The busyness of life and the demands of the urgent can so take control of our hours and minutes that we seldom find the time to contemplate the more significant questions of life and meaning. The pressure of commitments and their expectations crowd us all into a thin corner of superficiality if we’re not careful. Where do we find the space to look inside and to look up? One of those ultimate questions that must be faced at a deeper level than we often devote to it is the question concerning whether the Bible is, in fact, the word of God. Sadly, far too many people never give that question a moments thought, and not all these people are skeptics or unbelievers.
At the risk of oversimplification, there are just two answers to the question of the Bible. The first answer is one that denies the Bible is the word of God, or that has serious doubts about it. The second answer affirms that the Bible is the word of God, at some level, or at least claims to believe that it is. I want to devote most of this post to the second answer, because I believe many of the people that read this blog hold that position. But I do want to give some space to the first answer.
Worthy of Consideration
The question of the divine nature of the Bible is one of the most fundamental questions of life. Probably, between one and two billion people, or maybe more, believe the Bible to be the word of God. While that is less than half the people on the planet, it is a sizable number. To disregard the question out of hand is to be guilty of a grave error. This question is worthy of a least some consideration and thought. There are many who may have been raised in a different culture or religious context, so that the question has never come up. Fair enough. It is the responsibility of believers to raise that question as faithful witnesses. But for others, who are in a culture that has at least some cultural memory of the Bible being treated with great respect, it is not reasonable to treat the question as if it has no value. Do the hard work of checking it out. The resources are readily available. Here are seven books that make a strong case that the Bible is the word of God: A Peculiar Glory by John Piper, Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Frank Turek, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas, Reinventing Jesus by Komoszewski, Sawyer and Walace and The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg. There are many others as well.
You Say You Believe the Bible?
The vast majority of Christians who profess a belief in the Bible as the word of God do so not because they’ve read the scholarly works, but because they believe that God has spoken to them in the scriptures. This is a perfectly good reason to believe the Bible. In fact, it is probably the best reason. Experience gives a validity that arguments can not. One who has seen the Grand Canyon has much more to say than one who has merely read about it. That being said, experience does not make something true or good. People can make all kinds of claims. Well thought out and presented arguments have their place. Many people say they believe the Bible is the word of God but have never actually read much of it. Their faith rests on something superficial and will not stand up in the storms of life. Saying that I believe the Bible is the word of God and having good reasons to make that claim, may be two different things.
Taking the Bible Seriously
I believe that if a person truly believes in the Bible as God’s word, then they will take it seriously. It will shape and transform their life. It will not just be something to tack on to their own opinion or to validate their own thinking. It will be transformative. Here are three ways to know if we’re taking the Bible seriously, or ways to fan into flame the fire of taking the Bible seriously.
First, those who take the Bible seriously desire to read the Bible and hear the Bible taught or preached. They want to put themselves in the place to hear God speak to them. This is the first burning desire people have. They can not abide not hearing God speak to them since he has spoken and they have his spoken word, the Bible. Pause and think about it for a second. The Bible is the word of God. He has and does speak in his word. I have the Bible. Is it possible for me to really believe these things and not be passionate about deeply engaging the Bible? The first desire of those who take the Bible seriously is to put themselves in the place of at least having the possibility of experiencing God speaking to them.
Second, those who take the Bible seriously desire to understand the Bible they have read or heard. It is a great thing to read the Bible, or to engage in a small group Bible study, or consistantly hear it preached. But if I don’t understand what I’ve read or heard, God has not actually spoken to my heart. That’s not to say we immediately understand everything we read or hear. Understanding the Bible is often a process. It may take years to throughly understand some parts of the Bible. But we do have to grapple with what is being said in the text and what it all means. In fact, those who do take the Bible seriously do not merely read or hear without some meditation on its significance. The assurance and satisfaction of hearing God speak is in the understanding of what he’s said. The desire for the word of God goes deeper than the surface.
“The assurance and satisfaction of hearing God speak is in the understanding of what he’s said.”
Third, those who take the Bible seriously desire to apply the Bible to their lives. It’s one thing to read the Bible, and another to understand it, but the ultimate goal is to see it transform our lives. We’re not always successful in applying the Bible, but if we take the Bible seriously, we greatly desire to experience its power in our lives. The struggle to apply the Bible is a humbling experience. But it is one that is necessary. Just as we grapple with understanding the meaning of the Bible, so we must grapple with its applicability to our lives today. Engaging the Bible in a meaningful way is not easy, but it must be done. If God has given us his word, we must be dedicated to go hard after it.
In the last chapter of that magnificent book of Isaiah, the Lord proclaims that he is the creator of heaven and earth. One who is so high and mighty, to whom would he consider among humanity? Is it to kings or princes, the wealthy or the wise? No, the one who has the eye of the Lord is, “he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). The Lord takes special,note of those who are humble enough to tremble at his word. They recognize that they have nothing in themselves to commend themselves to the Lord, so they fall back on the Lord and his word.
When many people were no longer following Jesus, he turned to his disciples and asked, “do you want to leave me as well?” (John 6:67). Then Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Indeed, the words of life lead to the Holy One of God. That is the reason we desire to know the scriptures. They bring us to Jesus. I encourage you to be serious about the life changing truth of the Bible. I encourage you to consider what we have in the Bible. I encourage you to tremble at the word of God.