Dr. Chad Meeks is the Lead Pastor at Cedar Heights Baptist Church in North Little Rock and an adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He enjoys reading, hanging out with his family, hiking, and exploring the deep mysteries of Sumatra coffee.
How do we know that the Hebrews really crossed the Red Sea? How do we know that Daniel really was thrown into a lion’s den? It did happen a long time ago. How can we prove it really happened? How can we be sure that historical figures like Abraham or David ever existed? What about the resurrection (probably the most important doctrine in the Christian faith)? Can we trust what the Bible says about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
If a non-Christian wanted to disprove Christianity, he or she would probably start with discrediting or disproving various claims in the Bible. We Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God. The primary way God communicates His directives and will to us is through Sacred Scripture. We Christians believe that the writings and compilation of the Bible were orchestrated and guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the reliability of Scripture is an important doctrine and stance in the life of a Christian. If the Bible is false; or some of it is false; or most of it is false; then Christianity is in trouble.
The Christian dependence upon the reliability and authority of Scripture is paramount in defending the veracity of the Christian faith. But given the amount of information in the Bible (the historical claims, cities, figures, and events), it is no small undertaking to defend it all. “But, as Christians such as Alvin Plantinga have argued, we need not start from a defensive position.”
We all accept certain ideas and claims as true without any argumentation or evidence. For example, I’ve never been to Nepal, but I hear it’s a nice place. Furthermore, the first time I ever heard of Nepal, I did not doubt its existence; even though I wasn’t presented with any evidence that the country actually existed. I simply believed it. Why? I believed it because a reliable authority told me about it (a parent or teacher) and it did not contradict anything I knew to be true. Of course, I didn’t really think through my reasoning for believing in Nepal, but I have never been given a reason not to believe it.
Everyone has beliefs like this—it is really impossible not to. We all have beliefs that are basic to our life and system of ideas that we hold strongly without any positive evidence for the beliefs. Well, why can’t the historical reliability of the Bible also be one of those beliefs? In fact, most Christians believe the Bible is true, not because we have been given arguments or evidence to show it is true, we just…believe. And I think we are completely rational and justified to believe in such a way.
Perhaps as you read this you’re thinking: Ok, I can get on board with that idea, but what if someone presented an argument or evidence that the Bible wasn’t historically reliable? What if someone presented a defeater for my hold on Scripture? When that happens, we simply investigate the arguments and evidences as they are presented. If the argument or evidence is unpersuasive to us (as long as we are being honest with the claim and congenial to the counter evidence), we are still reasonable and justified accepting the historical reliability of Scripture.
My point is: The Christian is under no rational obligation to disbelieve the Bible until it is proven true. We are perfectly warranted in accepting it as true, until sound argument or evidence proves otherwise. So what arguments are there against the historical reliability of Scripture? For the remainder of the year, I will be exploring that question in my monthly column.
But let me conclude with a very important note: there is a vast difference between “current evidence doesn’t support the biblical narrative” (which is what the critics claim) and “current evidence outright contradicts the biblical narrative” (which isn’t the claim of most critics). In other words, many arguments provided by biblical critics are arguments from silence. And therefore, not evidence against a specific claim of Scripture, rather the evidence doesn’t point one way or the other. Thus, it doesn’t disprove the Bible and leaves our position unscathed.
But let’s look at some arguments against the historical reliability of Scripture, and see what we find.