Because the Bible claims to be the Word of God, and because the implications of that claim are life-changing, critics of every age have put the Bible under intense scrutiny. Spiritual warfare rages over the claims of Christ, and over the centuries, various challenges have arisen to the Bible, including:
- The problem of inspiration
- The problem of interpretation
- The problem of science and the Bible
- Ethical problems in the Bible
- Apparent problems in the Bible
Despite these problems, there are answers. Numerous Christians have addressed them over and over again; while we may struggle with one or many of these problems, we can prayerfully approach them and glean wisdom from those who have addressed them before us.
1. The Problem of Inspiration
Claiming to be historically accurate is one thing; claiming divine inspiration is another. For this reason, many dismiss the claims of the Bible. But when we take a look at the content of the Bible, we need to consider the truth of its claims. For example, no other book in the world contains as specific of prophecies as the Bible—and the Bible’s prophecies have come true. The validity of the short-term prophecies that have come true points to the validity of the long-term prophecies that we are still waiting for.
Let’s consider the messianic prophecies. These prophecies are so specific, so narrow, that the life of only one man fits all of them: Jesus Christ. Even ones written hundreds of years before His birth fit perfectly with His life. A messianic imposter could have fulfilled a few of these prophecies, but the vast majority would have been beyond his reach.
2. The Problem of Interpretation
Although there is some variation on the interpretation of the Bible among different denominations, Christians are remarkably united on the cardinal doctrines of the faith—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, for example, or the nature of the Trinity. Many problems of interpretations can be solved by interpreting what is unclear in light of what is clear as well as using prayerful common sense.
3. The Problem of Science and the Bible
It is important to note that the Bible is not intended to be a scientific textbook; it does not give us exact details regarding scientific theories. We also need to note that when it does refer to science, it often uses poetic language—just as we talk about sunrises and sunsets on a daily basis, so does the Bible, but it does not make the claim of a geocentric universe. In addition, the Bible is not concerned with explaining science to us. Instead, it is focused on the who, not the how.
For more on this, see Ken Boa’s series on Science, Faith, and Reason.
4. Ethical Problems in the Bible
This is one of the biggest issues people have with the Bible. They often point to slavery or genocide in the Bible to condemn its teachings. However, this viewpoint is earthbound and centers on man rather than on God, forgetting that the Bible lays down the true ethics of loving God and loving one’s neighbor. Not only that, but this viewpoint often ignores the utter sinfulness of humanity, assuming that God is wrong to judge the nations for their wickedness. But God is the One who gave life, and He has every right to take it away. The fact that He does not immediately take away our lives due to sin is a pointer to His mercy.
When it comes to those who use the Bible to support modern-day slavery and genocide, we need to remember that their actions are not indicative of what the Bible truly teaches. It is easy to twist the words of the Bible to suit our own sinful purposes instead of letting the Holy Spirit change us through the Word of God.
5. The Problem of Apparent Errors
Most of the apparent contradictions are due to perspective differences. Accounts often supplement one another, giving a different perspective to the same event. Just as two people today choose to tell the same story in a different way, the Bible does the same thing. The Gospels, for example, choose to focus on different details in accordance with the points they are emphasizing.
6. The Problem of Canonicity
The key to understanding canonicity is to recognize that inspiration determines canonicity; we did not arbitrarily pick and choose the books of the Bible. In fact, the early church put the books to rigorous tests. The books of the Bible were not chosen on a whim; they were discovered to be infallible and inspired and so put into the canon. Those that are in the canon all have three things in common: apostolic date, apostolic origin, and apostolic doctrine. These writings are all early in the first century, and they all trace back to a connection with the apostles (Luke, for example, was connected with the apostles, though he was not an apostle himself). As a result, we see that the New Testament was not arbitrary at all; the church recognized it early on.
7. The Problem of Miracles
This is related to the problem of science and the Bible because assuming a naturalistic, materialistic world immediately excludes the possibility of miracles. However, this is a problem with our viewpoint, not with the Bible. If we eliminate the possibility of design and miracles from the start, then of course we will have a problem with miracles. But if we maintain an open mind and consider the possibilities, miracles are not a problem at all. We need to work with the inference to the best explanation rather than deciding we do not want to consider the possibility of miracles from the start.
In addition, the materialistic viewpoint often incorrectly assumes that it is absolute. It regards the laws of nature as infallible when, in fact, those laws are merely our observations. What we know about science changes all the time, but the truths of the Christian faith do not.
Looking for more answers to objections to Christianity? Read Ken Boa’s I’m Glad You Asked.