According to a recent study, 80 percent of Americans never doubt the existence of God. No surprise really; there are many powerful arguments to support theism. The simplest arguments for God’s existence—and some of the most effective—involve the fine tuning we observe all around us. Nature gives us innumerable reasons to believe.
It’s no accident that gazing up into the firmament inspires awe for our Creator. Our Creator intended that it should. God clearly reveals himself in the world around us.
This not an original conclusion, it is more than 3,000 years old.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,”
Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
1,000 years later, the Apostle Paul agreed with David and took it up a notch (as he was inclined to do).
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Romans 1:18-20 (NIV)
But as Guido de Brès and other reformists delineated when they drafted the Belgic Confession in the 16th century, there are certain truths that we cannot discover just by observing nature. For example, we can’t stare out into space and learn about God’s plan to redeem mankind through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (For a summary of the underpinnings of Protestant Christianity, read this 4-part series of articles by theologian and scholar Ken Samples.)
According to Article 2 of the Belgic Confession (which can be read in English here), God reveals himself in two books: first in the book of nature, and then in the holy Scriptures, which constitute his holy and divine word. In the Bible God reveals his glory and his plan for the salvation of his people. Doctrinally speaking then, according to the Belgic Confession, we have general and special revelation. Mark Driscoll does a good job summarizing these doctrines in this video.
So the Bible is part of God’s special revelation to us. Why should we accept the Bible? Actually, that’s the entire purpose of this blog, and too much to condense into a single post. But Paul and Marie Little, authors of Know Why You Believe, make the following points (Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe, Kindle Edition):
- Peter tells us God has communicated “everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him [Jesus Christ]” (2 Peter 1:3).
- The Bible emphatically states in numerous ways that its words are God’s words.
- It employs the phrase “the Word of God” 394 times in the Old Testament to refer to itself, plus it uses various synonyms such as law, statutes, precepts, commands, ordinances and decrees.
- The New Testament regularly quotes from the Old Testament as the “Word of God.” Typically, the psalmist declared in 119: 11, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119 is a model of literary genius with an alphabetic acrostic devoting eight verses to each of the twenty-one letters in the Hebrew alphabet, a total of 176 verses. All but one or two verses refer to the “Word of God” in some form or another.
- The Bible describes itself this way: “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
- Old Testament “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
- The Bible is the product of God himself. These are not mere human ideas but God’s divine character and will revealed through human words. Those writers of Scripture were not mere writing machines. God did not punch them, like keys on a typewriter, to produce his message. He did not dictate the words, as the biblical view of inspiration has so often been caricatured. It is quite clear that each writer had a style of his own.
- God worked through the instrumentality of human personality but so guided and controlled the people that what they wrote is what he wanted written.
- The prophets and other writers were consciously aware that they were God’s mouthpieces. “The word of the LORD came to me” is a phrase that recurs frequently in the Old Testament. David says, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). Jeremiah said, “The LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, `Now, I have put my words in your mouth”‘ (Jeremiah 1:9).
- The New Testament writers were equally clear in their claim to have the same prophetic authority as Old Testament writers. Jesus said John the Baptist was a prophet and more than a prophet (Matthew 11:9-15).
- Paul claims prophetic authority: “If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command” (1 Corinthians 14:37)
- Peter speaks of Paul’s letters as that “which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). His reference to them on the same level as “the other Scriptures” shows that he viewed them as having the prophetic authority of Scripture.
- Most significant of all, however, is Jesus’ view of Scripture. What did he think of it? How did he use it? If we can answer these questions, we have the answer from the incarnate Word of God himself, the One about whom the Bible spoke. Jesus’ attitude was transparently open about the Old Testament. He states emphatically, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). He quoted Scripture as final authority, often introducing the statement with the phrase, “It is written,” as in his encounter with Satan in the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
- Before his death he spoke of himself and of events surrounding his life as being fulfillment of the Scripture: How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? … But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. (Matthew 26:54-56).
- When Jesus first started teaching, he sat in the synagogue in Nazareth where he grew up. An attendant handed him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus unrolled the scroll and began to read the eight-hundred-year-old document. He read Isaiah 61:1-2, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Every eye was fixed on him, intent on his next words, which were “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Imagine the electricity after he announced he had fulfilled a prophecy written eight hundred years previously. Luke records, “All … were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22). The watching crowd wanted him to do miracles. Yet they felt a restraining reverence for him as he read these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
- Perhaps his most sweeping endorsement and acceptance of the Old Testament was when he declared with finality, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
- A further confirmation that the Bible is the Word of God is in the remarkable number of fulfilled prophecies it contains.
- Three kinds of prophecies are seen in the Old Testament: Predictions of a coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, are incredibly detailed. The early disciples quoted the Old Testament prophecies regularly to show that Jesus fulfilled in detail the prophecies made hundreds of years earlier. Many of these were written by these prophets five hundred to one thousand years before Christ came to earth. The kind of specific detail given is unequaled in any other major religion of the world.
- Jesus referred to the predictive prophecies about himself in what must have been one of the most exciting Bible studies in history. After a conversation with two disciples as they walked toward Emmaus, he said, “‘How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
Finally, it is clear that God does not owe us an explanation, and that he does not reveal everything. There is a “hiddenness” to God. I first learned that from Dick Woodward, who made a lasting impression on apologist Ravi Zacharias with his testimony about how God reveals himself.