Is the Bible true?
Words of Eternal Life
By Stephanie Ismer
Is the Bible True: The Series:
An Introduction to The Question
The Sheep Hear the Shepherd
Words of Eternal Life
The crowd of disciples following Jesus during his earthly ministry loved his healing powers, and his fascinating words, and they loved the fact that He didn't teach them the way the religious leaders taught. When he taught them, his teaching carried authority (Matthew 7:29). However, at one point He turned to them and said, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53-56). Now, drinking blood, the very concept, was extremely offensive in Jewish culture at that time. The Mosaic Law was quite clear: drinking blood is the worst, most immoral, most disgusting thing imaginable. And yet, Jesus was saying they had to do this to have life. Predictably, many of his disciples walked away when they heard that. But a small group stayed. He asked them "Do you want to go away as well?" and Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:67-69). It is quite likely that Peter and the disciples who remained found the idea of drinking Jesus' blood and eating his flesh just as offensive as the ones who left Him. But they stayed.
This story illustrates a very important principle. Believers believe the Bible because as we read it we hear the words of eternal life in our hearts. Even when things in the Bible are hard to understand, or downright offensive, we cannot walk away from it, because our hearts tell us that it is true. This is difficult for Western thinkers to accept as a proof, because it relies on supernatural understanding rather than natural understanding. Western thinkers are just that: thinkers. We rarely trust our hearts or intuition. When something "feels true" or "sounds true" we immediately look for more concrete evidence to back it up. But what if that isn't the best way to approach spirituality? What if, when it comes to the spiritual, trusting is more important than knowing?
Here's another example: all twelve disciples, and the Apostle Paul, were violently killed with the exception of John, who was exiled as an old man to the island of Patmos. Think about that. All of them went to their deaths...for what? A lie? I can imagine one or two people dying to perpetuate a lie. But all of them? They must have believed that Jesus truly was God. They must have seen him raised from the dead. It's astounding, and again, supernatural. But could the defense of a fabricated lie have driven all of them to horrifying martyrdom? Peter was crucified upside down. Could he have endured such a death, overridden his instinct to live, if he knew that he was dying for something that was not really true? Truth is powerful. Anyone who has tried to conceal a lie for any length of time knows how difficult it is, even when you do it for the most altruistic motives. Even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, eventually killed himself because of the guilt — would he have done that if he knew he had exposed a false Messiah? Suppose he knew that the disciples were trying to pull the wool over everybody's eyes, presenting Jesus as the Messiah, even though he wasn't. If Judas had known the truth, and exposed them, he'd have been a hero. What would he have to feel guilty about?
The point is that people's lives, and the way their lives interact with the Bible, is a powerful indication of its truth. Here is a thing that I have seen over and over again not only in my own life but in the lives of all the Christians that I know. I'll call it the Job Paradox. It's when suffering does not kill faith. Terrible ironies, devastating circumstances, illnesses and depression, the loss of children, and so many other things which, rationally speaking, should separate a person from the idea of a good God, seem to have the opposite effect in those who believe. We know that God is all-powerful and able to stop our suffering, or to change our circumstances. But then He doesn't. And yet, we continue to trust, and love, and follow him, even while we are shouting at him and crying and saying things like "God, just kill me now because I can't take any more of this."
Why not just deny him? Why not, like Job's wife, say, "Curse God and die?" It's the rational thing to do. Frankly, scientific evidence can be made to speak for and against God's existence; there is evidence for and against God's existence from a philosophical standpoint as well. And — Christians do not often admit this, but I believe it to be true — it is not apologetics that keeps us believing. It is not empirical evidence, or scientific proof, or philosophical, ontological arguments or anything of the sort. Those things are often helpful in answering questions, but in the end, we are still dependent on that presupposition that comes directly from supernatural faith. And what keeps our faith going is the same thing that kept Peter and the other disciples at Jesus' side. When we read the Bible, we hear the words of eternal life.
Image Credit: skeeze; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Eternity-Forever | Witnessing-Evangelism
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