Three Overarching Thoughts on the Bible for the New Year

1. I can think of three arguments for recognizing that such a thing as Scripture exists (and, without going into a lot of detail here, by Scripture I mean a text that is not only true but has a special kind of inspired truth).  First and foremost, Jesus recognized it.  Second, we need Scripture as believers just as we need a Constitution as citizens — something fundamental and solid to serve as a foundation.  And God might well agree.  Third, it really is God-inspired — and, I would add, there is evidence of that, which we can discern by reading it and by knowing its historical background.

2. I don’t know for a fact that anyone thinks that either you have to believe the Bible completely, or else you can’t believe any of it.  But I get the sense that some do, on both sides.  That is, there are some who say that, because there are parts of the Bible that appear fanciful or self-contradictory or historically inaccurate or whatever, they reject it all, period.  And there are some who view non-literalists as hopelessly lost and really no better than those who do not believe in the Bible at all.

But this stance is surely wrong.  No one would treat any other ancient manuscript as completely unreliable, just because part of it was, on way or the other, flawed.  And one can believe in Christ and still find this or that Biblical passage to be unbelievable.

3.  What would it take for you to believe the Gospels?  If you have already decided that you will not believe any account that includes supernatural events, then of course you will not believe the four narratives about the life of Jesus — a supernatural character who performs lots of supernatural acts — that are the Gospels.  But that kind of reasoning is also obviously circular:  You don’t believe a narrative that includes supernatural events because you don’t believe there is such a thing as a supernatural event.

But let’s suppose you are not so close-minded:  What then would you look for in the Gospels to find them believable?  My point here is that, if you make such a list, the Gospels will do rather well in fulfilling it.  I’ve provided such a list below; note that I’ll concede that many are contested, but in my view the weight of evidence is in their favor in each case.

  • You would want a document like this to be written fairly close in time to when the events occurred.  Check.
  • You would want it to rely on sources who were eyewitnesses or not far removed from eyewitnesses.  Check.
  • You would want the sources to be reliable or, conversely, you would not want them to be unreliable.  Check.
  • You would want them to have motives to tell the truth and not lie.  Check.
  • You would want there to be outside collaboration for some of what is said and, conversely, little or nothing of that sort to contradict it.  Check.
  • You would want each Gospel to be internally consistent, and for the Gospels to support one another.  Check.
  • You would want the documents to be written in a sober style.  Check.
  • You would want them to be an actual, bona fide documents.  Check.