There has been much said recently in online discussion about the Bible and its place in the church and Christianity in general. One popular pastor and teacher recently caused massive waves in the Christian community by asserting “We believe Jesus rose from the dead not because the Bible says so. It is way better than that! Christianity does not hang by the thread of ‘The Bible told me so’”.
Now, one might immediately see the issue with this. There is a push here to not put our faith in Christ simply from what we read in the Bible. The argument continues that the early church didn’t have a complete Bible, so the Bible isn’t necessary for Christianity. The pastor went on to say that “What your students have discovered, and if you read broadly you’ve discovered, it is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible”.
At its core, this is a call to disregard the Bible’s whole truth as unnecessary for the Christian faith today. Rather, we are to believe because Jesus rose from the dead, and because early witnesses confirmed this.
Now, certainly individuals may be saved without reading the Bible. People all over the world daily are saved by the grace of God despite sometimes not even having the Scriptures available in their language. And certainly, although the early church very clearly had an exchange of the writings of the New Testament quite early (see 2 Peter 3:15-16 for an early confirmation of this), the compiled “canon” of the Scriptures came at some date after the “working canon” the church had. The early church had eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection and ascension. They could speak to a John, or Peter, or James, on this subject. We do not have that physical, face-to-face opportunity today. How are we to know that Christ rose from the dead? From a megachurch pastor’s basic assertion? If only there was some trustworthy, inspired document we could read the accounts of these witnesses…
…And therein we begin to see the central importance of the Holy Bible to our belief today.
If we accept the New Testament is true (and yes, based on the number of manuscripts and reliable early witnesses we have, it would seem far-fetched to do anything besides), and we accept that the words of Christ as they are contained in there are the words of the God-Man and Savior, then what should our view of the Bible be? And what of the Old Testament? Do we really need that if we have the Gospels? The pastor in question seems to cast doubt on the veracity of the Old Testament, saying, “Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards that comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho didn’t”.
Well, let us turn to the words of Jesus when it came to the truth of the Old Testament. Christ said of the Old Testament, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). Jesus repeatedly teaches with citations of Old Testament Scripture, using “You have read” or “It is written”. He says “The Scripture cannot be broken” in John 10:35. Christ also said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Time and time again, Jesus affirms, upholds, and clarifies the Old Testament. He clearly believes in it, from the destruction of Sodom (Luke 17:29) to Cain’s murder of Abel (John 6). To undercut the reliability or importance of one half of the Bible is to not only undermine the Word of God as a whole, but to ignore Christ’s own teachings on the truth and key importance of the same.
Perhaps the clearest warning from any who would dismiss one part of the Scripture as untrue or unimportant comes once again from Jesus: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47). Is Jesus here appealing to writings that may or may not have happened, or is he referencing the unbreakable, all-sufficient very Word of God?
As Christians, we do not dispense with the importance of words inspired by God because they are challenging or socially off-putting. When we begin to discount parts of Scripture because it is hard or does not line up with how we “feel” God should be, or try to pit one part of Scripture over another, we are playing a dangerous game. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us “all Scripture is God-breathed”. That means that there is as much truth and inspiration in Isaiah or Habakkuk as there is in Colossians or Revelation. We cannot somehow divorce Jesus from the whole of the Scriptures, keeping Him and throwing out the rest. Our Savior’s words simply do not offer us that as a choice.
We do not further the banner of Christ by disdaining or reducing the remarkable books that tell us these things. Rather, in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, we are to have a readiness to respond for the hope that lies within us, while praying for the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture to those who do not believe (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is the height of human arrogance to disregard or downplay a document preserved and inspired by God, containing the richness of His own Word. If we attack the truth and reliability of any one part or section of the Bible, we are calling God the Father and Jesus Christ liars.
As one final reminder, in Luke 24, we read that after Christ’s Resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, he met with two disciples. Concealing His identity from them, he listened as the expressed their perplexity at the Crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the message of angels that Jesus lived. Here is how Christ responded to them:
“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Jesus was the Messiah, the one that the writings of the Old Testament pointed to. And he used those very Scriptures to remind the disciples, for the Bible told them so.