The Bible is probably the most well-known book in the world. It's read by all sorts of different people: men, women, young, old, rich, poor...
And it's also read for many different reasons: to bring hope, to reveal knowledge, to find comfort...
Yet, at the same time the Bible is surrounded by an incredible amount of controversy. People discuss it, attack it, question it. And to make things more complicated, there seems to be as many interpretations of it as there are people who read it.
As I read and study the Bible, I see it primarily as a means to an end. Before I explain what I mean, let me say a few other things first:
There is no such thing as just reading the Bible. Everyone is interpreting the Bible. All the words, and verses are the same but everyone comes at it with a certain lens of interpretation. Simply pointing to "what the Bible says" is not quite enough. Take for example, John 6 in which Jesus says, "I am the bread of life...eat my flesh..." Protestants read those verses and think, "Well obviously Jesus is being symbolic." Yet Roman Catholics read those same verses, and think "Well obviously the bread is the actual flesh of Jesus." Or consider 1 Timothy 2, where the writer instructs women to be submissive in church. Some Christians come away from that text thinking, "So, women shouldn't have an authoritative role in the church," while other Christians think, "Of course women should be able to teach, the writer was really dealing with something else." Clearly there is something happening between the reader and the words on the page. That is interpretation.
It is somewhat misleading to talk about the Bible as a book. The Bible is not one book. The Bible is really a collection of 66 different books/writings all written at different times, at different places, by different people. When the human writer(s)/editor(s) of Genesis were putting together the book of Genesis they were not thinking about how it was going to harmonize with the book of Revelation. When the author of Jonah was writing the book, he did not know about the gospel of John. Each book is a book in its own right. It is tempting to think that all the authors/editors wrote as if they knew one another and consulted with each other about what they would write so that everything would line up harmoniously. But that's simply not the case.
Sadly, I've seen many people walk away from Christianity saying they do so because of some reason related to the Bible. I've heard people say things like, if Christianity is really true how come no one has found Noah's Ark? Or what about the Exodus event described in the OT? This was such a massive event in Israel's history yet supposedly we don't have any archaeological evidence for any of it even happening. And what about the way Genesis talks about God creating the world in six days? Now, most scientists understand the world to be billions of years old. Surely, all this stuff is just bogus, and can be disregarded. Or at the least, the Bible is not reliable.
I think all these issues boil down to how a person views the Bible. In some conservative circles, everything in the Bible is taken literally, and it all fits perfectly, harmoniously. There are no tensions or problems, and the authors of the book knew exactly what they were doing. In other words, the Bible is the central point of Christianity. The problem is when someone (Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, Christopher Hitchens) comes along and points out problems or errors in the Bible, then that person's faith in Christianity totally shatters, because it completely rested on the Bible. This then leads to either liberalism or total disbelief.
What is the proper way to view Scripture then?
As Christians, we believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus. In other words, what/who is central to Christianity is not the Bible, it's Jesus! Our faith ought to rest on Him. The Bible is a tool God has given to us. It is a means to an end, namely knowing and glorifying God. Does that mean the Bible is not important? Certainly not. Christians should continually return to Scripture, and Scripture should be our source for truth and understanding.
So here are 6 reasons why I still believe the Bible:
1. The Bible is self-attesting. It jumps out at me to be true. It speaks for itself as a divinely authoritative and true text that has tremendous power to effect reality.
2. God has spoken and speaks through the Scriptures, and God is true to communicate to people what He desires men and women to know in an accurate and trustworthy manner.
3. The Bible is living and powerful, unlike any other text and I have witnessed the supernatural transforming ability that the Bible has effected not only on myself but upon numerous others who have gone before me all around the world for thousands of years.
4. The revelation of God in the Bible is the best we've got. Nothing else makes the cut. Not only does Scripture make sense and give meaning to my own life, but it makes sense of all reality. Apart from the authority and standard of Scripture, we'd have nothing to go by; we'd be groping in the darkness and standing in mid-air.
5. I have no good reason to distrust the witness of the Bible.
6. Finally, the reason I accept the authority of the Bible is because when I look at the person of Jesus purely as a historical figure, there is strong historical evidence to believe He bodily rose from the dead, and therefore He was who He claimed to be: God. Given that to be the case, whatever God teaches is true, and it is evident that Jesus believed that the Hebrew Scriptures and his own words were divinely inspired and authoritative, and Jesus also entrusted authority to the apostles of the church.
When I hear "attacks" on the Bible or "problems" in the Bible, it doesn't really bother me too much. My faith is ultimately in Jesus, and I believe that what He taught was true. And whatever problematic issues do appear in Scripture, I think can be handled fairly.
That's why I still believe the Bible.
Faith Colloquium : A Blog about Theology, Philosophy, Church, and Culture