–Daniel S. Ferguson
Two days ago, I posted on my Facebook the following:
“My apologetic: I believe in God because I do. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a rational reason. I only have irrational ones. It took me 20 years to become okay with that.”
I figured that was a nice sentiment. It shows a real struggle with apologetics, and I land on the side of faith. I figured that there would be some agnostics or atheists who might jump on its circular logic (I believe because I believe), but weirdly enough, that didn’t happen. They were universally nice.
It was Christians who said some strange things back. Like this:
“Daniel, the Bible tells you that you do have logical reasons to believe, so you do if you trust your Bible.”
Allow me to publish my response: It’s not that I don’t trust the Bible. I do. But I don’t believe in God because I trust the Bible. It’s the other way around. I trust the Bible because I believe in God.
The other way around just seems like nonsense to me. If it’s God that gives the Bible authority, and I don’t recognize God as an authority, then the Bible doesn’t have authority to me either. That’s how the line of authority syllogism works. No faith in God means no faith in the Bible.
Believing that the Bible gives reason to believe in God independent of pre-existing faith is believing that the Bible is a spiritual authority independent of God, which is a problem.
That’s one of several reasons this bothers me so much. It really is troubling. I remember feeling this way when I first read the Baptist Faith and Message back in middle school. (There was nothing to do in my home town, okay?) It’s the statement of faith the Southern Baptist Convention adopted in 2000.
The statement is fairly generic. With the exception of one or two lines, it goes out of its way not to offend too many people (well, too many people within the denomination, anyway). The statement, generally speaking, is fine.
Except for one thing: it starts with the Bible. Its opening section is all about the authority of the Scriptures. Everything the statement says about God, the church, the human estate, and everything comes out of this.
This is a very systematic way of doing it. I understand why it’s this way. They establish the authority they’re using before they use it to support everything else.
That makes sense if the Bible is the foremost authority. But FYI: it’s NOT.
What belonged in the Bible was a hotly debated topic up until that point. They had hundreds of documents that Christians around the world had been believing in and following that we don’t even have today. Then they got together and decided what was in and what was out.
That’s the church having authority over the Bible, not the Bible having authority over the church.
The same thing is true of the church. The same commenter later said that “either a Christian believes in the Bible as [an authority] or he/she is something else.”
That’s true. But that’s exactly the point. Christians are people who choose to believe certain things; among them is faith in Scripture as authoritative. We choose to believe that; therefore it’s an authority over us.
For people who don’t believe that, it’s like saying that we believe in magic because the Harry Potter series says there is (as another commenter astutely pointed out).
A Bible-told-me so faith only works if you first have faith in God and then have faith that God authorized the Bible.
When I said that I believed in God because of only irrational reasons, it was in full light of the Bible and of logic. All the reasons I have are illogical and independent of Scripture. But because I believe in God, I gain logical foundations of faith based on the Scripture I believe He has provided.
Here’s why this matters: so many people left the church because they were told to swallow the Bible whole–genocide, misanthropy, slavery, hell, and all–or else they couldn’t believe in God. They questioned that, and the response back was simply “The Bible clearly says…”
They had questions about the Bible’s authority, and they were pointed to the Bible to answer them.
It’s paper in a binding. It holds no power on its own. It can’t create a single atom. Only God can do that. It can’t save a single soul. Only Jesus can do that. It can’t create righteousness in a single heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. And it can’t evangelize on its own. Only the church can do that. Oh, and it can’t even print itself, either. Only a publisher can do that.
The Bible is not a fourth member of the Trinity. It’s a book. A very important book that I believe to be authoritative. But it’s not God, and it’s not first. The Bible is subject to the church (history itself demonstrates that) and therefore subject to me. I’ll freely admit that’s a dangerous power to have, but such is the power of a son of God.
Christians, please stop trying to prove Christianity using the Bible. It’s a lost cause. It makes no sense to anyone who doesn’t already believe. Instead, just tell your own story of faith. Ask them theirs. Listen hard. Share deeply. And then, when they’re ready, when they accept that God might be real, then bring in the Bible.