Three concrete reasons to have the Bible
as our spiritual authority.
the Sundayschoolchorusgoeslikethis: “The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.” In a more sophis-
ticated way, Martin Luther told Catholic authorities in
1521: “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and
my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”
The Bible is the sole authority for many Protestants, the
main authority for most other Protestants, and equal au-
thority with tradition in official Roman Catholic theology.
Another sign of the Bible’s influence is that it also shapes
many offshoots of the main channels of Protestantism
(Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism, for example) and
is significant in the development of Islam.
If we go by numbers, the Bible is the most influential
book in world history. Of course numbers do not ensure
truth, so let’s consider three concrete reasons to have the
Bible as our spiritual authority.
First, the Bible is anchored in history. No, we cannot
prove every historical claim, but a ton of historical data fits
with known events, other sources and the general contours
of the Middle Eastern world.
Consider an opposite example. Mormonism is currently hurting big-time because of obvious evidence that
the Book of Mormon is an invention of Joseph Smith, the
Mormon founder. The Book of Mormon claims to be the
record of two Jewish groups who came to the Americas
and set up major civilizations over two thousand years
ago. Looking for Zarahemla (a city in the Book of Mormon)
is not like looking for Jerusalem. Smith stated in another
Mormon scripture that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. Needless to say, only Mormons defend that claim.
The Bible’s historical witness to Jesus outdoes the
parallel cases for Krishna, the Hindu god, or Gautama,
the Buddha for our age, or Guru Nanak. On the former,
Krishna did not exist. Gautama is a historical figure, but
the earliest documents about him are four hundred years
after he lived. Nanak, the Sikh founder, really lived, but
the sources about him are late and mythological.
My views here are not just out of my Christian convic-
tion. Anyone can read the British historian A.L. Basham on
Krishna, the Buddhist scholar Donald Lopez on the Bud-
dha, and Hew MacLeod, the superb historian of Sikhism.
Basham, Lopez and MacLeod have no Christian axe to grind.
For a positive look at the historical case for Jesus, we also have
John Warwick Montgomery’s magnificent work History and
Christianity (InterVarsity Press, 1971, expanded in 2003 as
History, Law and Christianity). If you have wondered about
the textual reliability of the New Testament, consult the work
of Daniel Wallace, an expert professor at Dallas Seminary.
JAMEs A. BEvERlEy is professor of Christian thought
and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. He recommends www.bible.org for further study. Find more of
these columns at www.theEFC.ca/religionwatch.
There are two video clips with this article. View them
at www.faithtoday.ca/summer2013page49a and ...49b.