Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is the Bible true?

Ran across this incredibly well thought out post on Neil's blog. It's too long to post in it's entirety, but here's a snippet...

Why do I believe the Bible is the true word of God...and that other holy books are not?

This was the first question posed to me by my friend Nicholas during our conversation about Christianity. He posted it at his blog last week. I’m posting it here for archival purposes. Here is my response:

First, let me thank you for this unique opportunity. In our world of sound bites and bumper sticker arguments it is so refreshing to be able to just lay out a set of beliefs in the marketplace of ideas and have a serious and respectful dialogue. I have learned a lot from you about how to have graceful and charitable conversations. I know you’ve studied the Bible before, but I’ll try to address your questions as if responding to someone who hasn’t.

First, a little background: I grew up with a terrific set of Christian parents who have always lived out their faith in teaching and in service to others. Other than my college years, I have always gone to church...but let’s just say I wasn’t paying real close attention for the first 28 years or so. I was quite the skeptic. I think it is important to note this because I and many others didn’t come to faith through brainwashing from parents, schools or churches. We did so after initially rejecting and rebelling and later examining the evidence for ourselves. That doesn’t make us right, and that isn’t the only way people become followers of Christ. But it does counter the pervasive myth that we always believed these things or that we accepted them blindly. I didn’t become a believer overnight; it was something I wrestled with for a long time.

You asked a profoundly important question. The Bible claims that Jesus is God and that He is the only way to forgiveness of your sins and to eternal life. The Bible claims to speak for God over 2,000 times, so if it isn’t his Word then it has a staggering amount of lies and wouldn’t be worth picking up. That doesn’t mean it is true, just that it matters a great deal if it is true or not.

On to your questions. Here’s the short version: When I examined the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and for the authority of the Bible I found it to be extremely compelling. The Bible has credible authors with eyewitness accounts, claims that were falsifiable, accurate prophecies, complete support from archeological finds, robust copying processes that ensured we know what the originals said and plenty of accurate one-time translations from the original languages to our language. I found solid answers to every difficult passage I cared to investigate. I also noted the positive, dramatic transformations the Bible has had on people and cultures who take it seriously, as well as the tremendous impact it has had in my life.

I found other holy books to be lacking in some way, such as historical mistakes or clear contradictions to what we know to be true. I also found their accumulation processes to be less reliable (i.e., allegedly transmitted to one person over a short period of time). They also contain major differences that can’t be reconciled with the Bible.

To those who haven’t read the Bible, my suggestion is to just dive in. The Gospel of John is a good place to start. Find someone to read it with or join a Bible study. Get a “study Bible” that has explanatory footnotes. Keep asking tough questions. I read it all the way through 10 years ago and it was life changing. At a minimum you will have read the most popular book of all time and will have a better understanding of Christianity.

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