going to get his message out cleanly. So picture Jesus sitting the apostles down before he’s going to leave and the writing projects will begin. He sits them down and says this:
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is going to help them remember what he said. Jesus said that was going to happen.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. (John 16:12)
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. (John 16:14)
All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:15)
Same thing. The spirit not only is going to help the disciples remember what they saw, he’s going to show them MORE about Jesus.
5. The early church validates the New Testament writings.
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. (2 Peter 3:15)
He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)
Interesting. Here you have Peter talking about Pauls writing and says “They distort Paul’s writings as they do the other scriptures.” – So here Peter is calling Pauls writings scripture.
In fact that’s some of the criteria that the Catholic Church used in the 300’s when they decided to put all the scripture in one book instead of always searching for this scroll or that scroll. They’re switching from a scroll system, and a codex system, that’s to say book form, they had to decide what was in and what was out.
They had 3 criteria:
That’s not to say that it had to be in support of the institution of church, catholicity means ‘universality’. Essentially it’s: Did the early church receive these as scripture?
Were they first century documents? There’s other accounts of Jesus that come later. Which could have worked great for the Bible. The Gospel of Thomas for example. Which is cool in that it shows Jesus as the all-powerful light. It was very validating to the Christian faith. But the looked at it and said ‘Sorry, it came out in the 2nd century, and that’s too late.’
Which is is to say they were theologically correct in what they taught. And for all of the books in your New Testament, the answer to those questions is yes.
(Prepare – Communion)
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. (2 Peter 1:20)
For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
So if you have the core 5 beliefs about the Bible, you would look to scriptures like this and not say “Ah-ha! Proof!!!” – No, you wouldn’t do that, but you would look to a scripture like that and say ‘Amen. I believe that.’
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17)
Challenge – Spend a few minutes this week reading the teachings of Jesus. And then ask yourself this question: “Do I believe that Jesus is trustworthy?” – And if the answer turns out to be yes, then let Jesus teach you how to handle scripture.
As pass – Spend a minute asking yourself: “What has the final say when I’m deciding what’s true?” I’m sure many of you would say ‘Jesus.’ – But is that really true? Maybe for you what has the final say is actually your own personal experience. Perhaps your own moral compass. Maybe it’s your own logic.
(Invitation) / (Pray)
Remember death / Proclaim resurrection / Await return