Every parent knows that children have a way of exposing the real issues of life in an innocent yet unsympathetic manner. ‘Where did God come from? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die?’ are questions which raise ultimate philosophical concerns. The most important of questions, however,is ‘How do you know?’ Answers may be offered to all sorts of questions, but this most basic one begs to be asked when any of those answers is offered.
Life in the bunker
Imagine that you have just awakened from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a concrete bunker with a dozen other people. You all are suffering from amnesia. You don’t know where you have come from, who you are, what you should do, or how you might travel to some other place. It is clear that you are headed somewhere because each person possesses various provisions, food, clothing, medicines, etc.
As others awaken, you begin to engage them in conversation. ‘Who are you? How did we get here? What shall we do? When?’ Each person in the room will offer observations. Each will offer opinions, suggestions, solutions, and preferences. Each person will, sooner or later, develop convictions about the situation and what, if anything, should be done.
In a sense, this is our plight. We are gathered on this planet and faced with questions demanding answers. A cafeteria of responses is available. But the critical question is, Who shall we believe and why? Shall I believe my New Age neighbour? Shall I believe my Calvinist cousin? Shall I believe my carefree work associate? Where shall l go to find the truth?
Think back to the people in the bunker. Christianity claims that a road map has been provided in order that we might find our way from where we are to where we want to be (and we do want to be somewhere else, we realize).
More than a map
But it is more than a road map. It tells us that we were made for something greater than life in a concrete bunker. It offers explanations of the world in which we find ourselves, the One who created it, and his great desire that we might know him. It describes us and explores the inner workings of our minds and hearts, revealing what is true but not altogether pleasant about us. It points us to a goal, an end, which is purported to satisfy the deepest longings of our aching hearts. And it tells us that, while the road is long and arduous, we may expect to experience great personal joy, camaraderie, and beauty along the way.
While the Bible is much more than this, it is not less. And it may be trusted to ‘deliver the goods’. How do we know that?
The question of the reliability and authority of the Scriptures revolves around the person central in them, Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is not a book which simply fell out of the sky or was discovered on the side of a mountain with a peculiar pair of spectacles enabling its discoverer to read it. The Bible is the record of the mighty acts of God in human history, acts which prepare for and lead to the appearing, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The claim of the Bible is that these are matters of history. They may be examined. They should be expected to withstand the scrutiny of any who would bother to investigate them.
A personal introduction
When people argue for the trustworthiness of the Scriptures they will, rightly, refer to the majesty of its themes, the fundamental unity of its message, its power to influence the lives of men and women, end the remarkable way in which it has been preserved over centuries of use. But in the end the issue is Jesus Christ. At bottom, confidence in the Bible is a matter of loyalty to him. Until one has come to terms with Jesus Christ, other issues are merely academic.
True, we must trust the Bible at some level if we are to come to terms with Jesus of Nazareth. Given its claims and what it offers us, the only responsible thing is to investigate whether or not we ought to trust it. And that may be done by examining what the book itself and history have said about its central character Jesus Christ.
In a conversation once, I had the temerity to suggest that anyone who was not a Christian was one of two things: ignorant or irresponsible. That still seems to me wholly true. Life is much too short and filled with too many important questions to fail to take seriously this remarkable thing which has occurred on the stage of human history. It matters infinitely what one thinks about Jesus. Be neither ignorant nor irresponsible.