(What follows is the beginning of a series of blog posts I’m putting together on the defense of the gospel. Because my intended audience is those who have a purely materialistic world view, I’m going to use what I believe are reasonable arguments, personally convincing if given serious thought. My approach is to use arguments that the reader can investigate on his own, rather than rely on hearsay. I intend to express the results of my own thoughts and research rather than just reword what others have already said.
Some Christians dismiss apologetics, saying you can’t argue someone into the kingdom of God. I agree with the premise, but disagree with the conclusion. I know I can’t argue someone to salvation but there is no limit to what God can do through me. I believe the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the lost to their need for Jesus through many different means, including apologetics, therefore I have no problem using an intellectual approach. Consider what follows as scattering seed for God to increase.)
Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
– Jude 1:3 (NET)
For years I’ve wanted to put something together in writing that explains why I think it makes intellectual sense to believe in the existence of God and the inspiration of the Bible. (I don’t think well “on my feet”, but writing gives me a chance to get my thoughts better organized.) I’ve heard many anti-God arguments, but none are convincing to me. For example, most apparent Bible contradictions that are brought up only reveal a superficial understanding of what the Bible says. (The converse is also true. I see some Christians misunderstand atheist beliefs and use faulty and illogical arguments. This doesn’t help matters.)
One thing anti-Bible arguments have in common is that they’re all based on theory: philosophy, intellectual puzzles, apparent contradictions, supposed conflicts with known scientific facts, and the like. You can argue these things sitting in an armchair without getting your hands dirty with reality. But I have something that, for me, trumps all that. You see, I have the experience of a personal relationship with the God described in the Bible. There is real fellowship between us. I talk to Him, and He speaks to me (not audibly, but He speaks none-the-less). He regularly answers my prayers in often surprising ways. And I know others who have the same kind of relationship with Him. My faith is not based on these experiences, but it does help ‘seal the deal’ in my mind. With such a relationship, biblical puzzles don’t bother me, even if I don’t have answers for all of them.
I don’t expect my experiences, however, to convince you if you’re a skeptic. I know because I’m a skeptic by nature as well. Whenever people tell me some fantastic story they’ve heard or that’s happened to them, even if they’re Christian, my mind usually goes, “Yeah… right. Show me some proof!” I don’t expect you to believe my experiences because they haven’t happened to you. So instead of relating the ways God has revealed Himself to me, in the following posts I’m going to use the armchair approach by appealing to your intellect.
It’s human nature for each of us to interpret reality by our own personal world views, rather than modify our world views to match reality. Any evidence, however feeble, that supports what we believe we are likely to accept as true. Any evidence that runs counter to what we believe we will likely discount as false. (Our self-confidence may even blind us to real evidence!) We’ll do anything, including look the other way, to make sure our world view is not disturbed. This is true of almost everyone, atheists and Christians alike. But we really can’t know the truth by using our world view as a litmus test. We have to be open-minded and look at the evidence in detail.
When a scientist comes across a phenomenon that appears to contradict his world view, he don’t immediately lose faith in science. Instead, he sees it as an opportunity for more in-depth study and experimentation to resolve the problem. But when a non-believing scientist sees an apparent contradiction in the scriptures, he immediately stops, saying the Bible is full of errors. He doesn’t treat the seeming discrepancy the same way he treats any natural mystery. There is no in-depth and unbiased study of the scriptures, no taking into account the literary, social, and historical context, no looking up the meanings, tenses, and usages of words in the original languages, and so on. It’s quite obvious from most of the anti-Bible arguments I’ve heard that this is the case. All this person does is win other close-minded people over to his side who are also either unable or unwilling to do their own research. Unfortunately, this tends to be the majority response.
Good answers to anti-God arguments are available in books and on the internet. But rather than repeat what others have already said, I’d like to give some personal reasons why I believe the existence of God and the inspiration of the Bible are worth believing in as true. What follows are not so much the reasons why I believe or how I came to faith, but why I think you should consider believing the God who is revealed in the Bible.