You grew up in an orphanage, never knowing who your parents were. You’ve often wondered, but had no way of finding out. You’re an adult now, with a family and a career, and you’re sort of ok on the surface but deep down there’s this longing to know: who brought me into this world? Did they love me? What happened? Why?
Then one day you’re contacted by a lawyer. He was entrusted by your parents to get in touch with you once they’re both gone, and to give you a letter from your father. The letter tells you the whole story – who these people were who brought you into this world, how dearly they loved you, why you had to go to the orphanage (clue: there were bad people involved), and what inheritance they’ve left you. It’s an amazing inheritance – you’re going to be astoundingly rich, way beyond anything you could ever have imagined! And you also discover now that you have lots of brothers and sisters, and your dad recommends a family gathering so you can all get to know each other.
Where am I going with this story? Well, the analogy came to my mind as I was thinking of blogging about a question that comes up sometimes in conversations about my faith: how do I know that what the Bible says is true? And among all the different thoughts going round in my head (which I will come to in a minute) there was this: the Bible is a book authored by the One who was there right at the beginning! It’s the one and only live witness account we have of the creation of the world!
And it tells us not only about how the world came into being and about who it was who brought it into being – and about how much he loves us! – but it also tells us about what he has in store for us. There’s an inheritance for us, a good and wonderful future if we will only accept our real Father. (This is where the analogy fails, of course – the story of mankind is more complicated: we rebelled against our Father, and remain in rebellion until we come to our senses and repent. And the message we have from God – it’s not just his written Word, the Bible, but also the Word made flesh, Jesus, who came to die so that we can have atonement for our sins, so we can be made ok with God again.)
But why do I believe that the Bible really is the Word of God? How can I be so sure? The short but not-so-helpful-to-you answer is: because God gave me a 101% certainty about it. It’s the short answer, it’s the truth, but it won’t help you very much if you want to know it for yourself. So let me try and add some more helpful stuff into the mix – some things that I’ve heard, read and thought over time – things that have added extra confirmation for me over the years since that first time I sat and read through the four gospels and found myself totally sure that what I’d just read was the truth.
And I’m not attempting an exhaustive list of all the reasons to trust the Bible as God’s Word – this is only a blog post, and you wouldn’t read it if it went on forever. But let me recommend a book in case you’d like more reading material on this subject: it’s a book called Why Trust the Bible? written by Amy Orr-Ewing. I’ve been dipping into it now and again and reading a bit, and finding it a good read.
One of the issues she goes into in depth in this book is the abundance of evidence that the manuscripts are reliable, and also evidence that the New Testament was written very soon after the events described in it. What I personally find even more interesting is thinking about some of the people who wrote it – if they had made it all up and set out to deceive people, then why would they portray themselves in a bad light? And why is there so much in the NT about the terrible cost of following Jesus? If you want to attract people to some religion you’ve made up, wouldn’t you try to present it as a nice and pleasant thing? And why on earth would these people be willing to die a horrible death rather than renounce their teaching if it was just stuff they’d made up?
But the New Testament is mostly people describing events they’d seen or even taken part in – in the Old Testament we have, on the one hand, a description of what happened long before a human hand was ready to write it down, and on the other hand, prophecies about things that were yet to come. And when you look at all the prophecies that were fulfilled, and in such amazing detail – how on earth could these people have known, if it wasn’t that God himself was telling them?
And how can such an amazingly coherent book come about as a result of a whole load of different human writers in such different periods of time, if it isn’t that God himself was inspiring them?
Plus, when I look at the world around me and I read the Bible, it all makes perfect sense. The Bible offers an explanation as to why the world is in such a mess, why human beings are so abominably horrid to each other, why there’s pain and suffering and war and disease – but it also offers hope.
And it’s that hope that is really the crux of it all. Jesus is the thread of hope woven through the whole of the Bible – he’s there in the beginning, as God’s Word; he’s the Messiah who is promised again and again, and who comes as promised to die as the ultimate atoning sacrifice and bring salvation to mankind; and in the last book of the Bible we’re told about his return.
And this is something that I can’t see how any human being could have made up. When people invent religions, they tend to go for carrot and/or stick religions: behave yourself and you will (maybe) get to heaven; if you don’t behave, you’ll get punished. The Jesus concept goes so totally against the way humans tend to think – the idea that we don’t have to try and earn our salvation, that we don’t have to strive to be good enough, that God himself would sacrifice his only begotten Son for us so that all we have to do is repent and believe and we’ll be fine? That’s just so totally outrageous, that only God himself can be behind it.
And again, we have plenty of confirmation through all the ancient prophecies fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus – people writing centuries beforehand about things they couldn’t have even imagined!
I could go on, but I think I’d better stop here – except for one thing: if you’re Jewish and you’re reading this, there’s another book I’d recommend for you. It’s a book called Betrayed, written by Stan Telchin, a Jewish man whose daughter told him she’d come to faith in Jesus, so he decided to study the Scriptures and prove to her that she was wrong. To his surprise, he found that she was right – that Jesus really is the Messiah promised in the Tanach!
Oops, no, I have to add one more thing – the most important thing really: if you truly want to know the truth about God, here’s what I suggest you do – ask him to show you the truth, as he showed me, and then open the Bible and start reading it with an open mind! This book was authored by God and he is well able to help people understand it when they are ready to hear him. He did it for me, and he’ll do it for you if you ask.