Nowadays, very few people would bring up this topic at a dinner party or social gathering. Believing in the Bible has become something of a taboo, in non-religious environments. If you were to stand up and say it publicly, many people would immediately assume that you’re some kind of fanatic or fundamentalist freak.
Interestingly, I would actually argue that Fundamentalists have done more to harm the Bible’s reputation than anyone else. They have told people that the World was created in 6 literal days, or a period of 6,000 years, and that if people don’t accept Jesus, then their “loving” God will send them to burn for eternity. This viewpoint is not only toxic for obvious reasons, but also because within these circles, nobody is permitted to question or challenge these beliefs, or offer any alternative viewpoint at all. Fundamentalists squash dissenters and whistle-blowers, branding them as “heretics”, apostates and (perhaps most dangerous of all), “independent thinkers”.
I know this because I’ve spent a significant amount of time among them, and I shamefully confess that I used to be one. I know their ways, their fears, their hang-ups and prejudices. Is it surprising then that “ordinary people” want nothing to do with this hypocritical message?
So I want to start this blog post by stating very clearly that I am no longer a Fundamentalist. I do believe the Bible is 100% trustworthy and inerrant, but I do not interpret it in the same way as my more closed-minded brothers and sisters in the faith. Neither is it my desire to ridicule or mock their beliefs or worldview; they have a right to whatever opinion or conclusion they should choose to reach. However, I do feel that most of them are NOT FREE to reach their own conclusions, or come to their own understanding of any doctrine or religious teaching. They are taught to submit and obey unquestioningly, and are never given any framework in which they can work through their own doubts and issues.
That’s why so many of them fall away, and even opt for atheism or agnosticism in the end. Their “faith” was a source of oppression for them, not of freedom, joy or inner fulfillment.
I feel very thankful that from the very beginning, when I came to faith at age 15, my father encouraged me to explore my faith intellectually: “faith seeking understanding”, as he would say. I was always open to new interpretations, viewpoints and ideas, and I loved to engage in respectful, face-to-face debates with my friends whose opinions were different to mine.
However, the pull of Fundamentalism can be very strong. If you’re going through a very difficult time in your life, are lonely or vulnerable in some way, meeting people who have strong, black and white beliefs and seem to have all the answers can be very attractive. They see you as their target and will stop at nothing to bring you to “conversion”. Thus, I was drawn into the sticky, toxic spider’s web of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The question is: why and how did I hang on to my trust in the Bible after I left my Fundamentalist beliefs and attitudes behind me?
The most honest answer is that ever since I became a Christian in 1998, the Bible has always been a huge source of strength to me. I open its pages and find myself refreshed, comforted and inspired. For example, when I read the Psalms, Jesus’ words in the Gospels, the letters of James, John, Peter and Paul and even the book of Revelation, and my heart leaps… and I truly believe that:
“The word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Hebrews 4:12)
This happens when we ask God to give us His Holy Spirit to help me to understand His words. In fact, if you try reading the Bible without the Spirit, it can be utterly confusing and very hard to understand or follow. It’s also important to have one that uses modern, up-to-date language and big enough print. I do have a tiny King James Version and I love its beautiful, poetic old English, but I also use various more modern translations to be sure I can understand the message in its entirety.
For a non-believer, this kind of argument may sound suspect or even unreasonable. I understand that it’s not a good enough reason to say the Bible is trustworthy because of the way I “feel” when I read it, as this is very subjective. But, I did want to mention it, as that is where I am coming from and I want to be upfront about that.
I’ve personally found that many of those who oppose or discredit the Bible are victims of “spiritual abuse”.
Perhaps they were in a Cult or another Fundamentalist group, where the Scriptures were used to hurt or control them for many years. Maybe they still have nightmares about Armageddon, hell or “everlasting torment”. It is understandable that their natural inclination is not to open a book that caused them such pain, and that they would seek to rebel against it in order to liberate themselves from its influence.
However, it is important to realize that it was not the Bible itself that inflicted the pain, as it is an inanimate object, incapable of “speaking”, or reading itself. It was cruel and controlling human beings who decided to convert it into a weapon against others. This is the most tragic thing, as the central message of the whole Scriptures: to love God and our neighbour as ourselves, has been twisted to mean the exact opposite. How can we love our neighbours, according to spiritually abusive groups or individuals? By judging, criticizing and gossiping about them ad nauseum, then packing them off to hell or Armageddon if they choose to disagree with the Group.
For people coming out of those environments, it can take a long time to be able to read the Scriptures again, in the light of the gospel of grace and compassion. One of my friends still finds that when she opens the Bible translation that was used by her cult, it triggers her anxiety and PTSD and she simply can’t carry on. So, to avoid this she now prefers to listen to an Audio Bible in a more modern translation, so she can hear it with fresh ears.
You don’t have to leave your rational, thinking brain at the door when you become a Christian – there are plenty of very well founded reasons to trust that the Bible is God’s Word. However, before going into them, it’s important to discuss what the term “God’s Word” really means, and how we can understand that. The Bible is full of symbolic language, poems, songs, hymns and prophecies, as well as historical narratives and inspiring teachings. It is not a “nice” book of fables with a sweet-sounding “moral of the story”. It is much, much more complex than that, which is why scholars have been wrestling with its deeper meanings for thousands of years.
In fact, this is the beauty of Christian life: we each have the responsibility of reading and figuring out this incredible book for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit and other Christians. We may not always agree with other people’s interpretations, but we are on a life-long voyage of discovery and learning. Well… at least some of us are. Sadly, many people end up sitting passively in churches and agreeing with everything their leaders tell them, without taking the time to get to know the Bible for themselves.
Come on, give me some “proof”!!
Can I prove to you unequivocally that the Bible is inspired by God? I must say right now that I cannot. I can (and will) share several reasons that show that believing in the Bible is a highly reasonable conclusion to reach, but it cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. That is why we call it “faith”. To have faith you don’t need to turn off your brain in order to believe in “fairytales” – there are rational and respected arguments, backed up by both archaeology and history, indicating that this book is both trustworthy and reliable.
In contrast, I remember once speaking to a Latter Day Saint, who was trying to persuade me that the book of Mormon was God’s Word. They believe it contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2200 BC to AD 421. I asked him: “Why are there horses in it?” (He didn’t know.) Horses were present in North America, but became extinct between 8,000 – 12,000 years ago, and were only reestablished in the 16th Century when the Spanish invaders arrived. Why then, are they in the Book of Mormon? This is historically and archaeologically inaccurate – simply speaking, an anachronism.
Whereas in the Bible, all the flora and fauna, food, drink, trees, animals and insects mentioned correspond to historical data. Many of them can be seen to this very day. What is more, the Bible tells the story of the Jewish people, who are still with us, thousands of years later. No other ancient people group has survived with its traditions and beliefs intact, despite countless attempts to eradicate them from the face of the earth.
The very fact that Christians survived too is nothing short of a miracle. Starting with Emperor Nero in the first century up until the present day, followers of Jesus have often been relentlessly and cruelly persecuted. Given the choice between being thrown to the lions, slaughtered in the Roman Circuses or crucified like their Saviour, Christians have repeatedly chosen not to renounce their faith – and to face the consequences. The biggest question is how Christianity got started in the first place: Jesus was shamefully crucified and his followers scattered, denying they even knew him. If he didn’t rise up from death on the third day, how do we explain the massive, rapid expansion of the faith, leading to more than 2 billion Christians worldwide in the present day?
On the other hand, when it comes to the Book of Mormon, where are the communities that it describes? If they were God’s people, why didn’t He protect them? Where are the archaeological remains of their settlements, tools, campfires and lodgings?
Whereas Biblical archaeology has confirmed, time and time again, that the places mentioned in the Bible actually existed. Despite the fact that for many years, some critics alleged that the town of Nazareth, (where Jesus was brought up), didn’t exist until after his time, archaeological digs in the vicinity of Nazareth have discovered tombs dating from the first century AD confirming the village was a strongly Jewish settlement. Other discoveries include The Pool of Siloam and even the Apostle Peter’s house, and many other fascinating artifacts that I don’t have time to reference here. I would definitely recommend doing a brief Google search into Biblical Archaeology to find out more.
Another fascinating thing about the Bible is how it portrays the failings and humiliations of its leading characters so honestly. If this book was written by humans beings to promote the Jewish and Christian faiths, why didn’t they omit all the mistakes, murders, adulteries and betrayals of their men of God? Why include these details at all? This shows that it is not a work of propaganda with a hidden “agenda”; but a record of the events as they occurred.
These are the main reasons why I personally believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. There are many more, and I’m afraid I simply can’t do them all justice here. If you are interested in continuing to investigate this fascinating topic, I would highly recommend this article by Wayne Jackson:
“The Holy Bible, Inspired of God: A Look at the Evidence.”
Whatever your conclusions may be, I hope you can look into it with an open-mind. At the very least, you will have learned something new. Let’s not fall into Fundamentalism!!