Can I trust what I’m reading? It’s an important question -especially if you are reading out the winner of the Oscar for best film!
Actually, that probably doesn’t matter too much but what about a prescription for medicine, a repair manual, a letter from the Home Office? You want to know that those documents tell you the truth.
What about the Bible? It makes big claims. It claims to be able to tell us the truth about God, us, life and eternity. So, the trust and truth question matters even more.
Why should I trust the Bible to tell the truth? I want to suggest 3 good reasons.
- Jesus relies on Scripture
I want to come back to Jesus, this incredible person who stands out in history. We even divide time in terms of what happened before him and what happened after.
As Paul Williams and Barry Cooper point out in their brilliant little book “If you could ask God one question” Jesus had incredible confidence in Scripture.
- When he was tempted – he did not rely on his own charisma -but kept coming back to what the Bible said (Luke 4)
- He said that the very detail of Scripture mattered – the smallest mark on the page (Matthew 5:18)
- He also insisted that it mattered because the whole of Scripture was pointing towards him (Luke 24)
At this point, you are probably thinking that this gives us a problem. Aren’t we in effect saying that you should believe the Bible because it says that we should (including through the voice of one of itscharacters?) Isn’t that circular reasoning.
I want to deal with that dilemma with our next two reasons.
- At some point, we have to accept that there is an ultimate authority
How do you decide what to believe and what to trust? The answer is that at some point we all choose to trust an ultimate authority
- Tradition – we trust people because of their standing/reputation. Often associated with parents, but also religious leaders, teachers, The experts etc.
- Culture/Environment – the majority/consensus/what’s fashionable
- Personal – I only trust my own judgement. What I see, my ability to reasons, my feelings. This is either Reason -what I can logically deduce or Empiricism – what I can observe with my own eyes.
In our day and age, we often look to a mixture of 2 and 3. But we are still choosing to trust. In fact, faith is always part of life. Even when it is faith in my own doubts.
So, we are starting with a presupposition here that if there is a God who made the Universe, if he is infinite and eternal, if we are finite then we need him to speak to us -he is the ultimate authority and the only way we are going to know him is if he speaks to us.
That’s the claim of the Bible and in fact it doesn’t invite us to sit in judgement on it as though our reason is above God’s Word. However, at the same time we are not left with a narrow circularity because we can ask is the Bible reliable, trustworthy, true?
Gavin McGrath gives us 4 helpful questions
- Does it hold together – is it internally consistent?
- Does it tell the truth about the world I know – including history?
- Does it tell the truth about “me”?
- Is it liveable?
Now I want to focus in on question 2. Does the Bible tell the truth about the World I know? To do this I want to take one specific example. The Bible claims to be God’s Word and able to tell the truth about events beforehand. In other words, it claims to give predictive prophecy.
Jesus in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 is asked about the Temple. He says “It’s going to be destroyed. A terrible day is coming. When it happens, you need to flee.”
Now this is significant on two counts
- We can check the claim – it’s verifiable to AD70.
- We can date when the claim was made, that it isn’t a case of a later writer reading things back.
We can do this because Matthew’s Gospel is almost obsessive about showing “fulfilment.” AD 70 is within the life time of the disciples ..so actually it makes no difference if the book was written before or after AD 70. So if he was writing later than AD 70 – it would be reasonable say “look it has happened.” But he doesn’t, nor do the other Gospel writers. JAT Robinson -who had been a liberal sceptic concludes that this must have been written before the event.
In other words, The Bible Stands the test. It was is able to describe historical events, even before the happen. It is consistent with the World that we know.
- The Bible shows its truth and authority when it disagrees with you
Religion often feels like it is made up to suit our needs. Popular psychology does the same it agrees with us and particular with our trust in our own potential.
The Bible does something different -it challenges and disagrees with me. It tells me I need a saviour, I cannot save myself.
Will you let God’s Word disagree with you?
 . Gavin J McGrath, A Confident Life in an age of change (Leicester. IVP,1995), 86.