by Pastor Chad Ashby
This is part of a discussion I had with some college students at The Intersection, a ministry in our community. I would call the following article a piece of popologetics (apologetics for the populous). This is not a heavy argument for the validity of Scripture. These are seven common objections that students and non-Christians might have against giving the Bible a chance. Here goes…
Objection #1: Only a fool would read a book that is like a thousand years old.
Well, to be honest, there are portions of the Bible that are closer to 4,000 years old, so it’s worse than you thought! My question is, aren’t you curious? I mean, don’t you want to know what people did and believed 4,000 years ago?
On top of that, you have to realize that everything we know about history comes through someone’s eyewitness testimony. How do you know that “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? Were you there? You know about Columbus, Hitler, and Abraham Lincoln because someone recorded an eyewitness testimony about those men. You have to accept that testimony on the basis of faith. Now that I’ve pointed out this fact, hopefully you won’t become a cynical nihilist. Instead, realize that the events recorded in the Bible are no different than those in a non-fiction history book. Both are received as eyewitness testimonies on the basis of faith.
One more thing: have you ever thought about the fact that someone (or a lot of someones) thought it was important to make sure that the Bible made it through 4,000 years of turmoil and hardship so that you could pick it up off of the shelf?
Objection #2: The books of the Bible were picked at random.
I’m sure you’ve heard that there are other gospels that were unfairly excluded from the Bible: the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel according to a Goat, the Book of Common Flatulence. Yes, yes, yes, we all love a good Dan Brown novel, but we have to remember that his books are in the Fiction section of Barnes & Noble. The Bible was not chosen, it was recognized. Listen to 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The people of God recognized the voice of God the Holy Spirit in the 66 books of the Bible. The church did not arbitrarily choose to exclude some and include others.
People who try to tell you that Constantine formed the Canon in AD 381 as a political move are simply fudging the facts. Already around AD 200, the Muratorian Canon, a manuscript, lists 22 of the 27 books of the NT. In AD 367, Athanasius (“The Black Dwarf”, what a cool nickname) cited all 27 books in AD 367 as canonical.
Additionally, there were other Christian writing at the time, which we call the Early Church Fathers (I know, books called “Fathers” are just confusing), but the church was able to distinguish between these and the NT books. So, the books of the Bible were not a result of political espionage or forced orthodoxation (I just made up that term–copyright pending). The books of the Bible revealed themselves through the movement of the Holy Spirit in God’s People as they recognized their God’s voice in the pages.
Objection #3: The Bible is full of errors and mistakes.
When people raise this objection, they are partly referring to discrepancies between early copies of the Bible. Additionally, people question the reliability of our manuscripts because we don’t have the original copies of Biblical books. Well, let’s do a little comparison. Plato, he’s a famous guy. We have 7 manuscripts of his works, the earliest one is from AD 900. Plato lived from 427-347 B.C. So, if we do the math, that is a 1200 year separation. Or what about Homer’s Iliad? He lived around 900 B.C., and we have 643 manuscripts, but the oldest one is from 400 B.C.–that’s still 500 years of separation. Now, compare that to the NT: there are 5,686 Greek manuscripts of the NT. The earliest MSS is from around AD 130, way less than 100 years after it was written. No one attacks the reliability of Plato’s works or Homer’s Iliad, so lay off the Bible.
As far as discrepancies go, the problem is not that the manuscripts don’t match up (they match up 99.5% of the time–which is pretty good for people without a photocopier). The problem is that we have so many manuscripts! We have so many old copies of the Bible that there is an entire science (textual criticism) devoted to figuring out which copies are most accurate. The “errors” we are trying to resolve are due to how well it was preserved!
It is not within the breadth of this article to address the objection that the Bible is historically or scientifically inaccurate. Suffice it to say that year after year archaeology makes findings that are astounding to the scientific community, but are old news to those who have read the Bible.
Objection 4: The Bible is just propaganda.
You got me on that one. The Bible is actually trying to get you to believe something. But doesn’t every book have a purpose or a thesis that the author is trying to convince you is true? Just because the Bible wants you to believe certain things about the world and God does not make it false.
The question is whether the Bible intentionally falsifies details and stories for the purpose of furthering its claims. Ask yourself this: If you were writing about yourself, would you include stories about how you killed somebody by accident? Moses did. If you were trying to promote an organization, would you write about how the head of that organization was a coward and a betrayer? But Peter’s denial is included. If you were trying to boost the cred of your book, would you include the testimonies of two women (Luke 24:10-11)? Luke’s two key witnesses to the risen Christ were women–who were not admissible as eyewitnesses in court. Wouldn’t you use credible witnesses?
The Gnostic gospels are a great example of real propaganda. They were written under false names like “Thomas” and “John” so that people would accept them on the basis of apostolic authority. Gnostics claimed to have special insider knowledge that contradicted the teachings of the apostles.
So, it’s not fair to object to the Bible because it has a point. Every book does.
Objection 5: The Bible is too violent.
Come on. You’ve seen 300, Django Unchained, and No Country for Old Men, so don’t even start telling me the Bible is too violent. What you probably mean is, that you don’t like how God’s people conquer and slaughter other peoples in the Bible. Perhaps you have even bought into the false dichotomy between the violent God of the OT and the loving God of the NT.
Here are two passages from a myriad of choices that express God’s love…in the Old Testament:
“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!”
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
God is the same God throughout the whole Bible: a God who is vengeful against his enemies and abundantly forgiving and loving toward his children. Which are you? He welcomes all men to become His beloved children through Jesus Christ.
Objection 6: God can speak to me without the Bible.
This is true. God speaks to people through dreams, events in their lives, etc. However, God gave us his Word because in his perfect will he decided he wanted to speak to use through the Word. John 1 calls Jesus “the Word” because he wants us to see that in God’s Word we find the Son of God. In Luke 24:27, Jesus explains how the entire OT is about himself. If you are a Christian who sees no need to read God’s Word, I would encourage you to read Psalm 119:9-18. Why isn’t this your attitude toward the statutes which God has so graciously given us?
God reveals himself to his people in the words of Scripture, and he wants to meet you there.
Objection 7: The Bible is boring.
Have you ever just sat and really read the Bible, or are you just assuming it’s boring? The Bible contains stories about youths being mauled by mountain lions, left-handed spies stabbing obese kings and escaping off the roof, floating axeheads, people being raised back to life, bizarre dreams, battles, wars, acts of valor, romance, world-wide flood, parting of seas, self-sacrifice, and Jesus.
If the Bible was just some boring book, would John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and many others have been willing to suffer intense persecution just for trying to get the Bible into the hands of the common people? Would Jan Huss have been willing to burn at the stake for a book that he used as a doorstop?
So, stop making excuses, and start reading, and I mean really read it. If you’ve never read the Bible before, I would recommend the book of John. May you find the glory of God in the face of Christ!