Yesterday I had the privilege to preach at our church on this very important question.
“How can I know the Bible is true?”
It is a question of foundations, how do we really know. In universities and seminaries this is called epistemology, but I never dropped that word bomb in my sermon. For us, its just real life. How do we know the bible is true, as well anything at all? Can we really have certainty on anything!
My answer is ultimately, YES, we can!
You can listen to my sermon for the full audio on this topic.
You can also keep reading for the main points I’m trying to make.
There are many ways to tackle this question.
I outline the 1) Personal Experience Standard, 2) Just have Faith Approach, 3) The Bible says it Method, 4) Textual Uniqueness, 5) External Evidences, 6) Internal Divine Insights, – all of which have strengths and weaknesses.
The most powerful explanation I have found for certitude on the Truth of Scripture is in its exclusive ability to provide a foundation for Reason and Morality. The Bible alone explains why we can trust our own understanding and our sense of right and wrong.
- The primordial soup of evolution has no basis to really trust the chemicals in our brain, yet we do.
- The doubt of the atheists and agonists destroys any confidence to trust their own knowledge, yet they do.
- Other religions have contradictory foundations for truth, yet they still trust our ability to know.
Only the Bible presents an accurate picture of reality. Carl Henry nails it as he astutely writes,
“But the nature of truth is such that the Christian revelation is formally intelligible to all men; it convincingly overlaps ineradicable elements of every man’s experience, and offers a more consistent, more comprehensive, and more satisfying explanation to the meaning and worth of life than do other views.” (GRA I, 238)
This worldview is one in which logic and reason are rooted in the Image of God. Genesis 1:27 says in His image he created us, male and female.
The bible shows that God Himself is the standard to judge all things. Col. 2:3 “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Logic has its root in the person of God. The Bible reveals this to us.
The way in which God’s mind works is purely logical; Titus 1:2.- “for God cannot lie”, also in 1 Cor. 14:33 “God is not a God of confusion.”
Without the Bible we would not have a firm foundation from which we could know anything! If we dismiss the bible, how do we account for the logic we depend on for every thought or discussion?
We count on the laws of logic to never change, why is that?
Because God never changes. Micah 3:6 says, “I the Lord do not change.” James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
We are rational beings having rational thoughts right now because God is who he says he is, and we know this through the Bible.
Morality is equally rooted in the person of God as revealed in the bible.
The bible has revealed a God who is Good and a world that is fallen. Every person and every society of all time has had a sense of right and wrong. Where did this come from? Why do we even seek for truth rather than a lie?
Because we were created in the image of God.
The bible does not ignore the evil in our world or make excuses, but explains it. We see ourselves for who we really are as we read its pages. We find the answer to the problem of evil through the redemptive plan of God to rescue us from that evil. All of this is revealed in the bible. It accurately describes our reality.
What anchors our understanding of Good?
Psalm 100:5 “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”. Psalm 136:1 “give thanks to God for he is Good”. In John 10 Jesus is called the “Good Shepard”. And yet we know that we are not Good, which is affirmed in the bible. Jeremiah 17:9 “the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked”. Mark 7 talks about the sinfulness of man does not comes from just his mouth, but from his heart. Romans 3:23 rightly says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
The understanding of right and wrong is not a herd mentality or social construct, but it is written on our hearts by our Creator.
Apart from the bible we have no foundation for the reality that we all live in and accept as truth every moment of every day.
Why is there reason and rationality? Why is there right and wrong? God has revealed why in the bible.
How do we know the bible is true?
If it is not true, we have no foundation to make sense of reality as we know it. Without presuming the truth of the bible, we cannot prove anything else.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” -CS Lewis
For the first time in U.S. history Protestantism (aka: anyone in the Christian tradition who is not Catholic) has fallen below 50%. The primary reason for this shift is the increase in those who claim no religion.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released an analytic study today titled, Nones on the Rise. It shows findings now that almost one in five Americans (19.3%) claim no religious identity. This is an increase from 15 percent in the last five years.
“Part of what’s going on here is that the stigma associated with not being part of any religious community has declined,” said John Green, a specialist in religion and politics at the University of Akron, who advised Pew on the survey. “In some parts of the country, there is still a stigma. But overall, it’s not the way it used to be.”
Here is an info graphic that uses a picture to show the breakdown of religious identity in America.
So why is this happening?
That is the big question. If I had a definitive answer I could write a best-selliing book and change the world. But until that happens, let me just postulate some brief observations from my ministry experience.
- Insincere faith will not pass down through the generations. – Teenagers and children know when something is really important to their parents. They can read between the lines and see the real motive of the heart. If church is just another activity in the week, or just a social outing, the children in that family will begin to take on that value system for themselves. God understood this and placed the responsibility firmly on the parents for a sincere faith. Deut. 6:4-7 says: 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
- The next Generation does not understand the tenets of biblical faith. – If people think Christianity boils down to a list of rules (that didn’t really matter to their parents) they will discard it as another social construct meant for control. If they never grasp the reality of our spiritual condition and the hope of the Gospel and the life of purpose that flows from giving control to God, of course they will try to find a way on their own. If the bible was taken seriously this generation would see that it truly is a guide for life that works in today’s culture!
- Churches may become more concerned with entertaining it’s members rather than teaching the Gospel. – While I already submit that parents have the ultimate responsibility for passing on a sincere faith to their children, churches are there to support this process. In student ministry, the wrong assumption is that we are all about pizza and games. If that becomes the focus, you raise up a uninformed, spiritually weak generation. As that generation of church goers has become the leaders in churches, the emphasis is taken away from the Gospel and placed on being “cool”. When a rocking band and a preacher with tattoos (while these things in themselves are not wrong) are more important than solid doctrine, you can expect people to see through this shallow version of faith and either (1.) give up, claiming no religion, or (2.) church hop from one place to the next looking for the best entertainment.
May all of us; children, parents, and church members, reconnect with the truths of scripture and make it the authority in our lives. May our faith be sincere and evident to everyone who sees us. Only then would we begin to see a change in the negative spiritual trend now on us. God bring revival! Wake us up! But whatever happens, God be glorified. Remember the words of Habakkuk.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.
God has a plan and we must trust in Him. Stay focused my friends. Your fellow worker in the field, Adam.
If we had noticed that the young men of the present day found it harder and harder to get the right answers to sums, we should consider that this had been adequately explained the moment we discovered that schools had for some years ceased to teach arithmetic. After that discovery we should turn a deaf ear to people who offered explanations of a vaguer and larger kind — people who said that the influence of Einstein had sapped the ancestral belief in fixed numerical relations, or that gangster films had undermined the desire to get right answers, or that the evolution of consciousness was now entering on its post-arithmetical phase. Where a clear and simple explanation completely covers the facts no other explanation is in court. If the younger generation have never been told what the Christians say and never heard any arguments in defence of it, then their agnosticism or indifference is fully explained. There is no need to look any further: no need to talk about the general intellectual climate of the age or the influence of mechanistic civilization on the character of urban life. And having discovered that the cause of their ignorance is lack of instruction, we have also discovered the remedy. There is nothing in the nature of the younger generation which incapacitates them for receiving Christianity. If any one is prepared to tell them, they are apparently ready to hear.
C.S. Lewis, “On the Transmission of Christianity,” God in the Dock 115 (London, 1946).
Which seems more likely – Jesus really did have a wife…and we just now are finding out about it even after 2000+ of microscope focus on His life, or the media is being sensational about this papyrus scrap?
Or look at it this way, will you trust six words that are part of an unidentifiable sentence (the other words in the sentence can’t be read) written 300 years after Jesus’ life with no predecessors or successors on a piece of papyrus smaller than a business card more than you trust four harmonious accounts of his life written by eyewitnesses with thousands of early copies? Now I may just be bias, but one side sounds much more credible.
For a more accurate perspective of this newest intrigue with Jesus’ personal life, read this balanced article.
The Far Less Sensational Truth about Jesus’ Wife – by the Gospel Coalition.
If you have no clue what this blog is about and you have been social media deprived this week, here are a few quick links from major sources to catch you up to speed in the recent historical discovery.
It is my prayer that we will get to know the true Jesus through the pages of scripture more everyday.
C.S. Lewis, “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?” (originally published 1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) 331.
“There is no truth!”
How many times have you heard that before?
In their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, authors Norman Geisler and Frank Turek provide one of the most valuable tools and tactics a clear-thinker needs to master and have in their arsenal:
“If someone said to you, ‘I have one insight for you that absolutely will revolutionize your ability to quickly and clearly identify the false statements and false philosophies that permeate our culture,’ would you be interested? That’s what we’re about to do here. In fact, if we had to pick just one thinking ability as the most valuable we’ve learned in our many years of seminary and postgraduate education, it would be this: how to identify and refute self-defeating statements.”(i)
What is a self-defeating statement?
A self-defeating (or self-refuting) statement is one that fails to meet its own standard. In other words, it is a statement that cannot live up to its own criteria. Imagine if I were to say,
I cannot speak a word in English.
You intuitively see a problem here. I told you in English that I cannot speak a word in English. This statement is self-refuting. It does not meet its own standard or criteria. It self-destructs.
The important thing to remember with self-defeating statements is that they are necessarily false. In other words, there is no possible way for them to be true. This is because they violate a very fundamental law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. This law states that A and non-A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. For example, it is not possible for God to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. This would violate the law of non-contradiction. So if I were to say, “God told me He doesn’t exist” you would see intuitively the obvious self-refuting nature of this statement.
How do you expose self-defeating statements?
Below each self-defeating statement is an explanation of why it commits suicide along with suggestions on how you can respond. If this is your first time dealing with self-refuting statements you may need to read them a couple times. Stop and reflect on what the statement is saying and then see if you can identify its self-refuting nature.
1. There is no truth.
If there is no truth this statement itself cannot be true. Therefore, truth exists. You cannot deny truth without affirming it. You might respond, “Is that true?” or “How can it be true that there is no truth?”
2. You can’t know truth.
If you can’t know truth then you would never know that “you can’t know truth.” This person is claiming to know the truth that wecan’t know truth. You might respond, “Then how do you know that?”
3. No one has the truth.
This person is claiming to have the truth that no one has the truth. If no one has the truth then the statement “no one has the truth” is false! You might respond, “Then how do you know that is true?”
4. All truth is relative.
Sometimes also stated as “Everything is relative.” If all truth is relative then this statement itself would be relative and not objectively true. In other words, the person is claiming that it is objectively true that all truth is relative. You might respond, “Isthat a relative truth?”
5. It’s true for you but not for me.
This statement is self-refuting because it claims that truth is relative to the individual and yet at the same time implies it is objectively true that something can be “true for you but not for me.” This statement commits the self-excepting fallacy. You might respond, “Is that just true for you, or is it true for everybody?”
6. There are no absolutes.
This statement is an absolute statement about reality that claims there are no absolutes. You might respond, “Are you absolutely sure about that?”
7. No one can know any truth about religion.
This person is claiming to know the truth about religion and it is this: you can’t know truth about religion. You might respond, “Then how did you come to know that truth about religion?”
8. You can’t know anything for sure.
If you can’t know anything for sure then you would never know it! This person is claiming to know with certainty that you can’t know anything for sure. You might respond, “Then how do you know that for sure?”
9. You should doubt everything.
If you should doubt everything then you should doubt the truth of the statement “you should doubt everything.” You might respond, “Should I doubt that?” And remember: always doubt your doubts!
10. Only science can give us truth.
If only science can give us truth we could never know that “only science can give us truth” because this is not something science can tell you! That is because this statement is philosophical in nature rather than scientific. You might respond, “What science experiment taught you that?” or “What is your scientific evidence that only science can give us truth?”
11. You can only know truth through experience.
If you can only know truth through experience you would never know the truth of the statement “you can only know truth through experience” because this is not something that can be known through experience. You might respond, “Can you know that truth through experience?” or “What experience taught you that?”
12. All truth depends on your perspective.
If all truth depends on your perspective then even the truth “all truth depends on your perspective” depends on your perspective. This is another objective statement which claims relativism is true. Again, it commits the self-excepting fallacy. You might respond, “Does that truth depend on your perspective?”
13. You shouldn’t judge.
The person who says this is making a judgment, namely, that it is wrong to judge! You might respond, “If it is wrong to judge, then why are you judging?”
14. You shouldn’t force your morality on people.
This person is forcing their moral point of view that it is wrong to force a moral point of view. You might respond, “Then please don’t force your moral view that it is wrong to force morality.”
15. You should live and let live.
The person who tells you to “live and let live” isn’t allowing you to live how you want! They are prescribing behavior for you rather than taking their own advice. You might respond, “If that’s your philosophy, why are you telling me how to live?”
16. God doesn’t take sides.
If God doesn’t take sides then He does in fact take the side that doesn’t take sides. You might respond, “Does God take thatside?”
17. You shouldn’t try to convert people.
This person is trying to convert you to their position that it is wrong to convert people! You might respond, “If it is wrong to convert, why are you trying to convert me?”
18. That’s just your view.
This statement is self-refuting if it treats an objective statement as if it were subjective. This is the subjectivist fallacy. The hidden assumption is that your view is relative and a matter of personal opinion. If that is the case, this statement can also be relativized and made into a matter of personal opinion. You might respond, “Well that’s just your view that this is just my view.”
19. You should be tolerant of all views.
Most statements regarding tolerance are self-refuting if by “tolerance” the person means “accepting all views as equally true and valid.” If that is the case, the person who says “You should be tolerant of all views” isn’t being tolerant of your view! You might respond, “Then why don’t you tolerate my view?”(ii)
20. It is arrogant to claim to have the truth.
This person is claiming to have the truth that “it is arrogant to claim to have the truth.” Therefore, by his own standard, he is the arrogant one! You might respond, “My that is awfully arrogant of you!”
Why list out these statements?
So you can (1) recognize self-defeating statements, (2) expose them for what they are, and (3) avoid being caught off guard and taken in by them.
(i) Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 38.
(ii) Note: true tolerance means “putting up with error” and carries with it the idea of respect and value with regards to persons. This is in contradistinction to the postmodern definition of tolerance which means holding all truth claims as equally true and valid.
So yesterday was Labor Day, so what do I naturally do with a day off to celebrate and rest from my labor? Work at home. But while my day started off fine it did not end so well.
Here is the story. We recently purchased a house so there are tons of little jobs always looming. Yesterday I was replacing the old school thermostats with new digital ones. I needed a tool from the garage so made the quick trek out to get it…barefoot (mistake #1). While navigating the clutter that comes from a recent move I tripped (mistake #2) and got a real nice two inch cut across the top of my foot. I came in and assessed the situation. The kids were upstairs entertaining themselves surprisingly well and my wife (who is a nurse) was resting in the bedroom. I decided to clean up my cut and get back to my little job without bothering anyone (mistake #3). I washed it up and covered it with multiple bandaids.
Later that night Leslie and I were talking about my incident and I offered to show her my battle scar. I peeled away the crusty bandaids and she let out a slight gasp. I then proceeded to receive a mild tongue lashing about why I did not let her see it right when it happened. She interrogated me on how I cleaned it and let me know that this gash was potentially worthy of some stitches or at least some super glue. She got out some butterfly bandages and patched it up the way it should have been done from the beginning.
I never even considered a trip to the Urgent Care office just down the road, but because of my manly pride I even missed out on the advice of my nurse trained wife!
Maybe I’m not alone. I think there are others of you out there who consider a trip the hospital the last resort. But do we also have this same mentality when it comes to spiritual matters? When we are wounded do we try to handle it all on our own?
God created us to live in community. We were never designed to be alone. Yet, when we need our brothers and sisters in Christ the most, those are the times we shrink back and isolate ourselves. Is this not a symptom of the pride still residing in our hearts? We do not want others to know that we are weak and needy. We hide our hurts. We refuse the community that God has instituted and seek our own ways. But like the lesson I learned with my foot, when left to our own devices we make bad decisions. Why not seek the advise of those who really love you and can help you?
James 5:16 reminds us of this very lesson. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
So don’t be to prideful to ask for help, whether spiritual or physical. Manly pride is so lame, and because of it, now I am too!
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam