Popular Objections: Can you really trust the Bible?
I’m always encouraged when friends ask me this question. I hope it means that they’ve picked up on the fact that the Bible is central to my faith. If people never ask us about the Bible, maybe it’s because we never talk about it?
As with most of these popular objections, there’s a lot that could be said. Much depends on who’s asking the question / raising the objection.
Is it a believer? An interested enquirer? A hardened sceptic?
You’d probably want to emphasise something different to each one. For the sake of this series, I’m assuming interested enquirers are the conversation partners.
Even having narrowed that down, there are several different ways you could go about responding. But remember our key principles from last time: dig down deeper, keep it brief, and aim for Jesus. Let’s see how that approach might look with this objection.
Question: Can you really trust the Bible?
Possible underlying issues:
My clever friends all reject the Bible.
I don’t like what the Bible says about X, so I’d rather it wasn’t true.
Doesn’t the Bible promise Y? Well, Y hasn’t happened in my life, so the Bible can’t be true.
It’s arrogant to say the Bible is true, and other religious books aren’t.
Christianity is about Christ (the clue’s in the name!). He himself said that the Bible is all about him (John 5:39-40), so to work out what he’s like, you need to look at the Bible.
To begin exploring Christianity, you don’t have to assume before you start that the Bible is God’s infallible word. Feel free to approach it like any other ancient historical document.
Maybe start with a Gospel, a biography of Jesus, like Mark. That’s where we see Jesus most clearly.
Did he know what happened? Historical evidence from outside the Bible tells us Mark got his information from Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples and an eye-witness of all the events.
Did he make it up? That would have been extremely hard to do – Mark wrote it down within the lifetime of most of the people in the account; they would have shouted if he told it wrong. Also, why would he want to? Peter, along with other early Christians, was killed for preaching this stuff about Jesus. Why die for what you know to be a lie?
Do we have what he actually wrote? Professional ancient historians are used to dealing with old books, and checking their reliability. Compare Mark with Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. The earliest copy of that document dates from 1300 years after it was written. And there are only 73 ancient copies in existence. Yet no ancient historian doubts that we really have what Thucydides wrote. Our earliest copy of Mark dates from only 240 years after he wrote it. And there are about 14000 ancient copies in existence. Historically speaking, the Gospels, and the Bible as a whole, are the most well-attested, reliable ancient document in existence. By an absolute mile.
So as you read Mark, you can be confident you’re getting a reliable picture of Jesus. The important question is, what do you make of this Jesus?
Do you think he is insane?
Do you think he is deliberately misleading people in the most horrible way imaginable?
Or do you think he is trustworthy and good?
If you find him trustworthy, you’ll want to follow him, as he commands us to do.
And if you follow him, you’ll want to follow what he says about the Bible.
And Jesus is perfectly clear – what the Bible says, God says (Matthew 19:4-5). The whole Bible is God’s unbreakable word (John 10:35).
You really can trust the Bible.
But that shouldn’t surprise us.
After all, wouldn’t a God who loved us enough to send his Son to die for us, also make sure that he told us about that Son clearly and reliably?
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Rob Hudson, 18/08/17