RPM, Volume 13, Number 6, February 6 to February 12, 2011


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
For the degree of Master of Divinity
Apologetics 2ST530
Reformed Theological Seminary
Orlando, Florida
November 19, 2010

By George Hawkins




This paper contains a fictional dialogue, although the two participants are real. ‘Pete' is in his early seventies and regularly attends church with his wife who is a Christian. He has taken several courses designed to introduce unbelievers to Christianity. I led one of those around three years ago. The dialogue below is based on the scenario of a discussion between Pete and me, following up on the outcome of the course. One of Pete's key objections has been the confidence Christians place in the Bible.


George: I'm glad we've got the opportunity to meet together today. Ever since we went through the ‘Christianity Explored' material together, I'd hoped we could meet to discuss what you thought about it.

Pete: I'm pleased we've found time as well. I certainly valued going through the course together. I enjoyed what the speaker had to say and we had a good time within our group discussions. I have to admit, though George that I got to the end of the six weeks and was still skeptical about whether Christianity is true. I know that you and others leading the group sincerely believe it, but I'm still not convinced.

George: It was a good six weeks. I think everyone on the course took it seriously and engaged in the material. I appreciate you being honest about how you're feeling about Christianity at the moment. Can I ask what you are skeptical about? Is it a particular aspect of what Christians believe?

Pete: For me, a lot comes down to the faith you have in the Bible. Everything on the course was a presentation of what the Bible said. You take it to be 100% true and believe everything it says without question. But why on earth should the Bible be the book you turn to? What about other religious books? Don't they have something to say that we should listen to? And if God is out there at all, why communicate with us through a book? Why not speak verbally so we can hear him with our own ears? It seems to be asking an awful lot of people to accept the words of a book written years and years ago. Also if it is a book written by people, then it's bound to contain loads of errors and mistakes. We talked a lot on the course about how we are all fallible, that we all sin. So why should we believe that the Bible is insulated from that kind of error? It just seem naïve to me.

George: Well there are quite a few issues to think about in what you've said. Firstly, let's think about the type of God the Bible describes …..

Pete: We can do that, but doesn't that mean we're already using the Bible? I want you to prove to me that the Bible is the only place we need to go to see what God says. If you use the Bible to start with, then we're just going round in circles.

George: Pete, I understand what you are saying and I appreciate it seems like that. Let me come at this from a different angle. Imagine this situation: The Bible is not true and we need to prove why that is the case. How would you go about doing that?

Pete: I think I'd start by looking for things that were clearly errors in what was written.

George: …and errors would be what sort of things?

Pete: Well, I guess the most obvious example would be clear inconsistencies. So if in one place the Bible says one thing and somewhere else it says the exact opposite then that would be an error.

George: I agree with you. If we could find such an example that would be an error and then any claim the Bible makes is called into question. Let's think of a potential example. If the Bible says in one place that Jesus was killed on Thursday and in another place it says he was killed on Friday, then I'd think we'd both agree that both of those statements can't be correct. I'm not saying that the Bible says that about Jesus; I'm just giving you that as an example. In this example the two statements cannot be reconciled. They could both be wrong, one could be right and one could be wrong but they can't both be right.

Pete: That makes sense to me. So we just need to look for an example like that which demonstrates the Bible isn't reliable and we don't need to believe everything it says.

George: You would need to find an example like that of course. But let me back up a minute and ask a slightly different question. We're saying that if one statement is ‘Jesus was killed on a Thursday' and another is ‘Jesus was killed on a Friday' then one of the two statements is untrue. But how do we know that one is untrue?

Pete: Logically speaking, they can't both be true. The two statements are mutually exclusive.

George: I agree with that. So we're evaluating the two statements based on logical reasoning. If Jesus was killed on a Thursday that logically implies Jesus wasn't killed on a Friday.

Pete: So we can use logic to go through the Bible and find the errors that will prove it's not 100% reliable.

George: I think you already know that I don't believe you will be able to find those errors. But I want to carry on thinking about logic for a bit longer. Why can we trust logic as a tool for evaluating what the Bible says in comparing one statement against another? How do we even know what the rules of logic are?

Pete: Are you asking me a history question? I seem to remember some of the Greeks came up with the rules of logic — Aristotle maybe. But whoever it was, the rules are pretty obvious to us aren't they?

George: I'm sure you're right about it being Aristotle. I agree the rules of logic are fairly intuitive. But why should that be? Why should there be any logic at all and who is to say what is good and bad logic?

Pete: Don't we just need logic to make sense of ideas and thoughts? Isn't it something practical that helps us evaluate statements?

George: Yes, but don't you think it's more than that? When I argue that if Jesus died on a certain day of the week and not another day, I'm presenting that as something that is necessarily true. It's not a take it or leave it option. It's something we must conclude; there's no alternative. We wouldn't be happy if someone else walked in now and heard our two statements about the day Jesus died and concluded they could both be true.

Pete: So you're saying that logic is not just something practical but more like a series of rules, rules that we have to follow?

George: Yes, exactly.

Pete: That makes sense. But I don't really see where that gets us?

George: The question then is where the rules come from?

Pete: I get the feeling you are angling for the idea that God made them! Couldn't they have just come as a result of evolution? Just as complex human beings developed over time, so the rules of logic did too?

George: I think you've accepted the idea that logic is not simply a practical tool but that logic contains universal rules that everyone would have to accept. Is that correct?

Pete: Yes.

George: Ok. Let's think about whether evolution could lead to such universal rules. Just to be clear, when we're talking evolution here we're assuming no involvement from God at all for the moment. The difficulty is that under this view of evolution, we have a process which is not governed or directed or planned by anyone leading to a series of rules that we all need to abide by. Why should a random process lead to these fixed universal rules of logic that everyone needs to operate with?

Pete: The theory of evolution says that every development that takes place furthered the cause of the survival of the fittest. So couldn't logical rules be simply what were needed for survival? Those who operated logically survived better than those who didn't use them? That seems reasonable to me.

George: But aren't we saying more than that? We're saying that logic is not simply something practical needed for survival; there's something binding about it. We have to make logical conclusions; we have no option. Under the evolutionary model, it looks like we could get to a stage where we abandoned logic altogether if that maximized our survival potential. Or at a more simple level, if someone else doesn't follow the rules of logic we have no way of saying that they ought to do so.

Pete: So you're arguing that logic has something universal and necessary about it because God made it. People discovered it, but you are saying God created the fabric of the universe with logic built in. Couldn't logic just be the way things are?

George: If it is just the way things are, then how do we insist on someone making the logical conclusions we know they should? For instance, if it came to arguing about whether the Bible was true and you found two clearly contradictory statements and I said they weren't logically inconsistent, where would your argument go?

Pete: I'd either think you were irrational or I'd spend my time trying to persuade you that you have to make the conclusion.

George: And if I have to make the conclusion there is something binding upon me that drives me to that conclusion.

Pete: Couldn't logic just be a natural law, a bit like gravity? It's a law of the universe that imposes itself upon you whether you like it or not.

George: I think there are some comparisons between gravity and logic. But my question is ‘how can the universe impose it upon you'? If we are talking about a universe with no God, there is no-one to impose anything. I don't believe an impersonal universe, a universe without God, can impose anything, whether that's the law of gravity or the law of logic. If we're talking laws that must be adhered to, we're talking about a personal God who designs them. Law implies a lawmaker.

Pete: I don't know if you've convinced me yet. I think I understand what you are saying. But even if I accept that logical reasoning comes from God, when I then come to apply those logical tests to the Bible, I could still find some logical inconsistencies?

George: What I am saying, is that the only way that logic is reliable and is a useful tool is if God made it and if he says what the rules of logic are. If there are rules of logic, then we need God to speak to us and tell us what the rules are. We need him to communicate with us. I'm arguing that the Bible is that communication. The only way we can validate logic is with the Bible. So to use logic to validate the Bible is back to front.

Pete: Are you saying that the Bible lists out all the rules of logic? I don't remember reading those passages on the ‘Christianity Explored' course!

George: No, I'm not saying that we can turn to a page in the Bible to give us the definitive guide to logic. The Bible tells us about the only preconditions that can make logic work in this universal, undeniable way we have been talking about — a personal God who has planned and purposed the world, including developing the rules of logic.

Pete: If I accept the argument about logic being created by God and validated by the Bible, couldn't I still find something in the Bible that was logically inconsistent?

George: I don't think so. It's the Bible that defines what is logically consistent.

Pete: So you think the Bible has a kind of veto on everything else?

George: Yes, in a sense. Since the Bible is God's word it interprets and validates everything else. That's not to say that the Bible is exhaustive on every subject. I wouldn't go the Bible for the latest football results. But the Bible gives a framework and a reason for everything else. We've discussed the issue of logic, but I believe the same applies to reason and moral values. They only make sense when we approach the world using the Bible's worldview of a God who is both personal and absolute.

Pete: I'll need to go away and think more about that. What about some of the other questions I had on the Bible? What about books in other religions? Why can't they be God's word too?

George: It's good to think about the content of the Bible to consider this question. The Bible doesn't just say it is God's Word and leave it there as a statement. It gives lots of evidences that it is the unique communication of God to mankind and that all the words from God we need are in it.

Pete: Can you give me some examples?

George: The whole Bible is the record of God speaking, communicating to people and that communication being written down. It's not simply philosophers writing what they think about God. It is many different authors writing about a wide variety of things; history, proverbs, songs, letters. They all have the same message, though they were written in different languages, by people of different backgrounds in very different timeframes. Many times in the Bible, God's prophets and appointed messengers speak words that God gave them. When we get to the second half of the Bible, the New Testament, then Jesus becomes the key figure. He not only claims to speak for God but to be God. So Jesus says ‘I am the truth' and one of his friends says about him that ‘he has the words of eternal life'. The Bible is the book that interprets our world for us. One of the reasons why I am convinced it is God's word to people is that it understands you and me - it explains why as people we are capable of so many great achievements and yet how we are also people who are prone to moral failure and inhumane treatment of one another.

Pete: So do you think the Bible is the only book that speaks the truth about life?

George: I wouldn't argue that other religious books don't contain some truth. In fact, it would be surprising if they didn't, given they were written by people who are created by God. But the question again is how do we decide what is true? If the Qur'an and the Bible disagreed about Jesus for example what would we do?

Pete: Couldn't we look at other historical records and see whether they matched the Bible or the Qur'an?

George: But then those other records are taking precedence over both of them. Can you see that we are always forced to find one ultimate authority that will validate or disqualify all other knowledge? I'm suggesting that the Bible has that position of ultimate authority because firstly, it says that it does. Secondly, that claim is consistent with its message and worldview and thirdly all other knowledge, like logic, requires the Bible to have any reliability.

Pete: Supposing I accept that the Bible is God's message to people. You've already said that it was written down by lots of different human authors. Even if God intended to communicate to us, surely once it has passed through fallible humans it is going to end up being imperfect? You said during ‘Christianity Explored' that even the best things we do are tainted, so doesn't that apply to the Bible?

George: It's a good question. My first answer would be that since the Bible is God's Word it reflects his character. So the Bible cannot contain any errors or imperfections. If it was incorrect about something then either God would be mistaken, in which case he is not all knowing, or God would be lying, in which case he is not all good. A God who is limited in knowledge or in his integrity is not a God worth worshipping. Secondly it is true that the Bible is as much a human book as a divine one. In that sense it is a much like Jesus; fully human and fully divine. But as we investigated during ‘Christianity Explored', Jesus is perfect and without sin. So to be human doesn't imply that something has to be tainted or full of error.

Pete: You can't really argue from Jesus. I know that you don't think Jesus wrote the whole Bible. So people who are genuinely flawed wrote the Bible and therefore they must have brought flaws into their words.

George: Suppose I say that ‘I am married to Eleanor Hawkins'. Would you accept that this is a true statement?

Pete: Yes I would. I went to your wedding!

George: So I am sinful but I can still make a true statement. I believe the same is true of the authors of the Bible. They were sinful people making true statements because God was inspiring their words and overseeing all that they wrote to ensure they were true.

Pete: We seemed to have tackled most of my questions. What about the final one which is why God chooses to give us a book rather than speak to us verbally?

George: I'm glad we can end with this question. I used to want something very similar. I always used to think that if only God could speak audibly then I'd know for sure he existed and what he wanted from me. There were a couple of occasions recorded in the Bible when God did speak to people. The most famous is when he spoke to the nation of Israel when they received the Ten Commandments. What's striking about this is that afterwards the people weren't happy at having heard God's voice. They begged Moses to act as an intermediary so that they would not have to hear God's voice directly again. It terrified them. God graciously agreed to this. He spoke to Moses who passed on God's words to the people. It's good to remember that when we get God's words to people it is not only generous of God to give us words but he is generous in how he does it; he gives us a book which makes it widely available, doesn't require mankind to reach a certain technology level, makes it permanent and gives us a definite place to hear God's voice, what he wants to say to us.

Pete: You've given me food for thought this afternoon. I appreciate your time and for answering my questions.

George: Pete, the final thing I would say is go and read the Bible for yourself. It's good to discuss whether it's reliable and it is important to do that. However, I think that God assures us of the truthfulness of the Bible as we read it. If you do that this week and you have more questions, it would be great to meet up again soon.

Pete: Thanks George. I might well take you up on that.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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