A friend in Taiwan sent me this email with questions from a non-Christian about the Bible. I thought that perhaps others might also be interested, so am including her questions and my response in the (longer than usual) blog entry, starting with my friend's encouraging greeting:
My goodness Wright! Your blog is a "page turner"! (still going through The Lord’s Healing Words in fits and spurts...)
If you have time, could you give us advice about something? K. has a friend from long ago who is seeking truth. She is a highly intelligent lawyer who asks a lot of good, probing questions about Christianity. When my family came to visit, she and my Dad got into a conversation about Christianity. They have continued their dialog by email. She just sent Dad two questions typically asked by non - Christians. I'll cut/paste her email:
The following two questions may be offensive, but they really troubled me: (1). Is every word in the Bible from God? How do we know that the Bible is the word of God?Is it possible that some content in the Bible was the work of human beings based on their interpretation of God's teaching? The author may honestly believe all the content is inspired by God; but how can we be sure that it is really consistent with God's will? If it is God's will, how can some of the content has become out of date? And some seems to be not reasonable or not loving?
Messages can be mis-communicated easily due to human errors. We don't even know exactly what happened around us now or what happened 10 years ago because people recorded it can always view something from various aspects; how can we be so sure about history written more than 2000 years ago and passed on generation by generation?
My question can boil down to one: how can we make sure all the rules we are required to follow as specified in the Bible lead to the right way to attend to God's glory?
WD: Good questions! And you are right to boil the first of them down to one: How can I be sure that what the Bible says I should do will “lead to the right way to attend to God’s glory?”
We don’t have time or space to discuss this first very large and basic question in detail, but here are a few sentences for starters:
Many people have the same questions. If fact, this is the fundamental question about Protestant Christianity, for we claim to derive all the content of our faith from the Scriptures and not from church traditions (like the Roman Catholics) or human reason (like liberal Protestants) or from direct “revelation” from God’s Spirit (like some charismatic Christians).
Second, many scholars over the centuries have investigated these matters, and have come up with some plausible answers, though not with absolute proof in the full inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Dr. Carl Henry, for example, wrote a full four volumes of his six-volume masterpiece, God, Revelation, & Authority, to try to show that belief in the full accuracy and truth of the Bible is reasonable. Many shorter books support the same position.
Specifically, they say that:
(1) The Bible itself claims, in hundreds of both direct and indirect ways, to be the very words of God. To assert otherwise is to call into question everything else that the Bible says.
(2) Most apparent contradictions in the Bible can be resolved with careful study, though a small number cannot.
(3) Archaeological and historical research has demonstrated that the historical accounts of the Bible are accurate and trustworthy.
(4) Contrary to popular belief, science has not disproved the truth of the Bible. In particular, Darwinian theory has recently been shown to lack scientific proof, or even much evidence. Read Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box; Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis; Philip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial; or Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution for confirmation of this statement.
(5) If there is a God, and if he created us in his image, then it is reasonable to believe that he could also communicate clearly with us, using the writings of men whom he specially chose and guided to record his will and his ways accurately.
(6) Some things (such as the destruction of the nations living in the Promised Land by the invading Israelites) do seem unreasonable or unloving to us. In those cases, Christians first seek to understand what is meant by those passages, and then confess that we just don’t have enough information or wisdom to comprehend everything God does or says.
But, we believe he is good, because Christ died for us, and that he is powerful, because God raised Christ from the dead, so that we could be forgiven and come to know God as our loving Father.
(7) Which parts of the Bible, in particular, do you consider “outdated?” Do you not rather mean that they are out of sync with some modern prejudices? Who is to say our generation is right and the Bible is wrong? What standard are you using?
(8) Finally – and I know this is all very brief – we find out whether what God has told us is right by trusting his promises and obeying his commands. Only as we step out in faith to rely on his promises to forgive those who repent of their wrongdoing and trust in Christ, and to supply all that we need to serve him; and only if we attempt, relying on his power, to do what he tells us, will we experience the goodness and rightness of what the Bible teaches.
I should add that millions of Christians have done just that over the past two thousand years, and have testified to their experience that the Bible is really the Word and words of God, and that living by its teachings really works.
I hope this helps a bit.