When you say “defensible”, if you mean by that something that can be answered for, then all faith is to a degree defensible as faith is its own defence. If you mean empirically proveable, as in something I can test by experiment, then the case is not strong. You get all kinds of arguments about how could Moses have known this or that, but in the end it comes down to what Jesus said “My sheep hear My voice”.
God has made a world in which in some places you might see ten thousand penguins on a beach but the right mother hears the voice of its own chick and the chick recognises its own mother. When you have read the Bible and heard in it the voice of God to your heart, then this is a stronger case for inspiration than worrying about how to understand this verse if it seems to contradict that verse, etc etc. The way that God speaks to YOU in the prayerful reading of the Bible, this is God’s word to you. In order to get a balanced view it is a good idea to read the whole Bible, which creates a complete and internally congruous view of the development of the idea of salvation, from the law given to one nation, via prophets, judges, then kings, and the continual failure of people to keep a law that reflected the holiness of God, if only at times symbolically, through to an actual physical incursion of the Creator into His own creation, becoming one of us, and then sacrificing Himself to pay the ransome for our sins, enable an exit route from sin into atonement, resurrection and eternal life. This is the message that the Bible has and it is not the message of any other book other than books based on it.
If this be the meaning of life – and I find no better meaning anywhere on Earth in anything else, and all other explanations of what this life is for do not ring true to me – then the place this is revealed is in Scripture and I believe and defend that the Bible is therefore the inspired word of God, authorative, and containing sufficient for me to know so that I can believe the essentials needed to believe in order to find myself covered by the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.
8 thoughts on “My answer to a question on Quora “Is there any defensible reason to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?””
I have mixed feelings about this topic. My parents come from a soviet Jewish background, my influence comes partially from that, in addition to that I grew up in Israel and even spent a few years of my childhood in Canada.
My stance on the whole topic is that of secularism, While my parents claim that god exists, I prefer to say that I don’t know and if there is a god it’s none of my business. My job is to be a good person and I don’t need to be threatened to go to hell just to be one, I don’t want to argue for unbelief because I find it pointless and not to mention exhausting.
On the topic of meaning.
Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning is a good read about how people behave when put into extreme situations and how having a sense of meaning in life can carry a person far. Viktor obviously believed in Hashem.
The original German book is called “Trotzdem Ja zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager” which I intend to eventually read.
It’s about his experiences in an Auschwitz concentration camp:
“We have witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions .”
Actually I’ve recently taken an interest in the bible, not because of anything that has to do with faith but because I speak modern Hebrew and would like to explore the language’s roots. My parents have a copy of the new testament (I’m also intent on getting the entire old testament) which I borrowed where it’s written in ancient Hebrew on the right page and a modern Russian interpretation is on the left.
I noticed that the interpretation is a bit off, also sometimes there are words that in ancient Hebrew seem similar to their more modern counterparts but have somewhat different meanings, the Russian interpretation is a bit too literal in some parts or it.
I’m too preoccupied with German at the moment, though later I want to explore the ancient language a bit more. For now I’ll just stick to reading novels in modern Hebrew, studying the language of the bible is a lot of work.
I like your balance on this issue. I, too, am not persuaded that a supreme being (creator, power, universal energy or whatever other term is used) has any connection with the creation of the universe or any interest in human or other animal life on this planet. The human animal seems to have an inbuilt need to seek pattern and meaning in all that is around it. Perhaps there is no point, no purpose no meaning to the universe or the human animal that dominates the face of the planet earth. Maybe it just is. It exists ; human animals exist and are the currently dominant life form on the planet. I think it is presumptuous of humans to see themselves as being of concern to a creator. As the late Christopher Hitchens was fond of saying, “this is pure solipsism”. And another quote from the same source “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”
The fairest truism is, in my view, that we simply do not know. That seems not to deter many from claiming that they do.
I am happy that this site is at least very open to debate and its contributors air their views without hostility or aggressive language (which I believe is evidence of either a poorly thought-out argument or insecurity of belief or, in some cases, both.)
Thanks for your views on this ever-interesting discussion.
Further reflections by an old man on the contribution by אולג who commented as follows :-
“My stance on the whole topic is that of secularism, While my parents claim that god exists, I prefer to say that I don’t know and if there is a god it’s none of my business. My job is to be a good person and I don’t need to be threatened to go to hell just to be one, I don’t want to argue for unbelief because I find it pointless and not to mention exhausting.”
With the exception of the parental views (my father was atheist and my mother a nominal Christian) I agree entirely with this summary. If we are honest, none of us “know” the answer to existence. We can only speculate. My wife disagrees with this but that is her right and I can only form my own ideas and conclusions.
If the Judaeo / Christian God is a reality then at my death according to the Christian teaching, I will be damned for all time. If it is not a reality then at my death, I will have been correct but will not know or care about this as I will no longer exist for that to have any meaning. Obviously, I do not wish to be in a state of pain and damnation (no living creature wants this as far as I can tell) but I cannot manufacture genuine belief in something if I do not feel it. I can only be true to what I actually have experienced or not experienced in life.
I do not think that moral worth and living an upright and worthy life is reliant exclusively upon the teachings of the bible. Humanist philosophies and many pre-Christian and Jewish beliefs had their own codes of behaviour. If this were not the case, would the human species have survived to the present time ? My own opinion on living a caring life includes all animals which means we should not be farming them for human consumption. This is contrary to Judaism of the temple period in which animals were regularly sacrificed. Why would the God of love require a blood sacrifice ? Surely, what He would want is that his creation lives a life of care, peace and respect for one another (including all life, not just the human animal).
In essence though, it seems to me that the opening quote supplied by אולג is as much as can be usefully said about the whole of the belief / unbelief question.
Alan, I think I understand what you mean by “manufacture” belief, but in fact we all “manufacture” belief in one or another thing. We decide what we would like to believe and then find ways to justify it, whether one is a theist or an atheist, the way of developing a belief system is much the same and goes largely unnoticed by the individual once they have decided to assent to one or other system.
The idea that we can work it out from first principles is illusory, much as the way we could think we could foresee all the outcomes to the game of chess using a pen and paper is a nice illusion, buut we soon find out it’s a lot more complex than that.
So it all boils down to a conscious decision to believe and to be on God’s side, to try to look at the world through His eyes andnot in a too human-centered way, which most people do as this is in the nature of being human, but we need to go beyond it. Once we have this then we can pray like the man in the Gospels to Jesus “Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!” knowing that this is one prayer that never goes unanswered.
I find the notions of sacrifice as redemption of humans from sin as an unfortunate misunderstanding of the raison d’etre of Jesus. The sacrifice of animals, like the institution of a king, was tolerated by God because the children of Israel wanted to be less different to the peoples around them that had kings and sacrifices of animals. Sacrifices were in part offered to appease an angry God. Yet throughout the Old Testament the constant theme that was presented was that a humble and contrite heart, obedience to God was /is all that was required. If the sacrifices were to be done then rules/rituals were instituted by a Levitical priesthood which became a convenient financial, domineering institution in itself. Christ was not sacrificed on the cross; he was unjustly crucified. He was not a member of the levitical priesthood, he did not commit suicide by killing himself as an offering to God which was forbidden by God anyway. God is just; he does not punish the innocent Jesus for our wrong doings. Jesus is not a lamb/scapegoat; he was a human person. The comparison of his “shedding of his blood/ pouring of his blood for our sins” to the blood of the lamb smeared on the doors of the Israelites in Egypt is a misinterpretation since in Egypt it was about not being killed by an angel and subsequently obtaining freedom from oppression not about being free from sin. The central message was that we repent, change our way of living by following two commands of God ie love God above all else and your neighbour. Jesus showed us how to please God; he humbled himself, he obeyed God, he showed how to live and how to die with dignity, whether young or old even when we are treated unjustly. This is how we shall gain eternal life just like Enoch did. The woman repented of her adultery; Jesus told her to go and sin no more. The thief on the cross admitted he was a sinner and that Jesus was innocent and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Jesus promised him that that very day he would be with him in paradise. The same applies to us all. There is no need for a complicated priestly hierarchy and rituals to come between the sinner and the mercy and love of God. Winston meerabux. Thanks for your openness and thoughts on the subject.
But if you are referring to the Jesus described in the source literature from which we know of Him, He Himself hears himself being described as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world”. He says “greater love hath no man than this, than he lie down his life for his friends”. He certainly showed us what it looked like to live a perfect life and please the Father, but he also showed more eloquently than any writings could how nobody but Him could have done so, or ever did so. Imitating Christ, for all it was a popular movement in the Middle Ages and some people still think they should be doing that because they haven’t fully twigged what’s involved, is a wonderful intention doomed to failure. Enoch walked with God and was translated, Elijah too, but there have been no more than two of these Biblically recorded (the Ascension of Mary is a Catholic idea which came from post-Apostolic thinking and doesn’t rest on any accounts from the Bible) and some think that the two candlesticks mentioned in the Book of Revelation are none other than Enoch and Elijah. Others think it is Elijah and Moses. In any rate Enoch and Elijah did not die yet, and can come again to the earth without the need to be in resurrection form.
You say that we can come in simple faith to Christ without needing to go through a Priest and ritual and sacrifice, that is true only because He Himself is the Great High Priest, the finished ritual and the perfect sacrifice. He is all these things. The sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of God’s true lamb, starting even from the ram in the bush to be offered by Abraham in place of Isaac. “God will provide a lamb for the offering” said the same voice who said “will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”. The Judge of all the Earth must do right, there must be a sacrifice, and He Himself has provided the perfect Lamb, in the person of God the Son. Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
I enjoy writing to you because you are so direct and honest. I also enjoy your sense of humour and singing. As an aside to my statements below please explain what you mean by “failure” in this religious context. Do you mean that the movement in the middle ages and since then did not grow into some big church like the Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic…. but remains a fringe or were condemned by God…?, The core of my argument is that a pedagogic methodology used to persuade people who only knew of sacrifice of animals to please the gods(jews and gentiles alike) was transformed into a metaphysical reality in the same way that the pagan holidays at yuletide, spring, easter (rabbits)… were given a “Christian interpretation since the church authorities were unable to stop people from celebrating these feasts.
Obedience versus sacrifice.
1. Some scripture verses..(a) 1Sam8:22; Samuel said to Saul (b) Isaiah 29:13; God said ;(c) Isaiah1:11-17; (d)Jerimiah7:21-23; (e) Hosea6:6; (f) Psalm40:6-8;(g)Ps51:16-17; (h) Proverbs21:3; (i)Matt12:7; (j) Mark12:33; (k) Hebrews10:8-9. Throughout history people believed and some still do that animal sacrifices placate and appease the anger of the gods; the hebrews were no different. They made a golden calf and worshipped it at Mount Sinai and throughout their recorded history. It is much easier to slaughter a lamb/bullock than to live a life of obedience.
2. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. Genesis 22.God stopped him. In verses11-12, it was revealed to him that it was a test of obedience. Human sacrifice is forbidden. Jesus ,(Matt26:38-39) did not want to be tortured and suffer the pain of crucifixion as well as the public same/humiliation of such a death; the consequence of being a human was death. However, a peaceful or heroic death is preferable to a torture or dishonourable one.
3. Jesus did not commit suicide. He did not kill himself as a sacrifice: that would be an act of disobedience to God. Jesus lived a life of obedience to God. He was murdered. He was not offered as a sacrifice by the Jews or the Romans. They crucified him on the false charge of insurrection against roman rule. Jesus is neither a scapegoat nor a sacrificial lamb. God does not punish the innocent for the wrongdoings of others unless one denies personal responsibility for one’s actions. Scriptural passages referring to Jesus as a lamb is referring to his lynching by a mob, the failure of religious authority and civil authority to give him a fair trial. The lamb in Jewish sacrifices has done no wrong; it is innocent yet it slaughtered to make people feel good. Some people may feel good by the death of an innocent person who they believe has placated/ appeased the anger of God.`
4. Grace is simply the mercy and compassion of God bestowed upon all those who acknowledge him, worship him in a life of service and obedience to him. Jesus’s birth, exemplary life, teachings, death showed how we were to live a life that is pleasing to God and his resurrection is the reward for living a lie that is pleasing to God. Phil2:8; “ plainly seen as a human being, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death he died was that of a common criminal,,”. Matt7:21; “ it is not those who say to me Lord, Lord who will enter in the kingdom of heaven but the person who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven”. To escape the error of salvation by works we have fallen into the error of salvation without obedience.
5. The evangelists to early European society tried to get rid of animal and human sacrifices by associating Jesus’s death as akin to a perfect sacrifice so that they needed no longer offer sacrifices to appease their gods. For those who did used to eat the animal sacrifice and drank the blood, wine and bread were substituted as the body and blood of Christ, the lamb sacrifice using the phrase “unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. John6:54. 1 Cor 11:27,29. The drinking of blood is forbidden on 1Samuel8:20-24. Lev 3:17; 17:14; Deut 12:23.
For some,the essence of Christianity is that God SACRIFICED his only Son to save us from our Sins. But where’s the sacrifice? Less than 3 days after His death, God revived Jesus. Then he took Him back Home so he could sit at His right hand.
I’ll concede Jesus was “cut off” for awhile, but the connection was eventually restored. (Someone told me that being “cut off” for 1 second from God is like INFINITY for Man. So is Man stronger than God in the endurance of pain?)
Equating this with “sacrifice” is somewhat like Superman volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad. The bullets might sting, but He knows He won’t die. Where’s the kryptonite?
Could a Levite priest make a sin offering of an unblemished animal, and later have it “revived” so that it could be restored to its original owner? Not hardly.
In my mind, a true sacrifice would require Jesus to die FOREVER, i.e., cut off from Jehovah, FOREVER. God would have to feel this “infinite pain” in order to vicariously atone for Human Sin.
Otherwise all of this talk about sacrifice seems to be missing the point.
The first thing to note here is that the core meaning of “sacrifice” has to do primarily with “giving something over” to God, and not with “death” itself per se. Even English dictionaries highlight the ‘giving’ aspect, as opposed to “mode of giving” (i.e., death, symbolic marking, going to live/serve the priests). Compare the Concise Oxford English Dictionary’s main two entries:
“the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else more important or worth” and “the slaughter of an animal or person or the surrender of a possession as an offering to a deity”
Notice that the most common meaning focuses only on “giving up” and that the second meaning allows for non-slaughter sacrifices (religious), involving transfer of property to the deity. We will see similar dynamics in the biblical data.
This comment and also Alan’s contribution are so rich that I would like to give a nice full response comprising probably quite a number of paragraphs but right now I am not really able to do so as I am drawing rapidly to the close of my last week in Russia and there is so much to do. I hope I will get time to come back and address these points before the close of the year.