Monday, May 09, 2022

Anonymous Asks (196)

“Do the Bible’s claims to be true make it so?”

A claim is not proof, but neither is it nothing at all. If God really chose the medium of written communication to express himself to mankind, we would not expect him to be coy about his authorship.

As it turns out, scripture is quite frank about where it comes from.

The Iceberg’s Tip

Most of us know the standard proof texts we pull out to demonstrate that the Bible claims to be the word of God despite recognizing and firmly acknowledging the human component in its authorship. Here’s a short list of some favorites:

2 Samuel 23:2
Jeremiah 1:7-9
Ezekiel 2:7
Acts 1:16
2 Timothy 3:16
1 Peter 1:10-11
2 Peter 1:21

These plain statements by the apostles and prophets are only the tip of the iceberg. The most extreme case is the book of Jeremiah where, at the prophet’s dictation, Baruch wrote the phrases “the word of the Lord” or “the word of the Lord came to me” a little over seventy times, “Thus says the Lord” twice as often as that, and “declares the Lord” a mind-boggling 173 different times, sometimes twice in a single verse and an average of eight times a chapter, for the 52 chapters of the longest book in the Bible. Those are just the most obvious places the book of Jeremiah insists on its heavenly authorship; there are likely many others.

Dots and Iotas

The strongest affirmation that the human component in the Bible’s creation did not dilute, distort or corrupt the message God intended to send to mankind is the statement from the Lord Jesus that until heaven and earth pass away, “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished”. In saying this he put his stamp of approval on everything in the Hebrew Old Testament. Later, his apostles would confirm the divine authorship of their own writings.

These are the claims scripture makes about itself. There are many, many more … far too many to document without a lengthy investigation, and far more than anyone needs to establish exactly what is being claimed: that God used men of old to produce a document that says precisely what he wanted it to say, and one of the things it says repeatedly is that God cannot lie and that his word is not just truthful but truth itself.

So we have repeated claims to divine authorship and a claim to absolute truth. Strictly speaking these claims do not prove anything, but they do eliminate certain possibilities that have been raised by the Bible’s critics over the years in the form of allegations of pious fraud. It’s not terribly pious to lie about whether God spoke through you. In Israel it merited the death penalty. The sheer volume of these claims leaves the reader with only two possible options about them: (1) they are true, or (2) they are manipulative lies told by men repeatedly risking their lives to record them. That’s a very binary choice.

Accurate Descriptions of Reality

The latter position is difficult to maintain coherently, though many have tried over the years. This is because scripture says so many things which are demonstrably the case and commend themselves to the human intellect and conscience as accurate descriptions of reality: that all men are sinful; that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; that rejection of the knowledge of God leads to depraved behavior; that practicing these behaviors ruins your life; that love is only love and justice only justice when both are acting together; and so on and so on ad infinitum.

At a certain point one begins to wonder why a book purportedly written by men with an evil agenda says so many accurate and truthful things. One also wonders what its writers stood to gain by lying about the origin of what they wrote. Considering the hostility their message encountered, and how frequently they were tortured and killed for what they said and put on paper, they were either bizarrely obstinate men … or else they genuinely believed what they had written came from God.

That Sneaking Suspicion

But that is as far as claims can take us. If we examine them carefully with an open mind, they will lead us to the sneaking suspicion that they may be true, but they cannot stringently prove themselves. So, no, the Bible’s claims to be true cannot make it so. They can only point us in the right direction.

The rest must be taken on faith.

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