Read the series.
And so we come to the evidence: objective evidence that the Bible is, um, unnatural, extraordinary, not like any other books. I’d suggest two lines of such evidence; we’ll look at the first one today, and a related topic later in the week. Next week, we’ll get to Door Number 2.
Door Number 1. Writing a book is hard. Just getting the facts right is hard enough (more about that next time); but doing it artfully, in a way that pleases the attentive reader, is really, really hard. Literary critics delight themselves in finding such artful devices in serious literature—for example, in noting how Willa Cather uses the imagery of wilting flowers to foreshadow the crumbling of the protagonist in the short story “Paul’s Case,” or how Dickens contrasts polar extremes in A Tale of Two Cities, or how an episode of Seinfeld weaves together a seemingly impossible number of storylines so they all come to resolution at the last moment: in one episode George, pretending to be a marine biologist to impress his girlfriend, pulls Kramer’s golf ball from the blowhole of a beached whale. (OK, that last one was ridiculous, and involves stretching the definition of literature almost to the breaking point. But give me some slack; I’m making a point here.)
In my previous post, I noted that anyone who claims that the Bible is God’s Word should be expected to support that extraordinary claim with hard evidence—for the sake of his reputation, certainly, but more importantly for his own integrity; no one should order his life around a falsehood.
In this post I’d like to begin by defining exactly what the statement “The Bible is God’s Word” claims. No sense in proving something that nobody’s advocating. If we’re going to evaluate the claim, we need to know accurately and precisely what it is.
So does the Bible make any claims about its own nature? If so, what are those claims?
Most conservative Christians have come across the Big Two verses that speak to this question. The first of them is 2 Timothy 3.16, where Paul tells his disciple Timothy that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (KJV). The word inspiration translates the Greek word theopneustos, a compound word meaning “God-breathed.” So Paul says that God breathed, or uttered, the Scripture. I’m going to keep things pretty simple here, but if you’d like (a lot) more information on this concept, I’d recommend this article and this book.
The second Big Verse is actually 2 verses, 2 Peter 1.20-21, which I’ll quote here in full:
As a conservative Christian, I talk a lot about what the Bible says. Sometimes I even try to settle arguments with it (graciously, of course ????).
There’s a reason for that: conservatives believe that the Bible is the Word of God—that the words in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments are the very words that God spoke through the human authors, through a process called inspiration. In fact, the very first line of the doctrinal statement for the college where I teach is “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments.”
Now, that’s an extraordinary claim—to many minds, extraordinary to the point of ridiculousness, and thus ridicule. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone who hears that claim to respond, “So, you got any evidence for that?” I mean, really. There are Scriptures all over the place. Within the broader Christian tradition, there are the writings of Ellen G. White, and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and the Book of Mormon, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In the broader religious world, there’s the Qu’ran, the writings of Baha’u’llah, the Sutras, the Vedas, the writings of Haile Selassie, Dianetics, the writings of Swedenborg, and the Divine Principle. And we’re just getting started.
The rhythm of my life in recent years is such that I have little time for paper and ink reading but lots of time for listening. In 2018, I read about sixty books that way. Though nearly all of them edified me in one way or another, most would fall into the category of relatively frivolous fiction. My thinking was that listening, especially while driving, exercising, or doing chores, wouldn’t permit enough concentration to do any thoughtful non-fiction reading—so why bother?
I was wrong. Though the good is often the enemy of the best, the reverse is often true: passing up on the merely good in hopes of gaining the best often gains neither.
Last summer, a discussion here at SharperIron raised the topic of Nancy Pearcey’s Finding Truth, and we later posted Don Johnson’s Proclaim and Defend review of the book. I felt drawn to the book and decided to give it a whirl in audio. The audiobook amply rewarded the effort—enough to compel me to write my own review.
"Philosopher Kenneth Samples has identified a set of truths that cannot be verified algorithmically or scientifically: logical truths, metaphysical truths, and objective moral truths. Some truths must simply be accepted to be able to do science at all." - Reasons to Believe