Other Religious Writings
The writings held sacred by other religions are greatly inferior to the Bible. Hindus revere the Vedas, and Buddhists the Pali texts, but anyone who rejects the esoteric practices and philosophies that these writings promote would have no reason to read them. The other so-called scriptures are likewise uninviting. The Book of Mormon has no admirer outside Mormonism, and the Koran excites little interest outside Islam.
The Koran, based on visions of Mohammed, lacks both substance and imagination. The author's conception of the afterlife, for example, is simply a fantasy that his own personal desires—desires conditioned by his own cultural experience—will be perpetually fulfilled. He says the blessed will dwell in a luscious garden filled with trees. Which varieties? He mentions lote-trees and plantains, both found in Arabia. Further, he says the blessed will recline on couches and converse with each other. What kind of furniture is he talking about? The kind in his own house. With whom will a loyal servant of Allah reside? A man can expect a harem of beautiful girls, of course, but throughout he says nothing about a woman's future. Presumably, a woman will have the privilege of belonging to somebody’s harem. What will the blessed eat? The flesh of fowl, he replies. So, like Mohammed's world, it will not be a paradise for animals. Also, the blessed will enjoy the finest of fruits. His notion that they will eat the sweetest delicacies available to a sixth-century Arabian is about as plausible as the notion we might conceive that in heaven our best treat will be chocolate cheesecake. For drink, Allah’s blessed will find rivers of wine, milk, and honey, but apparently no coca cola.
Uniqueness of the Bible
No other religious writing has a stature comparable to the Bible's. Even a skeptic may recognize that the Bible is a great book, important as a work of literature, a record of history, and a treasury of moral wisdom. Recognizing how the Bible surpasses all other religious writings guards us from taking the loftiness of our religion for granted.
By every relevant test of credibility, the Bible stands worthy to be believed.
Trustworthiness of its authors. Its authors were pious men whom no fair-minded person could seriously accuse of deliberate lying or manipulation. Indeed, many Biblical writers, including perhaps all writers of the New Testament, went to a martyr's death rather than recant their faith in God. According to credible traditions, both Paul and Peter were martyred by the Romans, Paul by beheading (the most humane form of Roman execution, reserved for Roman citizens like Paul) and Peter by crucifixion. The Jewish historian Josephus testifies that James was stoned to death after being tried and condemned by Jewish leaders (1). The Babylonian Talmud, which preserves the traditions of the Pharisees, reports that Jewish leaders also killed Matthew (2). The earliest account of John’s death is similar. Coming from Papias, a writer in the early second century AD, it remembers that John was martyred by the Jews (3).
Internal consistency. Although the Bible is the work of many different authors spread over a great span of places and years, its spiritual teachings are marvelously self-consistent, as are its historical narratives.
An outstanding example of consistency in the Bible is the perfect symmetry between Genesis and Revelation. No secular critic imagines that the author of Revelation expected his book to be preserved as the last of sixty-six books in a new collection of Holy Writings. Therefore, the symmetry between the two ends of the Bible, especially between the very opening chapters and the very closing chapters, is unexplainable, as far as the critics are concerned. Let us explore that symmetry.
- Genesis reveals that God intended mankind to multiply and become great in number (Gen. 1:28). Revelation reveals that His purpose will be fulfilled when a vast multitude of people from every nation, kindred, and tongue will enter eternity and live with God forever (Rev. 21:3; compare with Rev. 7:9).
- Genesis reveals also that God intended man to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28). Again, the fulfillment appears in Revelation. There we learn that the eternal dwelling place of redeemed mankind will be the new earth (Rev. 21:1-3). Man will be the wise ruler of that perfect world.
- Genesis records God bringing a woman to Adam (Gen. 2:21-24). Revelation speaks of God bringing a bride to Christ (Rev. 21:2; compare with Rev. 19:6-9), whom Scripture identifies as the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-47). He is the second Adam in part because He accomplished what the first failed to accomplish.
When Eve sinned, what should the first Adam have done? He should have offered to die in her place. As a sinless man, he was an acceptable substitute. No doubt God would have raised him from the dead, as He did the second Adam, and the first couple would have remained in Paradise forever. Mankind would have been spared from the curses of sin and death. Instead, our forefather Adam followed his wife in eating the forbidden fruit.
The second Adam was far superior. To save His bride, the church, from the just penalty for her sin, He became her substitute and went to a horrible death on a cross. Then God raised Him from the dead, so that He can live with His bride forever in Paradise.
- Genesis tells us the penalty that God laid upon the serpent for beguiling Eve into sin (Gen. 3:15). The only other text in the Bible that calls Satan a serpent is in Revelation (Rev. 20:2), at the beginning of a passage which shows his penalty being executed. The final crushing of his head will be his permanent incarceration in the lake of fire.
- Genesis recalls the curse pronounced on mankind after Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:16-19). Revelation foresees the future lifting of that curse (Rev. 21:3; 22:3).
- Looking into the remote past, Genesis tells of a Paradise where one of the trees, called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, bore forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:9). Looking into the future, Revelation tells of a Paradise where the same tree will be missing (Rev. 21-22). Why will God omit it? Because in the last Paradise, sin will no longer be possible. This contrast between the two worlds enhances the overall symmetry by showing again how the last will succeed where the first failed.
- In Genesis we read that God denied man further access to the Tree of Life, lest he eat the fruit and live forever (Gen. 3:22-24). In Revelation, we learn that in the New Jerusalem God will replant the Tree of Life and allow the saints to partake of its fruit (Rev. 22:1-2).
Accuracy. No artifact or credible document from antiquity contradicts the Bible. Every discovery bearing on places, people, or events mentioned in the Bible has supported rather than contradicted what the Bible says. At one time the critics alleged that there was never a people called the Hittites, as the Bible claims. But archaeologists discovered that the Hittites were a powerful nation in Asia Minor (4). The critics once asserted that Bel-shazzar in the Book of Daniel never existed. Then it was discovered that he did exist (5). Also, the critics denied the existence of Darius the Mede in the Book of Daniel, but it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that Darius is the same as the man named Gubaru in ancient sources (6). At one time, the critics claimed that Luke used the wrong titles for some of the officials he mentions in the Book of Acts, but evidence has come to light proving that his titles are correct (7). In recent years one school of archaeologists tried to convince everyone that David and Solomon were legendary figures rather than real kings, but their contention has shipwrecked on two discoveries. In 1993 and 1994 archaeologists found an inscription dating from the mid-ninth century BC which refers to David by name. Subsequently, experts reexamined a previously discovered inscription from the same period and established that it too speaks of David (8).
Realism in its point of view. The Bible in all parts has a down-to-earth truthfulness and transparency that refuse to flatter the reader, to multiply sensational detail, or to gloss over the faults of revered men. The only hero that the Bible recognizes is God Himself. Even in its portrait of Abraham, father of the nation Israel, the Bible exposes conspicuous flaws, and such flaws as his cowardice in the face of Pharaoh's desire to take his wife, Sarai, are not even endearing (Gen. 12:10-20).
Caliber of its ethical teachings. The Bible teaches ethical ideals far loftier than those found in other religious writings. The oldest system of laws in the Bible is the law of Moses, which many people uninformed of its provisions wrongly suppose to be harsh and inhumane. The truth is quite otherwise. The Mosaic code displays many evidences that the author is a Being of supreme tenderness and love. It spares a man from military service if he has recently built a home or planted a vineyard, lest he die before he can enjoy the work of his hands (Deut. 20:5-6). It even grants an exemption to a man on his honeymoon (Deut. 24:5). In the laws of what other society, ancient or modern, do we see compassion of this kind? Further, the Mosaic code stipulates that a captive woman taken as a wife is never to be subsequently sold or treated as a slave since "thou hast humbled her" (Deut. 21:10-14). Apart from divine direction, a human lawmaker in the time and culture of Moses would never have been concerned to protect the rights of captive women. Some of the regulations in the Mosaic code demand kind treatment of animals (Deut. 5:14; 25:4). One especially remarkable requires an Israelite to help an ox or donkey in distress even if it belongs to his enemy (Exod. 23:4–5). Other regulations call for simple neighborliness (Deut. 22:1; 23:24). The code is imbued with concern for the poor (Exod. 23:6; Deut. 15:7–11; 24:14–15), as well as for the "stranger" (that is, the foreigner), the fatherless, and the widow (Deut. 10:17–19; 24:17–18). It enjoins farmers to pass over some of the crop at harvest time so that the needy can gather whatever remains (Lev. 19:9–10; Deut. 24:19–21). A terrible curse is pronounced on anyone who "maketh the blind to wander out of the way" (Deut. 27:18).
A divine perspective transcending all human perspectives can be seen also in the moral teachings of the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus articulates a new conception of love, a conception so exalted that it is unequaled in any other ethical system known to man. Love according to Jesus is a selfless love for all mankind, not excluding your enemies (Matt. 5:44). He is the only founder of a religion who insists that love carries with it the obligation to perform every conceivable good on behalf of others (Matt. 7:12).
Treatment of the supernatural. If the Bible contained the thoughts of man rather than the thoughts of God, its backdrop would be ancient mythology, and much of its content would be clearly mythological in character. But the outlook of mythology is entirely foreign to the Bible. The Bible never ascribes personality to natural objects or forces. Rather than seeing God in a grand fusion with the universe, the Bible teaches that His essence is distinct and transcendent. The angels that the Bible places higher than man but lower than God live within a spiritual realm rather than within the realm of nature. Furthermore, unlike mythology, the Bible gives us a God who is perfect in knowledge, absolute in power, and unfailing in holiness.
Resilience under attack. Many educated people have learned a smattering of so-called higher criticism, which treats the Biblical writings as mere story and fable written long after the time when their principal characters supposedly lived. Higher criticism makes some pretense to be a science, but it is really a highly speculative theory of history—a theory that has stubbornly refused to die despite a growing mass of contrary evidence. Although no archaeological discovery in the last century has proved incompatible with the traditional view that the Biblical writings are authentic, many discoveries have utterly contradicted some view of the higher critics. Yet higher criticism continues to be well respected because it is the only alternative to taking the Bible seriously.
When an ordinary person hears learned attacks on the Bible, he may assume that these spring from logic or evidence. In fact, they spring from another foundation—from the assumption that miracle and prophecy are impossible, even unthinkable. For example, the overarching reason for the late dates that critics assign to Old Testament books like Daniel and Isaiah is that with uncanny precision these books tell of certain future events. Isaiah reveals the name of Cyrus long before he lived (Isa. 44:28; 45:1). In Daniel 11, the prophet provides a detailed survey of Jewish history between 500 and 200 BC. So, in both cases the critics conclude that the predicted events must have come first.
The Christian life is a process of growth from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. Just as bodily growth depends on nourishment, so also does spiritual growth. The food that enables a believer to grow is the Bible (Matt. 4:4). To a babe in Christ, the Bible is milk (1 Pet. 2:2). To a mature believer, it is meat (1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-4).
We find a list of the nutrients that the Word of God supplies in 2 Timothy 3:16-7.
Doctrine. The Bible informs us about all necessary truth that is beyond the reach of our own experience. It affirms the existence of God and paints a full picture of His character. It tells us about heaven and hell, the two places of eternal destiny. It surveys both the beginning and the end of world history. It relates the ministry and redemptive work of Christ. In its record of prophecy and miracle, it provides an evidential foundation for Christianity. And, of surpassing importance, it shows us how to be saved.
Many Americans, especially in the South, say they believe in God and heaven, but decline to accept the full truth and authority of the Bible. They do not realize that their belief system is founded largely on the Bible and their Christian heritage. They are choosing to believe the doctrines they like and to reject the doctrines they do not like. But their procedure is arbitrary. If the Bible is untrustworthy in some things, it is untrustworthy in all things, and their belief system stands on slippery ground. Lacking any solid foundation, their faith in God and hope of heaven are just wishful thinking.
In fact, however, the Bible is trustworthy in all things.
Reproof and correction. The Bible is God's way of contradicting our fallible human notions. Just as foolishness is bound in the heart of a child (Prov. 22:15), so it is bound in the heart of a sinner. The aim of Biblical correction is to bring us to repentance and faith.
Instruction in righteousness. The Bible presents itself as a moral guidebook (Psa. 119:11, 105) with the objective of provoking us to good works from a pure heart (1 Tim. 1:5).
The last two nutrients complement each other. Reproof and correction enable us to know what is wrong, while instruction in righteousness enables us to know what is right.
The Bible is God's Word to man. Nothing in the Bible is extraneous to divine revelation. The whole of it comes from God. Yet today, many who profess a Biblical Christianity boast that they see mistakes in the Bible. Their willingness to cavil at God's Word is reckless and arrogant. We will lay out four crucial arguments that the Bible is in fact inerrant.
- The Bible, speaking of itself under the names "the law of the Lord," "the word(s) of God," or "the word(s) of the Lord" ascribes perfection to itself.
- Several texts agree, for example, that the Word of God is pure—that is, without any adulterating falsehood or deception (Psalm 19:7-11; Prov. 30:5-6; Psa. 12:6).
- Another text, speaking even more plainly, says simply that the Word of God is true (Psa. 119:160).
- Elsewhere, we find the remarkable assertion, "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psa. 119:89). It is absurd to imagine that a patchwork of truth and error would be a fixture for eternity. Surely, truth alone is worth preserving.
- In debate with those who mocked His claims, Jesus resorted to an argument drawn from the Psalms (Psa. 82:6) and then added, as a warning against trying to evade His argument, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:34-36). The term "scripture" refers to the whole body of sacred writings. "Broken" is better rendered "annulled" or "abolished." By resting His argument on the brief statement, "Ye are gods" (two words in the Hebrew), Jesus is conferring authority upon very small portions of Scripture—indeed, upon individual words. He is saying most emphatically that everything in the Bible is fully true and reliable.
- We find an equally reverent view of Scripture in the writings of Paul (2 Tim. 3:15-17). He says that all Scripture is inspired and that all Scripture is profitable to the reader. Surely he did not imagine that anything false was inspired or profitable.
- God is a Being who excels in honesty and forthrightness. Truthfulness is at the core of His character (Psa. 146:6; 2 Sam. 7:28; Rom. 3:4; Heb. 6:18). He would never compromise His character by allowing errors within the book that He expects us to treat as His vehicle of self-revelation. We cannot reckon any portion of this book as erroneous without making God an accomplice in falsehood.
- If the Bible contained errors, it would be impossible to sift them out except by relying on human judgment. Either we would look to presumed experts for guidance, or we ourselves would try to find the errors. But our present view of reality is extremely narrow. We have lived but a moment, seen but a tiny corner of the universe, and learned but a thimbleful of knowledge. Moreover, we have a perverse nature that often prefers nonsense to the truth. Why then should we make ourselves the final judges of where truth lies in the Word of God? Any assertion we judge to be mistaken may only be God's attempt to correct our ignorance.
- Trusting human judgment to find the errors in the Bible, if they existed, could not lead to assured results. In those churches that reject the inerrancy of Scripture, the attempt to separate truth from falsehood is a subjective procedure, unaided by any generally accepted rules. No two practitioners of destructive criticism agree as to exactly which assertions are erroneous. Clearly, then, if we also were to decide that the Bible contains errors, we would soon fall into utter confusion as to how much of the Bible is trustworthy. Soon thereafter, nothing in the Bible could evoke from us the unclouded faith and simple obedience that God desires. But God assures us that He has not spoken to us in mumbles amid noise (Isa. 45:19). Since God promises that He will speak to us plainly, and since the idea that the Bible contains errors has the effect of muffling His voice and creating confusion, we must dismiss the idea as false. The Bible is not full of errors, but is inerrant.
Many spurn the inerrancy of Scripture because they doubt that God could convey complex, perfect truth through mere men using mere human language. But we tend to project our own weaknesses upon God. In His inspiration of Scripture, as in the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit was able to create a miraculous blend of the divine and human. Some of the words came to the author as the spoken words of God. Some came to him as the creation of his own mind. Because of their human character, all the words exhibit the author's peculiar style, personality, and experience. Yet because of their divine character, all the words are fully true, and their scope is not limited to the author's prior knowledge. Moreover, unlike any religious writing proceeding solely from human will and imagination, the Bible refuses to tell man that he is okay, or to give him a recipe for working his way to heaven. Instead, it tells man the unvarnished truth—that he is a wretched sinner.