by Robert G. WittyThe Bible: Fact or Fiction
The Bible: Fact or Fiction? - Part 1 of 10
Editor's note: In his book, The Bible: Fact or Fiction, Dr. Witty first acknowledges that neither a believer's testimony nor scientific evidences can fully satisfy a skeptic's questions as to the claims of the Bible. Instead, he proposes a series of tests by which a doubter who is willing to set aside his biases, and judge the Bible as he would judge other books, can be convinced it is the Word of God. In this first installment the author establishes the conditions which a fair and factual judgment requires.
On what reasonable grounds do I claim that just the Book itself-the contents of the Bible-offers such complete evidence of its own validity that this single proof is beyond reasonable rebuttal? The grounds that establish a reasonable basis of proof are twofold: fairness and facts.
The first necessary basis: Judge the Bible with fairness.
Fair judgment never rests upon prejudgment, and particularly not on prejudice that is based upon personal ignorance or upon uncritical acceptance of the biased conclusions of other people. When these secondhand critics are challenged, their inability to substantiate their conclusions with specific examples reveals their lack of factual evidence. In fact, even some firsthand critics have never read the complete text of the Bible, nor have they examined the scholarly biblical defenses. Such judgment is unfair and prejudiced.
Fair judgment never rests upon philosophical speculation. Some people reject the Bible because it does not conform to their academic theories. Others reject the Bible because they resist or oppose the Bible's strict moral standards.
Fair judgment requires a person to consider the contents of the Bible with an honest, open, and informed mind that is willing to weigh and accept the resulting truth.
The second necessary basis: Judge the Bible with facts.
Fair judgment, and even just plain common sense, requires us to judge the Bible by the same set of facts by which any other book can receive fair and impartial evaluation. We must temporarily turn aside from traditional claims about the Bible made by friend or foe. We must be honest and depend upon irrefutable facts.
If the Bible is the Word of God, common sense declares that its divine source in God and unique content will exalt virtue, truth, and redemption. What the Bible says will prove or disprove its divine origin and validity better than any believer's claim or any unbeliever's rejection.
If the Bible is not the Word of God, common sense declares that its content will vindicate the unbeliever's accusation with substantiated mistakes, errors, and falsehoods.
To repeat for emphasis: If the Bible is God's inerrant Word, its true spiritual and factual content will prove its validity. In the same way, if the Bible is not God's inerrant Word, its mistakes, errors, and falsehoods will confirm the unbeliever's accusation.
If the Bible's author is God, alone and separate from all human instrumentality, its unique contents will reveal the divine Source as untarnished by angel or human creature. If the Bible's author is God, using human instruments, the content will reveal both the human personality and the controlling inspiration of deity. If the Bible's author is human, alone or in concert with other humans but separate from Deity, common sense declares that the content will rise no higher and sink no lower than the talents and abilities of human sources.
Let facts, rather than spiritual devotion or theological bias, determine the decision about the validity of the Bible. Let the Bible's contents, rather than philosophic speculations or unsupported accusations or affirmations, decide its validity. Academic speculations and popular accusations built on intellectual fantasy do not afford a fair standard for any judgment. Ignorance, with repeated denials of biblical inspiration or rejection of godly standards, likewise provides no basis for judgment.
Permit the Bible to face the court of intellectual honesty and to receive judgment on the basis of universally-accepted and irrefutable factors, including sources, accuracy, prophecy, quality of message, cultural effects, scholarly evaluation, and personal benefits. These are subjects we shall consider in succeeding chapters. The Bible, like any other book, deserves an honest, fair, and factual judgment based upon an adequate explanation of the facts about its contents.
On this fair and factual basis we claim the Bible needs no other defender. On the basis of fact, the Bible will prove its own validity. I am certainly not the first person to see this simple fact: the Bible proves itself. The renowned Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge, a Princeton legend as a scholarly and renowned professor, stated with confidence, "The best evidence of the Bible's being the word of God is to be found between its covers. It proves itself."
Succeeding installments of this series will seek to apply these reasonable tests of factual truth to the contents of the Bible.
Dr. Witty founded the Luther Rice Seminary and served as its president for twenty years. In addition to a radio and Internet ministry, he is presently a semi-retired Bible teacher, church consultant, and writer. The Bible: Fact or Fiction? was published in 2001 by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034.