Re: your mail

jeffery lynn mullins (
Tue, 9 Apr 1996 10:54:40 -0400 (EDT)

On Mon, 8 Apr 1996, Bill Hamilton wrote:

> Glenn has raised an important question:
> "If the Bible is not a historical document, why should we believe it?"
> [loose paraphrase] Glenn reasons that actual experiences establish the
> credibility of Scripture:
> "I agree with you. God is the basis for Biblical authority. But part of the
> authority for the Bible must come from the fact that it is TRUE in a
> metaphysical and empirical sense. You can see what I mean by looking at how
> God has dealt with mankind. God expects faith from us, but it is not a
> faith divorced from events in our lives. "Consider Abraham: He believed God
> and it was credited to him as righteousness." NIV Galatians 3:6. What did
> Abraham believe? That Abraham would have an heir. This actually did occur
> in history and in Abrahams lifetime. The fulfillment justified Abraham's
> faith. But do you think that if Sarah had died, and Abraham reached his
> deathbed and there were no heirs, do you think Abraham would still have
> beleived God during the final few weeks or days of his life?"
> Of course it's really difficult to argue by considering what Abraham would
> have done in a hypothetical circumstance. Still, some Biblical figures
> experienced nothing but disappointment their entire lives. Not one person
> listened to Jeremiah. Yet he is recognized in the "Hall of Faith" in
> Hebrews 11 (My understanding is that Jeremiah was the one who was sawn in
> two, according to tradition) A number of prophets received the promise of
> Jesus Christ and prophesied His coming, yet never saw Him in their
> lifetimes.
> Granted: if Isaac had never been born, Abraham would have rightfully had
> real problems. But Isaac was born. The larger context of Abraham's belief
> is that he believed that the Savior would come from his progeny, and He
> believed that promise even though it referred to an event many years in the
> future.
> It seems to me there are two issues here:
> 1) The absolute truth of God's revelation
> 2) Human perception of that truth
> Glenn is asking how we humans can believe in the Bible if we cannot tie its
> prophecies to real events, and If we cannot tie its narrations of past
> events to real events. His concern -- and it's justified -- is how we as
> humans can perceive the truth of Scripture by relating it to the knowledge
> we gain of the world around us from our own investigations.
> But Scripture doesn't seem to be overly concerned with addressing every
> human whim about revelation. How then do we know Scripture is true? Here
> are some quotations from well-known Christian sources about the nature and
> credibility of Scripture:
> "The bible speaks authoritatively and so deserves to be believed and
> obeyed. This authority does not depend on any man or church but completely
> on God, its author, who is Himself truth. The Bible therefore is to be
> accepted as true because it is the word of God". Westminster Confession of
> Faith 1:4

The premise that the Bible is the word of God must first be established
by establishing the deity of Jesus and that he put his stamp of approval
on it as the word of God before this statement can be made.

> "We may be influenced by the testimony of the church to value the Bible
> highly and reverently, and Scripture shows in so many ways that it is God's
> word; for example, in its spiritual subject matter, in the effectiveness of
> its teaching, the majesty of its style, the agreement of all its parts, its
> unified aim from beginning to end(to give all Glory to God), the full
> revelation it makes of the only way of man's salvation, its many other
> incomparably outstanding features, and its complete perfection. However,
> we are completely persuaded and assured of the infallible truth and divine
> authority of the Bible only by the inward working of the Holy Spirit, Who
> testifies by and with the word in our hearts." Westminster Confession of
> Faith 1:4 (This closely parallels Calvin's discussion in the Institutes of
> the Christian Religion, Book I Chapter VII)

Whereas this is true, it must be confirmed by objectively verifiable
evidences or we are in the position of the Mormons and Muslims, who make
the same subjective claims.

> "The Bible is a book of redemption. It is that or nothing at all. It is
> not a book of history, or of science, or of anthropology, or of cosmogony.
> It is a book of salvation and deliverance for lost mankind". _The scarlet
> thread of redemption_, W. A. Criswell. In _The open Bible_, 1979,
> Nashville, Thomas Nelson, p1281ff

The main focus of the Bible is redemption, however, that redemption is
based upon the historicity of events in the Bible such as the life,
death, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the life of Adam and
a real fall of Adam. It is not a text on science or hsitory or
anthropology, but it does mention events that are historical and about
nature (science) and has the subject matter of anthropology in it, and it
must be true in all of these areas whenever it touches upon them (which
is often).

> Calvin and the Westminster Confession seem most concerned with the absolute
> credibility of Scripture. "If you don't recognize the credibility of the
> Scriptures, it's your problem," they seem to be saying. This is somewhat of
> an unsatisfactory answer from a human point of view. But Scripture pretty
> clearly points out that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that enables us
> to understand the Scriptures at all. It is good to bend our efforts toward
> understanding Scripture and relating it to all of life, but it is really
> the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of the truth of Scripture. We
> might object because the apparent lack of credibility of the Scriptures may
> keep unbelievers from the faith. But again it is the work of the Holy
> Spirit to draw them.

This is true, but we need to demonstrate that we are not just going on a
feeling, like the Mormons, and a person cannot believe with their heart
what they do not believe with their mind, unless they are stupid or gullible.
The Holy Spirit uses evidences to draw people sometimes, and speaks to
the mind as well as to the heart and will. People have a choice to
reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit (this reveals my
anti-hyper-Calvinist leanings).

> Criswell is more concerned with the _purpose_ of Scripture, and perhaps
> sheds some light on the reason Scripture may not always provide a fully
> verifiable historic record: The primary subject matter of the Bible is
> redemption. (Other commentators (e.g. the Westminster Confession ) might
> say the primary purpose is to give glory to God.) In any case, there is a
> primary purpose which is not the teaching of history, science or any other
> of men's disciplines. Like it or not the truth of the Scriptures does not
> depend on any man or church.

Again, the primary purpose relies critically upon the secondary issue of
historicity; it the Bible is not historically reliable, then there is no

> In a closed canon there has to be some prioritization of objectives.
> If God had included enough material to permit full historical and
> scientific correlation, we might have wound up with a Bible so massive,
> people would not have carried it around with them, and might have felt
> intimidated by its sheer size and the difficulty of finding what was really
> relevant (the plan of salvation) for most people, since it would be
> interspersed (diluted?) with so much physical and scientific data.
> So then, do I believe the Bible is historically inaccurate? May it never be!
> I believe events such as the flood are real, historical events.
> However, it is not obvious to me that we have now or will have in the near
> future the means of correlating exactly between an event like the flood and
> geology. To believe otherwise -- that we ought to be able to relate all
> events in Scripture to real, historical events is to exercise too much
> confidence in human capabilities, I believe. The Bible warns against
> pride. As I've said before, I think both sides of the origins debate make
> this mistake. A Dawkins claims there is no empirical evidence of God,
> therefore no God. A Duane Gish believes that if we cannot explain
> something, then it must be an act of God. Perhaps it is, but it will
> remain an act of God whether or not we can explain it. And Gish's position
> implies that perhaps we ought to stop investigating phenomena we don't
> understand.
> It may seem I'm suggesting that when we can't reconcile a passage with
> science, we should just label it difficult and forget about it. That's not
> what I mean.
> I don't think we have the right to drop investigation of what we don't
> understand. What we don't understand ought to be our highest priorities
> for investigation. Places where existing paradigms break are frequently
> the most fruitful places for investigation.
> What I am suggesting is that we should not be overly hasty in trying to
> reconcile difficult passages. We need to be willing to label a passage
> "Difficult and being actively studied." -- and of course be actively
> studying it.
> What might we lose by not insisting on full correlation between history (or
> biology. or geology) and Scripture? Obviously if nearly everything was
> labelled unresolvable people might charge that Christianity is
> unfalsifiable.
> But, there are a number of findings that would falsify Christianity:
> 1) Evidence that Jesus was never crucified, never resurrected, never
> existed, or that some other doctrinally important event in Scripture never
> occurred.
> 2) Evidence that a miracle related in Scripture never happened.
> Certainly there could be problems with apologetics: We might worry that
> some people will fail to consider the claims of Christ because they believe
> the book that relates them is not scientifically or historically accurate.
> While evidence certainly might dispose an individual mentally to consider
> the claims, Scripture tells us that only the Holy Spirit can draw a person
> to Christ. So we must avoid putting too much credence in what is humanly
> perceived as evidence. Evidence as perceived by humans is important but
> not crucial from a salvific point of view. We are called to be
> evangelists, but it is not our evangelism itself that wins people to
> Christ. It is the Holy Spirit acting through our obedience. On the other
> hand, apologetics would be helped by an honest attitude of being willing to
> admit we don't know everything when our efforts to reconcile Scripture and
> science fail. We might fret that God is lying. I reject that of course.
> He doesn't lie. However, He may let us deceive ourselves if pride rules
> us. Furthermore He may not have gifted us with the ability to investigate
> certain kinds of evidence, or even to conceive models which would allow us
> to investigate certain issues.
> It seems to me that when we are unable to reconcile Scripture and science
> on some issue, we should be willing to
> 1) keep working on the reconciliation issue without jumping to conclusions.
> And 2) we should be glad that He has given us glimpses of a truth that is
> -- temporarily or permanently -- beyond our powers of investigation
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> William E. Hamilton, Jr., Ph.D.
> 1346 W. Fairview Lane
> Rochester, MI 48306
> (810) 652 4148