Prophecy And Knowing The Bible Is True


The_Holy_BibleSaying that the Bible is God’s Word is a lot like saying the United States is one nation. The US is, in fact, fifty separate states that joined the union over a period of 150-plus years. Similarly, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, penned by forty human authors over a period of thousands of years.

In many regards, given this scope, it’s a miracle that even one person, let alone centuries of Christians, believes the Bible is true. Clearly there has to be a reason.

For someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign God, belief in the veracity of the Bible isn’t hard. God chose to reveal Himself, His plan, His purpose, His work. The greatest evidence that the Bible is that revelation is the Bible’s interpretation of itself.

It claims, for example, to be God-breathed, or inspired. Prophets quoted God as if He had dictated to them. Jesus repeated numerous scriptures as if they were authoritative. So the first point is this: if God is true, and if He gave the Bible, then the Bible is true.

Of course, many come to the Bible looking for evidence of God’s existence, not having already believed in Him. How can they know the Bible is true?

There are several evidences. One is fulfilled prophecy. The Bible is full of prophecy, as a Wikipedia article notes. Of course, a school of critics question when the original texts were written, claiming that the prophecies came after the fact. An example of this would be Jesus saying He would be put to death and rise the third day. The gospels containing His prophecies were written decades after the fact, so, the reasoning goes, the men who wrote them simply added the prophecy to enhance Jesus’s stature.

This line of reasoning, even if it were true, which I do not believe, cannot explain the prophecies about the Messiah contained in the Old Testament, which Jesus fulfilled. One Bible scholar says there are over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life and death. Isaiah 53 alone says He would be despised (the Pharisees handed Him over to be killed) and forsaken (His disciples ran away). That he would be scourged (the Roman guards beat Him), pierced (and ran a spear into His side), would not open His mouth to defend Himself (stood before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod without defending Himself), would be numbered with the transgressors (killed between two thieves), but would be with a rich man in His death (buried in a rich man’s tomb).

I’ve heard some argue that Jesus purposefully went about to fulfill these prophecies so He could claim Messiah-ship. But of the ones I listed, only His not opening His mouth to defend Himself was something within His human control.

Another scholar, to illustrate the probability of one man, by happenstance, fulfilling all these prophecies, said the chance would be like spreading silver dollars a foot high across the state of Texas, then picking up one you were looking for on the first try.

People examining the Bible closely will find that fulfilled prophecy gives evidence that Scripture is what it claims to be. The reasoning goes like this: If the Bible accurately predicted past events throughout the Old and New Testaments, then it is a reliable source of revelation.

This post, with some minor revisions, originally appeared here in April 2009.

Published in: on July 1, 2015 at 7:15 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

Understanding The Bible


Bible-openI confess, I didn’t realize how many different ways people view the Bible until the Internet exposed me to a wide variety of perspectives. I knew there were higher critics who deconstructed Scripture, essentially shaping it into their own image. But apart from those liberal thinkers, I was unaware of the diverse beliefs about the Bible.

Since I’ve been on the Internet, I’ve learned that there are people who see the Bible as myth that contains truth. Others see some parts to be true–the gospels, primarily–and parts to be filled with false ideas created by the Jews or by Paul.

On the other side of the Bible equation are those who see Scripture as primarily rules to live by. But again, a good many of these are individuals or denominations which are selective in what they say the rules are. For instance, one blogger I encountered railed against an emergent church individual because of his departure from Scripture but saw no problem in treating him without love or even honor, regardless of the number of times he was confronted with direct commands in the Bible for Christians to love neighbors, enemies, brothers and to honor all men.

I realize I’ve been fortunate to attend a church my entire adult life that believes in the Bible in a different way. My first pastor, Chuck Swindoll, taught the Bible is the inspired word of God, which means it is God speaking to me.

I was taught it is inerrant and infallible–that there are no mistakes in its individual parts or in its overall message–so the places I see confusion or contradiction actually reveal my lack of understanding, not a problem with the Bible.

I was also taught the Bible is complete. We’re not waiting for a new or better or additional revelation. God didn’t send golden tablets for someone to unearth and translate. He doesn’t speak infallibly via the Pope or the church prophet.

I was also taught the Bible is determinative–how we respond to what we hear determines our eternal destiny. Further, it is authoritative. Its truth propositions have the final say, and by them all other truth propositions are to be measured.

Finally, I was taught that the Bible is sufficient. I don’t need any other revelation to lead me to God.

Those foundational principles actually undergird my understanding of the Bible, but there are other important essentials that go along with them. Recently my current pastor, Mike Erre, laid out six questions he asks about passages of Scripture to bring forward the meaning of the text. These, I think, encapsulate those “other important essentials.”

1. What is the historical meaning? What did this passage mean to the original audience? Before it was written for us, it was written for or spoken to them.

For example, when Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me, to whom was He talking? And what were the circumstances that surrounded that statement? In other words, what was the context?

2. What is the literary setting? The Bible is a collection of various genres and as such, not all accomplish the same thing.

Mary_Poppins3. How does a particular passage fit into the narrative dimension–the Big Story? It’s possible to pick and choose parts that make the Bible say something it never intended to say.

Pastor Mike gave a great illustration of this. First he showed a short trailer used to promo the movie Mary Poppins. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the movie, a musical, starred Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews and was a story about a magical nanny who taught a stuffy banker how to truly love and care for his children.

Mary_Poppins-children's_reactionNext Pastor Mike revealed that someone made a movie called “Scary Mary” which edited the original musical to show Mary Poppins pushing the children and making mean faces and threatening gestures as the children responded with fright, all to soulful background music, and interspersed with shots of a dark and bleak setting.

Every frame of “Scary Mary” is in the original, but large, large parts have been left out so that the re-cut version bears no resemblance to the original. In fact it so distorts the movie that someone who didn’t know the story could easily be frightened away from seeing it if they relied on “Scary Mary.”

Yes, seeing how a passage fits into the big picture matters.

4. What is the gospel dimension? The Bible is the story of God coming near. It is not a self-help book or a list of do‘s and don’ts or a collection of religious traditions to follow in order to earn points in God’s estimation. Rather, the Bible points to Jesus as our representative.

5. What is the subversive element? Every verse of Scripture is ahead of its time. The Bible isn’t merely culturally relevant, it subverts the world order which calls for people to watch out for number one, go for the gusto, get yours while you can. The Bible shows us God’s contrary approach to life—the last shall be first, you gain your life by losing it, you love your enemies, you do not return evil for evil, and on and on.

6. What is the experiential dimension? The Bible is to be lived, not just learned. “American Christians have been educated far beyond our willingness to obey.”

Ouch!

The last point is the one that brings the Bible home. It is at the level of living out what the Bible says that a Christian shows himself or herself to be a Christian. Can we say we love God and hate our brother? No. Can we say Lord, Lord and not do the deeds of righteousness? No. Can we experience God’s forgiveness without turning around and forgiving others? No.

The Bible, for all the important foundational truths that undergird the reason we can and should rely on it, still boils down to a matter of trust—believing God, being reconciled with Him, and then learning all about His heart and what we can do to please Him.