Why Do You Believe The Bible?

Gospel Graffiti II
(Photo credit: Peat Bakke)

Why is the Bible true?  Here’s what I came up with.

Grace and the human condition – Grace is the most beautiful thing about Christianity and the biggest reason I am continually drawn to scripture. There is no explanation for it.  Indeed, the very reason scripture is scripture is its’ testimony to the living grace of Christ.  So much of human behavior draws from trying to find acceptance, but the God of the Bible offers it freely. Without grace we are hopeless consigned to a rat race of futility.  We will do anything for security or pleasure, then once we do we don’t know what to do with the guilt.  After awhile our hearts become so hardened and selfish we don’t even feel that anymore.  Can anyone doubt this?  A glance across today’s news headlines anywhere in the world confirms it.  But once we have acceptance and our identity in him we can truly learn to live as we are designed.  Grace cuts against everything we are. It is completely antithetical to human nature and yet there it is.  No other belief system whether religious or secular can compare.  While many have superficial similarities and differences, they are all different from Christ’s message in this sense. They all offer a path back to the way things should be, but Christ came down the path to where we are and offers to carry us himself.  That is a major difference. That is grace.

Historicity – Simply put, there is compelling historical evidence for the Bible’s truthfulness.  For brevity’s sake I will focus on the four gospels here.  Also, I believe the rest of the bible stands or falls with them. There is overwhelming objective evidence to support their historicity.  Literally thousands of ancient manuscripts from around the ancient world confirm the words of the Gospels as we have them today.  I understand there are textual variants, but the original texts can be constructed to about 98% accuracy, and variants do not involve any major doctrines or events. If they were made up or exaggerated would other witnesses not have corrected the story? Would the disciples have made themselves to look like bumbling fools in the narrative? Would documentation of the resurrection depend largely on the testimony of women (a cultural no no at the time)?  Of course each gospel reflects the author’s style, context, and emphasis, but that simply represents different perspectives and audiences.  I could keep going but I will stop there.  In the end, those rejecting the gospels have much more explaining to do than those accepting them.  So if it’s true they are indeed historical then the ramifications are huge and lead to my next point.

The best explanation of reality – I believe the Bible offers the only coherent explanation of why things are they way they are.  If the gospels are historical documents that of course means the resurrection of Christ from death is a true event. The ramifications of this fact are that he is God as he claimed and should be obeyed.  I’m not saying there are not times when I doubt or have issues but in the end I cannot come up with any other explanation for what happened in the tomb and on the cross and that is worth giving my life to.  The reality of the resurrection also ties in perfectly with the evidence for design in nature and the universe as well as with the reality of the human condition already discussed. (for more see Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis). Thus, it is my opinion that no other belief system addresses all of this comprehensively.  I see intentional design in creation. I see both a deep evil and a profound beauty in all humanity.  I see people everywhere myself included longing for redemption but irreducibly unable to find it.  I see a God-man Jesus who provides the only solution to all this puzzle.  It is only in him and his story found in scripture that what I have experienced and perceive in the world come together without contradiction or conflict.

Tradition – Look, I would be kidding myself if I said my upbringing and education didn’t play a part in my beliefs. Of course they do. That being said,  I have honestly questioned and sought answers as best as I can.

What about you?


11 thoughts on “Why Do You Believe The Bible?

  1. Hi Ben,
    Glad you posted this. I thought about some of this when I was going through my deconversion. On the question of grace, I thought some about what Paul says in Romans 7: if it hadn’t been for the “law,” I never would have known what sin was. And that resonated with me. In other words, it’s only because of Christianity that I thought I even needed grace to begin with. If I remove Christianity, I no longer really have anything to be forgiven of… It tries to fix its own problem, and it just made more sense to me to get rid of the whole thing — problem and all.

    Historicity is an area I’ll disagree with you on. Yes, the Bible contains some historically accurate information, but it also contains a number of things that are historically inaccurate. The gospels have problems as well. They can’t agree on a number of details, including the day and time of Jesus’ death, who came to see him at the tomb, what happened when they got there, when Jesus appeared to them, where he told them to wait for him, etc. They also can’t agree on why Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, or whether they had always lived there or were just visiting. I have no doubt that whoever wrote the gospels believed Jesus rose from the dead, but that doesn’t mean it happened. And the various disagreements in detail show me that they couldn’t have been eye-witnesses. So I just find it too hard to swallow the whole thing. By the way, I disagree that the textual variants don’t create any major issues. The story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery was added to the gospel of John 2 or 3 centuries after it was first written. And of course, the ending to Mark is a later addition as well.

    Finally, I just don’t find it to be the best explanation for reality. I’m not trying to critique your position on that, just offering mine. I don’t think in the least that the resurrection was an actual event. People have tried to point to the empty tomb, but how do we really know there was one? Sometimes it’s said that Jewish or Roman officials would have contradicted the Christians’ early claims or brought forth Jesus’ body, but that supposes that they cared enough to do that. Jesus was not the first or last “Messiah” to come on the scene during that period of history, and I can see why the officials of the day wouldn’t have cared what people thought about Jesus. To them, he was dead, end of story. Besides, I think the biggest problem facing Christianity is the absence of God. If he really did have this grand plan for all of us, and he’s the best explanation for our reality, where is he? Why wouldn’t he want to make himself known?

    But again, I’m not trying to throw stones at your perspective — I find it interesting, and I’m glad you’ve written it. We all have different paths we’re following, and I can respect that you’ve gotten to your position through sincere effort. This post was very well written, by the way. Keep it up.

    1. Nate, glad you stopped in. I see your point about Christianity creating its own problem. Maybe that works for a while with some individuals (I assume you are having a pretty good life), but I don’t think it works on a cultural or societal level. Pretty much every society I can think of recognizes they have massive, unfixable problems and I think most individuals would as well. For me this can only be explained by our sin. Also, though Paul says the law brought him knowledge of sin, he also says in Romans 2:12-16 Gentiles ignorant of the law know it innately through common grace and thus are guilty as well.

      As for historicity, I’m not saying there are not problems and tensions. What I am saying is for me, the probability of the resurrection being true is high enough for me to live with that tension. Some issues have bothered me over the years and some haven’t, but in the end I can’t turn away from it. As for some of the details you brought up, I think we have to accept there are some things we can’t explain, but I don’t think that necessarily makes them wrong. Likely, the different details were meant to cater to the communities they were written to, perhaps communicating significance now lost to us. But at the end of the day I don’t know everything and I’m ok with that. It’s important to remember the Gospels are not 21st century legal documents, but ancient narratives with a theological agenda. Other discrepancies are minor variants which were harmonious in the originals, and still other apparent discrepancies have reasonable explanations. As for the two major variants you brought up, I would argue neither is all that significant for doctrine. John 8 was kept because everyone agreed it reflected the character of Jesus even if it isn’t historical, and the ending of Mark doesn’t say anything that Acts doesn’t say as well (speaking of Acts you should look into the “we” passages).

      As for understanding reality, is it possible I am seeing what I want to see and have been taught to see? Sure. But that’s true of everyone. All I can say is I try to read and listen to people with different perspectives. I don’t seek only those who fulfill my preconceived conclusions. I want the truth whatever that may be, and as I understand things I believe that truth to lie in the message of Christ.

      Where is God? I would say that for now he is known through the bible and works through his people the church (albeit imperfectly due to our continued sinfulness). I think Christianity proves itself as it is lived. 2 Peter 1:3-11, Stanley Hauerwas, and my own life have convinced me of this. When we act in love and obedience within Christian community we interface with God there and he shows more and more of himself to us. That’s been my experience and I appreciate you sharing yours.

      I’ll quickly address the messiah thing. There were many wannabe revolutionaries intending to liberate Palestine from Roman rule, including of course the tragic war that led to the destruction of the temple forty years after Jesus. But none claimed what Jesus claimed. In fact he avoided certain messianic terminology for most of his ministry so as not to confuse people. And you’re right the authorities largely didn’t care. But they certainly recognized something new happening soon thereafter as several historical documents and events attest.

      I appreciate your thoughts and enjoy your writing as well.

    2. Hello Nate,

      My perspective is framed by the way I was raised. On my mother’s side, the family has been atheist for at least 4 genrerations. My father was also an atheist but I don’t know his family background.

      Yet with this background I had a pervasive sense that something was so wrong with the world and especially with me by my thirties that I was unable to have any hope of the future. I was also unable to live with all I had done wrong. The funny thing was that I knew I had done wrong even though I had never been taught about sin.

      No one had ever before explained the the gospel to me. I of course knew the outline of Christianity but I didn’t really get why Jesus had to die. When at 39 I encountered Christ in a Gregorian sung mass that was in English which I attended solely to listen to the music for several months, the message of salvation seeped through. For of course I listened Bible readings and to the homilies while at the masses.

      When I finally asked to speak with the priest and found out I could be forgiven for all my unkindness, my indiscreetions, my meaness and my ugly desires for ill to others it was almost unbelievable.

      I cried for months because it was so enormous to be forgiven. So far beyond anything I had hoped for. The slate was wiped clean and I could begin again but this time with the aid of my Savior who wills my good.

      So you see, I believe that the law of God is written in my heart and in the heart of every human. I don’t need the Bible to know that I am a sinner but I do need one to know that I can be forgiven.

  2. I believe the Bible to be the Word of the Lord…I however have head some dispute it’s authority implicitly because they say that it was written by humans and so there are variations of the Bible which differ in content. I have not delved into the many different Greek, Hebrew and other variations so can only in faith and by grace determine that the Bible was the inspired Word of God..written by humans but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What is your understanding of some ‘book’ or writings not included in the Bible but never-the-less studied? The name eludes my memory right now but you likely know what I’m referring to……Diane

    1. You might be talking about the apocrypha or the pseudepigrapha. Both are interesting. However, there are plenty of contradictions within the Bible without having to compare the different manuscripts. It’s worth looking into, if you’re interested.

      1. It’s the apocrypha that I was trying to think of….what was the reason that those writings were not included in the Bible? Maybe too big a question for here….In any case I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God and that’s what I follow. Diane

      2. I would say different perspectives, interpretations, and audiences rather than contradictions but anyway yes the apocrypha is interesting. Different people will say different things, but for me it seems they were left out because they were not seen as prophetic works testifying to God’s redemptive actions pointing to Christ.

  3. Hey Ben. I’m glad you admit that upbringing has a huge impact on what you believe. It’s even better to know that you’ve been as objective as possible in figuring out the whole Bible thing.

    Your thoughts on grace are smack on. We follow a mysterious God who can’t be fully explained – and his grace to us is just the tip of the iceberg.

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