“If there is a God, He has nothing in common with the Bible.” This paraphrased comment from a reader in response to my post, About Miracles: When the Improbable is the Reality, was particularly interesting to me. It grabbed my attention because when asked as a question, “Why the God of the Bible?”, it demands an answer.
Why does belief in God need any connection to the Bible? Must we really restrict our understanding of God to a collection of ancient writings? Can I not be convinced there is some kind of Divine Creator or even divine creators without also accepting the Bible? What authority do the Christian Scriptures have to claim the exclusive truth when it comes to God?
In attempting to answer those questions let me start with this: Belief in God does not require belief in the Bible. Many people, in many cultures, in many places, and in many times have believed in a divine being with no knowledge of any Scriptures. And even with the prevalent availability of the Bible to all but the most remote people groups today, many choose to believe in a God who differs dramatically from that of Scripture and those differing beliefs may be based upon culture, religion, or sometimes just preference.
Why is belief in a God or gods so universal? Because all but the most hardened of skeptics can see a divine hand in the creation. As Paul wrote to the Romans in the first century, God’s divine nature has been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made (Romans 1:20). Paul said that the creation reveals the Creator and that was in an age of minimal understanding of scientific principles. Today, with the wealth of discoveries from the fine tuning of the universe to the incredible micro-city that is a single cell his argument is only magnified. The theological term for this is “general revelation”. It is general because everyone who is honest can see that this universe is designed for human beings. There is nothing else for God to say, the evidence speaks for itself. But now the tricky part. Just because I can see that there is more to the world than the material, it does not compel me to accept the Bible. It is one step of faith to believe in a Creator of some sort, it is a much bigger leap to accept that the Creator has revealed himself exclusively through one set of religious texts.
To connect a transcendent, all-powerful, and divine being inextricably to a collection of human writings demands some very compelling evidence. So why the Christian God and not some other God? Why must my preferences be put aside in favor of an objective and timeless truth about God? The answer is because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I have always maintained two points of belief when defending my Christianity. The first is that there is a God because we see His work in creation. The second is that Jesus Christ proved to be that God by rising from the dead. Only by evidence as powerful and compelling as a crucified man coming back to life can we connect the God most people perceive to be real with the writings found in the Bible. To paraphrase Paul once more, “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The obvious rebuttal is to doubt the Resurrection. After all, isn’t it recorded in the Bible? Isn’t using it as evidence for the reliability of the Bible circular reasoning? Space prohibits me from detailing the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus as an actual historical event, but it is plentiful and convincing. To date there has not been one coherent explanation for what happened to the body of Jesus other than that He was raised from the dead, appeared to His followers, and began the Christian revolution. Multiple resources are available for research including, Who Moved the Stone, The Case for Christ, and Evidence That Demands a Verdict. It is important to understand that much of the evidence for the Resurrection is found outside of the Bible and a compelling case can be made without referencing Scripture. Any serious critic of Christianity needs to examine the evidence and reach their own conclusions, but beware, two of the books referenced above were written by skeptics who thoughtfully investigated the Resurrection and then subsequently gave their lives to Jesus. (If you are more of a movie person, The Case for Christ has been made into a pretty decent one).
So why does the Resurrection compel belief in the Bible? Everything that was written after the Resurrection is called the New Testament and it was written by inspired authors most of whom had actually seen and had contact with the risen Christ. And please do not think that these authors wrote for power or personal gain because all of the closest followers of Jesus in those early days received nothing but trial, tribulation, and all except one suffered martyrdom for their faith and their unwavering proclamation that Jesus was alive. Modern scholarship regarding the reliability of our New Testament texts is also overwhelming and can be studied in books such as Canon Revisited or Can We Still Believe the Bible. With regards to the the Old Testament writings they tell of the coming Messiah and only Jesus has demonstrably fulfilled those prophesies. Prophetic books are most obviously true when their predictions have been fulfilled. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus validates the Old Testament as a reliable source of truth. Furthermore, when Jesus quoted Scripture, which he did often, it was always the Old Testament and He used it as if it had inherent authority. In short, if Jesus was God and He used the Old Testament as if it was true and authoritative it would be reasonable for us to do the same.
So, Why the God of the Bible? Why the Christian God? Because of the creation and the Resurrection. We believe because God has revealed himself to us and given us all the evidence needed if only we have eyes to see it. You can believe in a God and reject the Bible – many people do. But to do so you must close your eyes to the reality of the Resurrection and the implications it has for the authority of the Bible.
Additional note: God has always revealed Himself. He never requires a blind faith. How did those who lived prior to the Resurrection know that their God was God and how did they know that their books were the books? At key times and places, God intervened personally for the nation of Israel to guide, protect, preserve, and reveal Himself to them. The most famous instance is in the Exodus from Egypt where God provided supernaturally to rescue His chosen people. Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, the people were reminded to look back at this and other events and remember their God and what He had done for them in the past. Similarly, I am asking you to look back to the cross and remember that Jesus not only died there, but that He was raised to life. And He was raised to life not to prove a point that the Bible has authority or even to prove that He was God (though the Resurrection accomplished both). He was raised to give you the opportunity of eternal life. He was raised victorious over the sin that stains my heart and yours. He was raised to give us new life. That is why he came. That is why He died. That is why He was raised. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).