The Logic of Christ and the Bible (Part 2) – From Reliable Historical Document to Trustworthy Word of God

Link to: The Logic of Christ and the Bible (Part 1)

The Classical Argument in Proving the Bible as the Trustworthy Word of God.

1.    The Bible is basically a reliable and trustworthy historical document.
2.    On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
3.    Jesus as the Son of God is an infallible authority.
4.    Jesus Christ teaches the Bible is more than generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God.
5.    Conclusion – on the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, Christians believe the Bible is utterly trustworthy, i.e. infallible Word of God.

 

—————————-

Adnan Rashid opined in his debate with James White that even if the abundance of ancient Biblical manuscripts enables Christians to restore the text of the Bible, still the Bible remains nothing more than a human document. Indeed, no amount of historical evidence can prove the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Historical and textual criticism can only restore a human text. Christians cannot claim the Bible to be the revealed Word of God. However, to be consistent, Adnan should also admit that the same logic would also make it impossible for Muslims to use historical evidence to prove the Quran is the Word of God.

Regardless, it is a fundamental tenet of faith for Christians to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Responsible belief in the face of criticism would require Christians to demonstrate the plausibility of this tenet of faith. For some Christians a simple affirmation like, “I believe in the Bible because it contains the authoritative teaching of Christ” would suffice. However, the same Christians also explain they believe in Christ because of the Bible. It would appear that the belief of these Christians is flawed as it rests on a circular argument.

Perhaps the logic of belief in Christ and the Bible needs to be more carefully constructed.  I refer the reader to what may be described as the classical method in proving the Bible is the inspired and trustworthy Word of God.

The Classical Argument in Proving the Bible as the Trustworthy Word of God
1.    The Bible is basically a reliable and trustworthy historical document.
2.    On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
3.    Jesus as the Son of God is an infallible authority.
4.    Jesus Christ teaches the Bible is more than generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God.
5.    Conclusion – on the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, Christians believe the Bible is utterly trustworthy, i.e. infallible Word of God.

It should be stressed that this is not a circular argument. A circular argument is one in which the conclusion is already contained in the premise, but this is not the case for the classical argument outlined above. It is clear that proposition (5) is not contained in proposition (1). For this reason, critics like Adnan have problem jumping directly from (1) to (5). It is not self-evident that a historical document can just be the Word of God. That is to say, (5) is not implied or contained in (1). The challenge is to demonstrate how one may be justified in moving step by step from (1) to (5). This would require input of new evidence and logical argument which in principle can be critically evaluated, if not challenged, as one moves step by step from (1) to (5). The process of argument which requires incrementally fresh evidence justifies our claim that the classical argument in proving the Bible is not a circular argument.

The non-circular classical argument may be elaborated accordingly:
1)  The Bible is basically a reliable and trustworthy document [Please read part 1 of this article].

2) Based on the reliability of the Bible as a trustworthy document, we follow Aristotle’s literary dictum that we should give benefit of doubt to the text and read it on its own terms. On this basis, any reasonable reading of the New Testament would come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God or God incarnate. Critics may persist in not accepting Jesus as God incarnate only because they refuse to read the New Testament on its own terms. Instead, they impose an alien philosophical interpretative framework which rejects outright any reference to the supernatural or the miraculous, since for them history is a closed continuum. They keep to the strict limit set by the well-known ‘Lessing’s ugly ditch’ which says accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason (or revelation). As such, history make judgment on historical aspects of Jesus existence in history, but no judgment may be made to his claims of transcendence.

Defending the Biblical claim for the deity of Jesus Christ requires writing a book. It would require an analysis of the ‘trilemma’ made famous by C.S. Lewis, that is, Jesus in claiming deity has to be either (1) a lunatic, (2) a liar or (3) Lord. I shall expound this analytically another day. As this article aims at only sketching an outline, I shall merely list briefly several lines of evidence found in the New Testament which read on its own terms points to the deity of Jesus Christ.

Jesus made specific claims to his divinity.
a) He assumed divine prerogatives:
i) Jesus forgave sin: The fact that Jesus lived without sin points to His divine nature. He claimed to be without sin (John 8:46), while His followers who lived with Him for three years testify to his faultless character (1 Peter 1:19). More importantly, Jesus asserted the divine prerogative to forgive sin. After declaring forgiveness of sin for the paralytic, Jesus worked a healing miracle to confirm his authority to forgive sin. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (Mark 2:10-11).

ii) Jesus accepted worship
Jesus did not stop people from worshipping him on certain occasions even though he told Satan that only God is to be worshipped – “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10).
Matthew 14:33 – And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 28:9, 17 – And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him… And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

The disciples prayed to Jesus (Acts 7:59) and in His name (John 14:6; 15:7). Further, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s in prayer “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2). Jesus received worship alongside the Father in the heavenly throng (Revelation 5:13-14).This would be blasphemy if Christ were not deity.

iii) Jesus is the creator of the universe. He created and sustains the universe (John 1:2; Colossians 1:16-17).  Jesus created and sustains the world. “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Hebrews 1:10).

iv) Jesus is the judge of human destiny – He is the criteria of judgment
John 5:21-23, 27 – For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father… And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

b) The Bible does not record Jesus declaring with such precise words like, “I am God.” But his indirect statements and actions amount to as much. Jesus applied the divine name ego eimi in John 8:58 (a translation of the divine name in Exodus 3:14). When Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one nature (John 10:30). Naturally, the Jews tried to stone him for claiming deity and committing blasphemy as: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).

c) Finally, the New Testament testifies that the resurrection confirms Jesus Christ’s claim to divinity. This would require another post. For the moment, we shall bear in mind the words of Apostle Paul, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15: 14, 17).

To recapitulate our argument, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God or God incarnate.

(3) Since Jesus is God incarnate, he teaches with infallible authority.
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) and “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:17-18).

(4) Jesus with infallible authority teaches the Bible in its entirety is the trustworthy Word of God.
Matt. 5: 17-18 – John Wenham notes that one of Jesus’ strongest statements concerning the Old Testament Law was His affirmation that heaven and earth would pass away before even the smallest portion of a letter. In other words, the Word of God will stand forever.
John 10: 34-35 says, Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, You are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken) … Jesus emphasizes that the Law (torah) as the word of God or Scripture (writings) cannot be broken. The unbreakable Law of God is the infallible rule and final authority in matters of faith and conduct.

For this reason, Jesus citing “It is written (in Scripture)” (Matthew 4:4) was enough to terminate the temptations by the devil.  He based his proof of immortality simply on the simple rule of Hebrew syntax, taking note of the present tense in Matthew 22:32, “I (am) the God of Abraham.” In Matt. 22:44 Jesus’ argument rests on the 1st person singular suffix in “My Lord,” in Hebrew one letter, the yodh, which is the smallest. Cf. Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42 (see Psalm 110:1). Elsewhere, Jesus responded to His critics by asking them, “Have you not read…?” “It is written…”, was enough to refute their opposing view. For Jesus what is written applies to all parts of Scripture – to history, to laws, to psalms and to the prophets.

In short, for Jesus, “what Scripture says”, “God says”. The Bible is more than generally trustworthy; it is the revealed word of God.
(5) Conclusion – on the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, Christians believe the Bible in its entirety is utterly trustworthy, i.e. the inspired and authoritative Word of God.

Based on the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, Christians accept the New Testament as the Word of God.
The infallible authority of Scripture which Jesus referred to was the Old Testament. There is evidence that the same infallible authority was applied analogically to the New Testament. That is to say, just as the Old Covenant was accompanied by the written Torah, the New Covenant initiated by Jesus was accompanied by the writings of the apostles in the New Testament:
First, Jesus commissioned his apostles to teach with his authority (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; John 15:27).

Second, Jesus also promised His apostles the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would cause them to remember Jesus’ words and indeed, the Holy Spirit would lead the disciples to truth (John 16:13a).

Third, the New Testament writers wrote with clear understanding that their words were inspired as Jesus has promised them (1 Peter 1:12 b). Peter added, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed…knowing this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).  As such the apostles’ teachings were based on the foundation that Jesus provided (Eph. 2:20; 2 Pet. 3:2; Heb. 2:3-4).

Finally, the apostle Paul was merely expressing his confidence in the efficacy of God’s revelation through the Holy Spirit when he wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”(2 Timothy 3:16).

CONCLUSION:
The logical structure for (3)-(5) of the classical argument may be outlined as follows

a) Jesus with infallible authority taught Scripture as God’s word is inspired and possesses final authority (John 10:34-35).
b) The New Testament is Scripture (2 Peter 2:19-20;).
c) Therefore, the New Testament is inspired and possesses final authority (2 Timothy 3:16).

Note. Inspiration is a technical term. A succinct explanation is given by B.B. Warfield, “The Biblical books are called inspired as the Divinely determined products of inspired men; the Biblical writers are called inspired as breathed into by the Holy Spirit, so that the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes Divinely authoritative. Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine trustworthiness.” [Warfield’s article in the ISBE 1st ed. Vol 3, pp. 1473-1483].

It should become clear that Christian belief in the Bible does not rest on impersonal analysis of some ancient written documents. Unlike other religions where what is revealed is only the will or commands of God in a book, Christianity teaches that the final and perfect revelation of God was given in the form of a person – Jesus Christ [See related post: Speech Act Revelation: Bible and Quran] Any consideration for revelation in the Bible must be founded on the life, character and infallible teaching of Jesus Christ. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith

Useful Books for part 2
John Wenham. Christ and the Bible 2nd ed. Eagle Publication 1993.
B.B. Warfield. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Presbyterian & Reformed 1979.
John Frame. The Doctrine of the Word of God. Presbyterian & Reformed 2010.

One Comment

  1. Lin Lo says:

    Amen