A night or two ago I felt compelled to write an essay describing why I believe what I believe about religion, and though I intended it to be a short essay, it accidentally became ten double-spaced pages. Whoops. Anyways, here is the result. All quoted scripture comes from the NASB, by the way.
Every Christian has a personal testimony. Generally speaking they probably even have a specific spiel to go through, given how common it is in Christendom to ask someone to spontaneously give their testimony. This is mine. Well, no. Not quite. See, this is my testimony, but it isn’t like a normal testimony. This isn’t my personal life story as relating to religion. I honestly have the quintessential boring testimony when it comes to those. Raised in a Christian home, accepted the Lord at an early age, have tried to live for Him since. Your typical stuff. No, instead, this is an essay on why I believe the Bible. This is an essay pertaining not to my life story but to the reasoning behind it.
I believe the entire Bible. This means that I believe 2 Timothy 3:16-17 when it says that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” But why? Why did I decide to have faith in this book that can’t be proven, and that is opposed to so many of humanity’s natural values? Is my faith blind? Am I mindlessly accepting an esoteric work of fiction in order to give myself the false hope of meaning in a meaningless world?
While I unfortunately have to conclude that many Christians do just that, I feel strongly that I have not. Do I have faith? In some cases, even blind faith? Yes. I do. I fully and freely admit that, and that confession in no way causes that faith to waver. I am willing to believe the Bible, and believe God, and even the very existence of God in the first place, on faith, because I first believed it on trust. I believe in the existence and validity of faith, but only in the presence of trust.
Trust is a major part of human life, and is in fact necessary for so many of our dealings with other people, as well as inanimate objects. But what exactly is trust? Dictionary.com lists the first definition of trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” Out of seven definitions only as a noun, four of those definitions include the word “confidence.” Trust is about a confident reliance on a person or thing. I take the definition a bit further and stipulate that such a confidence must come from some kind of proof that the person or thing in question is trustworthy. Note the word “proof,” not “evidence.” Evidence can lead to an implication that the person or thing is trustworthy. Proof is explicit. It can leave no room for doubt.
But how does this theory apply practically? Before hiring an employee, companies will run a background check on the individual. This proves that the individual is worthy of enough trust to work at that company. No company would hire an individual based solely on shaky evidence—they want undeniable, factual proof that this person has committed no crime. Before accepting the Bible, a thorough Christian, or perhaps, thorough non-Christian, would cross-check the factual portions of it to confirm their veracity.
An example of this lies in the Hittites. For quite a long time the only mention made of the Hittites was in the Bible, and no evidence of their existence was found anywhere other than that book. This was used by many as “proof” that the Bible was flawed, as clearly such a civilization as described in the Bible would have left at least some kind of legacy. In the 19th and 20th centuries however, the Hittite capital of Hattusa was uncovered by archeologists, and today, the existence of the Hittites is undisputed.
Similarly, many of the biblical customs among the Jews of the Old Testament protected the Jews from infections and diseases not yet known in the ancient world. Among these were the stipulations surrounding the touching of dead things and the cleansing that must be undergone afterwards (Numbers 9:11-13), and the order to not eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12). Both of these stipulations, stated in the Bible and nowhere else, were validated centuries later by scientific discoveries concerning bacteria and other things.
The Bible also predicted the later discoveries that the Earth is round and the universe is expanding (Isaiah 40:22), and that the Earth hangs on nothing (Job 26:7), the contradictions of all of which were common assumptions of the day.
We will come to the reasoning of Jews and Christians living before these discoveries in due time; for now, I want to focus on the fact that the Bible is an accurate historical and scientific record which can be used to predict new discoveries—an ability much esteemed in modern science. This is one way to establish trust in the Bible. These are facts that cannot be argued, and they point clearly to the idea that the Bible was inspired by a Being with infinite knowledge, far above human capabilities. It also points to such a Being as being loving, as He didn’t have to tell the Jews how to avoid such diseases and infections, but chose to protect them from those things despite.
Another piece of proof lies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the mid-1900s. These scrolls contain portions of the Hebrew Old Testament, and are estimated at having originated between 408 BC and 318 AD. The content of the scrolls matches nearly exactly to the current translations of the Bible. This proves that those parts of the Bible, at the very least, were in fact written at least as far back in history as those times, and have not been muddled in translation over the years. Other, similar documentation, comprised of both the Old and New Testaments, has been found in other areas at different times, but currently, the Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest surviving copies of the Old Testament.
Yet another factor that can lead to plausible trust in the Bible is the fact that in all my studies of it, and all others’ studies of it, the Bible has not contradicted itself. Because of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other documents, we can know for certain that these texts were written at wildly differing times, in wildly differing places, in wildly differing languages. Such a collective document ought to be riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies, yet somehow, the Bible agrees with itself without fail. Yes, at times the meanings can be unclear, and can seem contradictory, but with further cross-references and reasoning, all such apparent contradictions can be readily resolved.
Further, at no point is the Bible inconsistent with science. This may seem shocking to many non-Christians, and indeed, to many Christians as well, but nevertheless it is true. The currently popular Big Bang Theory, and the Theory of Evolution, are both just what their names say they are: theories. Neither of those things are fact, nor are they irrefutable. I have mentioned many instances where the Bible predicted a scientific discovery. To date, the Bible has never been disproven by any scientific discovery, but has only ever been further evidenced by them.
The biblical concept of a 6 day creation and a young Earth causes the evaporation of many issues that leave evolutionists bewildered, such as the amount of salt in the oceans, which is far, far below the level old Earth proponents claim it ought to be, as well as the increasing distance between the Earth and the moon, which is not nearly as far along as old Earth proponents would assume it must be. For more on this topic, you will have to research other sources, as I only have minimal knowledge in this area. A good place to start is Answers in Genesis, a company devoted to explaining creation and the world as we know it through the book of Genesis.
The Bible seems to hold up in every area that can be tested by man. This makes the Bible worthy of trust. Now, an obvious argument is that not all of the Bible can be proven as the above examples can be. That is correct. Not all of the Bible can be proven. However, not all of anything can be proven. There are portions of the people you trust most confidently that you cannot prove with certainty, yet you believe them. There are aspects of the things you trust most confidently that you cannot prove with certainty either, yet you believe them too. Why would you do such a thing? Believing what you can prove is all well and good and seems obvious, but why believe the things you cannot prove? This is where trust fades away and gives rise to a similar concept: faith.
Once we have established trust in a specific person, we are more willing to accept something new from that person, even if only on faith. This is not wrong, and in fact, is the natural consequence of trust. One does not have faith in a person or thing one cannot trust. Without trust, faith is inappropriate, as it is without a logical foundation and in such a case rests only on an emotional one. However, once trust has been established, one will find themselves more readily able to accept new information from that source without solid proof. If a friend who has always valued you and been completely honest with you in the past tells you a piece of information you find hard to believe, will you believe it from that person? You may very well. That is all well and good, as that person has been proven to esteem both you and honesty in the past, and can thus be trusted to not abuse the benefit of the doubt in future situations. Because of this built up trust, you may even believe your friend when the information they tell you makes no sense to you. You trust, you have faith, that in time, the explanation will be proven correct. Faith is trust in the future tense, and trust is faith in the past tense.
An oft-cited example of this is the Chair Analogy, which demonstrates how, after trust has been established (the chair is well made and previous experience indicates that the chair will be capable of its duty in the future), the person in question will feel comfortable enough to take new information or actions from the trusted person on faith (the man sits in the chair, trusting in it not to let him fall, despite not having checked the chair directly before sitting down). Did the man have faith in the chair, devoid of proof that his faith was well placed? Yes. He neglected to inspect the chair before sitting down. Did the man do so mindlessly, and was the man at fault? No. The man had reason to have faith in the chair. The chair had proven trustworthy in other areas. Now. The Chair Analogy is sometimes used to demonstrate other virtues, but it drives this point home as well.
Would you necessarily accept the seemingly nonsensical information that you might accept from your trusted friend from a source you did not previously trust? No, it is not likely you would. Nor should you. Faith can only be valid when in the presence of trust. There are portions of the Bible that must currently be taken on faith. There are portions of it that cannot be proven. One of the most prominent examples of this is the book of Revelation; an entire book of the Bible that has not yet taken place and must therefore be taken solely on faith. However, I have built up trust in the Bible, as I explained previously. This means that I am willing to have faith in the parts of it I do not yet understand, trusting that in time, I will.
I have noticed that many people, both Christians and non-Christians alike, have assumed that faith is something that must come intuitively, and that as it can’t be fully proven, only evidenced, it must be at least partially mindless. It can’t be deeply pondered, as that would result in a wavering of faith, which is doubt; a thing clearly rebuked in the very Bible you’ve begun to doubt. Clearly what James meant in James 1:6, “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind,” is that the Bible must be completely accepted blindly and would not hold up under scrutiny. Never mind that this thinking is itself anti-biblical, as stated in Psalm 1:2-3, among other places; “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Earlier, I wrote extensively of various occasions wherein the Bible has predicted science, and how the Bible has yet to contradict either itself or scientific law. Clearly, the Bible is a thing we are meant to ponder and meditate on. This is religion. This is the foundation of human existence. This is our past, present, and future. This is our eternity. And this is our very purpose for existing in the first place. One must not take that kind of thing lightly. We are meant to study it. We are meant to scrutinize it. And we are meant to meditate on it, both day and night. To do so is not to doubt; it is to obey.
Now, don’t forget, this is a testimony, not simply a theoretical debate. No testimony is complete without a salvation message. How does what I’ve said lead to your walk with Jesus? Well… How doesn’t it? If we look at the evidence, we must trust the Bible, and if we trust the Bible, it logically follows that we must have faith in it. Once we have faith in it, we must believe all of it. Once we believe all of the Bible… We must believe that Christ loved us while we were yet sinners and died for us on the Cross to pay for our sins. We must believe that He rose again on the third day, and that He is coming back for us. We must believe that our purpose in both this life and the next is to accept His gift of salvation and follow Him. I dislike the term “free gift.” Salvation isn’t free. Salvation involves surrendering yourself to Jesus and declaring Him to be the Lord of your life. Literally, not figuratively. You literally become a servant of God. Too often Christianity downplays that part and focuses on the gift of God. Yes, the gift is free in that we do not need to pay with works, or materials. We pay with our souls.
Why would we agree to such a thing? Isn’t freedom better? Why would anyone choose the narrow road, when the wide road equals your individual freedom? Well firstly, doing so is the only way to avoid eternal damnation in Hell. If you were looking for a self-serving reason to be a Christian, look no further. But also because it was God who made us in the first place. We may think we could be happier serving ourselves rather than Him, but that thinking is simply incorrect. We were designed to serve, and to love, and to have a relationship with, God. He loves us. He wants the best for us. And He knows, infinitely better than we do, what that best truly is. That’s something we need to have faith in. Because He has proven Himself trustworthy in the past, and because if we do have faith, someday, our faith will become trust. First Corinthians 13:12 promises this very thing when it says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” We must have faith for now. But we are promised that one day, our faith will be sight.
If we are trusting and having faith in Jesus, what does that mean for our walk here on Earth? Well, CS Lewis puts it nicely in his book, Mere Christianity, when he says; “To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already.” We must pick up our crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). We must obey His commands. We must follow the Bible to the best of our ability, and always strive to become more like Him whom we serve and has saved us.
It isn’t, and won’t be easy. It never has been and it never will be. Jesus Himself tells his disciples as much. We must adopt the attitude of James when he says in James 1:2-4; “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” But that is not all. John 16:33 tells us openly that yes, we will have trouble, but we will also have hope. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the world. All of it. We can’t even beat all of an MMO, and yet Jesus has overcome all of this world. No matter what trials we face, He will be with us, and He has overcome. It may not seem like it at times. It may not seem like it at most times. He may seem very, very silent. But He is always there, truly, and promises that, as it says in Romans 8:28; “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Bad things will happen to us. We will have trouble. We may even despair at the sight of the trials ahead of us in this life. But no matter what the world throws at us, God can make it work to our good, and perhaps most importantly of all, He has overcome.
I don’t know how effective this essay will be. In fact, I don’t even really know if anything I just spent the last two and a half hours writing makes any sense. It does to me. Maybe that’s enough, at least for now. My intention was to write a testimony that described in detail exactly why I believe what I believe, and to my knowledge, that is what I have done. So, I guess you have what I promised you’d have by the end of this monolithic essay. You have my testimony.
“Answers in Genesis.” Answers in Genesis. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2015.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan, 1958. Print.
New American Standard Bible. La Habra, CA: Foundation Publications, for the Lockman Foundation, 1971. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 July 2015.