How is the Bible God’s Word?

How does one convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the Word of God?

Before I try to answer that question directly, let me make a distinction that is important at the outset. There’s a difference between objective proof and the persuasion or conviction that follows. John Calvin argued that the Bible carries both persuasion and conviction in terms of its internal testimony—the marks of truth that could be found just by an examination of the book itself—as well as external evidences that would corroborate that substantial evidence to give solid proof for its being the Word of God.

Yet the last thing people would want is a book telling them they are in desperate need of repentance and of a changed life and of bowing in humility before Christ. We don’t want that book to be the truth. Calvin claimed that there is a tremendous bias and prejudice built into the human heart that only the influence of God the Holy Spirit can overcome. Calvin distinguished between what he called the undicia—those objective evidences for the trustworthiness of Scripture—and what he called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to cause us to surrender to the evidence and acknowledge that it is the Word of God.

But I think this is a critical issue upon which so much of the Christian faith depends. The Bible makes the claim that it is the unvarnished Word of God, that it is the truth of God, that it comes from him. God is its ultimate author and source, though indeed he used human authors to communicate that message.

In speaking with people about this, we have to go through the laborious process of showing first of all that the Bible as a collection of historical documents is basically reliable. The same tests that we would apply to Herodotus or Suetonius or any other ancient historian would have to be applied to the biblical records. The Christian should not be afraid to apply those kinds of historical standards of credibility to the Scriptures, because they have withstood a tremendous amount of criticism from that standpoint, and their credibility remains intact.

On the basis of that, we come to an idea. If the book is basically reliable, it doesn’t have to be inerrent or infallible; it gives us a basically reliable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and what he taught.

We move from there in linear fashion. If we can on the basis of general reliability come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did the things that history claims he did, it would indicate that Jesus is more than an ordinary human being and that his testimony would be compelling.

I would move first to a study of the person of Jesus and then ask the question, what did Jesus teach about Scripture? For me, in the final analysis, our doctrine of Scripture is drawn from the teaching of Jesus and from our understanding of who he is.

From That’s a Good Question! Copyright © 1996 by R. C. Sproul.

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Why Believe God Exists?

Is there a God? Atheists say no such being exists, yet have no proof. Agnostics merely offer that they cannot know with certainty either way. Is there, however, proof that God is real and that He is alive? This brochure presents careful reasoning to verify not only the reality of God’s existence, but the legitimacy of trusting Him.

The Inevitability of Faith: Everyone believes in something. No one can endure the stress and cares of life without faith in something that cannot ultimately be proven. Atheists cannot prove there is no God. Pantheists cannot prove that everything is God. Pragmatists cannot prove that what will count for them in the future is what works for them now. Nor can agnostics prove that it is impossible to know one way or the other. Faith is unavoidable, even if we choose to believe only in ourselves. What is to be decided is what evidence we think is pertinent, how we are going to interpret that evidence, and who or what we are willing to believe in (Luke 16:16).

The Limitations of Science: Scientific method is limited to a process defined by that which is measurable and repeatable. By definition, it cannot speak to issues of ultimate origin, meaning, or morality. For such answers, science is dependent on the values and personal beliefs of those who use it. Science, therefore, has great potential for both good and evil. It can be used to make vaccines or poisons, nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons. It can be used to clean up the environment or to pollute it. It can be used to argue for God or against Him. Science by itself offers no moral guidance or values to govern our lives. All science can do is show us how natural law works, while telling us nothing about its origins.

The Problems of Evolution: Some have assumed that an evolutionary explanation of life would make God unnecessary. This overlooks some problems. Even if we assume that scientists will someday find enough “missing links” to confirm that life appeared and developed gradually over great periods of time, laws of probability would still show the need for a Creator. As a result, many scientists who believe in evolution believe also that the universe in all of its immensity and complexity did not “just happen.” Many feel compelled to acknowledge the possibility or even likelihood of an intelligent designer who provided the ingredients for life and set in motion the laws by which it developed.

The Habits of the Heart: Mankind has been described as incurably religious. In unguarded moments of trouble or surprise, in prayer or in profanity, references to deity persist. Those who would dismiss such thoughts as bad habits or social vices are left with unanswerable questions. Denying the existence of God does not dispel the mysteries of life. Attempts to exclude God from the language of civil life does not eliminate the persistent longing for more than this life has to offer (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There is something about truth, beauty, and love that makes our hearts ache. Even in our anger with a God who would permit injustice and pain, we draw upon a moral conscience to argue that life is not as it ought to be (Romans 2:14-15). Even unwillingly, we are drawn to something that is more rather than less than ourselves.

The Background of Genesis: On first reading, the opening words of the Bible seem to assume the existence of God. Genesis, however, was written at a point of time in history. Moses wrote, “In the beginning God” after Israel’s exodus from Egypt. He wrote after miraculous events that were said to have been witnessed by millions of Jews and Egyptians. From the Exodus to the coming of Messiah, the God of the Bible rests His case on events witnessed in real time and locations. Anyone who doubted the claims could visit real places and people to check out the evidence for themselves.

The Nation of Israel: Israel is often used as an argument against God. Many find it difficult to believe in a God who would be partial to a “chosen people.” Others find it even harder to believe in a God who would not protect His “chosen nation” from the boxcars, gas chambers, and ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau. Yet from the beginning of Old Testament history, Israel’s future was prewritten. Together with other prophets, Moses predicted not only Israel’s possession of the land but also her unparalleled suffering and dispersion throughout the whole earth, her eventual repentance, and then finally her last-days restoration (Deuteronomy 28-34; Isaiah 2:1-5; Ezekiel 37-38).

The Claims of Christ: Many who doubt the existence of God have reassured themselves with the thought, “If God wanted us to believe in Him, He would appear to us.” According to the Bible, that is what God has done. Writing in the 7th century BC, the prophet Isaiah said that God would give His people a sign. A virgin would bear a son who would be called “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Isaiah said this Son would be called, “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The prophet also said that this child would die for His people’s sins before seeing His life prolonged and honored by God (Isaiah 53). According to the New Testament, Jesus claimed to be that Messiah. Under the oversight of a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate, He was crucified on charges that He claimed to be the king of Israel and that He had represented Himself as being equal with God (John 5:18).

The Evidence of Miracles: The reports of the first followers of Jesus agree that He did more than just claim to be the long-awaited Messiah. These witnesses said He won their trust by healing paralytics, walking on water, and then voluntarily dying a painful, undeserved death before rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Most compelling was their claim that many witnesses had seen and talked to Christ after finding His tomb empty and before watching Him ascend visibly into the clouds. These witnesses didn’t have anything on earth to gain by their claims. They had no hopes of material wealth or power. Many became martyrs, claiming to the end that the long-awaited Messiah of Israel had lived among them, that He had become a sacrifice for sin, and that He had risen from the dead to assure them of His ability to bring them to God.

The Details of Nature: Some who believe in God do not take His existence seriously. They reason that a God great enough to create the universe would be too big to be concerned about us. Jesus, however, confirmed what the design and detail of the natural world suggest. He showed that God is great enough to care about the smallest details of our lives. He spoke of one who not only knows every move we make but also the motives and thoughts of our heart. Jesus taught that God knows the number of hairs on our head, the concerns of our heart, and even the condition of a fallen sparrow (Psalm 139; Matthew 6).

The Voice of Experience: The Bible says that God designs the circumstances of our lives in a way that will prompt us to look for Him (Acts 17:26). For those who do reach out for Him, the Scriptures also say that He is close enough to be found (Acts 17:27). According to the apostle Paul, God is a Spirit in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The Bible makes it just as clear, however, that we must reach out for God on His terms rather than our own. He promises to be found, not by just anyone but by those who admit their own need and are willing to trust Him rather than themselves.

You’re Not Alone: You’re not alone if you find yourself honestly unconvinced about whether Christ rose from the dead. But keep in mind that Jesus promised God’s help to those who want to be right with God. He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own” (John 7:17).

If you do see the reasonableness of the resurrection, keep in mind that the Bible says Christ died to pay the price for our sins, and those who believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). The salvation Christ offers is not a reward for effort, but a gift to all who in light of the evidence put their trust in Him.

This information comes from Radio Bible Class (RBC Ministries).

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Obvious Evidence for God

Evidence that God exists, that Christ is the Son of God and that, along with the Holy Spirit, God encompasses these three identities, appears throughout the Bible. To know that the one God created the universe forms the basis of faith, our foundation. We know God created the world and everything in it, and see evidence of this every day in its order and complexity and the way all things fit together in an extraordinary planned sequence.

Extraordinary order = Unimaginable Intelligence

This irrevocable order comes from the indisputable intelligence that created it, ordered it, even maintains it, in spite of man’s interference. Those who attempt to refute the existence of God, the Creator, have to believe in Him on some level in order to refute Him! We witness the miracles in creation every day.

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. (Romans 1:19–22)

Man is Only the Created; We Know Who the Author Is:

Imagine the giant ego of man to think he can reason beyond God! This arrogance is hubris, from the Greek word meaning excessive pride, which becomes the downfall of the person who possesses it. Literature is full of stories in which the hero ultimately fails because success has gone to his head, and he loses his true perspective and direction. “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” (Romans 1:25). Those who assume they know all the answers are victims of their own delusion. Remember: God is the judge of man; not man the judge of God.

Christians are constantly challenged by those who believe in evolution, the “accidental,” “scientific” process of change in the universe and living things. We are charged by Christ to patiently answer the naysayers, in the hope that the Holy Spirit uses our answers in their conversion:

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15)

Know Thy Limits, Respect Thy Maker

For God is the ultimate intelligence, and we must accept that there is no way we will understand and explain everything. Our limitations as humans are too great. “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:26). Let us be reminded that an image is a representation of a being or object. A picture of a person is NOT the person himself. It is but a mere reflection. By believing that the Bible is God’s Word, recorded in remarkable consistency by many through the ages, we take God at His Word. Denying His Word reduces that denial to absurdity.

Indeed, for the unbeliever, our faith is blind, but as the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:25, “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” They cannot see truth until repentance. First Corinthians 2:14 says: “But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

We have our foundational evidence: IN THE BEGINNING, GOD CREATED THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH. (Genesis 1:1)
Enough said!
Praise be to God (not man)!

I found this article at Creation Today website. This is an edited version.

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Ancient Astronaut Theory?

I watched a show on the History Channel this evening because the topic aroused my curiosity; it was called Ancient Aliens. Here is a brief summary about the program:

Unearthly visitations… Heavenly messengers… Close encounters… Accounts of humans interacting with celestial beings have existed since the beginning of mankind. Many of these encounters resulted in moral, philosophical and artistic inspirations. But did these contacts involve ethereal beings from heaven or extraterrestrials from other worlds? Are holy books the word of God, or guidebooks passed down by more advanced civilizations? Who told Joan of Arc how to defeat the English Army–saints or extraterrestrials? Could a young boy from India have learned advanced mathematical formulas from a Hindu goddess? What message did an American serviceman receive while touching an alien aircraft? If the Ancient astronaut theory is correct, then are beings from other worlds communicating with us for our benefit… or theirs? Just what is the purpose of these alien contacts?

Ancient alien theory grew out of the centuries-old idea that life exists on other planets, and that humans and extraterrestrials have crossed paths before. The theme of human-alien interaction came into view in the 1960s, driven by a wave of UFO sightings and popular films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. The space program played a part in this as well: If mankind could travel to other planets, why couldn’t extraterrestrials visit Earth?

In 1968, the Swiss author Erich von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods?. He writes that thousands of years ago space travelers from other planets visited Earth, where they taught humans about technology and influenced ancient religions. He is regarded by many as the father of ancient alien theory, also known as the ancient astronaut theory.

Most ancient alien theorists point to two types of evidence to support their ideas.

  1. The first is ancient religious texts in which humans witness and interact with gods or other heavenly beings who descend from the sky (sometimes in vehicles resembling spaceships) and possess spectacular powers.
  2. The second is physical specimens such as artwork depicting alien-like figures and ancient architectural marvels like Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.

If aliens visited Earth in the past, could they make an appearance in the future? For ancient alien theorists, the answer is yes. They believe that, by sharing their views with the world, they can help prepare future generations for the inevitable encounter that awaits them.

The pyramids, Stonehenge, Atlantis, the Mayans… all advanced for the times. The program mentioned another example of an ancient alien visit; a mythical island called Brazil, or Hy-Brazil (sometimes called the other Atlantis). It is a phantom island mentioned in many Irish myths. It was said to be cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years, when it became visible but could still not be reached.

From a non-biblical perspective, they would have us believe that the encounters we read about in the Bible where angels (or a pre-incarnate theophany) are visiting God’s faithful would actually be encounters with E.T. For example:

  1. Noah (Genesis 6:13): God approaches Noah about destroying the world by a flood. The Gilgamesh Epic records that he is to transform his own house into the ship he would save himself and the animals; it’s even shaped like a cube (could it be Borg? Resistance is futile). The point is that alien technology (far more advanced than the times) was utilized to save mankind.
  2. Abraham (Genesis 18:1, 2-3, 19:1): God visits Abraham at his tent, and some angels go to visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah.
  3. Job and Isaiah (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7): When Isaiah wrote this verse he used a Hebrew word to describe the shape of the earth. Although the word is commonly translated into the English word “circle,” the literal meaning of this word is “a sphere.” In the Job passage, when we consider that twenty-eight centuries ago the prevailing view of the earth was that it was flat and resting on the back of an animal or Greek god, the biblical view of a spherical earth suspended on nothing is astonishing. The point is, how would this be known unless these men were taken up in a spaceship to see the Earth from orbit?
  4. Moses (Exodus 3:2, 34:29): The burning bush experience and the shining face from being with God up on the mountain.
  5. Joshua (Joshua 5:13, 14, 15): The captain of the Lord’s army with a drawn sword.
  6. Paul (Acts 9:3, 4-5): Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that God actually exists, yet it is so easy for someone to promote the notion of extra-terrestrials from other planets? The Christian seems to be the one with a foolish belief system? The origin of life coming from alien DNA makes more sense than the supernatural creation of God? If people can be convinced about the existence of aliens coming back to earth, what better explanation for the rapture, when Jesus returns and takes his faithful home?

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In the Beginning

The Bible does not discuss the subject of evolution, rather, its worldview assumes God created the world. The biblical view of creation is not in conflict with science, rather, it is in conflict with any worldview that starts without a creator (or an uncaused first cause of everything else that was caused).

Equally committed and sincere Christians have struggled with the subject of beginnings and come to differing conclusions. Students of the Bible and of science should avoid polarizations and black/white thinking. Students of the Bible must be careful not to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say.

The most important aspect of the continuing discussion is not the process of creation, but the origin of creation. The world is not a product of blind chance and probability; God created it.

Logic dictates that at the very least there is an intelligent designer (like a watch maker) that designed the complexity of the universe. Irreducible complexity tells me that at some point a complex system, such as sight, can only happen when there are 100 percent of the component working. Remove any one component and sight does not happen. This complexity happening by accident and change takes more faith than recognizing a divine creator. A God powerful and creative enough to get all this done sounds a lot like the God of the Bible.

The Bible not only tells us that the world was created by God; more important, it tells us who this God is. It reveals God’s personality, his character, and his plan for his creation. It also reveals God’s deepest desire: to relate to and fellowship with the people he created. God took the ultimate step toward fellowship with us through his historic visit to this planet in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. We can know this God who created the universe in a very personal way.

The heavens and the earth are here. We are here. God created all that we see and experience. The book of Genesis begins, “God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything after that statement begins the most exciting and fulfilling journey imaginable.

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Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil?

Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? This is an age-old question. Either God is all-powerful but not all-good (and therefore doesn’t stop evil) or He is all-good but unable to stop evil (making Him not all-powerful). The general idea is to blame God for all evil and suffering and pass all responsibility to Him.

No Easy Answers:

Remember that God created Adam and Eve perfect, not evil. But they had the ability to obey or disobey God’s commands. Had they obeyed that one command (Genesis 2:16-17), they never would have had a problem. Since that time, the tendency toward sin has always been with us (Romans 5:12). We must remember that people are responsible for sin, not God.

So, why did God make us so that we could sin? Had this happened, we would no longer be human, but rather machines. Saying, “I love you” in person is so much more meaningful than hearing the same words from a hostage that I told to say it while I hold a gun to their head! We are not robots programmed to say the phrase, we have a choice.

Could God stamp out evil?

A time is coming when He will, because of His never-ending love (Lamentations 3:22). While the devil has his day, God is holding us by His grace and His unfailing love. If God would stamp out evil today, he would do a complete job. Stop war but stay away from us… lies, personal habits, lack of love. Who would still be standing if He were to do this tonight?

What God has done about the evil:

He has done the most drastic thing, the sacrifice of His Son. He was the only way to escape the inevitable judgment of sin and evil. To speculate the origin of evil is endless. No one has a full answer. Some things are classified as secret that only God knows (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Part of our problem is the limited definition of the word good. (See quote on p. 133)… justice dispensed according the severity of the infraction.

Exact-Reward concept:

Would God be good if He dealt with each person exactly according to his deeds? God’s goodness is not only displayed in His justice but in His love, mercy and kindness) Psalm 103:10-11). It is a faulty assumption that happiness is the greatest good, usually fleshed out in comfort. True happiness is not precluded by suffering. Some things can only be accomplished in our character brought about only by suffering (1 Peter 5:10.

Exact-reward is more on the lines of karma. Any attempt to alleviate pain or suffering would be interfering with the just ways of God. That is why Hindus do so little in helping the less fortunate. This idea does give us a clean rationale for suffering; it is all based on previous evil-doing. Christians at times have this same thought, “Why did I deserve this?” That cruel assumption is the argument of the friends of Job.

There are many instances where suffering is not related to one’s behavior; automatic assumption of guilt and needed punishment is not warranted. A man does reap what he sows (Galatians 6:7); the affliction of Miriam with leprosy (Numbers 12:10-11); the life of the baby made from David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:10); a man born blind from birth (John 9:1-3); the Galileans more sinful? (Luke 13:1-3). If the punishment is for one’s deeds, there is never any doubt that it is happening due to the justice of God.

Judgment preceded by warning:

God is always warning about the consequences… turn from your wicked ways, why choose death (Ezekiel 33:11); you refused to allow me to gather you like chicks (Matthew 23:37); God is patient that you would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

How could a good God send anyone to hell? The point is that He doesn’t, we choose to send ourselves. Geisler says it this way, this world is the best way to the best of all possible worlds; one where we have free will yet there is no sin. Sometimes we are responsible for a weak building that collapses in a storm. Others die due to drunken driving. Cheating, lying and stealing are characteristic of our society and God cannot be blamed for it.

The presence of the enemy:

There is an enemy ready to pounce like a roaring lion (2 Peter 5:8). In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the enemy did this (Matthew 13:28). James 4:7 reminds us that he can also be resisted.

God feels our suffering:

He is not distant; He not only is aware of our suffering but He feels it (Isaiah 53:3, Hebrews 2:18, 4:15).

The risky gift of free will:

Evil is a necessary part of free will. He could stop evil but in doing so He would destroy us. The point of Christianity is to produce a willing consent to choose good rather than evil.

Much of evil can be traced back to the actions and evil choices of man and women: the bank robber kills, the embezzler ruins the company, refusing to heed a storm warning.

Some suffering is allowed by God as judgment; but the purpose is to restore or form one’s character.

God has a cruel enemy in Satan. He was defeated on the cross but is still around to wreak havoc on God’s people.

God is the greater sufferer when He sacrificed His only Son for our penalty.

Greatest test of faith:

Perhaps it is to believe that God is good in the midst of all this suffering. God never asks us to understand, but only to have faith and trust Him as a child does his earthly father. Peace comes when we realize that we do not have the full picture (Romans 8:28, Habakkuk 3:17-18).

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Do Science and Scripture Agree?

This is a pretty hot question through the ages. The issue could be how data is interpreted; often conflict comes from trying to make the Bible say things it was not meant to answer. Do scientists and some Christians disagree? Yes, like Galileo, the Scopes trial of 1925 or Wilburforce and Huxley.

Well meaning Christians:

Some try to make the Bible say what it does not say. For instance James Bishop Ussher (1581-1656) calculated the genealogy back to Adam and claimed the earth was created in 4004 BC. Ussher’s notes are not part of the original text so the Bible does not really say that the earth was created in 4004 BC. Statements can be philosophic interpretations of data which do not carry the same weight of authority as the data.

When a scientist speaks:

When a scientist speaks on any subject, he is likely to be believed. He may be speaking outside of his field but gets the same respect that should be given from within his field. Carl Sagan (professor of astronomy at Cornell) speaks on the subject of science and religion. Science is his field; religion is certainly not. He makes bold statements like the universe is all there ever was or ever will be. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, would it not make sense to worship the sun or stars? But it makes no sense to worship the product of blind chance in a pointless process.

Honest differences:

If we stick to what the Bible actually says and what the scientific facts are, the area of controversy is much smaller. There are times of honest differences among Christians: like the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis 1. We cannot condemn someone with a differing view.

Faith is suspect:

Can something that cannot be verified scientifically be dismissed as invalid or unreal? If a statement cannot be proved in a lab or confirmed by science, it cannot be accepted as reliable. There are other ways to acquire knowledge, than just in a laboratory. Consider falling in love. It cannot be confirmed in a lab yet no one would say it is unreal. The scientific method is only reliable on topics whose realities are measured in physical terms.

Scientific methods:

Faith is no detriment to reality. Science itself rest on presuppositions which must be accepted by faith before the research is possible. The universe is orderly, operates on a pattern, and we can predict it’s behavior.

The scientific method we know of today began in the sixteenth century, among Christians. They broke from the Greek polytheistic concepts that looked at the universe as in chaos and irregular. The alternative was a universe of order and there must have been an intelligent designer behind the patterns. Another improvable presupposition that must be accepted by faith is the reliability of our sense perception. One must believe that our senses are trustworthy enough to get a true picture of the universe and enable us to understand its orderliness.

Science is the only way to truth:

A Christian exercises faith and sees no incompatibility in using reason or intelligence. A scientist who is a Christian sees himself following the steps of the founders of modern science.

Science is incapable of making value judgments about the things is measures. There is nothing inherent in science that guides them in the application of the discoveries they make. Science can tell us how something works but it cannot answer why it works; whether there is any purpose for it in the universe. The Bible often tells us how, but rarely tells us why!

Is God Necessary?

Some have thought God was necessary to explain some things that could not otherwise be explained. Scientist will say that given enough time they can explain anything in the universe.

God is not only creator but the sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:17). The universe would fall apart if it were not for God. You still need God even if you understand everything. Knowing how the universe is sustained is not the same as things as sustaining it.

Consider DNA. Is God going to be thrown from the throne since DNA can be produced in a laboratory? These advances in science only emphasize that life did not come from blind chance, but from an intelligent mind! Science does not create ex nihilo!

Three views of evolution:

Evolutionism: that the universe has been evolving forever on the basis of a natural processes, mutation and natural selection.

Microevolution: describes a continued process or development within a species. A bear is still a bear, and dog is still a dog. A species is one of seven classifications (according to the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus) 1) Kingdom, 2) Phylum, 3) Class, 4) Order, 5) family, 6) Genus, and 7) species. Kingdom is the largest group and species is the smallest. Members of a species have a high degree of similarity and will generally interbreed only with themselves. Microevolution will allow for the creation of a new species but not the development of one species into a higher classification.

In Genesis 1:24-25, is kind the same as species? Likely not. It basically means that each kind produces offspring like itself.

Macroevolution: requires the transfer of genetic information from one species to a higher more complex classification. Factors along with chance cannot provide the information necessary to build legs on a fish. There are no missing links in paleontology; from whales to land mammals for instance.

Animal ancestors:

Christians hold to two non-negotiable facts: God supernaturally created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and God supernaturally created the first man and woman (Genesis 1:27). The Bible rules out the possibility of mankind evolving from a lower life form. The NT refers to Adam and Eve as historic figures (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, 1 John 3:12, Jude 1:11). Genesis was not an allegory!

The age of the earth?

Was it 4004 BC or millions of years ago? Look at the Hebrew word for day. Can it mean a period or are rather than just a 24-hour period? The first humans were created on the sixth day (Genesis 2:7-22, 5:2) and he named the animals and had a wife all on a single 24-period? God’s use of the word day is not so confined (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8). Other theologians state that God created a grown up universe, Adam at 20, trees with rings, a rock with the appearance of age, mountain ranges in place. It’s not an argument for the Christian to push since the Bible is silent on the matter. We should be agnostic as to the age of the earth.

Commentary: The same word day is used in the Ten Commandments, a 24-hour period (Exodus 20:11). Adam did not start out as an embryo. There was vegetation on day three, yet now sun until day four, so photosynthesis would not have worked if day three was more than 24 hours.

A constantly moving train:

We are always learning, yesterday’s generalization is tomorrow’s discarded hypothesis. What is to say that evolution is the last assault on our origin? If the Bible becomes embedded in today’s scientific theories, what happens when the theories change 20 years form now? In 1861 the French Academy of Science published 51 scientific facts that controverted the Word of God. Today, not one scientist would support one of these 51 facts.

Many scientists ignore these evolutionary assumptions and consider only the seventh.

  1. Non-living things gave rise to living material; spontaneous generation.
  2. Spontaneous generation happened only once.
  3. Viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are interrelated.
  4. Protozoa gave rise to metazoa.
  5. Various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.
  6. Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates.
  7. Vertebrates and fish gave rise to amphibia, to reptiles, to birds and mammals.

Observation:

These assumptions by their nature are not capable of experimental verification. They assume a certain set of variables occurred in the past.

Does one assume there is a God or not? It either happened by chance or there is an intelligent design behind it all. If God, where does one stand on Christ?

Extremes to avoid:

That evolution has been proven and anyone with a brain should accept it.

That evolution is only a theory with little evidence for it.

The issue is interpretation of the facts; we choose to believe what we do based on our interpretation of the facts. The presuppositions one brings to the facts, rather than the facts themselves, determine one’s conclusion.

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Are Miracles Possible?

Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. Jesus feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves. Did these really happen? Are we to take this literally?

The whole concept of God:

The real problem is not with miracles or prophecy but with the whole concept of God. Once we assume that God actually exists, there is no problem with miracles, because by definition God is all-powerful.

God is not bound by natural laws:

The real question becomes, “Does an all-powerful God who created the universe, exist?” If He does then miracles are possible. A miracle transcends natural law which God is the author. Some people define miracle as a violation of natural law, but this definition practically deifies natural law, and God becomes a prisoner to that natural law, and in effect ceases to be God. It’s fine to believe in natural law, because we can see the usual cause and effect process at work year after year. God does not restrict His right to intervene because He is over and beyond natural law, not bound by it. Laws do not cause anything but are a description of what happens or is observed.

What is a miracle?

We generally use the term to describe anything out of the ordinary or something unexpected; however the term is used in the Bible in a different sense. Some events in the bible could have a natural explanation, like the parting of the Red Sea. High winds could have pushed the waters back, but the miraculous part was the timing. They just reached the shore, the Egyptians approaching, and all the Hebrews were able to cross on dry land.

One the other hand, there are some that do not have a natural explanation, like Lazarus being raised from the dead, or many of the physical healings (like leprosy or the man born blind). This is more than a psychosomatic situation.

Some believe that ancient people were gullible, ignorant and superstitious. Perhaps the disease they had could be explained by modern science, like demon possession could have been psychosis or epilepsy. A primitive person might see a modern jet and call it a silver bird god in the sky. But there is a problem with this perception, since many of the miracles do not fit in this category.

There is no natural explanation for the healing of a person born blind, then or today. How could anyone explain the resurrection of Jesus? One cannot get away with the supernatural aspects of the Bible.

Not in conflict with natural law:

Miracles are not in conflict with natural law! One definition of miracle is that they are unusual events caused by God; the laws of nature are generalizations about ordinary events caused by Him. Some people believe that miracles employ a higher natural law which is unknown to us. We must increase our knowledge we actually realize that the things we thought were miracles were actually higher laws of the universe, of which we were not aware at the time.

An act of creation:

On the other hand, we can view them as acts of creation. Biblical miracles are not scattered throughout the Bible randomly, but are associated with purpose. From the Exodus, through the prophets and into the time of Christ, miracles confirmed faith by authenticating the message or the messenger, or to demonstrate God’s love by relieving suffering.

Miracles are never performed for personal prestige, or to gain money or power. Jesus was tempted to do this in Matthew 4, and resisted, but He regularly used miracles to show evidence of His claims (John 14:11, John 10:25).

Why not now?

Many believe that if God would only do it today, then I would believe. But even in Jesus’ day, He dealt with this in Luke 16 in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The kicker verse is Luke 16:31. If people have ruled out the possibility of miracles, no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. It’s like the talking animals in the movie, Babe (1996 – the dog spoke slowly and precisely to the sheep because it was a cold fact of nature that all sheep were stupid and no one could convince him otherwise).

We have reliable records:

We don’t need miracles today because we have reliable records that tell us these miracles really happened. If miracles are capable of sensory perception, then they can be matters of recorded testimony. If they are adequately testified to, then the recorded testimony has the same validity for evidence as the same experience of beholding the event. Every court operates on the basic of reliable testimony. If an eyewitness saw and recorded the event (like Lazarus’ raised from the dead), then this witness’ testimony is as good as being at the event.

Miracles were done in public: anyone could have seen and investigated the events. Even the chief opponents of Jesus never denied the fact He could do miracles! They either attributed the event to Satan or tried to suppress the witnesses.

Miracles were performed in front of unbelievers: Jesus was no cult member that deluded his private audience, it was before unbelievers, too.

Miracles were performed over a period of time and involved a great variety of powers: power over nature (John 2:1-11), power over disease (Mark 1:29-34), power over demons (Mark 1:21-27), power with supernatural knowledge (John 1:48), power over creation (Mark 6:30-44), power over death (Mark 5:35-43).

We have testimony of the cured: lie in the case of the man born blind (John 9:25) and Lazarus (John 12:10-11).

We cannot discount biblical miracles because of the extravagant claims of pagan miracles: many pagan believe in these miracles because they already believe in the pagan religion; the Bible uses miracles to help people discover the true religion (John 20:30-31).

Pagan miracles:

These do not display the same order, dignity and motive as those found in the Bible. They do not have solid authentication of the miracle. Same can be said of miracles in our time today, they do not stand to investigation. Just because some miracles are counterfeit, does not mean all miracles are counterfeit (like discovering a few counterfeit bills does not less the authentic bills).

The question is philosophical:

The question as to whether miracles are possible is not scientific but philosophical. Science says they do not occur in the normal course of nature or observation. Science cannot forbid them because natural laws do not cause not forbid miracles. They are merely description of what happened. The only question the scientist must ask is, “Are the records of miracles historically reliable?”

Miracles in the Bible are seen as God communicating with us. The whole matter depends on our belief in the existence of God; settle that question and miracles cease to be a problem.

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Does Archaeology Confirm Scripture?

At first the ancient cities were the targets of study, but soon there were found names and places that are in the OT. Persian governors spoke through their letters and Egyptian Pharaohs in gold-lined coffins can now be identified. Scholars found rich discoveries about the neighbors of the early Israelites. Reliability of the Bible has been affirmed in a number of important areas, substantiating the claims of the Bible.

Mostly the goal is to verify some specific biblical events that were doubted or ridiculed. Another is to help explain biblical culture and practices. When an apparent conflict exists, rather than conclude that the Bible is wrong, it is best to admit the problem exists and hold it open to further discoveries.

Sources for archaeologists:

There have been over 25,000 sites excavated in the Holy Land. Some sites the names have changed and others have remained the same for 3500 years, like Damascus.

How can these finds be dated?

Cities were rebuilt on top of the previous one. Fashions of pottery change. King’s had inscriptions on temple door hinges, and the names of the gods were written. Sumerian scribe had a catalogue system. A few miles from Ur there was found an inscription of a king with an unknown name, of the first dynasty of Ur, which the scribes speak as the third dynasty after the great flood. This is 3100 years before Jesus and 1000 years before Abraham.

Abraham’s time:

Places could not be identified until in 1933 a party of Arabs unearthed a stone statue that revealed a name of an elaborate palace called Mari (covering six acres and 260 rooms). 20,000 cuneiform tablets were found describing the culture. Another city, Nuzi, east of Mari on the Tigris River, discusses the customs that Abraham faced in Genesis 15:4 and Genesis 16:1-2, regarding Ishmael and Isaac. Hammurabi’s code required the slave’s child be kept, which was preempted by God’s command for Hagar to flee with Ishmael.

Writing in the patriarchal times:

The city of Ebla has the most extensive discovery unearthed in the New East, dating back to the third millennium BC. It was a modern city, a highly developed culture. There was a room that had been burned, discovered in 1975, with 20,000 clay tablets on the floor; 5000 years of history. We know that biblical history took place in a world where writing was common.

The biblical kings:

Solomon’s splendor had been questioned, the large navy with no suitable coastline for a harbor. An army of 1400 chariots, and 1200 horses. Huge building projects… confirmed by excavations.

Solomon’s gold – 1 Kings 10:21

The description is breathtaking – 1 Kings 6:21-22, 9:11. This is not a scribe’s exaggeration, but a reflection of ancient times.

A conflict described:

In 1868, the Moabite Stone was discovered and the local Arab men thought they could get better prices by selling more pieces, so they heated it and then poured on cold water to break it. The archaeologists had already made an impression of the stone so the story was not destroyed. Chemosh is confirmed – 1 Kings 11:33, 2 Kings 23:13, Jeremiah 48:3. The stone also mentioned the God Israel, YHWY.

Daniel and Belshazzar:

Daniel names Belshazzar as the last king of Babylon, while Nabonidus is named in ancient Babylonian documents. Later discoveries were that Nabonidus removed himself for a ten-year stint in Arabia, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge, for all purposes he was the king. Prior to the Babylonian chronicles, Daniel is the only one that named Belshazzar as the king.

New Testament accuracy:

This is not so much digging for ancient civilizations, but finding written documents, with public or private inscriptions: shopping lists, private notes, legends on coins. Turns out the NT Greek was very similar to the language of the common people.

Stone inscriptions:

Luke took history very seriously and was right on all accounts. He includes many lines of historical details – Luke 2:1, 3:1.

No pious forgery:

Paul’s timeline confirmed at Felix’s replacement by Festus (Acts 24:27) in Nero’s fifth year, before October AD 59. Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and a new pagan city was built on the site in AD 130. Keith Schoville, “Archaeological excavations have produces ample evidence that the Bible is not a pious forgery.” Basically, he says the Bible has never been proven false.

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Are the Bible Documents Reliable?

You have probably read stories about all the supposed errors that are in the Bible. The theory is that mistakes were made through two thousand years of translations and what we have today is a pale reflection of the original writings. But Christianity is rooted in history, and history has not changed. If the historical references in the Bible are not true, we can then doubt the reliability of the rest of the book. We will also ask the question, “Why do we have these books and no others?”

Who wrote the words?

The work of the scribe was a highly professional and a carefully executed task. There are no complete copies of the Hebrew OT earlier than around AD 900 (Masoretic Text), but it is evident that it has been faithfully preserved since AD 100 or 200.

There are translations from Hebrew into Latin and Greek. All copies that came from the Masoretic Text are in remarkable agreement, which attests to the skill and detail of the Masoretes.

Dead Sea Scrolls:

Discovered in 1947, the greatest archaeological discovery of the century. Clay jars in Qumran, dated 150 BC to AD 70. They hid the scrolls in preparation for the Roman invasion, in cave on the west side of the Dead Sea. There is a complete book of Isaiah and another with Isaiah 38-66, the books of Samuel, and two chapters of Habakkuk.

By comparing the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Masoretic Text we see remarkable accuracy. For example, in Isaiah 53 only 17 letters differ from the Masoretic Text. Ten of these were merely spelling differences (like honor to honour) that produce no change of meaning at all. Four are minor like the presence of a conjunction (which is often a matter of style). The other three letters are the Hebrew word for “light” which is added after, “they shall see” in Isaiah 53:11. Of 166 words in the chapter, only one word is in question and it in no way changes the sense of the passage.

The Septuagint:

This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew text, referred to as LXX, for the 70 scholars taking 70 days to complete, in the third century BC. So in comparison to the Masoretic Text, it appears that nothing has changed since 200 BC! It seems to be a rather literal translation. There is also another text called the Samaritan Pentateuch, but this has a Samaritan leaning and emphasis.

Three families of texts:

The question is, “What is the original version of these three families of texts?” It is said that what we have since 225 BC is just about the same document that Ezra read before the people after the Babylonian captivity.

New Testament documents:

Evidence tells us that the same is true for the NT. Generally anything that differs from early manuscripts would be variations in grammar or spelling, not more than 1/1000 part of the whole NT. There are about 6000 manuscripts that have survived to our time. Papyrus was used early, and highly durable. Another material was called parchment, skins of sheep or goats, used up until the middle ages until paper replaced it.

The dates of the NT documents indicate that they were written during the lifetime of the contemporaries of Christ. People were still alive who could remember that events. Many Pauline letters predate the gospels. These early documents can be compared to other ancient documents that have been accepted without question to their authenticity. Nine or ten copies of Caesar’s Gallic War exist, and they were written about 900 years after Caesar’s time! The history of Thucydides (400 BC) with about 8 copies, dated to AD 900. These copies are 1300 years after the original. By contrast, two excellent copies of the NT date to the fourth century. Fragments date back to 100 or 200 years earlier. There is a papyrus codex of John 18:31-33, 37 that dates back to AD 130.

The question of canon:

How do we know these are the books that are supposed to be in the Bible? Protestants accept the same books that the Jews accept in the OT. Catholics at the Council of Trent in 1546 decided to add others, called the Apocrypha. OT books were authoritative based on the utterances of people inspired to declare God’s Word. It’s not clear why they were accepted but it is clear that they were accepted. Jesus even agreed with the Pharisees on the authority of the OT, just not the traditions holding the same authority. The council of Jamnia in AD 90 closed the OT canon. The discussion was on which books to include rather than on which books to exclude.

Apocryphal books:

These were never received into the Jewish canon. Jews and Christians had never accepted them, and they are no where quoted in the NT. Some books like 1 Maccabees is valuable in retelling history, but are not considered as inspired sacred writings. Although not included at first the LXX included them for ecclesiastical purposes only.

What about the New Testament?

These were included based on their inspiration rather than by majority vote. Many claimed apostolic authority (1 Peter 3:15-16). Jude 1:3 mentions 2 Peter 3:3 is a word from the apostles. Early church fathers like Polycarp, Ignatius and Clement mention a number of books of the NT as authoritative.

The second century brought on many heresies, so there needed to be a debate on which writings were authoritative. In the East, the final fixed canon for the NT dates back to AD 367 (a letter from Athanasius), which books were used as sole sources for religious instruction and which could be read for information. In the West, it was decided at the Council of Carthage in AD 397.

The criteria for selecting the canon: could it be attributed to an apostle? Was it used in the church? Was there conformity to standard church doctrine? Luke 21:33 is a solid conclusion on this topic of God’s written Word.

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