Apologetics Bonus Level!
I’ve gone back and updated all the posts on my apologetics series with my notes. You can now read the lessons as they were written.
And as an extra bonus, here are the notes from the lesson that didn’t get recorded.
“Because the Bible says so” isn’t going to cut it with many of the people we talk to. Here are a few reasons why.
We claim not only that our God is the only god, but that the Bible is the Word of God. These are outlandish claims in a relativistic culture. People may be tempted to dismiss them outright – how could they possibly be true in a world with so many religions and holy books?
In a “show me” society, the Bible makes claims of miracles that we don’t see every day. We see other highly unlikely things all the time, but not pillars of fire and people raised from the dead. In the West, we want to explain everything. We want to quantify, measure, and completely understand everything. That mindset distances people from a book that claims that God caused many physically impossible things to happen.
People have examined the Bible and have found supposed contradictions. Some people stop at the first difficult passage, content that they’ve found a reason not to believe. Some people wrestle with what they see as flaws in the Scripture that can’t be reconciled.
And let’s be honest: some of us don’t want the Bible to be the Word of God. If it is, we’re responsible to live up to its standards, which means we’d have to change our lives. If we can find a reason not to believe, we’ll take it.
We need to defend the Bible for several reasons. And though you may be tempted to tell someone “all scripture is God-breathed,” that passage will only help you in very specific situations. It’s self-referential: it’s a scripture speaking in favor of scripture.
So, how else can we defend the Bible?
Let’s take a look at history.
Those parts of the Bible that were written as history are reliable. This has been proven on a number of occasions. I’d like us to look at two.
It seems that there was an important historical figure missing from the historical record: Pontius Pilate. There are extrabiblical records of Jesus, but – strangely enough – there weren’t any for the man in charge of Judea at the time. For some, this called into question the entire Biblical account.
Then, in 1961, archaeologists found an inscription on a stone in Caesarea Maritima. It plainly bears the name “PILATVS” – Pilate. The other fragments of text suggest that the stone once read “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”
Let’s go back even further.
A tiny cuneiform tablet confirms a minor Babylonian official mentioned in Daniel.
Why do these finds matter? Every time a specific claim of the Bible is validated, it lends credence to the other claims. Again, many start by assuming that the Bible is purely myth. Pointing out the historicity of the Bible may surprise people, and will hopefully persuade them to take it more seriously.
But what about the argument that the Bible contradicts itself? There are several passages that seem to give conflicting accounts of the same event. As I mentioned, some people will write off the entire Bible if they discover one passage that seems to conflict with another.
Whatever their motives – whether their concern is genuine, or they’re looking for an excuse not to believe – our responsibility is to give the best answers we have, or simply say, “I don’t know.”
Here’s the truth: the Bible doesn’t contradict itself. Places where it seems to can be explained by a closer examination of the text and context. Here are two prime examples.
Genesis 1:24-26 tells us about the creation of animals and humans. As we see from the text, it went in that order: animals, then humans. But then we see a different story in Genesis 2:19. All of a sudden, Adam is there before God created the animals! What happened?
One commonly accepted theory is that the writer of Genesis was collecting stories of the Creation, and included two at the beginning of the book. If that’s the case, though, we have to categorize the Creation accounts more as mythology or allegory than truth. Otherwise, how could we say that two conflicting accounts are true?
All that aside, there’s a much better explanation. There’s a reason that I showed you these passages in the New Living Translation. Anyone else have something different?
Several translations, including the New International Version and the English Standard Version, render the verb “had formed.” If you go with the past tense, you have a structure very similar to other Old Testament passages: a summary followed by a more detailed account. The two passages are the same story.
Now, let’s look at a more grisly example: the death of Judas. Matthew 27:3-8 gives us a few details about what happens. Judas tried to give the money back, but couldn’t. He threw the money into the temple, then hanged himself. The priests then used the blood money to buy a field, and it got the nickname “Field of Blood.”
But if we look at Acts 1, we get what seems to be a different story. In verses 18-19, it says Judas bought the field, then fell and was eviscerated there, which is why the people called it Akeldama.
If you look at the geography of the region and know a bit about the culture of the times, it’s quite possible to reconcile these stories. Here’s a possibility.
The area around Jerusalem, where all this took place, is hilly. It’s not farfetched to imagine that Judas hung himself near a steep slope or an overhang. Then, his body could have fallen and struck a rock. Or – perhaps even more gruesome – his body could have swollen and burst with decomposition. Eew.
Suffice to say, the two accounts of his death are easily reconciled. But what about the purchase of the field? Given that his money was used for the purchase, it could have been made in his name. That is, he technically could have bought it.
As you hear explanations for difficult passages, you realize that the Bible is trustworthy. Hopefully, those you talk to will realize it, too.
Posted on June 19, 2011, in Christianity, God, The Bible and tagged apologetics, archaeology, beliefs, Bible, Christianity, creation, Genesis, God, history, Nebuchadnezzar, Pontius Pilate, reason, religion. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.