menu

Is the Bible Reliable for Truth about Jesus Christ?

Is the Bible Reliable for Truth about Jesus Christ? September 14, 2009

I came across an article the other day from Dr. Aaron Menikoff, a Christian pastor, who asks if the Bible is reliable for “the truth” about Jesus Christ. That’s a great question — one I answer negatively — so I was curious about his perspective. His two main arguments are:

  1. We should believe the Bible because Christ believed the Bible.
  2. We should believe the Bible because it accurately explains and powerfully changes our lives.

As far as arguments go, I’m afraid I must classify both as terrible.

Christ Believed It

Pullquote: Christ is trustworthy and He trusted God’s Word. So should we.
Aaron Menikoff

Regarding the first point, Menikoff says:

Such reasoning may sound circuitous or circular. It is not…. If Jesus Christ is trustworthy, then His words about the authority of the Bible should be trusted as well. Christ is trustworthy and He trusted God’s Word. So should we. Without faith in Christ, you will not believe the Bible is the self-disclosure of God. With faith in Christ, you cannot help but believe the Bible is God’s Word.

So we should believe the Bible is a reliable guide to the truth about Jesus… because Jesus believed the Bible? Sounds like a circular argument to me. And even if it could be shown that Jesus thought the Bible was reliable, what Bible would he be referring to? Certainly the New Testament wasn’t written when Jesus was alive, so he can’t be referring to that, which is the topic of discussion. We’re asking if the New Testament can be trusted about it’s extraordinary claims about Jesus — you can’t answer it by saying the Jesus of the New Testament trusts the Old Testament, therefore we know we can trust the New Testament. Only a believer could swallow that kind of circular reasoning and then have the audacity to repeat it, insisting it’s not circular.

Menikoff may want the logic to not be circular, but wishing doesn’t make it so. You can’t make logical fallacies go away simply by closing your eyes and insisting they don’t exist.

It’s Life Changing!

Pullquote: People of all religions — and even those of us who are not religious — have life-changing experiences. It’s part of being human.

In my experience there is only one argument that remains for why people believe in the Bible and Christianity — the argument from personal experience. This is known as a “testimony” and evangelism classes teach proselytizers to use them because “they are the one thing that cannot be argued against.”

Which is true, in a way. There’s no reason to argue that a person didn’t have an experience. People of all religions — and even those of us who are not religious — have life-changing experiences. It’s part of being human.

But they don’t always interpret their experiences rationally. A person may have stopped drinking a bottle of vodka a night, but that doesn’t mean Jesus had anything to do with it. They might claim that at first, saying “I once was a drunk, until Jesus picked me up out of the miry clay and changed my life. Thank you Jesus!” Yet if you dig a little deeper, it ends up there is a lot more to the story — usually you’ll find they had the help of a substance abuse program, a new community of friends to help keep them accountable, and/or a new-found religious obsession to take the place of their old addiction.

My life was changed by Christianity. It has also been changed by books I’ve read and experiences I’ve had. One of my favorite books is East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which powerfully describes human nature. Does that mean it’s divinely inspired because it gives insight into our common struggles? Of course not — it’s just a good book.

The Bible is a myth — a sweeping narrative that tries to explain the human condition. Some people (including myself at one time), find it speaks powerfully and provides a framework for understanding the world. It’s a superstitious framework, but it’s better than nothing. For people who are wandering aimlessly, have trouble being moral, or are in a time of crisis, it can be a stabilizing influence. And I’m glad it works for them!

Yet people have the same experience with the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Vedas, and others. Does that mean we must take them all to be reliable guides to truth and their holy prophets? If so, then what truth should we believe — they all contradict each other!

These arguments will not convince someone who is searching for truth. His points will get head nods from the choir, but they are not challenging or persuasive to a skeptic. He’s talking in a different epistemological language that unfortunately makes us talk past each other.

Menikoff already knows his arguments fail. That’s why he says, “Without faith in Christ, you will not believe the Bible is the self-disclosure of God.” In other words, you have to already believe the Bible is reliable to know it’s reliable — which doesn’t help any of us who question it’s reliability.

But who needs facts, when you can stick your head in the sands of faith?


Browse Our Archives