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Why I Believe: That the Bible is the Word of God

W Stevely, Ayr

I believe that the Bible, the original text as written by the authors, is the Word of God. No translation is completely true to that original. However, almost all of the currently available versions capture so much of the sense of the documentary evidence to the first manuscripts that the truth of God shines through to the reader. In a short article I can only briefly outline three reasons for my belief. These are, that the Bible is consistent, it is coherent, and it is convincing.

The Bible is consistent

By this I mean, first, that it is internally consistent. For example, the nature of God as revealed in Scripture is consistently described throughout the sixty-six books. This, of course has been challenged. One reads comment about the "God of the Old Testament" as though He is different from the God of the New. This in part arises from a superficial reading of the Bible and from a failure to grasp the concept of absolute righteousness.

The careful reader sees that God is absolute in holiness and justice from Genesis to Revelation. The consequences of this are catastrophic for rebellious and sinful mankind. The Flood in Genesis and the various judgments described in Revelation provide ample testimony to this.

However, just as there is a consistent record that God is holy and does act in judgment on sin, there is a parallel testimony to His love, grace, and mercy. The story of the Flood has at its heart the note that "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6.8). In a similar vein we find in Numbers 14 that Moses pleads for the people who have again been rebellious against God, and brings before Him His own character as one who is "longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression". Moses cries, "Pardon, I beseech thee", and the response is, "I have pardoned" (vv.18-20).

That God is gracious and merciful is, of course, fully brought before us in the gospel. Paul reminds the Corinthians (2 Cor 8.9) that they "know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich". Again, the letter to the Romans, while spelling out in the early chapters the guilt of men, goes on to describe the work of God in salvation by grace. This is received by us through faith in Christ so that Paul can conclude that "being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rom 5.1).

The careful reader cannot but agree that Scripture is consistent in the sense I have noted above. A disparate group of writers, from different periods in history, combine to provide a portrait of God, of mankind, and of the interactions between the two that varies little as one moves from one writer to another through the Bible. Such consistency serves to show that the Writer behind the human authors is God Himself.

There is also an external side to this consistency. Where Scripture can be tested against other sources of knowledge the accuracy of the Bible is underlined. Many topics could be selected to illustrate this. One useful avenue of study takes the enquirer to the British Museum. The little book Heritage of Evidence by Masters is a guide to items in the collection that, in his words, "provide direct corroboration and background confirmation for an immense sweep of Bible history". So the first chapter begins with the heading "How Assyrian Monuments confirm the Bible". Bible characters are not mythical but actual individuals, whether they be kings or commoners. Their exploits and the kind of life they lived are shown by the artefacts in the Museum. It matches the descriptions in Scripture.

That is not to say that every detail of Bible history has by now been validated by archaeology and other means. However, where a degree of certainty is available from such sources the Bible record is supported. As research continues the believer can be confident that the truth of the events described in the Bible will be amply demonstrated.

The Bible is coherent

What do I mean by this? Simply put, I believe that the story of mankind revealed in Scripture gives a coherent picture that rings true to the world as I experience it. We live in a world marked by failure, suffering, cruelty, and injustice. That is a generally agreed consensus. It includes a moral judgment. This common insistence on making judgments is best explained by reference to God. C S Lewis heads the first section of his Mere Christianity with the title "Right and Wrong as a clue to the meaning of the Universe". The book argues cogently that the common understanding of morality across cultures demands reference to an external Standard, to be found in God.

If we are only a "gene machine" then there can be no purpose in the universe or in life. We are simply an accident of nature. Morality has no real meaning. It is solely a matter of convenience. Yet those who hold this are, by and large, not recklessly immoral. Most behave "respectably" and take moral stances on the big political issues of the day. This is, in itself, another testimony to the truth of Scripture that man has a conscience, is made in the image of God, and is accountable to Him as Paul eloquently argued in Athens (Acts 17).

Leaving God out of the picture gives an incoherent account of mankind. On the other hand the Biblical record of Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation of Christ, His sacrifice at the Cross, and His resurrection and return provides a framework for belief that gives answers and offers hope.

The Creation explains that Man is not merely a machine. He is a responsible moral being. The Fall allows us to understand why there is pain and suffering in the world, while great minds have wrestled over the centuries with some of the issues that arise from the fact that God has allowed this in the world. The Fall gives a convincing foundation on which to rest one’s understanding.

That there should be problems for which we can find no easy intellectual answers is no surprise. Rather it would be surprising if we were able to grasp completely the mind of God. He would not be the God described in the Bible were that to be possible! He has said, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is 55.9).

The Bible also explains that this is not something that has taken God by surprise. The ultimate purpose of God to rescue His creatures and redeem His universe is unfolded as a continuous story from Genesis through to Revelation. That story is completely centred on the crucifixion of Christ. That He is God’s answer to mankind’s need for a Saviour is shown first in the pictures drawn in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. These were brought to fulfilment by the coming of the Son of God into the world as a man and by his death at Calvary, which we are told was "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2.23).

The resurrection offers proof that the work He undertook was completely satisfactory, and the promise of His return both provides hope to the Christian and foretells doom to all His enemies. Therefore, the more one reads and learns of God’s dealings with mankind the more clearly the story can be shown to hang together as a coherent whole.

The Bible is convincing

By this I mean that if one reads the Bible with an honest and open mind it has a convincing and convicting power. I judge this is more than a simple process of logic. The Bible is not a textbook to be studied so that God’s work in His universe can be understood. Rather it is because "the word of God is quick (living) and powerful…and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb 4.12).

There are those who have started to read the Bible in the expectation that they will disprove it but instead found it convinced them of its truth. Morison in his preface to Who Moved the Stone says that it is "essentially a confession, the inner story of a man who originally set out to write one kind of book and found himself compelled…to write quite another". Sceptical of the miraculous before he started, he came to believe in the Resurrection as a fact of history.

The convicting power of Scripture is readily demonstrated in the experiences of many great men. For John Bunyan it was Hebrews 12.24, for Latimer, burned at the stake in 1555, it was 1 Timothy 1.15, and for Luther Romans 1.17. The list is well-nigh endless and grows each day!

Much more could be written, but this short summary encapsulates the key reasons for my belief that the Bible is the Word of God.

Concluded.

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