In this post, there’s an important question to answer: “Can We Trust The Bible?” That is, can believers take the words of Scripture seriously. Atheists say that we cannot trust the Bible. The Bible is full of contradictions, things that are opposites. One claim atheists make is that “God tells Israel not to kill then He kills. So He does the opposite of what He says,” what they believe to be a contradiction. Former Classical Pentecostal preacher and now universalist Carlton Pearson (whose views I oppose in two books now at Amazon, Doctrinal Deception and More Doctrinal Deception) has a contradiction to contribute to this debate. He says that, in a paraphrase, God tells believers not to love the world, but then Scripture says that “God loves the world.” These are believed to be contradictions, though they’re not.
However, the presumed contradictions of Scripture isn’t the only problem atheists have with Scripture: the other problem with which they struggle is that the writers of Scripture are normal, everyday people like you and me. Jon Steingard says in his Instagram confession that the one thing that made it easy for him to admit he no longer believed in God is that the writers of Scripture were human and said things that weren’t inspired, but rather, a product of their time.
He mentions the 1 Timothy 2:11-15 text that he believes limits women teaching in the church — and he says that it’s reminiscent of an earlier time. Well, 1 Timothy 2 has a context (it was written in the first century AD), but it isn’t offensive to women. When one examines the context, it’s easy to see that the issue in the Church at Ephesus is neither misogyny nor traditional views of women, but rather, false doctrine (see 1 Timothy 1 for details).
The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s Author, inspired human writers
But he uses this, and other ideas he has of Scripture, to now say that the Bible’s writers aren’t inspired at all; rather, they’re so much like you and me that we can’t take their words seriously. And when an atheist attacks the human writers of Scripture, they’re attacking the Divine Author Himself, the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit moved men to write Scripture. As Scripture says of its Author and writers,
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21, NKJV)
The human writers wrote what they did because they “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” These men spoke by the Holy Spirit, what He revealed to them. Scripture says of itself, that it is “inspired,” which means “God-breathed” (Greek, theopneustos). So God “breathed out” the words of Scripture, and put them into the minds and hearts of individuals, who wrote as God told them what to say.
Human writers of Scripture and modern-day theologians, teachers, and preachers
Atheists find it humorous that anyone could believe the Holy Spirit could inspire human writers regarding what they wrote in letters that were later canonized. And yet, it’s not as far-fetched as they say. For, even on an everyday level, divine inspiration makes sense.
Think about the theologian who writes a theology book. How many times have you read something and thought, “that makes sense to me?” If you ask that theologian about what they wrote, they’d likely tell you at some point that God put something in their heart and mind that they’d never thought about before. And then, they wrote what God told them to write.
I can testify as Pastor of The Essential Church that I’ve written sermons at specific times. There are times when I’ve looked at Scripture for teaching material and couldn’t make sense of anything. It seemed like I had no sense of direction on my own. Whenever God gave me direction about what text to teach or preach, His direction was clear — and I never had to doubt it. God has revealed the meaning of texts to me that, prior to His revelation, made little sense to me.
Regardless of the commentaries I read, or the reading I did, I’d look at the text and couldn’t make sense of it. Some of the best sermons I’ve preached at this site are a result of divine revelation. For example, my sermons from the Gospel of Mark, such as Through The Roof: A Faith That Penetrates and A Better Business, are two examples of sermons that the Lord inspired me to write and preach. Without His revelation, they wouldn’t be sermons at this site today.
There are things said, taught, and preached that believers listen to and say, “God meant me to receive that today,” or “that’s the Word He’s been revealing to me all week.” It happens because God teaches His children, and He teaches them from His Word.
There are atheists who have come to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior because they heard the gospel, the Word of truth, and God spoke to them through the words of the preacher. I think it’s safe to say those former atheists can attest to the fact that the words they heard in that sermon or gospel presentation were revealed by the Lord because they believe the Lord spoke to them through them. Not all atheists remain atheists.
Distrusting the Bible, Trusting All Else: The Atheist Contradiction
The atheist says that he or she can’t trust the Bible because it has contradictions, and the Bible’s writers are flawed, human, and imperfect like you and me. True, the Bible’s writers are flawed; but does that mean every word they wrote in Scripture is flawed because they are?
Think about this on an everyday level. Think about journalism and journalism websites such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others. How many times have you read an article, only to notice the word “correction” beneath the article, with an explanation of errors or inaccuracies initially made in the article? It happens a lot, more than you think. The New York Times actually provides a corrections page to note its updates to articles. And yet, do atheists distrust the publication because of inaccuracies, corrections, and typos? Not at all. In fact, the more frequently articles are updated, the more “accurate” they’re considered to be. And atheists, like most people, respect publications that admit their errors and correct them. They don’t say, “I no longer trust the New York Times because it has errors.”
The same goes for local news stations. They may report an event and provide the wrong name of a particular person, or the wrong date on which the event took place. When they admit the mistake and correct it on-air, do atheists say, “I no longer trust this news station because they can’t report the news without error”?
Atheists may say, “Well, those sources report their errors, but the Bible doesn’t.” I don’t believe the Bible to be erroneous (they do), but let’s hypothetically assume they’re right. What about sources here on earth that don’t report their errors? Take the weather, for example. The weather report could be wrong. The weatherman or weatherwoman could say it will rain today but it end up sunny without rain. Conversely, the weatherman could say it will be sunny but it rain all day. Does the atheist say, “Well, since they got the weather wrong, there were errors in their report, I can’t trust the weather report anymore” and stop watching the news? Nope, not at all.
What about books? Atheists say “the Bible has errors” and no longer trust it or disregard it altogether, but they don’t act this way with other books. There are numerous books out there that have typos and inaccuracies. Some history books on the market have reported the wrong dates for World War I or WW2, for example. Others have gotten names, dates, and biographical information wrong. Some biographical information published for a president or political leader is legendary and not factually accurate. Does that one factual inaccuracy or error make an atheist stop reading a book? Do you think they find the book unreliable because “it has errors in it”? Not at all.
What about biographies and autobiographies? Do their errors render those sources unreliable? Not in the eyes of atheists. In fact, there’s at least 5 books on every atheist’s bookshelf with errors and inaccuracies.
The question comes down to the following: if atheists can trust all these sources, despite how unreliable they prove to be, despite their errors and inaccuracies, why can’t they trust the Bible?
I don’t believe the Bible has errors. Yet, even if they believe the Bible does, is that enough to render the Bible unreliable? No, simply because atheists retain belief in all the sources above despite their errors. If those sources have errors and are still trusted, what explains their distrust of the Bible?
While atheists use the “errors” and “so-called contradictions” of the Bible to uproot support for it, they actually ignite support for it. For, if they believe earthly sources despite their perceived errors and inaccuracies, they can believe a source whose Author is God and whose writers are human, despite the presumed errors and inaccuracies. The Bible didn’t just land on a rock at its inception; it was a book put together by human men. In that regard, atheists can find the faith to believe in a book put together by humans (though God is its Author) because they believe every other book put together by human men. Are those books worthy of more confidence than the God-breathed Bible?
But, as always, the issue for the atheist comes down to the Bible’s claim to be “God-breathed” and to be divine in origin. Is it conceivable that the Divine Word of God, the Scriptures, could become incarnate? That is a subject I’ll tackle in my next post. Stay tuned.