Can I trust the Bible? - Part 1
We are launching a 4-part series on the question: “How do I know the Bible is the word of God?” The first section will address the question in general and how someone comes to believe the Bible. Then the last three will dive into the reasons for why we can be confident the Bible is the word of God.
How do I know the Bible is the Word of God?
Before answering the question, we need to understand what the question is asking. Anytime someone begins a question, “How do I know…” they are searching for reasons to believe. For example, if a mom tells her son he can eat ice cream after dinner, he might ask, “How do I know you are telling the truth?” He wants more confidence than his mom’s words. So, in response she might scoop ice cream in a bowl and say, “Now you just need to eat your dinner quickly before it melts.” She gave him the confidence he needed.
Now ice cream and the word of God aren’t exactly on the same level. Coming to believe the Bible is a lot more complex than scooping chocolate ice cream into a plastic bowl. Yet, when we ask the question, “How do I know the Bible is the word of God?” We are looking for more confidence than someone’s words—like the little boy. So, what does it take for someone to genuinely believe the Bible? All people—not just religious, but even secular atheists—arrive at their personal convictions, worldviews, and beliefs because of a combination of three kinds of reasons:
- Rational: my beliefs makes sense to me.
- Social: people I look up to believe the same things.
- Personal: my beliefs satisfy personal needs and desires in my heart.
The 3-Legged Stool of Belief
All three of these reasons are necessary to have the strongest possible assurance for believing in something. Think of the reasons like a 3-legged stool (see image). Each leg is needed for the stool to be sturdy enough for you to rest your “trust” upon.
So, someone who has studied the historical reliability of the Bible (1-rational) may have some confidence that it is the word of God. Now, if they are also surrounded by godly, humble, and courageous leaders who live out the Bible (2-social) they will have even deeper confidence. But if this person has had profound personal experiences with the Bible (3-personal) their confidence goes deepest of all. Therefore, all three of these reasons come together to form their strong belief in the Bible.
Why does this matter?
Why does the 3-legged stool of belief matter? How does it help us? In two ways: diagnostically and apologetically.
Diagnostically: the 3-legged stool of belief helps you personally diagnose which leg of the stool in your belief in the Bible is be weak (rational, social, or personal).
Maybe you have personally experienced the power of the word of God (3-personal) and are surrounded by godly examples that encourage you (2-social), but you have a lot of intellectual doubts (1-rational). Now you know where you need to grow! You need to study up on the rational reasons for why you can trust the Bible.
Maybe you have experienced the power of God’s word in the Bible (3-personal), and you have done a lot of study on why you can trust the Bible (1-rational), but you are not surrounded by other godly men and women who live out the Bible and encourage you in it (2-social). You are weak in the social reasons and need to spend more time watching and walking with godly examples of men and women who live radically for Christ.
Maybe you have done your study on the rational reasons for why we can trust the Bible (1-rational), and are surrounded by godly, humble examples (2-social), but you have never tasted the glory of the gospel in the Scriptures (3-personal). Frankly, this is the most dangerous place to be since your heart is tasteless for the Bible. You need to open your Bible and plead with the Spirit of God to open they eyes of your heart to taste the goodness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
Apologetically: the 3-legged stool of belief also helps us disarm objections to your confidence in the Bible. How so? Christians are accused of only believing the Bible because they were raised that way (2-social). On the other hand, unbelievers are convinced that they hold their irreligious and secular beliefs for rational reasons only (1-rational). This makes it seem like unbelievers are the rational ones, while believers are the irrational ones. Based upon the 3-legged stool of belief this is simply not true, and never has been true. The believer and the unbeliever both hold their beliefs for rational, social, and personal reasons.
The secular unbeliever must admit they arrived at their lack of belief for reasons other than rational ones. For example, they must admit they also have people in their lives whom they respect and admire who don’t believe the Bible or in God (2-social). Furthermore, they must also admit they find it personally fulfilling and satisfying to disregard the Bible and God (3-personal); that is, maybe they enjoy their sexual freedom by not believing the Bible.
In the end, it shows a lack of integrity and charity on the part of the unbeliever to think they are the only ones who are rational in their beliefs. It is unfair for people to accuse Christians of being irrational for believing the Bible. Why is it unfair? Because everyone—including the secular unbeliever—believes what they do for rational, social, and personal reasons.
Next time we will look at some of the rational reasons for why we can trust the Bible.