Lecture 1: Significance of the Question
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Some people feel that it is wrong to ask fundamental questions such as whether or not they trust the Bible. But if you never seriously ask the question, you will never be convinced that it really is true and trustworthy.
1. The world is asking (and attacking)
2. Your friends are asking (or they will)
3. You should be asking
4. You must be asking (Titus 1:9)
a. Hold firmly
b. Encourage others by sound doctrine
Course: Why I Trust My Bible
Lecture 1: Significance of the Question
This is the 1th lecture in the online series of lectures on Why I Trust My Bible by Dr Bill Mounce. Bill was a preaching pastor at a church in Spokane, WA, and prior to that a professor of New Testament and director of the Greek Program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He also taught at Azusa Pacific University for ten years. He is the author of the bestselling Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other resources. Bill was the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, and is now serving on the NIV translation committee. Bill and Robin have been married since 1983 and have three children.
1. The World is Asking (and Attacking)
I want to start with just a few opening comments to orient yourself to me and my own experiences and to the class on the issues we are going to be raising. I was initially trained as an academic and taught in college for ten years. I also taught in graduate school, seminary for about four years. What is interesting, as an academic and as a college teacher, this whole issue of my I trust my Bible was one of these paramount issues that kept coming up in class after class after class. So I have been talking about this for quite a while. In Seminary it was more helping future pastors know how to answer questions about this. But college was a very pivotal time for me with the issues why I trust my Bible. I moved into the pastorate again and as a pastor I had different kinds of questions about trusting the Bible; things like, is it real? Is it authentic? Did the Biblical writers get the story correct? Did the church alter it through the centuries? A lot of these questions as a pastor forced me to deal with a lot of these issues. I have also been a translator in a New Testament chair for ten years with the ESV and I am currently on the NIV committee. As a translator, one is also making decisions on whether this is the correct English word to use or not? Will it give someone the wrong idea or make someone believe or not believe the Bible. These are real issues that translators struggle with. Now I am president of bibletraining.org and it is my privilege and joy to be able to take all these experiences to produce these series of talks on why I trust my Bible.
It is important for you to understand the relationship on two different classes at Biblical Training: we have another course on ‘Why We Trust the Bible.’ We have gone out and gotten some of the world’s experts to comment on these issues. Darrell Bock talks about the historical Jesus, while Craig Blomberg talks about the reliability of the Bible. We have other world experts dealing with the same topics I will be talking to you about, but in much greater depth. What I am discussing is almost a summary of what they are saying with a few minor points included. This is more of a lay person’s kind of class on why I trust my Bible. Now, an important point as we discuss these issues, you hear a topic that you want to know more about, you can always look at the topic in the other class for a more in-depth coverage of it. The links on the web-site allows you to easily switch over to the other class for more information. As I start, I will deal with ten or so basic concepts and I will be going through those chronologically. We will start with the historical Jesus; did he really exist and I will go through the centuries and end of talking about translations and why you can trust translations.
Before, I need to first make an important point, ‘can you prove that the Bible is trustworthy?’ The answer to that is ‘no’. You can’t prove it but the fact of matter; you really can’t prove anything, not really. You can’t prove the existence of God for a deist; neither can you prove that there is no God for an atheist. You can’t prove evolution nor can you prove creationism. We have our beliefs on it but you can’t prove it. If you listening to this class and you are looking for definite proof, beyond any doubt, where you can know that such and such is true, it is simply not possible, but this applies to anything in life. This is the nature of reality, as all belief systems are precisely that: they are belief or faith systems. You can try to set yourself extremely high standards to the point of proving the church didn’t alter the message of Jesus; those standards will not hold up. Of course if you set the standards too low, then you can’t convince anyone that it is true. So in regards to this question: can I prove the Bible is trustworthy, the answer is no. But the other side of what we are talking about; is it a rational belief? I believe that answer is yes. I don’t have to have all these points clarified to be a Christian nor to believe the Bible is trustworthy. There is good evidence and argumentation; it is an internally consistent and coherent argument; I think that it is the most rational thing you can do; you can believe that the Bible is trustworthy. Again, can I prove it? No! But can I create a cogent rational argument that holds together? Yes, I believe I can.
This class is going to be fairly basic, however the other class will be a little more technical and at times it might be a little hard to follow. I want you to be able to leave this class with the assurance that even if you don’t fully understand some of these arguments, there are conservative evangelical scholars that have spent their lives studying these issues. And they believe the Bible is trustworthy and I think that is encouraging to people as well. Also, I will be referencing to some U-Tube videos and handouts; these links are in the online class. This topic of the historical reliability of the Bible is an incredibly significant question. When doing some teaching in South Africa, we experience expected turnouts, but one night my host ask whether we could have an open discussion on the topic of trusting the Bible. Hundreds of people showed up for this as this was an obvious viable question for many and people all around the world are asking this question. Of course, there are those who even go on television saying that Jesus was a mythical person. This is amazing as Jesus is the most significant influential person in the world, whether or not you believe he is indeed the Christ and God. Wouldn’t it be amazing if he never really lived?
2. Your Friends are Asking
When I was younger, most people accepted a Judeo Christian world view, even non-Christians. That day has passed in western culture. And the world is not going to give us the benefit of the doubt. It is going to attack; so you need to know the answers to these questions. Your friends will be asking you as you live as salt and light in a dark world; people are going to ask you why? I think also that you should be asking the question even though often basic fundamental questions are frown upon. Is Jesus really God; is salvation really by faith? Is the Bible really from God? Is it a trustworthy guide to all that we believe, do and say? It is critical that you are asking these questions for the reliability of the message is tied up with the reliability of the messenger. It is okay if you have trusted others for a positive answer especially if you are young, but for a first year university student, you need to have a creditable answer as you are in the process of becoming an adult and taking the beliefs you had as a child and now seeing whether those beliefs are true or not. This is good because if you don’t go through the process of honestly asking whether or not you really believe this. Then you never will really believe it. So, you had to decide whether this is true or not. This is why this course is so important as I want to walk you through the major challenges of believing that the Bible is trustworthy.
3. You Should be Asking
The fact of the matter is that you will keep making these decisions, because as a cycle as you will be faced with situations over the years that challenge your faith. Those challenges will be in the form of economics, people, wealth, family, death and/or relationships. In those situations, you will ask yourself, how could a good God let this happen? How could an all-powerful God let this happen? Do I really trust him? Do I really believe his Word? Life will throw curves at all of us; sometimes they will be huge and sometimes not so huge. All of us have these kinds of issues that come up in our lives. You will go through this cycle and it will be good because when you come out the other side trusting the Bible, even facing the death of a loved one, for example, you will realize that you trusted more then and you did earlier. This goes deeper and deeper into your soul as you believe it with more and more conviction. Don’t feel like that you shouldn’t be asking these questions.
4. You must be asking:
a. Hold Firmly
Paul talks to Titus in chapter 1:9 about elders but I think it applies to all Christians. He tells Titus that he must hold firmly to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. So the first thing is to hold firmly to the Word and then to give instruction and then to rebuke those who oppose it. So you and I have to hold firmly to the Bible; we have to know it. That is why we have biblicaltraining.org so that you can get your Biblical and Theological education here. In the course of the experiences of life, you will come to hold firmly to it.
b. Encourage Others
Secondly, you have to be able to encourage others by sound doctrine. This is an important concept in the pastorals; it is the idea that the Biblical Gospel and doctrine gives spiritual health. It give life; it is sound and it is rational and it makes sense; it is life giving. This is what Paul is saying. You are to encourage others by sound doctrine; now, you may have ideas that may or may not be good ideas or they could really be bad ideas. We will encourage people with our own ideas. But ultimately, the encouragement needs to come from Scripture and that means you need to know Scripture and be convinced that it is true so that you can encourage others by it. Just last night, we had a couple over whose adult son died in difficult circumstances. They are hurting over this. We talked about Scripture, about the sovereignty of God and the fact that God loved their son; that he is now with Jesus in heaven. While the parents are hurting; they have a hope in the future. You must trust your Bible in order to encourage others by it.
The third point here; you have to be able to refute those opposing Scripture. This is a little more difficult. I remember reading a survey that said that average person being a Christian for five years has no non-Christian friends. In other words, we tend to wrap ourselves into a cocoon. Presumably, we all have non-Christian friends and we need to know what they think and what they are listening to. We need to know what the non-Christian world thinks and what is being said. We need to know the silly and damning things that are being said on some of the U-Tube videos. Some of them are just vile and it’s a wonder that God just doesn’t strike people dead! That is what is influencing the people around us and we need to know what is going on so that we are able to refute it with the sound doctrine of Scripture and with love as we are convinced that it is absolutely true. There are some links that will help you know what is going on in our culture. So, that is the significance of the question.
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