By Craig T. Owens, originally posted here
Have you ever been stumped by someone’s argument against Christianity or the Bible? Has anyone ever made fun of you because the Bible sounds like a fairy tale? Over 100 years ago Oswald Chambers described how our post-Christian world was beginning to treat Christianity and the Bible on which it’s based—
“We have made ambition and competition the very essence of civilized life. No wonder there is no room for Jesus Christ, and no room for the Bible. We are all so scientifically orthodox nowadays, so materialistic and certain that rationalism is the basis of things, that we make the Bible out to be the most revolutionary, unorthodox and heretical of books.”
It’s that “rationalism” that we need to address. We need to ask scoffers and seekers alike, “What makes you so sure of your beliefs? How did you come to that conclusion?”
Every human being exercises some sort of faith—that the chair will hold them when they sit down, that their spouse will honor their marriage vows, and that their worldview is correct. We need to explore what kind of faith they (and we) have:
- Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence.
- Blind faith—believing in something without any evidence.
- Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence.
I want to show evidence that makes it reasonable to believe in the Bible.
- The bibliographical test: determining whether the text of the historical record has been transmitted accurately.
Josh McDowell states, “No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.” He can make this claim because the profession of “scribe” was one of the most professional and exacting of all professions. The rigorous standards employed to prove the accuracy of a copy of a biblical manuscript was higher than for any other literature.
Most of our modern-day Bibles are based on a 1000-year-old manuscript. But after the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, we found biblical manuscripts going back to 250 B.C. that confirmed the accuracy of the manuscripts we already had. This led Dr. Peter Flint to conclude: “The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.”
Then regarding the New Testament, Josh McDowell says, “I believe there is more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament than for any other ten pieces of classical literature put together.” Check out this chart reproduced from McDowell’s book God-Breathed to see by comparison to other literature, how close in dating the earliest biblical manuscripts are, and how many of those manuscripts have been discovered!
2. The external evidence test: determining whether the historical record has been verified or affirmed by data outside of itself.
Over one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic, and two-thirds of its prophesies have already been fulfilled. For example, 700 years before His birth, the city in which Jesus was to be born was identified by a man named Micah.
Time and time again archeologists discover articles that verify the claims in the Bible. This led archeologist Nelson Glueck to conclude, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”
3. The internal evidence test: determining how of the historical record stands up to the test of internal validity.
The Bible was written by 45 different authors, over a span of 1500 years, on 3 different continents, and in 3 different languages. Yet there are no contradictions!
- Changed lives. My life is one that has been amazingly impacted by the God of the Bible, as was a man named Saul, who had a total about-face after encountering Jesus. As a result, Christianity was spread far and fast through his writings and world travels.
2. Changed societies. Wherever the Christian faith of the Bible has been put into practice, societies improve. Leonard Sweet notes—
“Before Christianity, there were cults that practiced all sorts of human sacrifice as well as self-mutilation and self-castration. Before Christianity, the weak were despised, the poor maligned, the handicapped abandoned. Before Christianity, infanticide was rampant, slavery run-of-the-mill, and gladiatorial combat a form of entertainment. In Jesus’ day, Corinth was famous for its temple prostitutes, continuing a long-standing tradition symbolized by the Corinthian athlete Xenophon.… Aristotle…not only condoned institutionalized slavery but provided an elaborate argument in favor of it. As if that weren’t enough, Aristotle called man ‘begotten’ and woman ‘misbegotten,’ and because a woman’s reasoning was ‘without authority’ accepted no female students.
“Only Jesus and His followers known as the church insisted on the concept of human dignity and the value of every human soul. Only the church built hospitals and took care of the abandoned and disabled. Only the church celebrated charity and selflessness as the highest virtue and elevated the status of women.”
Is all of this “proof positive” that the Bible is God’s Word? No, it’s not. But I think the evidence is compelling enough that it is certainly reasonable to reach this conclusion.
Here are some great application questions from this lesson:
Other than because it says so in the Bible, how do I know that it is God’s Word?
How can I let the Bible “thoroughly equip” me (2 Timothy 3:14-17)?
Is my worldview pragmatic or biblical? Does it really make a difference?
In God-Breathed—the Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture, Josh chronicles his recent identification of ancient fragments and a 540-year-old Torah, along with his personal journey to faith as an unbelieving skeptic of Christianity and the Bible, to present a compelling case that God’s Word can be trusted to be undeniably reliable.
“My hope is that this God-Breathed book will help people realize not only that the word of God is true, but also that it is alive and powerful. I equally want people to be convinced they can trust the Bible because the evidence is so incredible,” Josh said.