Can I trust the Bible? - Part 4
We conclude our series on, “How do I know the Bible is the word of God?” Our deepest convictions are held for 3 reasons: rational, social, and personal (“The 3-Legged Stool of Belief”). We addressed the rational and social reasons for believing the Bible. This week we conclude by addressing the final “leg of belief”: personal reasons.
What are personal reasons?
Nobody arrives at their deep convictions merely for rational reasons alone. We all possess hearts which react emotionally to things. These emotions influence us positively or negatively. For example, you may have deep convictions about living a healthy lifestyle because you understand the arguments about the benefits. But maybe the "tipping point" was an experience you had in which you saw the powerful way healthy choices changed someone’s life. So, the deep conviction is no longer merely rational (i.e. nutritional facts) but your heart has been profoundly affected by something true and real. Similarly, the "tipping point" for arriving at belief in the Word of God is when the heart encounters the God of the Word.
The "Self-Authentication" of the Bible
Someone can have all the rational and social reasons for believing the Bible, but until they experience the "self-authenticating" power of the Bible their confidence will remain shaky. What is "self-authentication"? In short, it is when the evidence for the trustworthiness of a document can be found within the document. According to the U.S. legal system, a self-authenticating document is "any document that can be admitted into evidence at a trial without proof being submitted to support the claim that the document is what it appears to be." In other words, if I submit an official birth certificate as evidence in court, no one can ask, “How do we know that is really a birth certificate?” This is because the evidence for its reliability is within the document itself. It contains all the qualities of an authentic birth certificate. A self-authenticating document speaks for itself.
The Word of God is self-authenticating because the God of the Word speaks for himself. There is no higher authority than God himself. So, if the Bible is in fact the Word of God, then it speaks for itself because it is God speaking. All of the divine qualities of God's word are seen, felt, and authenticated in the Bible.
The Bible is “Beautifully True”
Another way to understand this is to think of a time when you encountered a beautiful sunset. You were overwhelmed by the power of its beauty and without any questioning you found yourself saying, “What a beautiful sunset!” Then imagine someone skeptically asking you, “Yeah, but how do you know the sunset is beautiful?” Frankly, you wouldn’t know how to respond other than, “What do you mean? Just look at it! The evidence for its beauty is found in the sunset!” Similarly, the Word of God proves itself as “beautifully true.” That is, the most beautiful Person in the universe speaks with glorious authority through the Bible to your heart. When this happens, you find yourself (similar to the sunset) saying, “What a beautiful God is speaking to me!”
Spiritual Blindness to the Beauty of God
The logical question someone may ask is, “Why don’t I feel that way when I read the Bible?” Most likely it is because your heart and mind are blind to the beauty of God’s word in the Bible. Listen to how Paul the apostle describes this, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) The reason people do not recognize the voice of God in the Bible is because of blindness—spiritual blindness.
So, what must happen for the blindness to be removed? Paul answers this in verse 6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Notice, Paul compares the moment of creation back in Genesis 1, “Let there be light!” to what needs to happen in someone’s heart, “shone in our hearts to give the light... of the glory of Christ.” Another way Paul describes this is “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” (Ephesians 1:18) In order for someone to be fully persuaded of the absolute truthfulness of the Word of God is for the God of the Word to change the heart so that you see the Bible is in fact God speaking.
Tasting the Word
The Bible also compares this moment to when you taste something sweet, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3) Notice, the only way for someone to crave the Word of God (“spiritual milk”) in the Bible depends on one thing: “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” The Bible is in fact the Word of God, but if someone does not have “spiritual taste buds”, then it won’t taste sweet to their souls nor convince them of its truthfulness.
So, what now?
In the end, people may find themselves helpless and wondering, "So, what do I do now?" The apostle Peter gives us the best advice, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) The “prophetic word” is the Bible and Peter says we must “pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” But the transformation that needs to take place in our hearts isn’t up to us; it’s up to God. This is why he tells us to pay attention to the Word of God “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” That is, if you want to see the sunrise of God’s glory in the Bible you must look through the window of the Bible until the sun rises. You can’t see the sunset if you aren’t looking out the window. Keep looking. Christ will come through.