Just over a week ago we held a Guest Evening considering the question above. We decided to go for that issue because a number of friends of church members had been asking it- partly in the light of questions off the back of Dan Brown and Melvyn Bragg and partly because some of our ethical standards may seem outdated. So- why base your life on an old book?
I was really encouraged by the evening. There was a good atmosphere around the place and it was wonderful to hear the impact of the Bible on Kath’s life- from it leading her to trust in Christ to the point where she realised it was so important that she wanted to spend her life translating it into different languages. I’m hoping that we will be able to give a whole Sunday evening to John and Kath’s story sometime in the autumn.
You can listen to the talk from that evening here. However, there are a couple of points that I omitted from my answer for the sake of brevity and simplicity that I wanted to mention here.
Firstly, we need to understand that the best evidence for the Bible is the Bible itself. I am not particularly convinced of the value of spending a lot of time on archaeological evidence and so on. In part, that’s because historical reliability does not in itself make a book worth basing your life on. But more to the point, we need to remember that there is no authority higher than the Bible. It is God’s Word and so it cannot be proved by a higher authority- whether archaeology or documentary evidence. I might need to engage on these issues in order to encourage people to give the Bible a fair reading but they cannot be used to prove the authority of the Bible. The highest evidence for the Bible is the Bible itself. In passing that’s why I love things like Christianity Explored and UCCF’s Uncover programme which are opportunities for people to dig into Mark’s Gospel or Luke’s Gospel for themselves. It’s also why as Christians we must listen to God’s Word submissively as those under its authority.
Secondly, we need to understand our dependence on the Spirit. Ultimately the reason I base my life on an old book is that the Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture is the Spirit who lives within me. It’s much more than a rational argument about the Bible’s truth and historicity. There is a deep inner conviction that goes beyond simply the intellectual. The work of the Spirit means that I sense the truth and reality of Scripture at the very heart of my being- because the Spirit within me is saying whenever I hear Scripture “Yes that’s right.” In the end it will only be by the Spirit’s work that people are enabled to recognise the authority of Scripture and hear the words of Jesus and his apostles as the very words of God speaking to their heart. All of which reminds us again that transformation and growth in people’s lives comes not by might nor by power but by God’s Spirit.
So how do people learn the value of this old book? By reading the Bible itself and by praying that God’s Holy Spirit would confirm the truth of it in their hearts.