Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Could Christianity be true even if the Bible was not inspired by God?

The second point I wanted to make is that I don't think it's necessary to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God before you can be justified in thinking Christianity is true. Nothing about the essentials of Christainity--the things that define what Christainity is all about--require us to believe the Bible is inspired by God. Paul defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 where he says, "I make known to you the gospel which I preached...for I delivered to you what I also recieved, that Christ died for sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures." That's the essence of Christianity. Several things follow from these.

First, Jesus is the Christ (i.e. messiah), which in a Jewish context means that he is the eschatological fulfillment of the promises God made about the throne of David. Jesus is king, basically. You can't have "Christianity" without "Christ," obviously.

Second, Jesus died for sins. Several things are entailed here.

Third, Jesus was raised from the dead.

All three of these things can be discovered through the use of ordinary historical methods and philosophical reasoning without ever assuming the Bible is inspired by God. If the evidence shows that Jesus claimed to be the Christ, and that he intended his death to atone for sins, then we have only to discover if the resurrection actually happened. If it did, then that seems like compelling evidence that Jesus' claims were true.

If Jesus' claims were true, then other things follow:

Fourth, there is a God. This follows from the fact that the Christ is the "anointed one" precisely because God chose him. Also, there can be no sin unless there's a moral law, and there can be no moral law unless there is a moral law-giver, such as God. Besides, Jesus, operating from a Jewish worldview, believed in God, and somebody had to have raised him from the dead, since a resurrection is obviously a miracle that could not have happened by natural causes.

Fifth, there is such a thing as right or wrong. Otherwise there could be no sin.

Sixth, we are sinners. That is, we violate the moral standards God set for us. Otherwise, Jesus would not have needed to die for sins.

So basically, this is what I have inferred amounts to the essence of Christianity (i.e. what makes Christianity what it is):

1. There's a God.
2. God has given us a moral law.
3. We break the moral law.
4. God judges people for violating the moral law.
5. God chose Jesus to be the king.
6. Jesus died for our sins.
7. Jesus was raised from the dead.

If all seven of those are true, then Christianity is true, even if the Bible is not inspired by God. So even if the Bible is not inspired by God, that's no reason to reject Christianity.


Conversations with Angie:  How can you be a Christian if you don't believe the Bible is inspired?


A better man than you said...

No real comment, just wanted to acknowledge what an interesting concept this is.

Paul said...

I've argued this way myself (in the second half of this post). I think it's legitimate to use the "reliable witness" defense with an unbeliever. That is to say, even if the Holy Spirit was not superintending every word, it still could be the case that the biblical authors were witnesses to something that they sought to record. To counter this defense, the skeptic then has to argue that the prophets and apostles were either lying (and died for those lies) or were insanely poor spectators. Of course, going the post-authorship "corruption" route brings in a whole other line of defense.

ephphatha said...

Thanks for the link, Paul. That was a very good read.