“The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts but to transform your life.” -Dr. Howard G. Hendricks
As a Christian, I have at times been pressed with the most torturing of all questions – is the Bible authentic? As a teenager I had often squirmed at this question when asked by peers of different faiths; especially, Muslims. Why were Muslims a greater threat?I shall elaborate on that in just a bit. They were often well armed with a trove of facts and information, excavated rightfrom the time of King Solomon’s temple of Jerusalem. My faith was no match for their scientific and archaeological cannon of facts with which they choose to swing at my feeble words of faith like a battering ram, or so I thought. You see what I am writing here, and this is just so I am clear, is not conclusive evidence of anything and especially not regarding the authenticity of the Bible (that is just something you are going to have to take up on faith and your interaction with God). Instead this is just a meek effort on my part to describe what the Bible means to me and of the struggles that I and many other Christians, in the early stages of forging our faith have experienced.
Having been born into a Christian family and raised by my grandparents during the early years of my life, I was almost aware of the Bible and its contents, although not in its entirety but at least in parts pertaining to significant events that mould the Christian beliefs, in the form of bedtime stories recited by granny over and over each night. And when I started learning the Bible at Sunday school, it was no great surprise. I have always wondered what it would be like for a convert to Christianity. How would it feel like to him/her, being able to experience the Bible for the first time, but through the eyes and experience of a grown up person, not subjected to any obligation to believe what is laid before him/her, but having the freedom to question the rationale behind anything and everything?
I realize that ever so often, this is exactly what all of us want, or at least look forward to, being able to find answers and proofs to quench the intellectual thirst for the ultimate truth; much like being able to understand the intricacies of the derivatives market from an article in the wall street journal, or, perhaps the complexities of the ‘god’ particle that scientists have observed in the Large Hadron Collider through some science publication. But even from these, we are not able to wholly satisfy this lust for conviction; are we? Even these phenomenons are drenched in quandary and paradoxes. How audacious then, to think that we can fathom the truths of the infinite by academically studying the Bible from an intellectual standpoint?
During my later teenage years and in particular after I got into college, I was under the conviction that one’s belief is only worth so much as that which can be proved. But here lies a paradox in itself. Proved to the satisfaction of whom? For any statement or fact to be considered as proof, it has to be accepted to the satisfaction of the highest mind; and the highest mind in question here is no doubt the human mind. Now you will all agree that the human mind is a finite one, I mean we can’t even assert with credence about the idiosyncrasies of a 4th dimension. Our world and our experiences in it are confined to the finite 3 dimensional universe we reside in. Then how on earth can we even begin to comprehend the involutions of the infinite mind. This is of course, only applicable if you are a theist in the first place and acknowledge the presence of God. For the atheist however, everything is left to chance and theories of random selection. They seem quite content at that, so let’s leave them undisturbed.
Now back to the conflict at hand, which is being able to find answers in the Bible that our mortal minds desire so that we can believe with a deep conviction devoid of any incertitude at having found the ultimate truth. As humans we want to perceive this summate and all embracing, infinite wisdom of God, here and in the now. This very quest had led man to some of the greatest discoveries and findings in the field of science, astronomy, physics, mathematics and more recently, the field of particulate sciences. Those questions that even these incredible breakthroughs could not answer were taken on by scientific freaks through string theories. I doubt if even they fully understand the profoundness of such claims.
Let me put it this way, The worst sin that man could possibly commit is to objectify God from a rational, scientific and academic standpoint under the cliché banner of ‘quest for the truth’ and eventually arrive at the conclusion that God doesn’t exist. What they fail to realize however is that a finite medium can only reveal so much finite truths. Trying to confine the infinite within the limits of out finiteness is stark; yeah that’s right ‘foolishness’. The bible is not your everyday ‘pick it off the shelf’ reference book and yet it is your daily guide. This might seem self contradicting. Much has to do with the fact that we tend to view the book as any other book, with a single contributing and compiling authority- an author. Let me tell you this, the Bible in its present form was not written by any individual human being. Then who wrote it? In its physical form it is the result of a number of great prophets and apostles; and in essence, it is the work of God’s spirit.
Taking the above into consideration it is very easy to question the authenticity of the Bible. In fact even a preschooler can throw muck at the Bible and stand outright convinced at the effort. If facts and information were what it took, then it is much easier to convince someone about the illegitimacy of the Bible than its legitimacy. Which is where my earlier statement comes into picture: Why were Muslims a greater threat? If you were to put an average Christian teenager and an average Muslim teenager into a room and asked the Muslim to prove the Bible illegitimate and the Christian to save the Bible from the allegations, the Muslim would win hands down. This is because in no other religion or religious literature is there a more teeming treasure trove of information all of which is calculated, proposed and directed at proving Christianity to be a desolated and god forsaken cult of disbelievers. Like I said, their facts and entropy of data is irrefutable. Not that there is no such evidence in support of the Bible and its authenticity, but that for every piece of work on the Bible’s legitimacy, there is two regarding its bar sinister in the Muslim religious literature. The most horrific claim they make is that ‘Jesus was never crucified in the first place and that it was a look alike that died on the cross. That in this matter there is no confusion and anyone who believes otherwise is full of doubts, having no real knowledge and following mere conjecture, for surely, they killed him not’. AYAT an-Nisa`4:157- (wama qataloohu wama salaboohu walakin shubbiha lahum wa-inna allatheena ikhtalafoo feehi lafee shakkin minhu ma lahum bihi min AAilmin illa ittibaAAa alththanni wama qataloohu yaqeenan). This is to say that the Christian’s are full of doubts. The acute and ultimate design of such a claim is to undermine the very foundation of the Christian faith, ‘that Jesus, God’s only begotten son, Died on the cross for our sins, and through his resurrection paid the price for our sins, so that anyone who believes in his name might be eligible for eternal life’. John3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. Once you take out Christ and his death, then the very foundation of Christianity is mislaid. As the apostle Paul rightly says in 1 Cor 15:14 “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain”. To me personally, there couldn’t be a better joke than this!
Which now brings me to the conclusion of my dilemma in this matter and how ‘by faith’ and not ‘by sight’ I am resting assured on divine knowledge that surpasses human understanding. I took it upon myself then, to read up on as much materials as I could get my hands on, regarding the Bible and in particular the events of the New Testament. Only to realize that my Muslim brother was right! There was no way I could win an argument on the Bible’s authenticity. Maybe if I were a Christian scholar I would have a better chance, or, perhaps maybe not. But the pivotal aspect is this, that I have felt the constant and empowering presence of the almighty in my life. And like Dr. Hendricks rightly puts it, the Bible was written to help me conform to Christ’s image, not to make me a smarter sinner or a hypocrite with a brain full of facts and biblical quotes and definitely not to help me win an argument. For all things will be revealed in time. Whatever is hidden will be brought to light. Matthew 10:26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
The only thing that comes to my mind is Psalms 34:8 “O taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.“