Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Isn't the Bible a Myth?

The Reason for God - Can We Trust the Bible?

We had the second discussion based on The Reason for God centering on the question of the Bible and its reliability and interface with science. These are two huge topics which require some careful reflection, and we didn't have time to do them justice.

But I'm glad that some issues surface: That one can never be perfectly neutral or purely objective when it comes to the Bible. The stakes are too high and personal. We come with prior inclination to either disbelieve or believe it.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle noted that people form their beliefs on the basis of three factors:

logos (the rational dimension: we don't want our beliefs to be mere wishful thinking)
pathos (the emotional/beautiful dimension that resonates with our deepest longings)
ethos (the social dimention of persuasion: beliefs influenced by our upbringing and circle of friends we trust)

I believe all three factors come into play whether you are a believer or a skeptic. The notes above are part of our reading material which interacts with the Reason for God DVD. In the video, a participant asks:

"Is there a dichotomy between myth and truth? Does it have to be factually true in order for it to be important? Art is true for the moment and does not need to be authenticated by history. More importantly, does it emotionally true? Does it resonate with your heart?"

At one level, for example ethical teachings in Jesus’ parables, its truth does not depend on whether the good Samaritan is historical or not. It resonates with theological truth even when it is not authenticated by history.

But on another level, Christianity is not just a set of ethical principles but about God acting to rescue his people in space-time events. That’s why some acts of God in history such as the death and resurrection of Christ are important and need to be verifiable. It is not just collective imagination of believers but something that really took place in order for it to have the meaning it claims to have.

Other participants in the DVD think history is important: The resurrection of Christ is a clincher: It changes everything if Jesus really rose from the dead. Why?

That would be a vindication of the claims Jesus made about Himself – a miracle that authenticates His claim to be God and has authority over everything.

There are two approaches to come to the conclusion that the Bible is God's word.

The classical view starts with the existence of God (based on some theistic proofs) and then inductively looks at the evidence in the Gospels for what Jesus said and did on earth. At this point, we are just taking the biblical texts as generally reliable ancient documents rather than an inerrant Scripture. From there, we could confidently discover that Jesus claims to have divine authority and equal with God. Not only that, His death and resurrection make the most plausible explanation for the historical facts that confront us: an empty tomb and the emergence of the Christian movement. Therefore, Jesus has divine authority and we are justified to embrace His high view of Scripture as our own.

The presuppositional view starts deductively with the self-testimony of the Bible as God's Word and then, proceeds to show how only with this starting point that all our human experiences and knowledge are meaningful and not reduced to absurdity. It is a transcendental argument i.e. unless you presuppose the Bible as God's infallible Word, everything else (morality, knowledge, beauty etc) falls apart. 


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