Why Believe in Christianity? Can we trust the Bible? (John 20:30-31)

MOTIVATE

  • I went to CN, which at time was a Christian college but they were better at football than they were at the Christian faith. Their religion department was theologically moderate, which meant they taught things like
    • First 11 chapters of Genesis were mythical, but there were still good faith lessons to learn.
    • The miracles of Jesus may or not be true, but they still pointed to Jesus being uniquely from God.
    • The NT letters were written late into the first century, if not second century. So, we cannot be fully certain about the words and teachings of Jesus. (Jesus Seminars… probably said, maybe said, doubtful, never said – – no more than 20% of Jesus’s sayings and actions can be historically validated.
    • Bible contained errors and contradictions but was still a worthy book to study.

As you can imagine, as a young Christian, my eyes were opened and faith challenged. It began a genuine search for what I believe. I’ve shared this before, but while I was in college I bought (difficult for poor college student a Bible / – – engagement ring left me w/o gas to return home that year, haha). Between meeting God reading that Bible, plodding faithfulness at church, encouraging friends, and the next couple years at a different school that taught on supposed contradictions but also historical apologetics of Scripture, the Lord brought me through to affirm His word and guide my next steps for ministry.

  • Many people today say, “Even if I believed in God, I could not become a Christian because the Bible has been corrupted by humanity that we cannot possibly know what was in the original. So, becoming a Christian is not about faith in God as much as it is faith in humanity – and I lack trust in people.”
  • Others say, “My biggest problem with the Bible is that it is culturally irrelevant to modern enlightened understanding of our world and social issues. Why do we need an ancient book to tell us how to live today?”

EXAMINE           Why Believe? Can we trust the Bible? (John 20:30-31; 21:24-25) 2 reasons we can trust…

Jesus was written about by eyewitnesses (Gospels).

  • We count eyewitnesses as vital evidence – description of suspect or circumstance, etc. It frequently serves as primary lead to fuel interrogations, finalize arrests, and convict criminals. While some cases are “mistaken identity” based off a single eyewitness, having multiple eyewitnesses are indicative of overwhelming accuracy.
  • Whatever your views about any other issue (philosophical, theological, social, other), start with Jesus. If we start with Jesus and establish our faith foundation on Him, everything else will be built strong and straight from there.
    • Every year I have preached from some portion of a Gospel.[1]
    • 2021 I have preached from all 4 Gospels… our culture needs the real Jesus. People say, “My Jesus would never…” Ahem… We do not get to have individual images of Jesus; we are bound by the book.
  • Gospels were not anonymous authors, nor were they compiled from random or irregular sources.[2] They were known individuals who had been with Jesus (Mk 3:14; Ac 4:13).
  • John wrote about Jesus & introduced Him as “the Word.” The living Word reflects the written word, divine yet human.
    • “Now Jesus did many signs…” / “[I wrote as much as I could in this book but couldn’t write about everything…]”
      • 7 + 1 Signs: Turning water into wine (2:1-11); Cleansing Temple (2:12-17); Healing sick child (4:46-54); Healing lame man (5:1-15); Feeding multitude (Jn 6:1-15); Healing blind man (9:1-7); Raising Lazarus from death (11:1-44); Resurrection of Christ (20:19-30).
      • Amazing to consider how many signs/miracles Jesus did. Over 20![3] Some of the pseudepigrapha about Jesus’s childhood miracles are somewhat suspicious for various reasons: non-canonical writings, intent often different from glorifying God, and the canonical Gospels evidence the public being surprised at the works of Jesus.  
    • 1 John 1:1-3 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life, the life was made manifest and we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you so that you too may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”
  • Matthew is meticulous like you would expect from a tax collector.
  • Luke writes with thorough investigation, even a two-volume work Luke/Acts.
    • “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you… so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4)
    • “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days speaking about the kingdom of God… and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:1-3, 8a)
  • Mark receives information from Peter. Peter says, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty… knowing 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” (2Peter 1:16, 20-21).

Overall, the Bible has 66 books, written in 3 languages with about 40 authors over 3 continents, including kings, philosophers, prophets, shepherds, farmers, fishermen, tentmakers, a doctor; essentially, ordinary people. The ultimate author of the Bible is not human but the Holy Spirit inspiring human authors through their personality – and their faults. Peter uses the word “φερό” to describe God carrying individuals by the Holy Spirit, which is a similar word describing hand holding (like a father teaching son how to walk – who’s doing the walking?; or like wind in a ship’s sail). Essentially, we affirm the plenary (every part), verbal (every word), inspiration (God-breathed) of the Bible (cf. 2 Tim 3:16).  

But wasn’t the Bible corrupted over time?

Ancient manuscripts of Plato (7), Caeser (16), Tacitus (20), Homer’s Illiad (634), even Quran (60 fragments 2,000 folios[pages]). Yet, there are over 5K complete copies of Bible and total 23,986 ancient manuscripts[4], thanks largely to Dead Sea Scroll discovery, with some fragments dating circa 125AD. Out of all these manuscripts, over 99% textual accuracy. Skeptics note around 400K textual variants[5] yet, the way variants are often counted are based on the number of manuscripts, not the number of variants. Variant examples include[6] spelling errors, accidental omissions or additions, word order, or obvious mistakes (One copy has “thou shalt commit adultery.”)[7] Imagine Bile study explanations in that copy one morning? After removing these sorts of variants, the number of variations where a passage or sentence in the Bible has a changed meaning or altered theology is decidedly zero![8]

Why didn’t God just give us one perfect original manuscript?[9] If we did have only one perfect manuscript, it would probably be kept in the Vatican or somewhere similar and most people would be certain it had been forged or manipulated in some way. Yet, the fact that we have so many copies over a large geographical area during a time that lacked the speed of travel or technology, affirms the authenticity of the biblical manuscripts. There are thousands of copies from the first few centuries of the church that are scattered all over the world. Those who suggest a secret scribal/monk society changed all 24K copies in exactly the same manner is a greater leap of blind faith than the facts of history.

But can we trust these eyewitnesses? Yes, for these unique reasons:[10]

  • The content is NEAR the events. The NT writings occur 20-60 years after the historical events, and historically, this is too short a time for the accounts to be mythical or legend when the sources could be verified. If these writings were meant to be legend, they could have been debunked very early and Christianity would not have survived the first century, much more into the 21st century.  
    • Luke 1:1-4 investigation for Theophilus…; Mark 15:21 person who carried cross was father of Alexander and Rufus…; 1 Cor 15 with 500 eyewitnesses of resurrected Jesus… Paul basically said, “go ask them if you don’t believe me!”
    • Secular accounts – Josephus and others – write about historical Jesus and what His early followers believed and did. Christians were called atheists bc they didn’t believe the secular gods; called cannibals bc they supposedly ate the body and drank blood of Jesus; and also viewed strange bc they extended dignity to all persons (women, children, slaves) and inbred bc they emphasized the marriage relationship start as brother & sister.
    • By 4th C, Roman Emperor Julian noted, “It is disgraceful that no Jew ever has to beg and those [godless] Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well, [and society] sees that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service… and other good works of this sort, and the Hellenic villages to offer their first fruits to the gods [like Christians do to their God]” This has been repeated historically from other empires/nations to penalize or outlaw religious charity so people rely on government rather than God. But the Church marches onward in the name of Jesus!
  • The content is too REAL. If you were to create a heroic story about a man and his followers, you would not include random details (grass is green – Mark 6:39; man ran away naked – Mark 14:52; 153 fish – John 21:11; etc.); not include repeated dysfunction (disciples afraid and lack faith – Matthew 8:26; disciples want to send away crowd but Jesus wants to keep, feed and care – Matthew 14:16/19:13-14; Peter and Disciples deny and fail Jesus often – Matthew 14:30, 20:24, 26:8, 26:40, 26:75, John 4:27; etc.); also even portraying Jesus struggling in prayer in the garden (Jn 17). The authenticity of these narratives appear counterproductive to advance Christianity…  you would also want to include dependable reporting yet the Gospels show female testimony to the resurrection which would have been discredited in that day – John 20.
    • “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all of my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of the gospel texts there are only two possible views: either this is historical reportage or else some unknown ancient writer without known predecessors or successors suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic realistic narrative. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned how to read.” (C. S. Lewis)
  • The content is too WIDESPREAD. To say that the Bible was created or corrupted is just not honestly dealing with the facts. The Church recognized the canon (Bible books) but they did not create or corrupt it. Christianity spread from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and outward through Roman empire, including Asia to east and Egypt to west. An honest sociological reflection at the spread of Christianity recognizes Constantine did not begin the institutionalization of Christianity, the church had already won over society prior to the third century. Constantine merely chose what was best to unify the empire at the time; it wouldn’t be the last time a politician used religion as a platform though they may not personally have fully bought in.  
    • Recent poll, 2/3 of Britons said they thought Christianity would be dead within 100 years.[11] This wouldn’t be the first time such predictions have been made: Voltaire predicted that Christianity would be extinct within 100 years of his death… in 1778. In a sweet bit of irony, after 100 years his estate became home to the French Bible Society publishing bibles. Same with John Lennon claiming to be more popular than Jesus (1966), or modern day atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens, or Hawking – growth in science and technology have not led to reduced belief in God.
    • For many, the idea that Christianity is a white, Western religion, intrinsically tied to cultural imperialism, stands as a major ethical barrier to considering Christianity. Yet, Christianity began in the Middle East and spread outward in all directions from there. The Bible says, in Christ, “there is neither Greek nor Jew… barbarian, Scythian (modern day Iran), slave, free; but Christ is all in all” (Col 3:11). Today there are more Christians in Africa than America, and the largest churches are in Korea, Philippines, India, and China.  Christianity is geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity; which was not the case 100 years ago with the number of Christians in world quadrupling the last century.[12] So, while the USA is the largest Christian missionary sending nation, it is also the largest Christian missionary recipient. Christians in other nations view USA as a nation in need of evangelizing!
  • The content is too COSTLYPeople might dedicate their life and martyrdom for something that was a lie (David Koresh, 9/11 terrorists). But you would not dedicate and suffer in depth persecution and martyrdom for something was knowingly false. Yet, that is exactly what each of disciples did along with numerous others throughout history – including today!

Eyewitnesses… application:

  • Gospels are place to begin and begin again. Where are you reading? The Bible is too costly for us to treat it any less than a treasure.
    • If I were to offer you $1,000 to not read bible again… $10K, $10mil? If no, why not read it more?
    • If we can summarize movies/shows, athletes and sports team, why not basic bible doctrine?
  • The eyewitness accounts continue to make witnesses. Make a goal to read Gospel with unbeliever for discussion. Your family is your first mission field – so start with unbelievers there, but keep moving beyond and pray/watch for divine appointments.
  • Scripture should be spread into homes and nations… whether Gideons, Wycliffe, or IMB, etc.

Jesus trusted and fulfilled the OT Scriptures.

John notes the purpose of his writings is to align with OT Scripture in leading us to faith in God and following the character and commands of Jesus.

  • “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

The OT is not extraneous but essential; it’s preparatory for us to know God in His fullest revelation.

  • The Law (Gen, Ex, Lev, Nu, Deut) teaches us the holiness of God and our need for a Savior.
  • Historical Books (Josh, Judg, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chron, Ez, Neh) teach us the endless depravity of humanity and search for a true and better national king/leader.
  • The Wisdom Books (Ps, Prov, Eccl, Solomon) teach us to yearn with our hearts for things that are deeper than what the material world has to offer; only which God can satisfy through His grace.
  • Prophetic Books teach us no matter how many rules, warnings, rebukes, or consequences we receive, we cannot save ourselves.
  • Through the OT, every book and passage whispers the name of Jesus.
    • Bible often calls this prophecy.
    • Prophecy makes up about 25% of Bible. Over 300 prophecies, with staggering specificity, detail the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These prophecies are not like Nostradamus – someday, someone will arise near an ocean and make people war against one another. Instead these prophecies specify the birthplace of the Messiah in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); that he would be born of a virgin (Isa 9; Jer 31:22); that He would be a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10) and in the family of David (2 Sam 7:13-14); that He would be preceded by John the Baptist (Mal 3:1); that his ministry would begin in Galilee and he’d be called a Nazarene and Gentiles would seek him (Isa 9:1-2; 11:1, 11:10); that he would have a healing ministry with miracles (Isa 61); that he would be betrayed by a familiar friend for 30 pieces of silver, and that money would be used to purchase a potter’s field (Ps 41:9, 55:12-14; Zech 11:13); that he would be hung and die on a tree in 32 AD (Dan 9:26-27); that He would be given vinegar in thirst during suffering (Ps 69:21); that his suffering stripes would bring healing and have a sacrificial death (Isa 53); that he would be resurrected (Job 19:23-27; Ps 16:10, 22:22; Isa 25:8, 26:19; Isa 53:10).
    • Did Jesus just get lucky, or was He an opportunist manufacturing circumstances in his life to fulfill all these prophecies?? Mathematicians have communicated the odds of all 300+ prophecies being fulfilled by a single person as 10157. That’s 10 with 157 zeroes and 52 commas. To put that in perspective, 1016 would be like covering the states of GA to MD with silver dollars 2’ deep and marking one and dropping a blind person down from a helicopter and asking him to find the coin.[13]
    • Biblical prophecy has never been wrong… and never will.

John 20:30-31

APPLY/THINK

Do you experience Greek Life – no, not that kind.

Βίος: biological and natural life. Plants, animals, humans.

ψχή : psychological life; our inner being; our soul.

ζωή: life that we are not born with like 2 above, but a source of life & quality of existence; absolute full abundance of life.

  • C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says “bios is a shadow of zoe life, like the difference between a photo and a place, or a statue and a person; that is precisely what Christianity is about”
  • Spiritual life is moving from deteriorating bios to enduring zoe!
  • Zoe life is clarity in our circumstances, peace in our problems and pain, and hope in our hardships.


[1] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/media/ Also, we have a balanced diet of OT/NT teaching. Next up is Colossians, then some Summer Psalms, and in Fall we’ll be in Judges. But know, “every story whispers His name.”

[2] See Who Really Wrote the New Testament Gospels? – The Apologetics Newsletter by Timothy Paul Jones (substack.com). Essentially, Jones notes no anonymous copies of the Gospels exist, and before end of 2nd C all four Gospels were circulated as a set and established to the four traceable authors. Further, the early church father writings before 3rd C could largely reconstruct most of NT. Additionally, by 70-130 AD all 66 books were noted as inspired Scripture (cf 1 Tim 5:18 with Lk 10:7 and 2 Peter 3:15-16). By 300AD, Eusebius has categorized lists of books recognized as received, disputed, or spurious. And, by 367AD Athanasius provided full canon, confirmed by Councils in 382, 393, 397, and onward.    

[3] https://www.gotquestions.org/miracles-of-Jesus.html

[4] https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/what-is-the-most-recent-manuscript-count-for-the-new-testament

[5] https://danielbwallace.com/tag/400000-textual-variants/

[6] https://normangeisler.com/a-note-on-the-percent-of-accuracy-of-the-new-testament-text/

[7] This happened in the 16th century. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 29.

[8] See my friend Dr. Ed Gravely, https://youtu.be/ABuYcQJd4b0 and https://youtu.be/gieq2fYH9gs

[9] Thought from sermon by J.D. Greear, “You Can’t Really Trust The Bible” 2 Peter 1:12-21.

[10] Thoughts adapted from Tim Keller, The Reason of God, ch 7 “You Can’t Take The Bible Literally.”

[11] Christianity Could Die Within A Century (Telegraph News)

[12] https://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/

[13] Reference slightly adapted from Josh McDowell in More Than A Carpenter. I’ve read and quoted this multiple times I have to make it interesting to explain the point.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s