Good News for Skeptics
Dr. Jim Denison
I read this week that no piece of paper can be folded more than seven times. Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes. Walt Disney, the inventor of Mickey Mouse, was afraid of mice. A duck’s quack doesn’t echo, and no one knows why. Women blink twice as much as men. Elephants are the only animals that can’t jump. And it is physically impossible to lick your elbow. But you’ll probably try when you get home.
Why? Because we are skeptics. You looked skeptical as I recited those facts. You want to know how they know. We live in a culture which distrusts authority.
During Vietnam, we saw flags and draft cards burned for the first time in our nation’s history.
During the Watergate scandal, we watched the first resignation of an American president.
During the sexual revolution we watched morals change dramatically. In 1969, 67% of young adults said premarital sex was wrong; today only 38% agree. Over a million people reported sexually transmitted diseases last year. And the AIDS epidemic continues.
As the world’s religions have come to our shores, Muslim mosque activities have increased 75% over the last five years. There are more Muslims in America than there are Episcopalians, Jews, or Presbyterians. The Internet lists 67 different Buddhist societies in Texas. We have become the most religiously diverse nation on earth. As a result, 60% of young adults believe that God is not limited to a single faith.
As Christendom has declined, two out of three adults believe that religion is losing its influence in American society. The number of Americans who said they had no religion doubled in the last ten years.
What does it all mean for the concept of authority?
The number of Americans who believe that absolute moral truth even exists dropped last year to 22%, an all-time low. 93% of Americans say that they alone determine what is and what isn’t moral in their lives.
As Chuck Colson summarizes: “The emerging consensus seems to be that vague, comforting spirituality is healthy, but that doctrinal, authoritative religions may even be dangerous.”
Now you come to church and hear a sermon with this thesis: the Bible is the objective, absolute authority of God. When we know what God’s word says, we must do it. And we ask, Why?
Why trust the Bible? (vs. 8-9)
Today we discover that ours is a revealing God. He reveals himself to us. He speaks to us. He gives his word to us.
If he is God, he must: “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (v. 8). Mark Twain was right: if I could understand every part of the Bible, I wouldn’t believe God inspired it. God speaks. God reveals himself.
Why believe that this book contains such revelation? It says it does:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
“Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1.21).
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). When God is your King, his word must be your authority.
But the Koran says that it comes from Allah through Mohammad; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints maintains that the Book of Mormon contains further revelation from God to mankind; Buddhists and Hindus consider their sacred writings to be “divine” revelation. Why trust the Bible?
Because it keeps its promises. For instance, the Old Testament contains 61 specific prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, each of which was fulfilled by the historical Jesus. The odds of his fulfilling just 48 of them is one in 10 followed by 157 zeroes. To count that high, you’d have to count 250 numbers per minute for 6,589,000,000 years.
Because you can trust its transmission. The Greek New Testament we possess is judged by scholars to be 99.2% accurate with regard to the original, with no questions remaining concerning any facts or elements of faith.
Why trust the Bible?
Because archaeological evidence continues to validate its claims. Here’s a recent example: skeptics claimed that no evidence for the existence of King David exists outside the Bible. But a group of archaeologists recently found an Assyrian stone tablet in Northern Israel dating from the ninth century B.C. The Aramaic inscription listed Assyria’s foes, including the “king of Israel” and “house of David.” The skeptics were wrong again.
And because the risen Christ said it is the word of God. Neither the Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, nor the Hindu masters died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave. And Jesus called this book the “word of God.”
When we trust the Bible (vs. 10-11)
Now, here’s the most compelling reason of all to make this book your life authority: when we trust it, God uses it to change our lives. His word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (v. 11).
What is his purpose for his revelation?
It leads us to salvation: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
It keeps us right with God: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
It guides us daily: “How can a man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Psalm 119.9); “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119.105).
It brings us to Jesus: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.31).