Or … Can I be certain that The Bible is The Word of God?
By Grant Norsworthy
I’ve got a bighearted, well-studied, Christ-following, Bible-believing friend. He passionately and tirelessly works in college student ministries. I admire him and like him a lot, but we don’t always agree on every issue about God. We’ve had some great discussions and at least one theological argument.
Recently he wrote a description of some of his work and happenings with the student ministry. It was his newsletter to a bunch of people who either support or are interested in the work. Part of his letter really caught my attention:
“Throughout the course of the semester in my conversations both with young Christians and non-Christians I noticed that students were wrestling with the question of how can we be certain the Bible is the word of God and thus I asked … a local pastor, to come and address this question. We advertised on campus and had about 60 students attend as [the pastor] gave proofs from history and archeology demonstrating that the Bible does stand up to criticism as well as allowing time for questions. Many of these students were not [college Christian group] members or connected to [the campus Christian group] in any way shape or form but appeared to be seriously wrestling with this issue considering [The Bible’s] validity and many Christian students I talked to were encouraged to know that what they believed actually does stand up to secular criticism.”
I could not help myself. In response, I wrote this …
I was intrigued by the description about showing the college students how they can be certain that the Bible is the Word of God. I’m not trying to be combative, but I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts for your consideration:
– In Genesis 15:4 we can read that when Abram was looking at the stars, the Word of God told him that his descendents would outnumber them. When that happened, the Bible would not be in a physical form for many, many years.
– In the New Testament (Luke 5:1), we can read in the Bible accounts of how people would sit around Jesus and listen to the Word of God. They were listening to Jesus, not a reading from the Bible that, again, was not in physical existence yet.
– The start of the book of John (a text that was written before the Bible was compiled) tells us that the Word of God is Jesus Himself and was always with God and, in fact, was (and is) God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1. And, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14a
– It seems to me that The Bible and the Word of God are not the same thing, even according to The Bible itself.
– I believe the Bible is the written expression of God’s Word; which is Himself. Or, more simply, the Bible is the written Word of God. It’s the best text we have that reveals who God, or the Word is.
– Jesus Himself is God and is The Word Of God.
– Jesus Himself is more than my limited understanding of the text in the Bible and more than the text itself.
– It sounds to me like the invited pastor’s presentation was about how we can be sure the Bible is a valid historical document. which it certainly is. This is an interesting and worthy topic of discussion I am sure, but it is not the same as giving people cause to be “certain [that] The Bible is the Word of God.” Being certain that the Bible is a valid historical text is NOT the same information as being certain that The Bible is the Word of God.
– The Bible is MUCH, MUCH more than a valid historical document, but it is my strong conviction that our printed text – The Bible – is not equivalent, interchangeable, or equal to the Word Of God – God Himself.
– It is my conviction that knowing the Bible is NOT the same as knowing and being known by Jesus – the living Word of God.
– It is possible that being “certain” that I know God because I know my Bible could actually distract me from knowing Jesus the living Word.
– People believing they were “certain of the Word of God” when they were actually absolutely immoveable from their interpretation of scripture has been the cause of much disunity and confusion in the body of Christ, people turning away from Jesus because of our infighting, and violence, carnage and death besides. For example: Leading up to and during the American Civil War, both north and south were absolutely convinced that the “Word of God” supported their position on abolition AND continuation of slavery respectively. A bloody war was fought as a result. There are countless other examples.
– While Jesus was on earth there was a group of people- the religious leaders of the day – who were certain they knew God because they knew scripture. Jesus is recorded in the Bible as saying to them, “You have never heard God’s voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life … yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:37-40
– What Jesus communicated at that time, I believe He is still communicating to us today.
– “I need more than the words on the page. The words are good, but the author I crave” from the song “Jesus Loves Me (I Need More)”.