Why We Believe the Bible
No other group of people have exalted the authority of the Bible alone in matters of faith and practice so consistently as churches of Christ, pleading “where the Scriptures speak, we speak: where the scriptures are silent, we are silent.” However, when this plea is made in our modern world, the question is often raised, “Why do you believe the Bible to be God’s word and completely authoritative in religion?” There are many that reject its authority. Modern Protestantism has largely given up its allegiance to the Bible and has spent much of its effort in trying to discount the absolute authority of God’s word. Roman Catholicism has discredited the Bible’s authority while professing to be its friend, by claiming that it is not the complete authority, nor even final, for the final and absolute authority in the Roman Catholic church is the living voice of the church expressed primarily through the pronouncements of the pope. Many modern sects that claim some allegiance to the Bible have taught its inadequacy so that they might give place to some “modern revelation or modern scripture” given by an “inspired,” modern prophet or leader. We shall attempt in this article to set forth some reasons why we believe in the Bible as God’s word to man.
First, we believe the Bible to be God’s word because it is reasonable to believe in it. Believing in a personal God who is good, wise, holy, and loving, a God who is infinitely concerned about moral and spiritual values, and who are also persons (and this is the only conception of God that will adequately account for the moral nature of man), we believe that it is highly probable that God would not have left men without a revelation of his will for them. Men so deeply need guidance, for they are not only ignorant, but also sinful with their understandings distorted by their iniquity. Whatever indications the natural world can give of the Creator’s power and wisdom, it does not disclose God’s concern for man and his redemption. We believe that in the Bible is found God’s revelation for mankind and the destiny he is planning for redeemed man to enjoy. It is reasonable that a personal God would make known himself to human persons that can respond to his will. Since God cannot be discovered through man’s search, he must make himself known to man through revelation.
Second, we believe that the Bible is God’s word because it claims to be God’s word. Any book making such outstanding claims has a right to be examined on the basis of its claims. In both the Old and New Testaments the words are repeatedly said to come from God. Moses claimed to speak God’s law directly revealed from heaven. The prophets of the Old Testament emphatically claimed that their message was not of human but divine origin. They spoke for God, and declared God’s will. The manner in which Jesus and his apostles constantly referred to the Old Testament passages with the familiar “It is written” showed the reverence with which they regarded that portion of the Bible. To cite such passages and credit them to the Holy Spirit’s power was authority enough for them. Our Lord claimed that he fulfilled the law and the prophets. (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:44.) The Bible specifically claims that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” (2 Tim. 3: 16.) The apostle Peter declares, “No prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21.) In the same epistle Peter placed the writings of Paul beside the other scriptures as of equal authority and validity. The New Testament writings were of equal sanctity and authority with the Old Testament writings. Warnings are given to the readers of the Bible not to add to its words, nor subtract from its message. (1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18,19.) Thus, both the Old and New Testaments bear in their books the repeated claims to divine origin and authority. Either the Bible is what it claims to be or it is a stupendous fraud, one of the greatest man has ever known. Such claims of divine origin challenge the reader immediately to faith and surrender or rejection. There can be no piecemeal acceptance of what may please the reader.
Third, we believe the Bible to be God’s word because of the accuracy with which its writers foretold the events of the future. Such power of future knowledge is beyond the ordinary abilities of man. Yet repeatedly in both the Old and New Testament prophecies were made concerning future events, some of them centuries removed from the time of prediction, showing the remarkable disclosure by God to his prophets of the working out of his divine plans. If there were no other prophecy in the Bible than the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, that alone would convince the honest mind that God guided the prophet in his foretelling concerning the Messiah.
Fourth, we believe the Bible because of its remarkable unity. Consider the number of writers who participated in its writing, their varied backgrounds, the length of time during which revelation was being given to mankind, the languages in which the Bible was written, the different historical circumstances and geographical situations involved, and the wide variety of literary forms in which its message is expressed. One must marvel in the face of all these considerations at its wondrous unity. We turn rapidly from one part of the Bible to another without thinking of the fact that we have moved from one writer to another with an entirely different age and situation addressed, yet we find the word of God giving us the consistent teaching of God’s will, without conflict and contradiction. In no human area of study and writing can one find such a remarkable unity. What unified the writers and guided them? The inspiration of God is responsible.
Another reason for believing the Bible to be God’s word is its wondrous combination of depth and simplicity. The language of scripture is simple, usually written in the idiom of everyday speech and filled with the figures of common life. Yet there is a profound richness and depth to the thought of the Bible that the greatest minds cannot exhaust. For an illustration, the Gospel of John is written in some of the simplest language of the Bible, yet it introduces some of the most profound considerations found in God’s word. Some of the greatest sages of the ages have been enthralled by its wisdom. Yet, the common people have read its simple language and found nourishment for their faith.
The sixth reason for believing the Bible to be divine in origin is the superiority of its teaching about God. The pagan gods were so immoral and pictured so crudely by ancient writings. How different with the Bible’s revelation of the one true God! The contrast is so marked between the God of the Bible and the pagan deities. Even the philosophical conceptions of God have been so insipid, meaningless, and inadequate in comparison to the God of the Bible. The completeness with which God’s nature and action are set forth in the Bible is one evidence for the fact that these things did not come from man.
In addition, think of the teaching about Jesus Christ. The life, character, teaching, and work of our Lord described in the New Testament and prepared for through the Old Testament set him apart from all men. No man has ever so captured the interest of sinful and oppressed mankind as has Jesus. Such a person could not have been created by men’s imaginations. Instead, when we see Jesus, we see the Father himself.
Another reason for accepting the divine origins of the Bible is the character of the religion it sets forth. Its ethical standards are lofty and demanding. The inwardness of its religious teaching, the spiritual emphasis made, the unselfish service to others that it sets forth-all of these make the religion of the Bible superior to anything that man knows or has known. The Bible meets the needs of mankind, for it is designed to provide just what the spirit of man should have for growth into godlikeness. Its influence has always been to lift humanity, to increase the spirit of service and human brotherhood, to make men and women live more richly and be fortified to withstand the tests and trials of life. The hope that it holds before the human heart is satisfying. Within its treasures can be found the power to bless all men of every station, race, or culture if they will give it an opportunity in their lives.
Another reason for believing the Bible is its credibility. Although not claiming to be a textbook on history primarily, its historical accuracy has been proven repeatedly as men have explored and studied the ancient civilizations. This writer is persuaded that many of the historical problems that still apparently exist will through our further knowledge of the ancient world be cleared up and prove increasingly the accuracy of the Bible. Too often has the Bible been right, and the scoffing critic of its accuracy been proven wrong. The Bible, while not a textbook of science, is accurate in its scientific information. Very often the Bible has been abused by its readers who have tried to force down upon it their own conceptions and ideas rather than letting the word of God stand on its own message. When it has been correctly interpreted, the Bible has never conflicted with the assured results of scientific research.
To these reasons given many others could be added: its marvelous dignity and literary quality placing it in the forefront of all literature, its remarkable preservation through the ages, its vitality in the face of repeated critical and destructive attacks, its universal appeal despite these attacks made upon it. While these are all helps to our faith, basically the strongest argument that can be made for our faith in the Bible as God’s word is its power and impact upon us personally as we read and study it. Approaching the Bible with an open mind, our hearts are profoundly impressed with its truth, the depth of its ideas, the scope of its teaching. This writer believes that no man can daily meditate upon the Bible without knowing that this book is from God, for just as Nicodemus spoke concerning our Lord, it might be said concerning the Bible, “No book can do the things that it does except God be revealed in it.”
[Editor’s Note: This article first appeared July 14, 1955, in Gospel Advocate (pp. 592, 594). Frank Pack (1916-1998) served for
many years as dean of Graduate Studies in Religion at Pepperdine University. Professor Pack was a contemporary of Dr. Thomas B. Warren.]