Is the Bible True? (Part I: The Problem With Saying the Bible is True)

Is the Bible True? | Christian Mom ThoughtsDo you believe the Bible is true?

If you’re a reader of this blog, I’m guessing your answer is yes. Let me ask you another question. What do you mean by “true?” How would you define “true” to your kids? Are you prepared to explain what it means – and doesn’t mean – for the Bible to be true, and why you have faith that it’s true?

Saying the Bible is true may at first sound like a simple declaration that is at the heart of Christian belief. Indeed, I believe it’s a necessary declaration for all Christians! But I don’t believe it’s sufficient – especially as it relates to what we teach our kids and how we talk to unbelievers.

The issue of biblical truth (or lack thereof) is usually the dividing line between believers and unbelievers. Our ability to elaborate on the concept of biblical truth may make the difference in raising kids who believe in the Lord and kids who don’t.

Pretty key, right?

Can I invite you to engage with me on a small journey to explore more deeply what it means to say that the Bible is true? This is the first post in a series to dig into the question of what biblical truth means and how we should communicate that truth to our kids and the world.

What Does it Mean to Say Something is “True?”

It’s true that the earth is round. But what does that statement alone mean?

…That when we look out the window, we should see a round world?

…That when we touch things in our world, we should feel a curvature?

…That when we walk, we should feel the world turning?

…That when we go outside, we might fall off the world?

In light of these questions, think about the nature of the truth that the earth is round.

  • It isn’t simple. In fact, most of us would fail to offer an eloquent and detailed explanation of how the earth is round while we experience something quite different.
  • It requires explanation. Saying “it’s true that the earth is round” to someone unfamiliar with the concept doesn’t make it clear (no one has experienced seeing a round world outside their window).

Similarly, “the Bible is true” is not a statement we should casually toss around as if it’s a simple belief that requires no further explanation.

For example, does saying the Bible is true mean…

  • The Bible provides an unbiased account of historical events? (No – the entire Old Testament, for example, is written from the Jewish perspective.)
  • The Bible presents a clear truth on every matter that requires no interpretation from the reader? (No – just look at how many denominations there are even within Protestantism.)
  • The translations from the original languages provide a perfect guide to the original meaning? (No – there are many verses that have an entirely different meaning when you compare translations available today.)
  • The ancient writers were never influenced by their scientifically limited world view? (No – there are many references to a flat earth, as just one example.)
  • Multiple accounts of the same event in the Bible are identical in detail? (No – many details differ on the same accounts between the gospels and throughout the Old Testament.)
  • Things presented factually are accurate? (No – not by today’s standard, anyway; look at the difference in genealogies given for Jesus or try to add up the years in the Old Testament.)

Maybe it’s easy for you, as a believer, to set these things aside in favor of a straight-forward statement of biblical truth. But these are just a few of the things that unbelievers write volumes about as evidence that the Bible is NOT true.

Have you heard the saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”? I think the heart of what well-meaning Christians are saying with this is that they believe the Bible is “true.” But putting our foot down on a declaration that something is true is like putting our foot down that the earth is round. Yes, it’s true that the earth is round. But it makes no sense to end the conversation there when teaching someone about that concept. In fact, it would do absolutely nothing to aid in the development of the person’s understanding of that truth in their everyday life.

With the secularization of today’s society and the animosity with which many unbelievers approach Christianity, it’s easy to get defensive of the Bible and to want to make simple, declarative statements of our belief. But we need to be defenders of the Bible, not defensive about the Bible.

While you and I may unequivocally state that we hold the Bible to be 100% true, let’s not stop there. Let’s never say that settles it. Let’s be the ones to start the conversation, not end it. We owe it to our kids.

In my next post, I’ll dig into the historical aspects of the Bible’s truth.

If you could sum up in one sentence what it means to you that the Bible is “true,” what would you say?

9 thoughts on “Is the Bible True? (Part I: The Problem With Saying the Bible is True)”

  1. This is great Natasha. My initial thought is this verse: now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1). Over the past thirteen years God has been noticeably active in my life which has taught me about His character. I’m confident God is good, that He loves me, and that He is real. He has proven to me over and over again that I can trust Him. This then, all equates to faith. There are things our human minds will never understand because we aren’t God. 2 Peter 1:21 teaches us: For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. God inspired the writers so their message would be authentic and reliable. I suppose when my children ask questions about how I know the Bible is true, I would start by sharing those things.

    1. I agree, Rosann – faith is at the heart of the matter! When we’ve experienced God in our lives, faith leads us in our understanding of the Bible. I think the challenge is that it’s a bit of a “chicken or egg” issue – what comes first, faith or the Bible? Our personal experience is not directly transferable to our children, so we have to be well versed in our understanding of the Scriptures to help give them a solid understanding of the Bible as their foundation. I had so many people in church share with me THEIR faith growing up. All I could think of was, “but I am not experiencing that!” It led me to many years of questioning, and I wish that more people had blessed me with a deeper understanding of the biblical foundation of our faith. As I look back on conversations with adult unbelievers, it’s a disagreement on the nature of biblical truth that underlies so much of the discussion. I’m hoping to bring some awareness to those things as part of this series. But ultimately, you are right, there is no understanding without the guidance of the Spirit!

  2. When I say that the Bible is true, I mean that it provides a guide for us to live by. This does not mean that we take every statement, story, and psalm as a mandate to “go and do likewise”. We need to dig into the Scripture and discover what it meant to the people it was originally written for. Then we consider what the equivalent thing would be for us today. We need to consider whether the portion we are reading was intended to be taken literally or symbolically. Many other considerations go into this study. The Bible was not written to be a scientific textbook, although many things in the Bible can be supported scientifically. Many others, such as the references to “the ends of the earth” mean pretty much the same thing that mean for us today – descriptive of what we see from our perspective rather than a scientific statement of fact. Many stories in our Bible do more to teach us what NOT to do rather than what we should do. Even the book of Leviticus, while detailing instructions for sacrifices which we no longer need to perform, still teach truth by showing how insufficient the old sacrificial system was, and sets the stage for Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. Basically, what I am saying is that the whole Bible is indeed “true”. We just look at and study different parts in different ways. When we do this, we find something to learn in all of it.

    1. Beautifully said, Julie! I love this: “We need to dig into the Scripture and discover what it meant to the people it was originally written for.” Exactly. When we understand the riches of the Bible through a deeper knowledge in the areas you mentioned, we discover so much more. The more I “dig in,” the more I get excited about God’s Word and its truth.

      It’s interesting that you noted the sacrificial system – this is something that has especially intrigued me lately (the connection between the system and Jesus’ fulfillment). It’s really inspired me to focus on providing my kids more of a foundation in the overarching story of the Bible, rather than teaching them individual stories in isolation as is common with kids’ materials.

      Thanks – I love how you said this!

  3. This is my first time writing to this blog. I appreciate your asking this question, becuase it is important for training our kids. My absolute confidence in the truth of the Bible rests on a few different things, most powerfully things that are not subjective (ie: evidences that can not change with my own feelings or emotions). These include:
    – the historical accuracy with which it was handed down (textual criticism is the science that determine this – we can know that the Bible is extremely close to the original manuscripts because we have: 1) more than 20,000 handwritten copies of New Testament (for example) manuscripts to compare to, 2) enough letters written by the church fathers to reconstruct almost he entire NT; and 3) 124 manuscripts from within 300 years of the original composition. We know exactly where the differences are and none affect theology (the are spelling differences, article additions, etc.)
    – eyewitness accounts of events that took place with accurate historical information in them (archeology has never contradicted anything in the Bible that it has the capacity of testing);
    – actions by those eyewitnesses that testify that they really believed the events took place (the disciples were willing to die for something that they were in a position to know the truth about – you don’t die for something that you know is a lie; and enemies of Jesus (eg: Paul) dramatically turned from persecuting to being persecuted for his new faith);
    – prophecy written over thousands of years that was fulfilled;
    – it has a great world view fit – eg: it fits with what we see in science -we do not have the evidence for evolution that many think we do)
    – people are still dramatically influenced by this book – even those who are not seeking to be.

    Sorry, that’s more than one sentence!

    1. LOVE it, Jen!! These are the big keys for me too! I LOVE how you point out that your confidence most powerfully rests on things that are not subjective. While we as Christians have already been moved by faith to accept the Bible, we can’t directly give that faith to others (kids or unbelievers). We need to be able to point to evidence outside of our personal experience to most effectively witness. These are precisely the types of things we need to be able to discuss and point to, and which I will be sure to include in the discussion. I’m so glad you shared this – thank you for your comment!

  4. I would caution you on even going further with this. If we as the “believers” begin to pick and choose what part of the Bible is true and not; we are already in a dangerous place. If you took just one verse of Scripture to look at regarding this line of thinking; it would be this.

    Matthew 4:4

    Every word! We are not to stand in judgement of God’s word to pick it apart like this and I fear a Blog just like what you are writing here will not benefit at all those who believe but will be found and used as fuel…..”that even Christians are not sure of the Bible as true!” Please….consider this. God bless.

    1. Hi Jennifer, I think perhaps you misunderstood the point of my post. I didn’t suggest that any part of the Bible is not true. I believe the Bible is 100% true, and I expressed as much in the post. The point of this series is to help deepen our understanding of what it MEANS that the Bible is true. Unbelievers attempt to pull the Bible apart from their definition of “truth” by pointing to things like I mentioned in my post (e.g., that multiple accounts of the same event appear to conflict on facts, etc.). What I will be looking at is why those “problems” that unbelievers point to are not actually problems with the truth of the Bible at all. Saying the Bible is true doesn’t MEAN that we can’t allow for the variances between multiple accounts, for example. These are precisely the things our kids will encounter as they grow older and are challenged by the world. It is our responsibility to be mature in our faith and in our knowledge of the Word in order to help our kids understand that the Bible IS 100% true…and what that means and doesn’t mean. This will provide them with a more solid foundation than simply saying “the Bible is true…believe it…and that’s it.” This is no way implies you should pick what to believe and what not to believe, so I think perhaps you misunderstood the heart of my post. I hope this clarifies. As it relates to unbelievers, on the contrary, most unbelievers believe that Christians aren’t aware of these apparent challenges with the Bible (and in my experience, many Christians are not). To be able to converse intelligently AND faithfully with our kids and unbelievers on these matters should be part of our witness to the world about the power of the Bible.

  5. Did you ever post a second part to this topic? And thank you for being willing to ask tough questions.

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