Bibliology

Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book, Part 3: Too Many Cooks

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.)

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Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book, Part 2: The Bible’s Claims for Itself

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:

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Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book, Part 1: On Being Reasoned About a Crazy Claim

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.

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Why Do People Reject the Bible?

Why do people reject the Bible? Is it because it makes extravagant claims which can be easily debunked? At one stage I thought so. But as I got older I slowly began to realize that such wasn’t the case.

When I was fishing around the New Age, I deliberately avoided reading my Bible. It was only after I found myself in a spiritual desert that God said, “Enough is enough,” and took over. I avoided the Bible because I suspected it contained truth. If that was the case, I would be compelled to change my lifestyle. So I kept looking elsewhere.

Among other things, people attack and reject the Bible’s authority because they don’t like what it claims for itself. They reject God’s word because they don’t want it to be true. It’s seen as an imposition on the lives they choose for themselves.

A classic example is Nadia Bolz-Weber. Chapter 2 of her book Pastrix begins with citing 1 Timothy 2:11-12. At its conclusion, she thanks her parents for blessing her desire to become a pastor. Sorry Paul, Nadia did what she wanted to do.

The same can be said of Rachel Held Evans. She wrote Inspired in order to introduce her readers to an un-inspired Bible, which she insisted ought to be loved despite imperfections—perhaps like a dithering beloved family member with dementia. I guess RHE felt she needed to maintain a foot in Christianity; hence, couldn’t totally abandon it.

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