The authenticity of The Bible has come under increasing criticism in the last 150 years from a plurality of sources. However, that is largely to be expected. As the Bible itself explains, it is impossible for the unsaved person who (by definition) is uninhabited by the Spirit of God to understand the things of God:
“Now we have received… the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God… But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12, 14
Therefore, criticism from such sources is hardly offensive.
What is more disturbing, however, is the number of people who identify themselves as Believers/Christians yet similarly cast doubt on the Bible as representing the pure and unadulterated, complete and unabridged truth of God. Can the Bible, for a Believer, be anything less than completely authentic?
The Basics of Biblical Authenticity
To explore the notion of the authenticity of Scripture, let us consider what The Bible is and what The Bible says about itself.
SOURCE of Scripture
First, let us examine its source
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16a
If ALL scripture is God-inspired then which parts did a perfect God get wrong? Clearly, if God is perfect then the Scripture He authored must be perfect too. Nevertheless, some will say, “Man has corrupted the Scripture.” Certainly, mankind has tried to corrupt the scripture and has had some illusory success. However, if the Scripture points the way to God, we must believe that God Himself will preserve it; that, despite mankind’s greatest effort, the omnipotent God will uphold His Holy Word. For we know that:
“…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” ~ Romans 10:17
If God does not safeguard His Word, what hope can we have of coming to Him in faith to receive salvation? What would be the point of Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross? Moreover, what is the identity of the God whom we would seek? Surely, we would not be able to find Him through a flawed imperfect scripture. Even more appalling, each person would have to define God for himself because there is no reliable standard. Is my ‘god’ better than yours?
PURPOSE of Scripture
Second, let us examine how The Bible defines its purpose:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Doctrine is fundamental truths about God, reproof is the act of verifying our actions against God’s truth, correction is the act of replacing the false in our heart with God’s truth and righteousness is the condition of living/walking in God’s truth. In other words, ALL Scripture tells us the truth; it shows us the difference between the truth and the false; it enables us to replace the false in our lives/thinking with the truth; and it teaches us to walk/live in the truth. In short, ALL Scripture is all about the truth ALL-ways and therefore must its self be true.
Now the determined naysayer may question the legitimacy of the Scripture claiming its own validity. Such antagonists demand independent verification. However, this is logically futile since an independent document would have to be of the same or higher qualitative standing as the Scripture. One cannot test the accuracy of a computer with an abacus; one cannot calibrate a micrometer with a yardstick.
Consequently, if there exists a document of comparative standing to the Bible then it must be the Bible. To wit, if there is a device exactly (no more and no less) as accurate as a micrometer then it is the equivalent to a micrometer.
Likewise, if there is a document superior in every way to the Bible, then it would be superfluous to validate the Bible; it would simply render the Bible obsolete. We don’t do our calculations on an abacus and then check the results with a computer. We simply use the computer to do our calculations.
Accordingly, before questioning whether ALL Scripture is true ALL-ways one must answer the question:
“Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” ~ James 3:11
With the only reasonable answer being “No”, one must conclude the Scripture to be ALL true or ALL false.
VALUE of Scripture
Third, let us examine what Scripture says about its value/status.
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” ~ Psalm 138:2
God holds His Word in a much higher status than His Name! There are various names for God in Scripture (Elohim, Jehovah, etc.). But it is Scripture itself that explains the meaning of those names. In other words, Scripture gives us both the richest and the most accurate description of God. Names do give identity, but to really understand someone we have to know more than just their name. It is not sufficient just to call on His Name; we must also get to know His character. And that character is uniquely defined in His Word.
The Crisis of Biblical Authenticity
If the Scripture is authentic, indispensable and invaluable, why does it come under unrelenting attack? To answer this question, let us explore three crises that face us when we confront the implications of the authenticity of Scripture: Conformation, Consequences, and Comprehension.
The Crisis of CONFORMATION
One problem with an authentic Scripture is that it demands our conformation. Scripture defines good and evil and demands that we choose the former and reject the latter. On issues/subjects that matter, Scripture delineates a single path for us to follow. However, because of a desire to have things our way, we are tempted to ignore inconvenient parts of Scripture. To justify this, of course, requires that we deny and decry the validity of the parts we don’t like. So we try to make Scripture conform to our lives, instead of conforming our lives to Scripture. This has been true since the time of the prophets: e.g., (Jeremiah 7:1-34) the Israelites ignored the Scriptures that warned them of impending punishment for their rejection of God, and only focused on the parts that told them of God’s abiding love/protection (because of the presence of His temple).
Consider the following conversation Jesus had with His disciples:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?”
And they said, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.”
He saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?”
And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 16:13-17
People had various ideas about Jesus’ identity and His ministry. Some thought (ostensibly due to mistaken identity) Jesus was John the Baptist: here to teach them about true righteousness. Some thought he was Elias (Elijah) whose return had been prophesied (Malachi 4:5): here to work great miracles. Yet others thought he was Jeremias (Jeremiah): here to prophecy of things to come. Jesus’ did teach, prophesy and work miracles. But He was far more than a teacher, prophet, or a miracle worker. He was The Christ: The Messiah! He came to bring salvation through His death and fellowship (with God) though His resurrection.
If the people could hold on to their preferred definitions of Jesus, then they could ignore His true purpose and the life changing challenge that He presented. If Jesus was just a teacher, then scholarly communication was all that was required. If Jesus was just miracle worker, then they just needed to bring him their sick/problems. If Jesus was just a prophet, they only needed to heed his warnings of impending doom. But, if Jesus was Messiah they had to yield to Him every facet of their very lives. Their concepts, their values, their goals, their aspirations would no longer be their own to shape; they would now have to conform to Him.
Regardless of our noble thoughts/definitions of Jesus only one definition of His identity is true: Messiah. All other definitions are, at best, only partial truths and therefore, by definition, false. Moreover, the true identity of Jesus was/is not obtained from human deliberation; it was/is given by divine revelation (vs. 17). Therefore, it does not matter who we think Jesus is. What matters is who God says Jesus is in His divinely inspired authentic Word.
In short, Jesus does not conform to our notions/ideas. Rather, we must conform our notions/ideas to who Jesus really is. Moreover, by extension, we don’t define who God is and what a ‘reasonable’ God does. Instead, we learn from God’s Word who He is and how He reigns over the universe in justice and righteousness. We must conform our philosophy to God’s directives, as they are described in His Word.
Crucially, this is the basis on which the Kingdom of God is built and the source of power for all believer’s:
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” ~ Matthew 16:17-19
The kingdom of heaven is founded on the revealed truth of God accepted through the faith of an individual: that forms the basis of the church (Ephesians 2:8-9) and it empowers the church to perform the work of God here on earth (Ephesians 2:10).
If we don’t accept God’s revealed truth by faith, if we hang on to our own notions/ideas of who God/Jesus is, then the church falls apart for lack of a foundation and the remnants of the church as we (not God) choose to define it is powerless, ineffectual in changing the fabric and outcome of the society it inhabits.
The crisis of conformation is that we must either conform our ideas to the Scripture or conform the Scripture to our ideas. If we accept the divinely inspired truth in God’s authentic Word, it means that our lives have to change. But, if we can define which parts of Scripture are true and which parts are tainted by historical bias, then we can have the scripture that suits us.
Therefore, when Scripture says, e.g., homosexuality is wrong (Genesis 19:1-25, Romans 1:16-32); we say that was just historical context. We pretend that God is ONLY love (two references in scripture) and choose to rationalize and/or dispensationalize all Biblical evidence that God is JUST; that God is HOLY; that God is set apart from sin (as He defines it) and will punish the guilty.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4
The Crisis of CONSEQUENCES
Another problem with having an authentic Scripture is that it outlines consequences. Authentic Scripture defines absolute truths AND absolute consequences to ignoring those truths.
“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth… And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD… For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed… If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good… Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.” ~ Joshua 24: 14-23
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” ~ Revelation 21:7-8
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” ~ Revelation 22:14-15
God defines righteousness and salvation and describes their consequences. Similarly, God defines unrighteousness and sinfulness and describes their consequences. The crisis of consequences is that they (the consequences) cannot be ignored if Scripture is authentic. If Scripture is true, then there is a price to pay for ignoring its teachings. Therefore, the only way to continue on our own autonomous path through life is by presuming that Scripture has somehow misstated the consequences. “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” Because God doesn’t just love, God also judges.
Because the consequences in an authentic Scripture are inconvenient and unpleasant, it is preferable for many to ignore its authenticity instead.
The Crisis of COMPREHENSION
Yet another problem with a divinely-inspired, authentic Scripture is that it is difficult to fully understand.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 55:9
There are many difficult concepts that believers have wrestled mightily with almost from Jesus’ resurrection. For example: Predestination vs. free will; eternal security vs. temporal insecurity of salvation; the gifts of the Spirit; the Rapture; the millennial rule of Jesus Christ; the identity of the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation, etc. The crisis of comprehension is whether to accept by faith what is difficult to understand or to discard those things that elude our understanding. Shall we choose faith in God or strength of (human) logic?
It is hard to understand why God permits such dreadful suffering in this world, especially when that suffering is “close to home”. Does that mean the Scripture is false when it tells us that God loves us? We should never forget that God calls us to faith in Him, not to logic. He tells us to trust in Him, not in our understanding.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-7
Newton’s laws of motion are not wrong because we don’t understand them. And they don’t suddenly become true when we do understand them. Likewise, the truth of Scripture does not depend on our ability to comprehend it; it depends solely on the Omniscience of God.
Salvation and Biblical Authenticity
The purpose of Scripture is first to bring us to faith in God, which then enables us to receive salvation through the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The second purpose of Scripture is to enable us to know God, which empowers us to serve Him by accomplishing the work He preordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 3:8-11). Central to both these functions, is the identity of God. All of Scripture works in harmony to present the true and complete identity of God. If we selectively remove certain parts of Scripture (because we deem them to be irrelevant or in some way inaccurate), then we distort the identity of God. Consequently, one must ask: “Which God do you have faith in?” A god that conforms to our desired image is not god at all. Such a god is merely the figment of our Sophistri-cation.
Moreover, salvation requires faith in the true God: the God described by the Authentic Scripture: The Bible. If we do not believe in the God of the Scripture, then we are not saved by the God of the Scripture. Every god defines his/her/its own terms of salvation.
The God of the pure unabridged Scriptures defines His terms too. If we do not like His salvation plan, we are free to construct our own god from the parts of the scripture we find convenient to our lifestyle and philosophy. But, make no mistake, that god is NOT the God of the Bible.
And the Heaven described by the Bible is reserved for those who believe in the God of the Bible. But, the Hell described in the Bible is available for those who reject the God of the Bible: whether they believe in it or not.