A friend of mine–I’m not sure he shares my views–asked me why I believe that the Bible is God’s revelation. Having typed up my answer, I decided to post it here as well:
I grew up with believing parents, and we went to believing churches. Unfortunately, the Bible was held up as authoritative more than taught or studied. In AP English my senior year of High School I was confronted with people who lived what they believed perhaps more radically than anyone I had ever met: the existentialists. Many of them were so certain that we are bubbles of nothingness on a sea of emptiness that they took their own lives. I had professed faith and been baptized when I was 7 or 8, but for the first time, I think, I was face to face with people who weren’t just hypocrites; they weren’t just flirting around with sin, either, they were rejecting the big story of the Bible and living out the implications of their rejection.
I didn’t know what to think or believe for about 2 weeks. The Lord brought me through, and I distinctly remember the day behind the high school when I prayed something like this: “God, if you don’t exist, there is no reason to live; life is just pain, and it might as well end. I can’t live without you. I need you. I want to trust you, to believe in you, to know you.” The Lord answered my prayer. I know he did: I felt a joy I could not explain, a joy whose only source could have been the Lord. And it was like a heavy cloud lifted, the sun broke through, and I felt joy and peace fuller than I’d known before.
I implicitly trusted the Bible. I had read it cover to cover my junior year of high school, and when the prophets said “Thus saith the Lord,” I believed them. The Bible formed in me, without me realizing it, the view of the Bible I still hold today. For instance, when Moses reads what he has so far to the people in Exod 24:7, the people recognize that though Moses has read this to them, it’s the Lord who spoke, and it’s authoritative: “. . . he . . . read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient'” (Exod 24:7). Gobs of texts like this one convinced me that when I read the Bible, I was reading God’s word.
I think the same thing that happened to the Israelites listening to Moses happened to me. They recognized that God had spoken, and the Spirit of God confirmed that recognition. They recognized that God was to be obeyed. I saw the same things they saw, even if I couldn’t have explained it at the time.
So going into college, the Bible had taught me what I was to think about it. I didn’t have the words or theological categories to explain it this way then, but I know I believed the Bible was God’s word. And I know that it wasn’t a result of indoctrination. It was from my reading of the Bible.
These things were confirmed as I studied and memorized the Bible in college. I remember standing in the office of one of my English profs who was incredulous that I actually believed the Bible. He said to me, “All of modern science is against you.” I responded in the language of the Bible: “If God is for me, who can be against me.” Reflecting on that since, I think the biblical authors are far more trustworthy than the modern scientists with all their scandals and sleights of hand.
At DTS we were exposed to unbelieving scholarship, but we were also exposed to believing scholarship. I get the impression that at many liberal schools, you only hear the liberal (unbelieving) side of things, and no one even bothers with the conservative (believing) scholars.
I think that my belief that the Bible is the word of God was probably most strongly challenged during the PhD program. It wasn’t challenged, though, by arguments so much as by the “peer pressure” of the academic guild. That is, the initiates in the guild weren’t producing evidence, logic, and an overwhelming case against the Bible. It was more like an unspoken entrance requirement: if you want to join the ranks of the real scholars, you can’t believe that the Bible is inerrant, and you can’t hold that the attributions of authorship are accurate. Those ideas aren’t allowed here. I actually had an editor of a semi-evangelical journal tell me that I needed to become a real scholar and stop betraying so many evangelical assumptions about the Bible in my writing.
Never, mind you, was any of this actually argued. The strongest pull seems to come from things so deeply entrenched that they don’t need to be argued.
I was disgusted by the “peer pressure” from the esteemed guild to reject the Bible. I was also enormously helped by Tom Schreiner, whose candor about these things, confidence in the Bible, and willingness to bear the reproach of the cross that attaches to believing the Bible made him a rock through the storm.
Helped through the storm by the Schreiner-rock, I began to look more closely at what I thought were the hardest cases. I was not at all impressed with the actual argument against the historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible. In fact, I think you would have to know far more than any human being could ever know to be in position to declare definitively that the Bible is in error. Would it be harsh to summarize the argument against the Bible as the whining of rebels?
So I think that too often the rejection of inerrancy is both un-historical and un-critical. It’s un-historical because it imposes on the primary sources foreign assumptions that prevent those sources from being properly understood, and it’s un-critical because the argument is so insulated by the unbelieving claque that the merits of the case aren’t ever really heard. So you have a one-sided, un-critical, un-historical, bad argument against the Bible, and this bad argument often winds up evaluating the morality of the Bible by some foreign ethic. Where did this foreign ethic get its authority? Or if it’s not ethical, it’s some “law of history”–where did that law of history get its authority?–those who reject the Bible have their own Sinai experience, it seems. And if it’s not ethics or history, it’s archeology, in which I have very little confidence. But somehow the tenuous conclusions of the archeologists with their fragmentary remains become so definitively authoritative that the Bible can be condemned as in error. I’m not buying it.
One final thought: I remember Dr. Danny Akin telling a story about how he was once asked why he believes what he believes about the Bible. I resonate with the answer Dr. Akin gave. He said that he had trusted in Jesus as his Lord and Savior and sought to be a disciple of Jesus, so it made sense to him to believe about the Bible what Jesus believed about the Bible. Jesus said God’s word is truth. He said not a jot or tittle would pass away, and that heaven and earth will pass away but his own words won’t.
The word of the Lord will stand forever.