How to answer tough questions

You Can't Trust the Bible Because Humans Wrote It

Conversation Stopper

Many students feel like there is nothing special about the Bible. They feel it is a collection of religious sentiments and is therefore just like any other religious book. It may also have a more subversive agenda in that it is meant to promote one particular view of Christianity at the expense of more “tolerant” options.

Assumptions

  • The Bible is not trustworthy, because it was written so long ago.
  • Men (and not God) wrote the Bible for their purposes.
  • All religions claim to have their own truth.
  • It is arrogant to place the Bible above other religious texts.
  • Books like The Da Vinci Code disprove the Bible.

Talking Points

  • If there is a God, do you think God has to remain silent, or could God communicate if God wanted to? (Most will grant that God can do anything that God wants; otherwise we aren’t talking about God)
  • How would you feel if your professor never told you how to succeed in your class and left up to you to figure out, and that you only found out when you received your final grade? Do you think God would want to communicate something of Himself to His creation? Do you think it’s reasonable that God would want to help us flourish in this life and know how to get to the next one? (Most grant that this sounds reasonable)
  • Then the real question becomes…where has God shown up? Or, where and how has God communicated with us? It also seems reasonable that God would commit his story to written language so all people could have access to God.
  • To answer this question one can study various religious texts (revelations) to determine which ones have the ring of truth to them.
  • I’m drawn to Jesus because he appears to be God’s ultimate answer to the question of number 3. Instead of men and women pointing to God, and speculating about God, Jesus is the opposite. God coming to us. Thus, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.
  • If you have not studied this Jesus that would be a good next step. When you see the way he lived, the things he taught, the way he died, and the way he came back to life, you may decide that He can be trusted and followed.
  • If you decide that He is God speaking to you, then, you can trust his view of the Bible which is that God moved humans to write down God’s words for humans to flourish.
  • This does not mean that everything that others have said about God is false. People can sometimes get things correct. Like caring for the marginalized is valued in virtually all religions. But if you come across a contradiction between Jesus and someone speculating about God, then you should stick with Jesus as the final authority.

Additional Resources

What are some qualities that make another human trustworthy for you?

Share some qualities in a comment below.

>> Find more Conversation Stoppers

Comments

I don't trust the contents of

I don't trust the contents of the bible for many reasons:

1) It was translated by the white man to suite his needs and beliefs: Jesus was definitely not white so isn't it ironic how he is depicted in books and teachings as being blond and blue-eyed. Hundreds of millions of innocent people died in religiously-waged crusades (if not enacted then consecrated by the Popes) of Europeans to dominate world order and religion. Considering the racist nature of the white man, Christianity would not have flourished if Jesus was depicted as he really may have been born - dark-skinned, brown haired- and brown-eyed..

2) It has been used/spread throughout the world by the very people who had Jesus crucified - the Romans - to maintain domination over others and continue world dominance (if not politically but religiously: Adapting the true religion of the Hebrews/Jews who believed in God firstly and then Jesus's teachings instead of basing their belief principally in Jesus and then God hundreds of years after his crucifixion. This could be the reason why we have so many different denominations of the christian faith and opinions of Jesus and God to date..

3) There are too many contradictions and mis-interpretations of places and events of the scriptures that have occurred which mislead Christians in their faith and beliefs. Christ's birth place, birthday, personal life, true identity, etc. Lies and deceit can only spawn ignorance - which religious leaders need to rectify for religious reasons.

4) During the days of Jesus any cure to heal a sickly person would have been viewed upon as miraculous: besides he was not the only one who possessed the "knowledge" of healing. However, he at the time was the only one at the time who attracted the attention of the Romans and priests, questioned and threatened their authority and influence, and stood-up for the poor, sick and homeless. IN A POLITICAL ARENA he was a threat o the status-quo of the day. So who else where they to view as their savior?

5) They say Jesus died on the cross to literally pay for the sins of man (even those to come?)? How can an unborn child commit sin? Jesus's death was one of political prosecution by man - not God! God allowed his death because he wanted someone to pay for the sins of man?

6) From the time of John "the Baptist" the days of man were coming to an end. Over 2000 years later the end is still "near". The weak still has not inherited the earth, the first are still first and the last last. From a realistic perspective death is the promise of eternal resolve. Why would anyone feel comfort in death and the unknown?

7) Then they are the "unknown years" of Jesus's life for which there are NO historical account? Denials of him not being there or there, doing this or that but no historical account - that is until shortly before his crucifixion!

8) While others were left on the cross to die for several days and their remains cast to wild animals to be devoured - Jesus according to the scriptures died the same day and was buried in a nobleman's tomb; his corpse was gone the next day. What ponders me is that the tomb in which he was laid to rest was physically open. From a spiritual perspective - would I not be able to transcend to heaven through any physical barrier or are our spirits confined to physical realms and must be released by the aid of humans? And if Jesus arose from the dead in a physical form would it be necessary - with all the power and the glory given to him by God - for him to go to that extreme?

I'm glad someone thinks

I'm glad someone thinks enough of this Conversation Stopper, whether for or against, to leave a comment! A name would be nice, but I will make my reply to Anonymous.

1. Bible translation: I happen to know two Bible translators, both of whom are white. Both have worked on contemporary translations of ancient biblical texts. Being faithful to the oldest manuscripts while translating the words and phrases into contemporary language is both art and science, I'm told. One thing to note is that it's not a secretive practice. The ancient texts are there for anyone to examine for themselves and compare with the new translations.

The original compositions were not written by "the white man," of course, but by Jewish and Greek eyewitnesses (or their close associates) of the life of Jesus.

2. Jesus' ethnicity: Anonymous makes a good point -- that when Jesus is depicted as blond and blue-eyed, a true disservice is done to the original tradition. And when this "white" Jesus is used as a means of oppression, Christians everywhere should protest.

In fact, however, these days such a pale white Jesus is rare. I do a lot of traveling to churches around the country and I've yet to see a single likeness of Jesus depicted that way. Maybe in some old movies, however? Well, one can't control what Hollywood may have done in decades past.

3. The Crusades: Definitely a terrible incident in the life of the church, but Anonymous's accusation that "hundreds of millions of innocent people died in religiously waged crusades" sounds more rhetorical than factual.

I think if you do some research on the Crusades of circa 1096 - 1272, you'll find there were eight European campaigns into the Holy Land, plus a horrible "childrens'" crusade. No one knows exactly how many died in these wars. One person would be too many. "Thousands" may be the best answer.

Whatever the exact number, compared with the genocide committed by 20th c. communist and fascist dictators such as Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and others, it's fractional. A BBC "war audit" of 2004 estimated that over 110 million people were slaughtered, making the 20th c. the bloodiest century ever.

My intent here is not to minimize the damage done in the Crusades or to excuse them in any way. In fact, they are inexcusable. But I do intend to put them into historical perspective relative to the harm done by others, and show that Christians have no monopoly on violence. Not even close. I think it's time for the atheist community to step up and acknowledge that when the most powerful leaders in the world have no "higher" authority or accountability (God), the results are often disastrous.

4. Denominations: These proliferated for the most part during and after the Protestant Reformation. Anonymous seems not to be familiar with this history so I won't go into it.

5. The Romans: I'm not quite following what Anonymous is saying here. Probably a reference to the Catholic Church "maintaining domination" over others. Again, when Christians look back into their own history they find some regrettable periods. I think every Christian scholar and thinking layperson acknowledges this.

Yet, the misuse of a religion doesn't invalidate its truth claims (though it certainly doesn't help!). An illustration: If I pound dents in your car with a hammer, you don't blame the hammer, you blame me. Similarly, sinful human beings use religion to harm others. I say: blame the people, not the religion.

The important thing is this: What's our response? Abandon Jesus just because his name has been tarnished in the past? Or because his church has gone off track at times? On the contrary, most committed Christians today want to represent Jesus well to a hurting world. We want to reform the church (where needed) and bring Christ's message of love and healing to society.

So I'd ask Anonymous to give us a hand. Instead of standing outside the church throwing rocks, why not come inside and help us with our efforts? Anonymous seems to have a basic respect for Jesus (his 2 and 4 above), so why not lock arms with us and, with God's help, work alongside us for positive change?

Speaking of the past, what's less known than the Crusades is that Christians were responsible for the rise of hospitals and health care in the Roman Empire and beyond, where the sick and marginalized were mostly left to their "fate" by others. Even today in the US, most health care organizations have their roots in Christian care-giving. Many hospital names -- St. Luke's, St. Joseph's, St. Mary's, Methodist, etc. -- reflect this Christian heritage. Ditto for the first universities in the US -- Harvard, Princeton, Yale and many others.

6. Anonymous's 3) above makes the accusation of misrepresentations and contradictions that "mislead" Christians in their faith. I find it strange that critics of Christianity somehow know more about ancient Christian origins than Christians do.

But how do they know this? Do they have a different, correct version of history that Christians have somehow missed? What is that version, and by what historical standards is it proffered? And if it is so clear, why do nonChristian critics not agree with each other on what it is?

A concrete example is the historical Jesus. Critics all agree on one thing: The NT's account of Jesus is not -- cannot be -- true. But what they don't agree on is the "real" story of Jesus. Some point to Hellenistic mystery religions, others to OT archetypes, others to traveling cynic/sages as "sources" of the Jesus narratives. I think if they mostly agreed on the "facts" of real history in overturning the NT accounts, I'd listen. But it seems to me the critics are all over the map and have no agreed-upon "real" history by which to measure Jesus. So I find it hard to take Anonymous very seriously here. He /she says, "Lies and deceit only spawn ignorance." Agreed. But Anonymous will need to do more than throw out incendiary accusations to make his case (I'll call Anonymous "he" from now on).

7. Anonymous's #4 above: I'm having trouble following the logic of this paragraph. I think I agree with most of it, I'm not sure. Maybe the last sentence is the non sequitur that is throwing me. Jesus was a threat to the status quo of the day . . . so who else were they to view as their savior?

I'll take a guess at the intent here: It would take an unusually strong leader to rally the Jews against their Roman oppressors, and since Jesus possessed the backbone to do so, they thought of him as a savior. Something like that.

While it's true that Jesus possessed incredible fortitude as a counter-cultural prophet and leader, the Romans never felt much of it. They saw Jesus and his followers as engaged in an internal dispute with the Jews. If Jesus' followers needed a revolutionary icon of sorts to make into a savior, they had little to work with in Jesus, who spent most of his time/energy trying to reform Jewish religious practices, preaching the kingdom of God to the masses, and demonstrating the power of God. He hardly engaged with the Romans at all, at least not directly. A better candidate for this type of anti-Roman (actually anti-Greek) leader would have been Judas Maccabeus, who led a Jewish military revolt in the 2nd c. BC.

8. Anonymous's #5 above: The clear claims of Jesus -- and soon after of his followers -- was that he was the Savior who had come to die for the sins of the world. These references are numerous in the NT and most find their roots in the OT sacrificial system, which was meant as a prelude to Jesus -- the true "lamb of God." Once again Anonymous makes a counter-claim about Jesus, with no supporting argumentation: that Jesus was martyred by man, not God. Well, that is half right. Men carried it out, but as the apostle Peter says in Acts 2:23: "This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross."

So it appears God really was involved in Jesus' death, and that it was meant as a solution to the problem of sin which had long ago infected all humanity. If Anonymous rejects this essential Christian teaching about universal sin, he is much more optimistic about human nature than I am. AND, at the same time, he is very pessimistic about the "human nature" of Christians.

9. Anonymous's #6 above: Again, a little fuzzy on the logic here. He says, "From a realistic perspective death is the promise of eternal resolve. Why would anyone feel comfort in death and the unknown?"

Maybe it's just me but I'm not following that at all.

The earlier reference to 2000 years of unresolved injustice in society makes more sense. Hey Anonymous, it troubles me too! I am with you on this one. If hit helps, theologians often talk about the "here-and-not-yet-here" of the kingdom of God. That is, when Jesus came the kingdom came in power, but not fully so. It was -- and is -- a kingdom in progress, contextualized in a sinful (and declining) world.

So yeah, it's here. God's power is present in his people for transformed lives! I see it at my church all the time -- marriages healed, men and women leaving lives of addiction to love Jesus and serve him. It's great. But the fullness of the kingdom -- the ultimate resolution of injustice -- is not here yet. And like you, I wish the Lord would hurry up. But my perspective is limited. God knows all the facts and he will bring history as we know it to resolution in his own perfect timing.

10. Anonymous's #7. The early church chose to canonize four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, out of all the accounts of Jesus that were floating around (most of which were oral). I'm sure we'd all appreciate knowing more about Jesus' childhood, but that's simply not available. We can pick up a few details in other accounts such as the Gospel of Thomas, but these are uncertain. I think the important thing is that we appreciate what we've been given -- and know that this corpus of texts is sufficient for us to know Jesus and receive his gift of salvation.

11. Anonymous's #8: Excellent questions. The NT talks about the importance of Jesus' bodily resurrection, not just his soul or spirit. God came to earth enfleshed and he was raised enfleshed. This sort of "embodiment" is one thing that separates orthodox Christianity from some of its competitors such as Gnosticism, which de-valued physicality. The "bodily" resurrection of Jesus had theological implications, such as the impotence of sin and death over Jesus, but also evidential implications, as the disciples and their companions felt they'd lost their cause to the Jews and Romans but now were convinced of God's power and calling by encountering the risen Christ.

This "resurrection power" revolutionized the Christian community, enabling church leaders to endure horrific persecution for their faith as they spread the good news of salvation around the Mediterranean world. It's the same power of God (the Holy Spirit) that I sense working in my own life today, even as I write.

Anonymous, my invitation above is serious. Would you consider joining us who are modern day followers of Jesus? I think if you really dug into it you'd find the intellectual life very stimulating, and the emotional/relational life extremely liberating. I didn't quite follow all you were saying but you probably wrote your post hurriedly, and you seem to be a thoughtful person. Do me a favor: read through the Gospel of John with an open mind and see what you think. Then write me at rick.mattson@studentjourney.org, and maybe we can have a productive conversation. Thanks! This comes with my sincere prayer for you and your spiritual journey. Rick Mattson, InterVarsity Staff, St. Paul, MN.

Hi, God doesn't have to come

Hi, God doesn't have to come to earth to prove himself? [thought God is genderless]

God doesn't have to come to earth to feel like human and feel the suffering and than tell people when i am hanged all your suffering will be gone in form of salvation and do what you wanna do ya all christians will go to heavens no matter what...pretty bad idea i call it don't put all your eggs in one basket i can disprove christianity right from the bible itself.

Hi Alex, I think we

Hi Alex,

I think we Christians would put it a little differently. God didn't come to earth to prove himself but to reveal himself.

First he created us "in his image" -- that is, as moral, spiritual, relational, conscious beings -- but when things went bad due to sin, he incarnated himself as "one of us" to deal decisively with the sin problem.

It's in this incarnation that we see God most fully revealed. One NT text says that Jesus was "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being."

So God "discloses" himself to us in Jesus. If this also serves as a proof of sorts (depending on what's meant, exactly, by the word proof), all the better.

You also say that God didn't have to come to earth to feel suffering. I don't know about that. But what I do know is that in the biblical understanding, God CHOSE to feel suffering right alongside us. He chose to expose himself to a world contaminated by sin. instead of playing the "God card" by fixing the world through divine fiat or raw power, he took it seriously by entering it, becoming part of it, dealing with it from the inside rather than the safety of the outside.

As author Don Everts has said, God got his hands and feet "dirty." Jesus got dirty feet walking through this world. He identified with us.

It's this radical identification with humankind that enables us to draw close to God. The NT says we are his "friends" (John 15) and "brothers/sisters" (Hebrews 2). Very relational language.

You mention that Jesus said all our suffering will be gone in the form of salvation. On the contrary, the NT PROMISES suffering to those who follow him, and it is a historical fact that many Christians of the early church suffered the most cruel refinements of persecution for their beliefs.

Yet, for the Christian there is hope of an eternal resting place in God's presence. If that's what you're referring to, then yes -- Jesus promised eternal life. We go to "heaven," which is a biblical way of referring to God's presence. Here there is joy, peace, rest, even growth.

The main reason I believe in concepts such as salvation, eternal life, heaven and hell is that Jesus did. You say it's a "bad idea," but I hope you see my perspective here: Should I believe a blog critic who offers a slightly inflammatory commentary with no supporting argumentation, or Jesus?

You also say you can "disprove Christianity right from the bible itself." I've heard this claim many times but never seen it done. In fact, in order to carry out this task one would need to be a professional student of the Bible -- probably with credentials -- to handle language and grammar issues, theological themes, historical references and hermeneutical questions.

Not that it hasn't been tried. Professional skeptics such as Robert Price and Earl Doherty (extreme radical critics), Bart Ehrman (somewhat less radical) and J.D. Crossan (a softer critic) have all had their hand at overturning the Bible. None have been convincing yet. Their charges have been answered by the likes of Craig Evans, Craig Blomberg, Paul Eddy, Paul Copan, NT Wright and many others (I'd recommend all these authors to you).

If you wish to discuss further, you can contact me through my website at rickmattsonoutreach.com.

Rick Mattson, InterVarsity Staff, St. Paul, MN.