Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"One way to tell the NT is true"

Stand to Reason has a brief clip on the historical reliability of the Gospel of Luke as well as the NT in general:

This in turn inspired some impromptu thoughts about the Bible:

1. However, though the Bible is historically reliable, it does not necessarily follow from this that the Bible is God's word. What's needed is something additional to move us from "the Bible is historically reliable" to "therefore the Bible is God's word".

2. Granted, if the Bible is even approximately true, this could be sufficient to prove Christian theism.

3. There are many reasonable arguments that may help move a person from historical reliability to God's word. Each argument isn't necessarily entirely persuasive on its own, though the cumulative effect of all these arguments could be greater than the sum of their parts. And different arguments may be more convincing to some people than to others.

I'm thinking of arguments such as:

  • The argument from multiple lines of prophetic fulfillment.
  • The argument from biblical theological themes and patterns (e.g. typologies).
  • The argument from Jesus' resurrection.
  • Jesus' and the apostles' view of Scripture (e.g. Jesus treating the OT as Scripture in places like Lk 24:44-46 and Jn 5:39; Peter regarding Paul's letters as Scripture in 2 Pet 3:16).
  • The argument from undesigned coincidences which was recently revitalized by Lydia McGrew's fine work.
  • The plethora of psychologically varied but entirely true-to-life depictions of many biblical figures across space and time.
  • The testimonies of Christians with changed lives from reading the Bible.
  • The self-authenticating character of the Bible itself, which is known and experienced in tandem with the testimony of the Spirit. God's sheep hear God's voice. As Origen once said:

    If anyone, moreover, consider the words of the prophets with all the zeal and reverence which they deserve, it is certain that, in the perusal and careful examination thus given them, he will feel his mind and senses touched by a divine breath, and will acknowledge that the words which he reads were no human utterances, but the language of God (De Principiis 4.6).
  • Another argument is from the very person of Jesus Christ who emerges from the pages of the NT as one who is both like us and unlike us. More familiar than our closest confidante, yet at the same time altogether unfamiliar, utterly alien and other-worldly. He is with us and among us, closer to us than a brother, but far above us and wholly separate from us. Karl Barth's words about another might apply with more force to the foreignness of Jesus:

    [He] is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream.

    For all this weirdness or what not, Jesus is absolutely compelling. He attracts as much as he repels. He's without a single flaw, incredibly unlike all other great persons in history. His words have power and authority. No one ever spoke like this man. Jesus inspires unachievable emulation. Jesus expects untainted worship and adoration, yet this seems perfectly fitting to many. What mere man could have such a singular affect on so many throughout the ages?

4. That said, I think ultimately the internal testimony of the Spirit is the cause of faith in God and God's word. I think the idea is something like this:

There are some people who can see the Grand Canyon, but not be impressed, and even think it's oh-so boring. Likewise, there are some people who can hear Mozart or Bach, but hate their music. In such cases, there's nothing wrong with the Grand Canyon or Mozart or Bach. Rather there's something wrong with the person.

In fact, some people saw and heard Jesus' own authoritative words in person, yet they still wanted to kill him. There's nothing wrong with Jesus, but there's something wrong with these people.

Similarly, there's nothing wrong with God's word qua God's word, but there's something wrong with the unbeliever in reading God's word. Perhaps they think it's merely a dusty collection of ancient manuscripts. They can't see it for what it truly is. It's like they're blind to the real glory of God's word.

The apostle Paul uses the metaphor of a "veil" in 2 Cor 3. Scripture ("Moses") is read to some people, but Paul says "a veil lies over their hearts" (2 Cor 3:15). As such, these people can't see Scripture for what it truly is. They may even say they accept "Moses" is God's word, just like some professing Christians today might say they accept the Bible is God's word, but God's word has no authority, no power, in their lives. However, Paul continues, "when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed" (2 Cor 3:16). And the one who removes the veil is the Holy Spirit: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3: 17-18).

A beautiful sermon by arguably America's greatest theologian as well as philosopher (at least before the 20th century) touches on the same or similar themes: "A divine and supernatural light" by Jonathan Edwards.


  1. And there are some that claim The Grand Canyon was created by the Catholic Church for nefarious purposes after they went back in time to before they existed.

    But on a serious note, I'm reminded of a video of Mike Winger's that I watched where he asked what it would take for atheists to believe in Jesus. There were some that would require video evidence. I think aliens could have taken the video and brought it to the future, the details are a little hazy.

    1. Lol about the Catholic church. :)

      Just to add to your atheist point, there are some atheists like Peter Atkins who even say they'd even believe they had a neurological or psychiatric problem before they'd believe they saw, say, a bona fide sign from God.

    2. Tim McGrew points out a few examples in a talk on science, I believe. Thomas Nagel, whoever reviewed a book by Sagan (Candle in the Dark, I think), another example or two sprinkled in. He humorously pointed out not to get into people's way when they let it slip that their issue, ultimately, isn't what they claim it to be.

    3. Also reminds me of the quotation: "never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake"! :)