Saturday, March 7, 2009

6 Ways To Ascertain The Truth of the Bible

It has never been my contention that spiritual truths can be proven with the scientific precision with which we prove physical truths such as the law of gravity. But the inability to conduct a laboratory experiment on a moral or religious issue is by no means proof that the issue can never be verified.

In fact, if we use a scientific, empirical mindset to understand the law of divine justice in human affairs, we can see that certain spiritual truths or laws will always be immutable (not susceptible to change).

One such truth is the law of sowing what we reap. For instance, if we spend time thinking and planning on how to be rich to the exclusion of every sensible responsibility, then we shall one day pay the price in either making a bad investment decision or in breaking the civil law.

Nonetheless, the existence of God is something which cannot be proven by reason alone. As the philosopher Dr Charles Taylor said: "This (religious belief) is something that you cannot ultimately prove except by impressing people with the fact that you have a more intelligent interpretation all the time."

Conversely, the non-existence of God (or the idea of a world without a creator) can be proven to be irrational. No man, who is a being of sensible reason, emotions and limited intelligence, can ever honestly admit to living happily in a state of uncertainty about his after-life. He may have theories or beliefs about what could happen to him after death, but his endeavours to resolve this sudden unknown event will be a measure of the meaning of his life.

When various religions proclaim that there is life after death and describe the different worlds that exist in the after-life, there seems to be no way of proving which religion is right or whether they are all fanciful stories.

The objective social scientist can conduct an experiment and that is to investigate and interview people who have apparently died physically and then returned from the after-life to tell their experiences.

As a practising Christian (who was formerly an atheist, then an agnostic and just before becoming a Christian, a Buddhist), I am convicted of the truth of the Bible as the Word of God. But looking at the Bible from the non-Christian and skeptical perspective, I think there are 6 ways to ascertain its truthfulness. These ways are the weight of evidence in support of the truth of the Bible:

1. The Historical
- the main historical person in the New Testament is the person of Jesus Christ whose words, deeds and teachings were described in the eye witness testimonies of the four Gospels, written in the first century. Apart from the Bible, there are historical records that verify he existed and was borned at the time cited in the Bible.

Charles Guignebert, Professor of the History of Christianity, at the Sorbonne, maintained that the "conclusions which are justified by the documentary evidence [concerning the life of Jesus] may be summed up as follows: Jesus was born somewhere in Galilee in the time of the Emperor Augustus, of a humble family, which included half a dozen or more children besides himself." He adds elsewhere "there is no reason to suppose he was not executed".

There is a passage from a 10th century Arab historian named Agapius of Manbij who was a Christian. He cites Flavius Josephus (c. 37–c. 100), a Jewish and Roman historian, as having written:

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and (he) was known to be virtuous and many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not desert his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.

The text from which Agapius quotes is viewed by historians as closer to what Josephus wrote about Jesus.

(For skeptics who say there is no proof of his resurrection after three days being dead, read this article.)

2. The
Archaeological: In the last 150 years, archaeologists have excavated thousands of sites in the Near East, many of whom have tried to disprove the historical records of the Old Testament. Yet, every time they turned their spades, the new evidence confirms what the Bible says.

For example the Old Testament mentions all the kings of Israel and Judah in addition to 47 other kings in the Gentile (non-Jewish) world of Egypt/Babylon/ Syria/Greece. Not a single history book mentioned even one of them. The archaeologists found in their sites every one of the 47 kings exactly in the places where the Bible said they had reigned.

3
. The Sensible Insurance Policy: Pascal's Wager (or Pascal's Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should "wager" as though God exists, because so living has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

We only have two things to stake, our "reason" and our "happiness". Pascal considers that there is "equal risk of loss and gain", a coin toss, since human reason is powerless to address the question of God's existence. That being the case, we then must decide it according to our happiness by weighing the gain and loss in believing that God exists. He contends the wise decision is to wager that God exists, since "If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing", meaning one can gain eternal life if God exists, but if not, one will be no worse off in death than if one had not believed.

(Note that although he was a Christian, Pascal's wager does not necessarily point to a Christian God but to the belief in one God - theism - which is shared by Judaism and Islam).

4. The Scientific:
Empirical science is catching up with the Bible as neuroscientists explore the seemingly unexplainable power of prayer and meditation. Increasingly, the miracles of Christians praying for the sick and healing them of a wide range of illnesses (cancer, deafness, physical deformities, etc) are being recorded on the Internet and have been confirmed by secular doctors who have tested these patients before and after the prayers of healing. Just because today's science may not yet have full explanations of how the cures occurred does not at all invalidate the efficacy of prayer, which the scientific mind will be open to explore.

There are even many testimonies of people who have died and were taken to witness Heaven and Hell before coming back alive.

These experiences and testimonies are hard, but not impossible, to verify scientifically but there will be a day when tests can be made to see if these people are hallucinating or lying. (To those who explain that healing may be due to the power of the mind over matter, then they should examine how ineffective is healing through new age methods.)

5. The Psychological:
There is insurmountable evidence throughout history of the positive, inspirational impact of the Bible on the lives of great politicians (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, William Wilberforce, etc), writers and playwrights (Dante, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens,etc) scientists (Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Morse, etc) and social workers (Florence Nightingale, David Livingstone, Mother Theresa, etc) to name a few.

These are men and women of great intelligence whose works have transcended their cultural eras and historical circumstances. Can these people of character and genius who have done so much good for the world and whose good deeds have benefited our present society, be irrational and easily converted by "a fanciful, superstitious book that can only be believed by fools?" Think again with wisdom and care.

6. The Fulfilled Prophecies:
Finally, the most powerful feature of the Bible is the fulfilled prophecies about Jesus Christ decades before he was borned. There are 333 prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah Christ and these predictions include the exact date of his birth, the place of birth (Micah 5:2 -Bethlehem), that he would be borned of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) . These predictions in the Old Testament also describe his character, his betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, his burial in the grave of a rich man, his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven. All of which were fulfilled and described in the New Testament.

There is no individual in the history of mankind nor any other religious texts that has been so prophetically and predictively detailed.

To those who are still skeptical despite the 6 peripheral ways of ascertaining the truth of the Bible (note I did not say that reason alone can be used to confirm the Bible's truth), then I will paraphrase the English writer C.S. Lewis who said that even if Jesus was a myth, it would be a myth worth living for. From my personal experience, I testify that Jesus Christ is not a myth but the only living truth that can help man redeem himself from the darkness of his savage and corrupted nature.

And the Good News of the Bible is encapsulated in this foundational verse 1 John 16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believe in Him (His Son) shall not perish but have eternal life."

Editor's comment:
Far be it for me to suggest that the existence of God can be tested as this would be a mark of distrust and irreverence. Rather, I am simply showing to skeptics and atheists the tremendous weight of evidence, through 6 different perspectives, concerning the truth of the Bible, which offers a unique and more intelligent, if not the only, interpretation of the meaning of our purpose and life on earth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once a man was walking along the road searching for the truth.

He found four gem stones on the road. He took the stones and polished them each day to see which ones are truly precious stones.

One day, one of the stones began to speak to him and said I am the only true gem, seek me and you shall find the truth and the truth will set you free.

He was overjoyed and kept the stone in a safe place. After many days, the other stones which he left in his house also began to speak but with louder voices, each claiming to be the one and only truth.

One of the five stones even claimed that no other stones had the exclusive right to the truth and there was, in fact, no such thing as the absolute truth. In other words, nothing in life was genuine and the value of things were relative to other things.

The man became confused as he listened to these other stones. One day as he approached a fork in the road, there were two different roads he had to take: one sign said Eternal Life Through One Truth and the other sign said Wealth and Happiness On Earth Forever.

He took out all his stones and all four of them told him to take the easiest route of Wealth and Happiness on Earth. The one true stone that whispered to him to take the Eternal Life road was not heeded as its voice was drowned out by the fake stones.

This is the story of man's struggle with philosophy and religion on the one hand and the soft prompting of the one true God on the other hand.

Do You Want To Know God?

Do You Want To Know God?
Say this: Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You. Forgive all my sins. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose again. I give you my life to do as You wish. I want Jesus to come into my life & heart. In Jesus's name. Amen