How can I trust the Bible?

Thu, 9 Jun 2016 | norman

This is a response to the post found here

Let us go through the reasons:

Internal integrity: The Bible does not contradict its own claim to be the Word of God.

Imagine I sit down in a fast-food restaurant, and the table hasn't been cleared; there is a serviette lying on it, with writing on it in small print, but completely legible. It starts by claiming, "The following are the Words of a Supernatural Entity who Knows Everything" and continues to describe things I know to be true, and none of which contradict the first sentence. Does that mean that the first sentence is true? Of course not. How does the consistency of a claim actually prove its own truth? It doesn't. You end up with a castle in the sky; a massive, intricate system of claims which together form an impressive structure, but with nothing connecting their basis to reality. The basis of Christianity is the divinity and literal resurrection of Jesus. Everything else is built on top of that. Before we worry about the Bible's internal integrity, we need real evidence of these two claims it makes, proportional to the improbability of the claims themselves.

The Bible is historically accurate.

We should expect it to be historically accurate, because it was written by contemporaries. The same applies to the movie Forrest Gump. Just because real people and events feature in the movie, it doesn't suggest that the whole movie is literally true. The author of this post mentions Josephus; Josephus wrote about what Christians told him. That's a little bit like watching Forrest Gump, and having conversations with avid Gumpists, and then writing about the alleged life of Mr Gump as if it really all happened exactly that way. (What's more, bits of what are claimed to have been written by Josephus are strongly contested, and were probably written by Christians long after Josephus' death. Josephus did not know Jesus, nor was he sufficiently convinced by the Christians he knew to become a Christian himself.) There are some historical claims in the Bible that don't seem to have happened, like a massive exodus of about 2 million Jews from Egypt. Instead the Hebrew culture seems to have gradually appeared in the highlands of Canaan around 1200 BC (without any corresponding genocide of the previous inhabitants). And then there's the old cannard of when Jesus' birth happened. Was it, according to Matthew, before 4 BC, when Herod died? Or was it, according to Luke, in 6 AD, when the Census of Quirinius took place? The workaround is that there were several censuses, and the census during which Jesus was born wasn't when Quirinius was governor; it was before he was governor. Maybe he was just in charge of the census. Do we have any corroborating evidence for this hypothesis? Nope. Did we just make it up so that a census that involved Quirinius could happen before 4 BC? Yep. While we're on the Christmas Story, what about the slaughter of all the baby boys Matthew talks about (but Luke forgets to mention)? Why didn't a single historian write about it? Well, maybe there were so few baby boys that a massive government sweep to hunt them out and murder them actually resulted in so few deaths that nobody noticed. Herod killed so many people, who would notice a massive government baby hunt? ... So, if you are happy to accept unlikely scenarios like these, then sure, the Bible is historically accurate.

The Bible presents a consistent message throughout.

This is not a universally-held opinion.

In John 17:21, Jesus prays, "Father, I pray that all people who believe in me can be one. You are in me and I am in you. I pray that these people can also be one in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me." So Jesus suggests that the unity of the church ought to be evidence that He is the Son of God.

Instead, it is estimated that there are many thousands of denominations. (Most estimates sit around 30'000 to 40'000.) You can find an interesting, very long, and incomplete list at Wikipedia.

Each denomination broke away from its parent over some disagreement about the message of the Bible. They all claim that the Bible is consistent, but consistent in a different way from all the other denominations.

And yet, even the smartest Christians cannot explain how the Bible is consistent. The Trinity is based on the Bible, but it is never explained in the Bible. In fact it is argued by Arianists that the Bible contradicts the Trinity in John 14:28, where Jesus says, "... the Father is greater than I." The concept of the Trinity emerged in the second century, but was only agreed upon at the Council of Constantinople in 360 AD. Arianists were subsequently considered heretics. The relative consistency of Christian doctrine compared to Eastern religions is because alternative interpretations were not entertained as they were in Hinduism or Buddhism; instead Christian heretics were murdered.

Arias, a priest from Alexandria whose teachings lead to Arianism, knew his Aristotle. Aristotle proposed that the universe has a "first cause", and that the first cause could have no parts, because those parts would have to have been caused by something else. Thomas Aquinas agreed. The fact that the Trinity has three parts, and also not three parts, is not considered an inconsistency by Aquinas. Instead he says it is a mystery -- it is true, but we are just not smart enough to understand how it is true.

So the Bible is consistent if you are willing to accept that the logic of its consistency is incomprehensible.

The "minute details" of prophesies in the Bible are strongly and widely contested. Try RationalWiki for an alternative opinion, and an analysis of the minute details. While you compare the Bible and RationalWiki, ask yourself why an Omniscient Being would leave any room for ambiguity? Is this the Word of an Omniscient Being, or the word of a prophet whose guesses could be matched, with a little creativity, to events that happened over a span of many centuries; and of course the prophesies don't mention that the events described in one verse were to happen centuries after the events of the verse that immediately preceded it. Why don't prophesies use the names of people in the future? Ask yourself what you would have written, knowing then what you know now. In what ways would it be different? Why could the Word of an Omniscient Being not have been as clear as what you would have written?

There are many other instances in the Bible that suggest that it is not the Word of an Omniscient Being. For example, how could an Omniscient Being ever regret His own decision? Yet Yahweh regrets making Saul king (1 Samuel 15:11).

The Law is meant to help the Israelites, especially the food laws, but they are limited to what the Israelites could figure out for themselves, or guess, sometimes incorrectly. According to the Word of the Omniscient Being, bats are a kind of bird (Leviticus 11:19). The Bible completely lacks basic prenatal and maternal care, which would have been really helpful in the Bronze Age; simple things that God's chosen people could have implemented using contemporary technology, like monitoring fetal heart rate using an ear trumpet, and which save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies worldwide today. But no. What about the germ theory of disease? No, not a clue. Instead, the Omniscient Being says that one must not eat rabbits, because their feet are the wrong shape (Leviticus 11:6).

The Omniscient Being of Infinite Love, and Source of Absolute Morality would rather tell His people how much they can beat slaves (Exodus 21:20) than tell them that owning another human being is immoral, always will be, and always has been, even if you're super nice to them.

The Creator of a Universe 28 billion lightyears in diameter can help His chosen people to fight their enemies in the hills, but He can't help them against their enemies in the lowlands, because (Judges 1:19) they have iron chariots. Apologists will say that Yahweh chose not to help them, but read that verse again carefully. That's not what it says.

So it really does not look like the Bible is the Word of an Omniscient Being. It looks like the word of a few very human, albeit well-intentioned, priests.

However, even if it were the Word of an Omniscient Being, that still does not mean that it is all true. He could be withholding information that could help us, and sometimes even save our lives. James 5:14-15, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up." Does Word of the Omniscient Being say, "And the prayer of faith, along with a course of medicine, will save the one who is sick"? What about "And the prayer of faith, and a balanced diet and regular exercise, will save the one who is sick"? No. And yet Christians still don't rely on oil and the prayers of elders. They take medicine, and they seek doctors, and if they are really sick, they check themselves into hospital. Luke 12:7, "Yes, God even knows how many hairs you have on your head. Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows." It is said that there are no atheists in foxholes. I say there are no Christians on Discovery Health. Instead of giving their money to the poor, as Jesus instructs them in Matthew 19:21 and Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22, "There is still one thing you haven't done: Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." They would rather mitigate the risk that God might fail to look after them. If they can't trust God with their health, why would they trust Him at His Word?

We know the Bible is true because of numerology.

Numerology has been applied to the Qur'an too.

And the Bible Code has been applied to Moby Dick.

If you are looking for numbers or hidden words, you will always find them. RationalWiki has more information.

We know the Bible is true because a personal relationship with Jesus has transformed people's lives.

This is true for Islam too. Lives are transformed. According to the Pew Research Center, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world

Its growth is not just the result of fertility rates, but also of people switching religions. From 2010 to 2050, it is estimated that Islam will enjoy a net gain of 3 million converts. That compares very favorably to Christianity's estimated net loss of 66 million deconverts.

Of course, the popularity of a religion doesn't determine the truth of its claims. But if the numbers are anything to go by, it looks from the outside as if Islam is transforming lives in a more convincing way than a personal relationship with Jesus is.

The article continues by comparing Christianity to other religions. Of course, if Buddhism is false, that says nothing about the truth of Christianity.

William Lane Craig's criticism of Hinduism as "inconsistent" belies a fundamental misunderstanding of Hinduism. It's like saying "Western philosophy is inconsistent, and therefore all false." Hinduism is not analogous to Christianity. It is a family of religions and philosophies with a history that connects them. It has never been a single religion; it is a mixture of many older religions. Some Hindus believe in many gods. Some believe in one God. Some believe that Brahman pervades reality, but is not a being in the sense that Jawheh is a being. Schools of atheist Hinduism date back to the fourth century. If Craig wanted to evaluate the "consistency" or "logic" of one of the philosophies or faiths within Hinduism, he would first need to pick one, and then he'd be in a position to analyse it.

The article states, "[The Bible's] claim to be the inspired Word of God is backed by historical, mathematical and scientific evidence." Well, so far we have covered "there are historical accuracies in the Bible" (true), and "there are lots of cool numbers (and names) hidden in the Bible" (true, and also in the Qur'an, not to mention pretty much any other long document you care to choose). What I'm really looking for is evidence! We can trust the Bible if, and only if, we have evidence for the divinity and literal resurrection of Jesus.

I've looked. All I've found so far is "Jesus said He is God", and "a bunch of Christians told me they saw Jesus alive after He was dead." And a whole lot of "I know He's alive because I can feel Him in my heart" -- but, curiously, the guy they feel in their heart always has the same political viewpoint as them, and they don't all have the same political viewpoint as each other. So it's almost as if the guy they feel in their heart is actually themselves.

The article ends with "Why should I choose Jesus?" And the answer it proposes is because Jesus showed us through His words and actions that His Father is the answer to all questions of the heart and needs of the soul.

That sounds great. It might even be true, but I'm still looking for that evidence.

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