In this last of a series on Credibility, I dare to tackle the big one – the credibility of the Bible, claimed by Christians of course to be “God’s Word”. I first state my conclusions that, yes it is.
I then back off from preaching and discuss the processes that I’ve found to be important in assessing this question, as always viewing things into the Christian world-view and sharing real-life experiences.
Let’s go for it!
It is my belief that the Bible is the Word of God – a book directly authored by the Creator and uniquely divinely imparted through some 40 [yes I’m acutely aware, fallible] human being authors into 66 books over many hundreds of years.
I’ve found that it has integrity and credibility far in excess of every other alternative explanation for our existence that I’ve examined, from the Moonies, through multiple Eastern religions (including my past direct personal involvement with Hare Krishna), many sects of the Christian denominations, Judaism, Islam, humanism, pantheism, atheism [if that actually exists], a whole bunch of dreamers, wackos and the many multiple strands of New Age doctrine and thought.
It’s not that everything else is rubbish or that it doesn’t contain aspects of truth but that nothing else I’ve studied is the WHOLE truth. It also doesn’t mean that I know everything either, but my belief is based on Credibility not full knowledge. More on that in a minute.
That now said, here’s some of the things that I have found to bring Credibility into the question of the Bible.
Accepting the fact that the Bible is the truth puts all other matters, bar-none, into logical context. Nothing else makes coherent sense to me than the simple biblical world-view. Summarised it is this:
Good created good. Man messed up. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who enables us to reinstate a relationship with the Creator [Father]. Good things happen now [and ahead] for those that can humble themselves and accept this all – bad for those that don’t.
Before even accepting any validity [right or wrong], this is a pretty simple message, one that even children can grasp. It’s not a matter of doing anything; saying anything or getting up-tight about anything.
Shrink it down even further and it can be put into one name that will silence a room in a second or start a war on a dime:
It’s so simple that even a child can understand it [more on this in a minute]. It’s so simple that one can hear the message inside a few seconds then recognise it as fact or reject it outright. According to the Good Book itself, many people around Jesus had this very simple encounter . . . and found themselves having to establish for themselves quick-smart if He was or He wasn’t the Son of God.
His claim of exclusivity was extraordinarily divisive, but essentially quite simple. It has been said before that He was either the Son of God or a madman. What else could or would He say if that was the truth? But for me an exclusive lien on the truth must contain 100% truth or it simply doesn’t cut the mustard.
Because Christ DOES claim to be the Way, the Life and the Truth, we have to accept the simple message of Christ or not – it is actually a binary decision. I’ve found that simplicity to be compelling and mesmerising in itself – for me simple logic always beats high emotion and ego-driven nonsense.
Personal experience is an important part of establishing credibility for us all. If I’ve seen something myself personally that shows the deceptions in the mainstream media [which I first did in my teens]; or if I’ve seen the way that the law protects some but not others and is therefore not ‘just’ [which again I learned early on in life] or if I’ve seen things in person from leaders who are out to use and abuse others [yes, that too!], then these experiences are important factors to help reinforce the credibility of matters under investigation.
As an active truth-seeker from an early age, I sought truth in a variety of religions and beliefs, mostly Eastern before having an encounter in which a seed of biblical faith was planted inside of me – a seed that has remained immovable for more than three and a half decades. This salvation experience in which either my eyes were opened or I was ‘zapped’ depending on how you look at it, can never be undone. It was as real as anything else I have experienced. What I do with that experience thereafter though is my choice. I can or could have reject the experience of course and go my own way but I’ve explored it extensively ever since, BTW.
I had a foster boy (Jordan) for a few years who had an experience as a seven year old along these lines. He was clearly touched in my home and surroundings by something of my faith in the Bible (the Lord) and confessed his faith in Christ. [ I actually wasn’t present at the time but I knew what was happening].
According to him the presence of God was very real, and his evangelistic zeal for something that meant a lot to him (becoming a Christian) reflected in an encounter later which he relayed to me. He asked a younger cousin (a pre-schooler) whether he wanted to go to Heaven or Hell. He had to explain that one was the good place and the other was the bad place of course. They prayed (this is a seven year-old praying for the salvation of a four year old a hundred miles away from me BTW) and the four year-old wanted to know what it was that ‘touched’ him when he prayed a seven-year old’s version of the sinner’s prayer. Clearly something had happened. That the Gospel of Christ can be understood and enacted upon by children is pretty basic stuff.
There are two children whose lives will never be the same again, for better or worse, there were in their lives real experiences.
A word of warning though: I’ve noted that other experiences can distort credibility for many of my Mormon friends report having experiences that endorse their faith in the Book of Mormon and the LDS church. They are unaware of the history of their church and the LDS active suppression of their church history, particularly circumstances surrounding their founder Joseph Smith. From my experience, Mormon Think is pretty much an oxymoron unless it comes in the form of a website that exposes the frauds perpetuated in the name of religion. There are many others that do the same thing – putting spiritual, religious, mystic, cultural, tradition, social or financial experiences over logic.
While an experience taken outside of solid logical thinking and based on facts, does not in itself make something credible because of the deception factor, it is something that cannot be ignored or automatically belittled. I believe we need to engage BOTH head and heart. It is a pet hate of mine to observe well-meaning Christians who ‘get saved’ and then promptly turn their brain off!
Conflict and Context
One of the ways to determine credibility is to pass up on studying the actual message just for the moment and look at the context in which conflict occurs. I always analyse the attitudes and approaches (the context of belief) of those who are ANTI-Christian or ANTI the Christian message for it gives me a guide to their credibility.
It is rare that I find detractors educated, certainly to the point that they can stand up to my research, knowledge, thinking and logic. I’m DEFINITELY not a theologian but I do have a brain, and ask questions. There are some real thinkers out there that would eat me for breakfast when it comes to theology and whom are educated much more than I could ever be in 100 years, BUT most detractors I know commence conflict with a chip on their shoulder, or incomplete knowledge and generally with a predisposition to refute the claims of Scripture from the outset – even without knowing what the heck the biblical message actually is. Sadly, most haven’t even read the Bible, or if they have they have not done it intelligently or with an open mind!
One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist; nor a scholar, nor even to have read the entire Bible to start to assess its credibility but the basics of an inquiring mind, a humility to face reality when/if one comes upon it and lack of an agenda are generally absent from most detractors. It has been my experience that many of the people whom I meet who do have an inquiring mind, who do genuinely seek the truth actually become Christians, quite often around me.
The bottom line here is that I’ve found the people who have an issue with the credibility of the Bible tend to lack credibility themselves.
Humility – A Prerequisite
Watching people (or even just talking to them) who have already made up their minds that:
- there isn’t a God, or
- if there is a God then it is not the Christian God, or
- if it is the Christian God then He will have to fit into their parameters
can be an interesting exercise.
Putting even just concerns with the message of the Bible into a Christian worldview (without direct conflict) can also be quite revealing. When/if somebody tells me that the reason that they are “Not a Christian” or why they “Don’t believe the Bible” I often ask them, “Why not?”
Answers can be for a whole raft of reasons but I get the distinct impression that even if I gave a reasonable explanation that this would still not help them “come down” and deal with the rub of the matter, that they will need to humble themselves somewhat before being able to deal with their issues in conflict with the message of the Bible.
Hurt, pain or fear are biggies that surface all the time. Sometime this is over health issues, sometimes death of loved ones, quite often it is past negative experiences with a dominating religious entity (the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for in this regard), parental failure or weaknesses is a big cause as well.
Credibility can increase remarkably although often subtly when core issues are addressed biblically and lovingly. If someone has had a rough time with a Catholic upbringing, a simple apology on behalf of the people who caused harm for the past, an explanation that Jesus was not a Catholic and that the Catholic church grew with flaws, helps confront people in pain with the reality of having to understand and forgive. The pride within that says, “No! I will not let it go!” is then revealed as the blockage that prevents people seeing and experiencing the purity of the Christian message. It’s a lot harder to hate and discredit others when we understand them. Likewise with the message of the Bible.
Understanding some of these following things can cause detractors to pause, reconsider their approach, and in many cases sets off a set of questions and sometimes actions to reconsider the credibility of the Bible from a less-aggressive ANTI position.
- The true cause of death or illness [to be that of a consequence to mankind’s choices];
- That God’s command to drive out the men women and children of Canaan was just that, separation rather to exterminate and destroy;
- That the mainstream definitions and story surrounding eternal hell-fire and torment is not accepted by ALL interpretations and that there are other perfectly valid takes on the consequences of ungodliness;
- That a good and loving God would enable the young ones who didn’t make it to adulthood and the age of accountability to have their chance to accept Jesus and therefore be treated with love and honour as precious people, rather than cast them into hell just because of their age or that they had some misfortune
I’ve always found that as long as I am humble enough to seek it, that there is an explanation that fits into the biblical world-view; no matter how challenging the circumstance I’ve found myself in. The bottom line is that I’ve found that the credibility of biblical message grows within us, the more that we get over ourselves!
I seek validation of most things I see or hear, especially when it comes to the important things like biblical matters. Long gone are the days that I hear it from a pulpit and thus believe it and live by it.
When the Bible tells me to compare the words within it with other words within it, I can check for internal consistency and this brings the credibility that I seek. When I do that with the Book of Mormon or the Catholic teachings of thousands of years, or the Koran, I do not get the same internal consistency. This internal validation, the cross-referencing of scripture, words, concepts, phrases and so on that align so perfectly so often I see the credibility of the Bible in the stratosphere compared to anything else from Pliny, to Shakespeare, to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Wordsworth, the Nuremberg trials or the numerous writings of the various Popes.
Nothing compares nor validates to the same extent.
Some of the validation techniques I have used have been in existence for millennia; others are quite recent. To give just one simple example of how credibility can be shown is from the story that Luke recounts. After healing the blind man this exchange occurred:
[The man] looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Now there are and have been other interpretations on the reason for this extraordinary event (the only case of a double healing in the Bible that I know of) but Jesus never did anything without a purpose. Some have suggested it is indicative of bodily and spiritual healing (and other complex explanations) but when cataract surgery arrived in the last century, doctors noticed that even though they had restored physical sight to their patients, their patients’ brains could not interpret the signals that they eyes were sending them. Like the blind man healed twice, they could see but not yet really understand what they saw. After a few days though, the cataract patients’ brains learned to interpret the electrical signals from the healed eyes and full sight was restored. It is perfectly possible that Jesus knowingly healed in two stages to demonstrate His unique understanding of what He was doing a couple of thousand years before us.
There are literally thousands of examples of little details embedded within the Bible that escape the attention of a cursory read and validate the words as way more than just another book could ever – advanced scientific findings, modern genetics, archaeology, linguistic forensics – the list goes on and on with an incredible array of validations coming forward day after day.
Even to my doubting mind, and as any good Libran would do (always seeking to understand a given situation before making a judgement call), I view more credibility in the Bible than anything else every written, and by a massive factor.
I do not claim to have all the answers, even if you DO KNOW it all and know that I am wrong.
It is possible to believe something without knowing it all, you know!
We do this (trusting on a partial or incomplete assessment) all the time because we have to. We believe that a bank is safe enough to invest our money, or that our money is backed by something valuable simply because we think we have no choice but to use the banks. We turn the key in our car believing that the petrol gauge is working and that the key will start the motor even without knowing for sure how it all works, or without bothering to test the petrol gauge every time we get in the car.
Applying this idea (of a full trust but only a partial assessment) into assessing the Credibility of the Bible goes something like this:
I’m being hypocritical if I can’t trust something as sound as the validity of the Bible because I don’t know, understand or agree with everything contained within it, but I do with many other things, like the physical world around us, the financial system we all use, our human relationships and so on.
The key is that when challenged we are open to correction. This removes the religious fervour from the debate and deals with the issues. When the car doesn’t go and we think that the petrol gauge may be reading full when it is empty, THEN further investigation is obviously required. Likewise with Credibility in the bible. I accept it and when things don’t make sense, I then investigate the matter.
That’s no big deal!
The bottom line is that I’ve found arrogance (pride) is the real cause of doubt in 99.999% of the cases of detractors. Clues can be found in the way that answers are given to direct confrontational questions, they always begin with “I . . . “.
I think this. I think that. ‘Nuff said!
The bible can be attacked easily with shallow thinking. Central to many detractors is the supposedly ‘ludicrous fairy-story’ that God created the world in six literal days and that there was such a thing as a real Garden of Eden, a first couple and a real devil. That there was a global flood thrown into the mix with a ‘little’ boat holding two of every kind of animal on the planet – ho hum!
Then supposedly a man rose from the dead – ho hum again! For many indoctrinated into an ungodly culture such as the modern world, it can be just too much to bear, until one digs deeper and finds out that, well, hey . . . there is another side to it all and that deceptions abound in popular culture, and that common knowledge may be common but can also be common stupidity or deception.
My research has shown me time and time again over many years that there is incredible validity to the core claims of the Bible; that it contains a simple, quiet Credibility far ahead of anything else I’ve seen . . . and yes that includes a ‘silly little boat‘ and a literal six days of creation and a Jesus who is alive and well, freely available to all who humble themselves and ‘join the party’.
Thanks for running with me while I’ve shared these thoughts.
In my next post I discuss the Process of Coming to Christ, and it is just that . . . a process. While it is different for everyone because of their individual uniqueness the process is and has always been the same, with all of us having to face the same challenges.
I look forward to sharing it with you shortly.
Nice chatting again!