The Divine Origin of the Bible
Christian apologetics is concerned, in the second place, with the proof that the Bible is of a divine origin. Oxford University Press published a 2008 book by distinguished British philosopher of religion, Richard Swinburne, who says:
We need more information about . . . God. . . . We need to know more about what God is like (for example, that he is a Trinity) and how he has acted towards us (for example, that he became incarnate to share our human condition), in order that we may worship him better for what he is and has done, and interact with him better. . . . This would provide a 'propositional revelation,' a revelation from God that certain propositions . . . are true. (61)
The biblical claim is that it (i.e. the Bible) has been breathed out by God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 14:37; Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18, et al.). The details concerning how this process was accomplished are not provided, but there can be no doubt concerning the extent of the claim: The Bible claims to have a Divine origin. But how does one determine whether the biblical claim concerning its origin is true? The answer is by reason and logical argumentation. Samuel Thompson explained:
To test the genuineness of a purported revelation we have to look at the evidence, and the knowledge that it is genuine will have a rational basis. . . . This does not mean that what is revealed is revealed in rational terms. What is revealed may be something we could never have reached by our own efforts and our own reason. . . . The claim to be a revelation is subject to reason's tests; the only way it can escape its debt to reason is to abandon its claim of truth, but with this it gives up also its claim to be a revelation. . . . (395-98)
Dr. Thomas B. Warren (1920-2000) made an extremely significant contribution to the field of apologetics when he developed a basic argument that proves the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and authoritative word of God. Warren set forth that argument (with full proof that the premises of the argument are true) in the classroom, in print through a journal article (cf. Warren, "Inspired and Authoritative" 1-3), and in print in a lecture during a college lectureship (Warren, "God’s Word" 1-24). The argument is as follows:
1. If it is the case that the Bible possesses property A, property B, property C . . . property Z (where the total situation involved in having such properties makes it clear that the Bible is beyond mere human production), then the Bible is the word of God.
2. It is the case that the Bible possesses property A, property B, property C . . . property Z.
3. Conclusion: Therefore, the Bible is the word of God.
By "property A, property B, property C," etc., Warren meant "affirmative propositions regarding some fact regarding the Bible" ("God's Word" 18). It is clear that the argument is valid in form. It is a hypothetical syllogism in which the antecedent of the major premise (1) is affirmed. The only way the argument could be shown to be unsound (i.e. the truth of the conclusion does not follow from the premises) would be to show at least one of the premises is false.
When Warren set forth the basic argument he had developed to prove the Divine origin of the Bible, he anticipated the misunderstanding some might have concerning the place of reason and logical argumentation in identifying a document as God’s revelation. He responded to this misunderstanding with the following:
The following question might well be raised: How do you decide just what criteria a document would have in order to be regarded as inspired and authoritative? The answer is: By the use of reason. If the objector should then say, "But you thus make human reasoning the ultimate judge" then we reply that such is simply not the case. While it is true that we must use our powers of reason in order to ascertain the marks (criteria) which would identify a document as inspired and authoritative, it is not the case that reason thus becomes ultimately authoritative. We simply use our powers of reason to find out which claim to "revelation" really is the revelation from God to man. Further, we use those same powers to accurately interpret that authoritative revelation. But we insist it is the Bible itself, not human reason which is ultimately authoritative. (This is the case because it is God’s word). We must use our reason correctly in order to be sure that what we regard as the authoritative revelation from God really is such, but, having drawn the conclusion (by the use of our reason) that the Bible is inspired and authoritative, we then depend upon the Bible as the only source of the right answer to questions pertaining to salvation from sin. ("God's Word" 18-19)
A sound Christian apologetic involves setting forth the properties (evidence) possessed by the Bible which make it clear that the Bible is beyond mere human production. These properties must be presented within the framework of a valid argument to prove this second area with which apologetics is concerned. In a true sense, facts without logical structure do not prove anything. Josiah Stamp said, "We know well that a fallacy that would be obvious to all in a three-line syllogism may deceive the elect in 400 pages of crowded fact and argument," but to fit these facts into the framework of a valid argument will "lay bare the bones of the argument" (qtd. in Black 13).
The aforementioned Chinese journalist, Hong Xu, who reported (2007) his findings from a two-year liberty project, also addressed the importance of the Bible in Western civilization. He wrote: "As I went on with the study of Western history, I found what made it genuinely different was mainly its adoption of the Holy Bible as its foundation of worldview." Those who know history and know the Bible also know that there is no book that has influenced human history with the credibility that characterizes the Bible. Christopher de Hamel, ancient manuscript scholar, has stated (2001):
. . .[A]ll evidence confirms that the text of the Christian Bible as we have it today has been maintained and transmitted with extraordinary accuracy. . . . No significant variations or deliberate falsifications have ever been found to shake public confidence in the Bible as a whole" (319-20).
In an earlier day, Sir Fredric George Kenyon, one of the Directors of the British Museum and an internationally recognized scholar in the field of biblical manuscripts, wrote: "The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries" (55).
Black, Max. Critical Thinking. 1946. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1952.
De Hamel, Christopher. The Book. A History of the Bible. London: Phaidon, 2001.
Kenyon, Fredric. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts. 1895. 5th rev. ed. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958.
Swinburne, Richard. Was Jesus God? Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
Thompson, Samuel M. A Modern Philosophy of Religion. 1955. Chicago: Regnery, 1956.
Warren, Thomas B. “The Bible Is God’s Word—The Meaning and Basic Argument for this Claim.” The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. 1971 Bible Lectureship of Harding Graduate School of Religion. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1971.
- - -. “The Bible Is Inspired and Authoritative-Our Basic Argument.” The Spiritual Sword. 1. 2 (1970): 1-3.
Xu, Hong. “God and the Essence of Liberty: A Preliminary Inquiry into the History of Freedom.” All Academic. 30 Aug. 2007. Web. 13 Nov. 2008.