Christianity teaches that God is not silent, but that he is a God who is constantly communicating to us. God reveals himself to us through the world he made, the events of our lives, his divine image imprinted in each of us, and by intervening in and entering into history. But it’s only in his book that he tells us the truth that brings coherence and meaning to it all.
The truth of the Bible is at the foundation of the Christian faith, but it is also at the frontlines of doubt for those who don’t believe. Why should we listen to what the Bible says? The question of authority is tied to the question of authorship. If God is really the author of the Bible, then it would follow that the Bible should have place of authority in our lives.
THE AUTHOR OF THE BIBLE
Who wrote the Bible?
The Bible says that it was written by human authors who were inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:14-16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). This means God didn’t dictate each word to the human authors but that God worked through the personality, style, and circumstances of these authors to communicate the exact words he wanted to give us.
The uniqueness of the Bible supports its claim to divine inspiration. This collection of 66 writings by around 40 authors written over roughly 1600 years is tied together by an overarching storyline of God’s renewing grace. Weaving this story through its laws, poetry, music, proverbs, oracles, letters, and visions, the Bible provides an absolutely unique account of the human condition and an unparalleled vision of God. The power of this story in human lives and communities across time and cultures provides us with more than a hint – this is no ordinary book.
But Hasn’t the Bible Been Changed?
The popular caricature of secret church councils that altered the Bible in the interest of politics and power is false. We live at the best time in history to evaluate how well the books of the Bible have been preserved over time. New discoveries of ancient manuscripts allow us the opportunity to compare earlier versions with later versions.
What we have found is that the 66 writings have all been remarkably preserved. Though sometimes treated as sensational news, differences in ancient copies of the biblical writings have long been known by scholars and do not affect any aspect of Christian teaching.
Who decided what was in the Bible?
As God oversaw the process of authorship, he also oversaw the process of selection and inclusion. The church did not exclude (or destroy) some writings and choose others in a secret process. Rather, all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments were received by the church as the inspired writings.
The church received the writings that were: 1) Accepted and used by earlier generations as God’s word; and 2) Consistent with each other and with earlier accepted books. Later church councils confirmed what was standard practice when later movements began to try and add or subtract from the 66 accepted books.
THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
Why should you believe it?
The straightforward answer is because Jesus did. The best place to start is to get to know the story of Jesus and observe how he regarded the Bible. Consider this line of reasoning:
If Jesus, the most influential religious figure in human history, claimed that his entire life and mission was explained in a book (Matt. 5:17-19, Luke 24:27)… if he taught that it was absolutely true and trustworthy… if he said following Me is only possible if you listen to this book; and if all of his first followers suffered and gave their lives to show people how the book made Jesus’ voice powerful and present… if Jesus authorized these followers to tell his story and guide those who would come to believe in him by writing their pastoral letters in this book… then maybe I should consider reading this book with an open mind.
Why should you trust your own opinion?
We all give authority to someone or something. We all need an ultimate standard to judge whether something is true or trustworthy. A question we all need to answer is, “What’s my standard and why do I give it authority in my life?”
A favorite mantra of our times is “Question Authority.” What about questioning the authority that we give to ourselves? When we admit that choosing our ultimate source of authority is a matter of faith, we can ask: Which authority best answers our deepest longings and brings coherence to life?
- “I tried reading the Bible, and it didn’t make any sense.”
Response: If there were a book written by God would it be a book that you could understand and digest in one reading, or would it demand a lifetime of wrestling and engagement?
- “My god would never do the things the God of the Bible does.”
Response: If there were a book written by God would it reveal a God who neatly conformed to my preconceived notions and preferences, or would it reveal a God who is constantly challenging me to conform to His reality and will?
- “I read the Bible, I had no idea it was so graphic and violent. How could it be God’s word?”
Response: If there were a book written by God would it be raw and real when it came to human evil, or would it gloss over human wickedness and suffering to instead offer spiritual platitudes and moral advice?
- “The Bible is an unsophisticated and irrelevant book. No modern person can believe it anymore.”
Response: If there were a book written by God would it be a book that would be more accessible to the educationally and economically privileged or would it challenge human self-confidence and be accessible to all cultures and people?