All posts in this series refer back to the conversation found here.
“I think he does a great job explaining the trustworthiness of the Bible.”
Damon’s referring to a video that he sent me of a lecture that Dr. Voddie Baucham delivered to a church regarding why he trusts the Bible as the Word of God.
Baucham’s explanation builds on this assertion:
“I choose to believe the Bible because it’s a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writings were divine rather than human in origin.”
This is not the first time I’ve heard these kinds of assertions about the Bible’s reliability. Several years ago, when I was still very much an evangelical and had a keen interest in apologetics (because serious Christians are serious about proselytizing), I received a copy of Josh McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict as a gift. It’s a thick tome laid out in a column format filled to brimming with what McDowell calls his “lecture notes” for his arguments in favor of Christianity as the One True Faith. I quite enjoyed it at the time, although it’s a slog to read through, and I only made it about halfway through the book before I moved on to read something else.
McDowell’s case is extremely similar to Baucham’s, and when I was watching Baucham’s lecture, I kept going back to what I remembered from Evidence. It’s mostly appeals to historical accuracy based on a particular narrative of how we received the text of the Bible, which you have to accept at face value to find McDowell’s argument convincing. Besides the historical appeals, perhaps what stands out most in my memory is a part where McDowell lays out several excuses that he believes non-Christians make for not converting. He says rather bluntly that in many cases, a failure to believe Christianity has nothing to do with the evidence presented and everything to do with the person’s own will.
I think that McDowell’s partially correct here, but it has more to do with the fact that I think his evidence is flawed than that a person who refuses to be persuaded by it is stubborn. Faith in any kind of divinity requires a willingness to accept the possibility of supernatural phenomena, and that is a question which can’t be objectively answered through natural observations. The metaphysical presuppositions of a Christian and an atheist don’t align, so of course arguments for Christianity which rely on appeals to physical evidence will be ineffective.
And it’s those appeals to physical evidence which under gird Baucham’s assertion about why he believes the Bible. Well, not just believes the Bible, but believes it to be inerrant and a text that should be taken literally.
For what it’s worth, I consider the texts of the New Testament to be reliable historical documents, and I take their accounts of Jesus as reflective of God’s character as revealed in Christ. I don’t know that they’re entirely factually accurate, and I don’t think we can know.
Nonetheless, I do trust the Bible. I just don’t trust it in the same way that Damon thinks I should. I’m also certainly uncertain about my faith.
After viewing the video and considering what Damon had been saying, I came across this blog post by Samantha Field over at Defeating the Dragons. It reminded me of our conversation because I had noticed that Damon seemed to be relying on his position of Biblical inerrancy being correct because he needed that certainty to hold up his faith. It’s something I feel that I understand because I also really wrestled with questions of certainty when I was a new Christian. I wanted to know that God was good and just and was actually there, and part of my voracious consumption of apologetics books was as much about convincing myself of my position as it was of learning how to persuade others.
I wanted certainty to keep away my fear. Eventually I learned to let go of certainty because it was doing nothing to help me grow in my faith. As Samantha points out, a faith founded on certainty is neat and tidy, but I don’t think that’s a faith that really goes anywhere. I’ve been learning to appreciate the messiness that comes with doubt and the humility it reinforces.
I could be wrong about everything. Even about trusting the Bible.