Why Do I Think the Bible is Inspired?
Arguments for inspiration
The next thing I wanted to talk about is, why I think the Bible is inspired. There are different reasons that will affect different people in different ways, but let me tell you why I am convinced the Bible is from God.
1. The Bible claims it is from God
The Bible claims that it is from God. That’s rather straight forward. The Old Testament is full of the phrase, “Thus saith the Lord.” The New Testament contains the message of Jesus, who claimed to be the perfect revelation of God. The Bible claims to be from God and I believe it. Now do I believe everything I read everywhere? No, but with inspiration, there are many things involved and this claim is certainly significant. I would also argue that the Bible really is impossible to understand if you don’t accept it’s starting point as “these are the words of God.” If you come at it from any other point of view it simply doesn’t make any sense. The first reason I believe the Bible is inspired is because it says it is, and I believe it.
2. It is rational
It makes sense to believe that the Bible is inspired. Now that’s the exact opposite of what people are going to say to you: “Well, rationally, scientifically, logically, I just can’t believe it.” Actually I think the best logical, rational decision is in fact to believe that the Bible is from God. I believe it is irrational to disbelieve Scripture. Now here’s what I mean by that: Scripture is the message of someone who died and rose up out of the tomb. I’m going to pay attention to what that person says. I’m going to pay attention to what his best friends say. This just makes sense.
Another way to start think about this argument is to start with the question, “How can you explain evil?” or with the more difficult question, “How can you explain the presence of good?” How can you explain the extermination of six million Jews by one psychotic? How can you explain the fact that any given time there are around twenty or thirty wars going on on this globe? How can you explain the fact that history is a collection of war after war after war? How can you explain human beings’ propensity to do what is wrong? How do you explain all of this? The best explanation is Scripture’s explanation: There is an evil being called Satan who pushes people to do evil. In addition, according to the doctrine of total depravity, Adam’s sin changed the makeup of what it is to be a human being such that we sin. I can likewise explain the presence of good and beauty. To believe that there is good in this universe, because some primordial scum washed up on a beach millions of years ago and evolved into plant life and monkey life and then human life—that’s silly. That is nonsensical to me. It makes sense to me to say there is good in this universe because it is a reflection of a good God who created it. So when I say I believe the Bible because it makes sense to me, that’s what I’m talking about. The Bible explains reality better than anything else I’ve ever heard of or seen: better than Hinduism, better than Buddhism, better than Taoism, better than Islam, better than humanism, better than secularism, better than pluralism. None of those things can explain reality like Scripture does. So I think it makes sense to believe that the Bible is from God.
3. Work of the Holy Spirit
I think the Bible is from God because of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. This is not a point you can prove to someone else, but nonetheless it is a very important point for me to understand. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to assure you that you are a child of God (see Romans 8:16 and 1 John 3:24). The Spirit is at work in my heart, confirming that Scripture is true. Even when I don’t like a passage, or it grates against me, or there’s something that’s difficult to believe or understand, the Holy Spirit is at work in me, telling me that the Bible is true. This is an incredibly strong argument for me. Sometimes I think of Scripture and my preaching and wonder, “Why do I believe this?” It’s the message of a man who came out of a tomb—a dead man who got out of a tomb! That’s amazing! Has anyone seen a dead man come out of a tomb? Why do we believe this? It really is amazing. Why are we willing to “let there not even be a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 4), like Paul said two thousand years ago? Sometimes I look at that and I think, “Wow! The only way I could believe this as firmly as I believe it is if God led me to believe it in my heart.” That’s the working of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think he would lead me to believe something that was wrong; I think he would only lead me to believe something that is right. I don’t feel this way about any other book, even the ones I’ve written. They’re full of mistakes and I’m always correcting them. The inner work of the Holy Spirit is one of the reasons I believe Scripture is true. There are many other arguments; Wayne Grudem’s book lists many of them (pages 73-89). If this is something you want to research, I would encourage you to do it.
4. Historically accurate
You can believe the Scriptures are from God because they’re historically accurate. No spade or shovel turned by an archeologist has ever disproved Scripture. Never! William Ramsey, a father of a modern archeology and someone who did not believe Scripture was inspired, saw that as he was digging through old ruins, time and time again Scripture proved to be true. He finally said, “I have to believe this thing! The Bible keeps proving itself.” It is historically accurate.
5. Internally consistent
In addition, Scripture is internally consistent. Considering the number of books, the number of authors, and the number of years over which it was written, for it to be internally consistent is really amazing. I can show you other books written by just one person over just one year that are not internally consistent.
6. Fulfilled prophecies
We believe the Bible is true because of the prophecies fulfilled. Isaiah prophesies in 700 BC that a virgin is going to have a baby. Seven hundred years later a virgin has a baby. That’s a pretty good trick! Or maybe this thing is true. The Bible is the most influential book in history. Sometimes I get a little amused at liberals attacking Scripture and trying to throw out various section, like the Jesus Seminar. I say, “You know, you’re going to be dead and gone someday, and no one is going to know you or remember you, but people are still going to be believing every single word that’s written in this book. Why? it’s from God, that’s why!” There are many other arguments, but those are the main ones for me.
Again, these are things you need to struggle through — you need to work through. The problem I had when I was teaching college was getting your kids in class – no none of your kids. I would get kids in class who when I said the Bible’s from God they would say, “Okay.” Then they come to university, they are nineteen/twenty years old, their hormones are raging and they start questioning everything about Scripture. Many of these kids had never been challenged, “you think through why you think Scripture is true.” If you do not consciously work through that process you never will believe it’s true. If you just accept it you’ll never preach with conviction, you’ll never teach with conviction, you’ll never share with conviction, because you just believe it. So I really encourage you to work through these things.
Can't prove the Bible is inspired
A couple of final comments. If someone is trying to get you to prove that the Bible is true, you simply cannot. I know there are some people in Evangelical circles that think they can, but ultimately you can’t prove that Scripture is true. Christ demands faith, not to the exclusion of our minds, but he demands faith. That’s why it would have been a lot better for Thomas to have believed without seeing instead of believing after he saw. Christianity requires faith; without faith it’s impossible to please God. It is of no surprise to me that ultimately you can’t prove that Scripture is true.
1. You can't prove you exist
Here are two good counter arguments you can use in your witnessing. First is the idea that a person can’t even prove their own existence! It is impossible, philosophically, to prove that you exist. Philosophers have been trying to do it for centuries. And they can’t do it so one philosopher finally said, “Well, all life is an illusion; none of this really exists.” Someone else I know pretty well said, “You can’t prove I threw the pen at Theresa, because before the pen could get there all the way it could only get there half way. Before it can get half way it has to get a quarter of the way, before it gets a quarter of the way it has to go an eighth of the way. Motion is an infinitely regressing system—it can never start, and therefore I never threw the pen. And after all, she doesn’t exist and neither do I.” You can’t prove anything, but you really can’t prove any faith system. The materialists out there might say, “I’m a scientific person; I can prove that all there is to reality is what we can see and experience; there is no God.” You say, “Prove it. Prove there is nothing outside the sensory realm.” You can’t; it’s impossible. All faith systems—pluralists, any world religion, materialists—each ultimately require a faith decision. So don’t let someone make you feel bad that you can’t prove Christianity or that the Bible is true. They can’t prove anything either.
The question then becomes, how do you pick your faith system? That’s the question that is most important here. There are two answers that I can think of. First, which one makes best sense? Since you can’t prove anything, which of all the faith systems best makes sense? Do you ladies really want to be pregnant for eternity, populating foreign planets? I’m not a woman and I definitely would not want to be eternally pregnant. You’ve got to think through the faith systems. Which one makes best sense?
Second, the biblical answer as to how you choose a faith system is to try Christianity. Just try it. There’s something that is self-validating about Christianity. When you say, “I have questions, but you know what, I’m going to try it,” Scripture (because it is the Word of God) validates itself. Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I’m speaking of my own authority” (John 7:17). If you really want to do God’s will you’re going to understand that this is from God. Later on in John 10, Jesus say, “If I’m not doing the works of my father then don’t believe me, but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works that you may know and understand the father is in me and I am in the world.” The idea is that if you commit yourself to seeing if Christianity makes sense, then Scripture has a self-validating power to it. It may not convince everybody, but it might convince you, your children, and your friends.
If you’re trying to get absolute proof that Scripture is true, it’s won’t happen. And you know what? I’d much rather have Jesus look at me and say, “Blessed are you! You believed even though you did not see.” That’s what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear what Thomas got. “You believed it because you saw it.”
The real issue is whether you believe it or not
I’ve been involved in more arguments over inerrancy and inspiration than I care to remember. Not always antagonistic, but there has been much discussion. Sometimes I get this nagging sense that it’s a waste of time. It’s not, because I just spent and hour and half dealing with it, but there are some things that are more important. For example, do you know what Scripture says? There are some seminarians that I knew who would much rather argue about inspiration than read the Bible, learn it, and live it. There is a point in this whole discussion where I think you just need to know what it says, get out of the fights, get out of the arguments, and just learn learn what it says. Don’t get sucked into the argument and the long term fighting about the doctrines. Do you know what it means? Related to that, can you explain it? It’s all fine and good to have fine tuned all of our harmonizations and have everything in nice neat rows, but if somebody comes up to you and says, “Are you Christian? Can you explain to me what it is to be a Christian?” Are you ready to answer that question? Many times, these interesting, sometimes fascinating, arguments can get in the way of actually learning the Bible, practicing its teaching, and being able to explain it to someone else. Inspiration is terribly important, but it’s not nearly as important as learning Scripture. Don’t let the argument be a shield to actually learning the text.
The ultimate question that every one of us has to answer is whether we really believe that Scripture is true. That’s where all of this class and last class are pointing. Are you willing to bet your life on whether Scripture is true? You already are, actually—if you don’t believe it, you’re betting your life that it’s wrong; and if you do believe it, you’re betting your life that it’s right. Either way you’re betting your life on whether you think the Bible is true or not. What I like to say is that if you really believe that Scripture comes from the mouth of God, it makes absolutely no difference whether I sit here and I read it, or whether Jesus appears standing next to me to speak it. That’s an image that has helped me a lot, because there is a tendency sometimes to think it’s just a book, but if you really believe inspiration, there is no difference at all between me reading Scripture or Jesus appearing and speaking it. That’s the doctrine of inspiration. If you believe this doctrine, this is the trust you can place in this book.
Where the rubber meets the road is when you disagree with Scripture. Then you’re going to have to make a decision about whether or not you really believe this book is from God or not. Philippians 4 says, “Finally brothers whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, then think about—dwell—on these things.” Could God appear and say those words and it have any different effect than me reading them. That’s going to radically affect what we do Friday night, isn’t it? It’s going to radically affect what we read, what we watch on TV, if we go to the movies, the nature of our discussions with one another. It’s when situations come up where you don’t want to dwell on these things that the doctrine of inspiration raises its head and says, “Do you really believe that it is God who is speaking Philippians 4:8 or not?”
I shared you with last class that the number one question I had as a college teacher was, “Is it okay to marry a non-Christian?” The problem is, Scripture is rather explicit (1 Corinthians 7:14, 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14); the answer is no. The question is, do you really believe those three Scriptures come from the mouth of God or not? Do you really believe that God is all good all of the time and has the best for you in mind; that he knows that being unequally yoked ultimately is detrimental to you? When I talk about a real-life situation, this is the thing that I’m talking about.
Every time I say something and realize that I shouldn’t have because it wasn’t kind or gracious or edifying, I revisit the verses in Ephesians 4. Do I really believe they are from God? he says, “Don’t gossip.” If God were to appear to me and say, “Bill, don’t gossip,” that’s the same thing as reading this. The point I’m trying to make is this: it’s in the day-to-day events of life that we find out whether we really believe in inspiration or not.
The challenge is for you in those difficult times to rethink your doctrine and say, “Yes, I do believe this is from God. It doesn’t make sense to me; it’s difficult; I’m going to be the odd one; no one’s going to be my friend;, but God will be my friend and I’m going to obey it because he said it.” I think that’s the challenge of inspiration. I encourage you to think through that process.