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The Case Against

The Case Against Scripture

If you were going to make a case against Scripture, how would you go about it? Most people intuitively feel like this book, this Bible, is a little hard to swallow, but how would you quantify that? What makes it so hard to accept as 'the Word of God'? That's the purpose of this post: to flesh out a case against Scripture.

If I were a prosecuting attorney, I'd use Scripture as a star witness against itself, to show 4 basic points:

  1. no one can prove that the Bible is God's word (so there's a certain measure of doubt built in to the equation - how are we supposed to know for sure?)

  2. the magnitude of Scripture's claims make us more dubious, not less (the way Scripture views itself actually makes it harder to believe, not easier - so how do we take it seriously?)

  3. hand copies inevitably result in lots of copies and variations (a nice way of saying 'errors' - so how do we know which reading is right?)

  4. everyone has different opinions and interpretations (look, even if we only had one manuscript, no one could agree on what it means anyway - so who's right?)

In short, if God was really going to communicate with us, wouldn't Scripture be one of the least likely ways for him to do it? It seems so prone to miscommunication, doubt, disbelief. Let's flesh out each of these objections to make the case clearer...

1. No one can prove that the Bible is God's word

Look, if we're really serious about honesty (and Christians of all people should be), then lets just state the obvious: we cannot prove that the Bible is God's word. Anyone who says otherwise is either loopy or they're selling something. And 99.9% of Christians are going to agree with this assertion anyway (because it takes faith to believe, right?)

2. The magnitude of Scripture's claims

Of course, some people might want to try and salvage Scripture by suggesting that it doesn't actually claim to be inspired, or that if it is, it's the general ideas behind the words - the 'timeless principles' rather than the 'specific words' themselves. The problem with this approach that it doesn't actually jive with the data - Scripture itself makes some huge claims about itself. How do we know it's the Word of God? Because it says so! (hmm, isn't that a little circular?).

Go ahead: let's look at some of these claims for ourselves:

  1. it claims to be the very word of God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16 - "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...")

  2. it claims that God is the primary author, not man (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21 - "No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit")

  3. Old Testament (OT) authors viewed their message (both spoken -and- written) as God's authoritative word (cf. Jer 26, 36 - OT prophets are always thundering "thus says the Lord!" and they see their written words just as binding as their oral statements).

  4. Jesus and New Testament (NT) believers embrace the OT as God's authoritative word - they constantly say "it is written!" and then quote Scriptures to settle all arguments (cf. Matthew 4:4 - where Jesus rebukes Satan with Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God!")

  5. Jesus believes not just the ideas but also the words are inspired - in fact, at one point he bases his entire argument on the tense of a single verb in an OT passage (cf. Matthew 22:31-32 - "As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.")

  6. Jesus sees his own words as carrying even great authority (cf. Matthew 5:21,27 - "You have heard it said... [he quotes the OT]... but I say to you... [then he offers his own commandment which goes further than the OT command]")

  7. Jesus' followers see him as the ultimate word of God (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2 - "Long ago, at many times and in various ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through by his Son...")

  8. the Apostle Paul (who wrote most of the NT) speaks of his own message as being identical with the word of God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - "when you received the word of God [eg. Paul's message], which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God...")

  9. the Apostle Peter (one of Jesus' top three disciples) speaks of Paul's writings as being on par with the rest of Scripture (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16 - "our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him... the ignorant and unstable twist [his words] to their own destruction, as they do with the other Scriptures")

  10. the Christian Scriptures insist the miraculous elements are essential, not incidental (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14,19 - "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain... we are of all people most to be pitied")

Uggh! Not only does the Bible seem to see itself as inspired, but it also seems adamant that much of what it says is meant to be taken literally rather than metaphorically. So Scripture makes it even harder to believe this is God's word, because it asks us to believe so much.

3. Lots of copies and variations

Feeling the weight yet? Now try this on for size. For the past 1500-2500 years, the Christian Scriptures were copied by hand. Scribes (even the best of them!) are human. Humans make mistakes, and over this big of a timespan, we'd expect to see a lot of them.

Sure enough, the data seems to support our suspicion - just looking at the NT, we discover that there are some 5000 Greek manuscripts, 8000 Latin manuscripts, and thousands more in other languages. That's a lot of copies. Now here's the kicker - if we look at larger 'book size' manuscripts, there is not a single hand-copy which is identical to any other. And if we tally up all the differences, there are some 30,000 - 40,000 total discrepancies. That's a lot of variations.

So even if the original 'autograph' (the master copy) WAS inspired directly by God, how do we know which our copies is closest? After all, we don't have the original (and how would we know it if we did?)! All we have are lots of copies with tons of variations! Egad!

4. Lack of consensus

Finally, let's pretend for a moment that we actually DID have the original - one manuscript, zero variations, copied perfectly by someone who got it straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak). Even if we could all agree on such a text, everyone still seems to have a different opinion or interpretation as to what it actually means. So even if it IS the word of God, how could we possibly know who is right?

Wow. The evidence seems pretty damning - how could any intelligent, rational, educated person living in the 21st century actually believe that a book like the Bible is the Word of God? It just seems so unlikely!

Ok, so that's my case AGAINST Scripture. Now let's try and make the case FOR Scripture...