How do we know it’s true? A Rooted Question

One of the questions that came up on our Rooted course, part 1 was about the reliability of the bible. Is Christian faith based on a bunch of fairy stories or is it true and trustworthy.  I’ve mentioned on Faithroots before, 4 helpful questions that Gavin McGrath suggests we should ask of any world view[1].  Here they are again.

  1. Is my worldview consistent with the World that I know?

In other words, does it fit with what I observe around me.  Is there consistency with scientific and historical data.

On the question of science, Kirsten Birkett, Unnatural Enemies is a helpful read whilst FF Bruce, The New Testament Documents, are they reliable and Kenneth Kitchen, On The reliability of the Old Testament are great books looking at historical data.

It’s worth making a comment about miracles here.  If my world view just ignores the normal laws of nature and expects incredible and incredulous things to be happening because that’s the way the world works then I would suggest that this is inconsistent with the World we know.  The Bible does not do that, it has a clear understanding that people don’t walk on water, a few loaves don’t feed 5000 people, the dead don’t come back.  These are extraordinary and exceptional events. Though even still, these miracles run with the grain of how nature works. Bread gets multipled but stones don’t become bread, people don’t suddenly sprout wings and fly, etc.[2]

Now, if these events are 1 off and extraordinary, then the question is not whether we can get them to conform to the rules of the science lab and repeat them.  The question is whether they conform to the rules of historical evidence.  As Bruce and Kitchen both show in detail, the answer is “yes they do.”

  1. Is my worldview consistent with the me that I know?

In other words, does it speak the truth about the human condition?  The Bible talks about us as made in the image of God -there’s a high sense of human dignity and value.  It tells us that God has put eternity in our hearts. We know these things to be true, we are not just animals fighting for the survival of the fittest. We desire meaning and purpose, we look for love and community, we have a sense that death is not the end.  At the same time there is the aching and hurt that comes because we know all is not well. We know that we end up hurting the ones we love, our consciences remind us of our failings.  Deep down, we know we are sinners.

  1. Is my worldview internally consistent?

…Or does it contradict itself? This is where it’s worth taking time to do a close reading of the Bible.  Sometimes it will seem at first that different authors or even the same author are at odds and so some people have said that the Bible does contradict itself. However, my experience of careful and diligent study is that actually even those passages when we look at the context and style of literature complement and supplement each other rather than disagreeing.

  1. Is it liveable?

The best example of this I’ve heard is about what I do with the belief that we are all part of the one and should merge into the one.  Physical matter is illusory and so is the idea of an individual soul.  People who believe this are very reluctant to let themselves merge into the oneness of the oncoming number 9 bus knowing that the force of its material bumper hitting me will be just an illusion!

For more on the question “How can we know the truth about God?” Check out our e-book “How do you know?” available to download from our publications page.

 

[1] C.f. Gavin J McGrath, A Confident Life in an age of change (Leicester. IVP,1995), 86.

[2] This is a point that I think CS Lewis makes in his book, Miracles.

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