As Christians we are called to “give an answer for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15). When Paul went to a new town, he started by reasoning with the people there that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:2). We have to ask ourselves what does this reasoning involve today? One major task is explaining to a skeptical post-Christian world why we should have a written word from God and how we know this Bible is it. In our foundation series my wife Anne and I started with this basic task. I’ll cover a quick summary here:
Task One: God Exists
The first question is how do we know God exists at all? Maybe to you it was somewhat common sense, but I think it’s important to tease out why we came to believe and how we can explain it to another person.
Evidence One: The Universe requires a creator
This argument has a few simple statements or premises that lead to a conclusion that there is most likely a creator of the Universe
- Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
- The Universe has a beginning.
- Therefore, the Universe has a cause. (And that cause is likely an eternal, self-sufficient being)
Evidence Two: Objective Virtue Requires a Maximally Good Being
- If the virtues are objectively good, then most likely a good God exists.
- The virtues are objectively good.
- Therefore, most likely a good God exists.
Task Two: Miracles are Possible
If God exists, then God necessarily acts. Action is a quality of being for any personal thing so just showing God exists is enough to show that He acts. There are some objections that in our experience are commonly brought up:
Objection #1: You can’t know with scientific certainty if a miracle has happened, therefore miracles aren’t reliable.
This first objection is a way of saying we don’t have sufficent reasons to believe miracle has happened. This objection makes two mistakes, it doesn’t understand miracles and it doesn’t understand science.
Science is a methodology of discovering certain kinds of facts that have to do with universal regularities. For instance, science can show the way heat affects various entities, how cells typical interact with a disease or even what a cell as a thing is made up of. Science takes a regularity and explains it and the world is so regular that science can get really exact down to crazy awesome detail. Miracles however are not regular they happen at the will of a person (God). People don’t act according to strict laws as nature does so necessarily science is not going to tell us much about a miracle. Instead we need to use logic specifically abductive logic, and while logic doesn’t give us the extreme sureness science does it gives us confidence that is more than enough.
Abductive logic is reasoning from the best explanation, so basically taking a look at a situation and developing options of what could have happened then “testing” those options to see if they are valid. We use this line of reasoning to be sure of all kinds of things like uncovering errors with technology or court/legal cases. We can look at a suspected miracle, consider the options and ask what best fits all the evidence.
Objection #2: The people who report miracles are not reliable.
The first thing to see is this objection avoids the question all together. Instead of looking at the evidence it tries to call out the people reporting the evidence. “They are inclined to believe because religion is a crutch to them” “They are from a backward time in history and didn’t have out advanced understanding of how things work.” These objections miss the mark in thinking you can dismiss the evidnece because you suspect bias in the conclusion. The facts of the case are what we are looking at to verify a miracle, did the things happening that they are saying happened most likely result from a miracle? We must take a look at the evidence itself and not just dissmiss off hand. Also, while these things may be occasionally true they are not allways so. Some miracle claims come from people suffering for the sake of their religion (like Jesus’ disciples) and some intelligent scholars have made miracle claims (like Craig Keener or Pascal).
In the podcast Anne and I also share our story and our struggles. I think one of the biggest reason’s people doubt the miraculous today is because of having asked God for something and not having seen an answer. We have really been challenged to wrestle with this due to a significant amount of loss in our lives recently. Ultimately God acts according to His mission and purposes and His goal is to see as many as possible brought into know Him the source of life deeply and so He acts on our behalf to see that take place. This doesn’t negate answered prayer as God gives us a ton of authority to pray but only when our purposes are aligned with His heart.
Task Three: The Bible is Reliable
The Bible is a Library not just one big Magic Book
“All scripture is God breathed” 2 Timothy 3:16
The Bible is a library of 66 books. Each book written to a different purpose and inspired towards its purpose by God specific to that purpose. Poetry as found in the Psalms is inspired poetry painting a abstract picture of deep truths and is different that biography as found in the gospels where the goal is giving a clear picture of Jesus’ life and impact. So, to really understand we need to consider what the goal of the writing was, what the context is, and how God working with the author to put His divine stamp on it.
New Testament Evidence
In this talk we talk about four bridges to show the New Testament gives us solid info about Jesus and is Divinely inspired.
The first bridge is from our modern Bible to the manuscripts in existence.
The second bridge is from those manuscripts we have today to the original writings.
The third bridge connects the original writing to the author
The fourth bridge shows the authors connection to Jesus.
Finally, we conclude that the New Testament is divinely inspired because it is amazing improbable that any one person should fulfill the amount of prophecy Jesus did, yet Jesus did. Secondly Jesus resurrection acts as God’s stamp of approval on Jesus’ actions.
Old Testament Evidence
For the Old Testament we used three factors to show the Old Testament is a reliable word. The three factors are:
One, the Dead Sea Scrolls show that the Old Testament was faithfully preserved over 1500 years. We can see this by comparing scrolls found there with our modern version, the scrolls there date back till about 150-200 B.C. I say over 1500 years because the printing press was designed about 1500 A.D. so we can know the text was copied faithfully until that time.
Second there are multiple archaeological discoveries that confirm Biblical Events. We go over a number of these in the podcast.
Finally, answered prophecy is a huge testament to the God inspiredness of the Old Testament and this prophecy can be found throughout the books of the Old Testament. Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe did a study that found that of the 2500ish prophecies in the Bible 2000 have been fulfilled exactly, the other 500 are promises connected to the end times.