Today I received a response to a tweet, a snippet of a review of my Christian novel Leaving Darkness – “This is a very nice book of Christian fiction.” The response: “Christian Bible = fiction.”
My first reaction was “is that really necessary” but then I realized the opportunity to discuss something I’ve been wanting to address for some time.
I have found that many non-believers require evidence of the truth of the Bible first if they will accept it as God’s word. I get that. I’m a science nerd, grew up big on astronomy, and hold a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Information Systems Project Management. Postulate theory, then prove said theory to establish fact – the scientific method.
Some may argue that the Bible has passed analysis in many disciplines. A few examples off the top of my head include the discovery of archaeological finds in the Middle East, the Shroud of Turin, the Crown of Thorns (recently in the news because of the Notre Dame fire). Others may argue the opposite – the archaeological findings only show that historically there may have been a man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Shroud of Turin has been carbon-dated to the middle ages, the Crown of Thorns came out of nowhere hundreds of years after the Crucifixion – valid, well-thought out arguments to disprove the Bible.
Here’s the issue as I see it though – you cannot, and will never find conclusive proof if you begin on the foundation of “prove it to me.” From John 20:29: “29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Yes, John goes on to note that Jesus performed many other miracles as “proof”: “30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” However, that returns to the circular argument that if you do not believe the Bible is truth, then you won’t believe what John wrote about those signs Jesus performed as proof.
The bottom line as I see it: you first need faith, then you shall find proof, not the other way around. If you begin to read the Bible to find proof first, you won’t. But if you approach the Bible with an open mind and heart that the truth may lay within, you will. For me, as I’ve grown in faith, I see tangible proof of the truth of the Bible daily.
Now, I’m not going to profess I understand all of the Bible – I don’t. Jonah in the belly of the whale? Hard to swallow (pun intended). Talking donkey? Pretty difficult to accept based on scientific knowledge alone. That’s where faith helps to augment – not replace – lack of understanding. An interesting observation though is the stronger my faith becomes, the more I see the proof that skeptics seek but cannot see.
I respect and understand the view of the responder to my tweet and appreciate the opportunity to expand on my faith. I also welcome respectful responses to this post. What do you think? Does beginning with a walk of faith and an open heart lead to conviction of biblical truths, or does the The Christian Bible = fiction?
NIV Bible quotes from https://www.biblegateway.com/
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
3 thoughts on “Christian Bible = Fiction?”
It’s also important to remember that the Bible is not the basis of Christian faith. There were Christians for at least two centuries before there was a collection of Scripture big enough to resemble the Bible we know.
People were converted to Christianity before the Bible was completed and after all the people who personally witnessed the Resurrection were gone from the earth. So how did they do that if the Bible is the foundation? Well, it isn’t. It’s a glorious gift to the Body of Christ and to all of the world, but the Bible is not necessary to come to Christ.
How did Jesus tell us to spread his Gospel? He told us to “Go.” We are to go and make disciples. Disciples make disciples just by being disciples. It is not our job to convert hearts. The Holy Spirit does that. Our job–our commission–is to be disciples, tell people why we have hope, and serve as lamp stands for the light of Christ to shine forth from. He does the rest.
Belief is not something that I chose. I tried to choose it. For more than two decades as a non-believer, I wanted to be able to believe, but I couldn’t. Belief was a gift that God just gave me. We all arrive at faith in different ways, and maybe for some people it’s different, but I desired to know if God was real and if He was good and if He really knew us all individually and cared. I wanted to know him and I tried to know him, and it never worked. One day, a switch got flipped or some appropriate time came…and while I was reading in the Bible (which I had done before to no avail), I just received.
So where the work of apologetics is concerned (especially biblical apologetics), I get passionately engaged. It’s worthwhile, and it can be profitable, and I believe that part of what Peter was saying when he told us to always be ready to explain our hope is that we must be prepared to deliver an apologetic when necessary. That said, we have to assess whether the situation at hand is a discipling opportunity or an example of casting pearls before swine. Is this person before us someone who will receive anything we have to say, or is this a person we should turn from and shake the dust off our feet?
Don’t bang your head against a wall until it’s bloody, but keep the main thing (faith that God can soften even the hardest of hearts) in view as the main thing…and do your best.
In the meantime, I highly recommend getting a book on manuscript history. I find it fascinating personally, but it really helps to get through some of the stunning misinformation that has been meme-ified into cute, smug little quips that dismiss the Word of God. the Bible can stand up to criticism and questioning of any kind. I know this because I spent 20 years criticizing it and throwing every question at it that I could come up with. I intend to spend the next 20 throwing questions at it, too. The only difference is that now I have faith that it will answer all of them.
Thank you for writing this. It’s a struggle so many have. We need to get into the Bible, know what it says, and prepare for moments like these. They will happen to all of us, and this is an age of just shocking biblical illiteracy. We need to be the generation that changes that.
Thanks for your comment. You make a good point about Christians predating the Bible and about researching the manuscript history. Any recommendations on a book or books?
Oh my goodness, yes. 🙂
Anything by Bruce Metzger will assist you with the history of how the New Testament was put together. The one I have is “The Text of the New Testament.” It’s an old one I bought used, so I think it’s been updated and may have a different title. So just look up Bruce Metzger. He’s widely heralded by scholars of all denominations as a sort of standard on New Testament manuscript history (the story of how the New Testament became the New Testament).
As for the Old Testament, I went through that history listening to podcasts from Dr. Michael Heiser. He’s very wordy and very academic, but his series on how the Bible got put together is pretty amazing. His podcast is called “The Naked Bible.” You can just scroll to the oldest episodes to look for his talk on the history of the Old Testament.
As to the actual content of the Bible and how to defend it, I find that the first hurdle is always know what it says…and that takes longer, I’m afraid.
I’ve been sort of obsessed with bible study for the last three years, and what I’ve learned is that there is a lot left to learn. Having admitted that up front, however, I can tell you that there is a lot of stuff in there that looks really ugly if you isolate verses (which is what we run into with these sorts of “your Bible is awful/fake/fiction” statements). Cultural context and the context of the passage the verse got plucked from will clarify almost all of it.
The rough passages of the OT are the reason I’m on WordPress. I had the same moment of, “How are we supposed to explain this stuff to people?” And I decided I’d rather do it myself than wait around for someone else. Ha ha.
Anyway, I hope those two recommends are useful to you. Even if they don’t work for you as they did for me, I can promise that there is work out there to help us answer these questions and challenges for people.