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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Does a Believer Know the Bible is the Word of God?

I have often made the claim that evangelical Christians believe things in the Bible that they would reject in other ancient literature due to their prior faith commitment to the Bible as the Word of God. Christians typically do not come to believe because of evidence and arguments. They come to believe for a number of emotional, psychological and social reasons. Once they have made this commitment and especially if they have some religious experience connected with it, no amount of reason or evidence will convince them they are wrong. I have been criticized by some who say that their belief in the Bible is not due to a "faith commitment." But listen to what John Calvin taught:

Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit. Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgement or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human judgement, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it -that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our judgement, but we subject our intellect and judgement to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge. (Institutes, 1.7.5)

While not all evangelical Christians may believe just because of some faith commitment or religious experience, I think the majority do. Once one has made this commitment then he or she will be determined to defend whatever is in the Bible. Even if they can't defend it, they will still believe, because the Spirit told them its true. One of the leading Christian apologists, William Lane Craig, admits as much.


  1. Your blog is so very informative and helpful. Thank you for using your expertise here!!

    I am the one who asked you about other atonement theories a few weeks ago. I was at BJU during the same time frame as you. Another blogger referred to your previous posts about presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics. That completely clarified the issue for me. I wasn't aware that there were competing schools of apologetics. Of course I should have known that any person or institution out of step with BJU is simply apostate. I'm embarrassed at how brain washed I really was, but it all started at the age of 11, so I'm cutting my younger self some slack.

    Regarding the truth of the Bible, is there any outside corroborating evidence about the tearing of the temple veil from top to bottom at the time of the death of Jesus? I haven't researched it at all, but it often comes to mind as a matter of curiosity, so I thought maybe you or someone else would know. It seems like it would have been a huge issue if it had actually occurred.

  2. Sierra,

    Thanks for commenting. Another former BJU person? Interesting.

    No there is no external evidence outside of the Bible at all for the veil being ripped in two which there certainly would have been if it had happened. There is also no external mention of an earthquake so great that it opened graves and OT saints came out and appeared to many.

    It is inconceivable to me that these things would not have been mentioned by Josephus or someone else if they really happened. Not only is the resurrection of OT saints not mentioned outside of the Bible, its only mentioned in Matthew's gospel. Why would something this momentous not be mentioned in the other gospels? Here is my explanation.

  3. ---

    Did you catch that? At the very end? Did you catch that Ken??? Calvin gives a REASON for why he believes in the Scriptures, after spending the entire paragraph explaining why there is no need of a reason, and how there can't even be a reason in the first place. He then goes on to say that he is "not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge."

    This double-speak that evangelicals, and pretty much people of all faiths, engage in is maddening. He has offered at the end a qualification by which one canjudge a book's supposed divine nature. If it emanates an "energy" which attracts you of its own accord, then it is a divinely inspired book. Well, instead of the subterfuge in the beginning of the paragraph about not needing human reason and judgment, get right to the point and say that you feel that book emits an energy an irresistible energy. That is an argument and can be tested empirically, in theory. But if you want to tout your faith as being above and even beyond reason, then contradict yourself at any point and give a REASON FOR WHY YOU BELIEVE!!

    Sorry, but this kind of talk really grinds my gears.

  4. Exploring,

    It is essentially what William Craig says in his "inner witness of the Spirit". Somehow, apart from reason, they just know its the Word of God.

  5. In my experience it's not just the "Bible" they are stuck on. It's specific interpretations of the Bible they want to keep in place. Despite numerous books, websites, blogs, which openly question and criticize puritanical theologies against the "abominations" of same sex lifestyles and other issues, evangelical ministry leaders are completely hell-bent stuck denying credible alternate views even exist.

    It's not that I'm gay, I'm just educated and informed enough to know those "values" are highly questionable from the Bible. Question the claims of their hateful rhetoric in the slightest you won't get any Bible answers from the Evangelical crew. They happily put their Bibles down and make blanket accusations of heresy, apostasy and suggest you must be crazy for questioning them.

  6. Ken, I'm mostly a lurker here, but I really appreciate this blog. Your words are a salve to my evangelical scars.

  7. Worse, I think a great many Christians refuse to explain why they believe the Bible is the word of God. Some may claim to have some internal witness from the Spirit, but many distance themselves from the belief that Holy Spirit does anything, and fore them there is apparently no need to validate the claim that the Bible is the word of God at all, not even by lying and fake claims of personal revelation that validates the Bible. They will still swear up and down "the Bible is the word of God," but ask them how or why you know that, and there will be no answer, except "The Bible is the word of God" which is the only proof you will ever get from them. It is just so deeply engrained in them, and they've lived so long their stilted lives based on this book, that to admit it is not the word of God even in the face of a mountain of Biblical contradictions is unthinkable. They fear that an admission that the Bible is not the word of God would damn them, even though they know the thing is full of contradictions. Or they fear a breakdown of morality without the lie that the Bible is the word of God, as if this lie actually had any power to keep people moral--just look around you and you'll see it has no such power.