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Thread: How do we determine whether the Bible is the Word of God?

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    Undergraduate Physiocrat's Avatar
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    How do we determine whether the Bible is the Word of God?

    Not sure if this is the best sub-forum but hey ho.

    I'm from a Protestant background and recently came across a Roman Catholic argument that we could determine that the scriptures were highly reliable using the standard tools of history and logic but it couldn't tell us that they were the inspired Word of God. The article claimed that they only way we can be sure that it is the Word of God because the Church (capital C for a reason) was founded by Christ so has the authority to declare it to be so. However this still doesn't answer the fundamental epistemological question of how does one move from solid truthful documents to the inspired Word of God.

    My tentative suggestion is that prophets of God are accompanied with signs and wonders to declare they're God's agent however we would likley only have the testimony of the prophet to distinguish between what were his words alone and those inspired by God.

    Any thoughts on the matter would be much appreciated.

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Well the bible actually claims the scriptures are inspired by God.

    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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    Undergraduate Physiocrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    Well the bible actually claims the scriptures are inspired by God.

    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    It does but without externally verifying that those particular scriptures are in fact the Word of God any claim of that form is circular.

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Physiocrat View Post
    It does but without externally verifying that those particular scriptures are in fact the Word of God any claim of that form is circular.
    You just said "we could determine that the scriptures were highly reliable using the standard tools of history and logic" - so if you can trust what they say, and they say they were inspired by God then you can trust it was inspired by God. The Church just saying it was inspired by God doesn't make it so either you know. You are relying on the trustworthiness of the Church, of which they claim they are trustworthy. Ultimately it is all "circular" but you can check the veracity of the claim of the bible by various means like hundreds of prophesies coming true. How else would that happen if God didn't inspire the scriptures or at least the people writing them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    You just said "we could determine that the scriptures were highly reliable using the standard tools of history and logic" - so if you can trust what they say, and they say they were inspired by God then you can trust it was inspired by God. The Church just saying it was inspired by God doesn't make it so either you know. You are relying on the trustworthiness of the Church, of which they claim they are trustworthy. Ultimately it is all "circular" but you can check the veracity of the claim of the bible by various means like hundreds of prophesies coming true. How else would that happen if God didn't inspire the scriptures or at least the people writing them?
    The prophecy angle certainly has mileage but that is only possible from a future event looking into the past. I think my real question is how do we distinguish true words and inspired ones?

    Suppose, you were living in the 1st century AD how would you determine that the gospel of John was not just accurate but the word of God? If it's just the former it could always be open to error and you approach it differently to the Word of God.

    Also everything is circular is untrue. Certain propositions cannot be denied without self-contradiction which provides a non-circular foundation for epistemology

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Physiocrat View Post
    The prophecy angle certainly has mileage but that is only possible from a future event looking into the past. I think my real question is how do we distinguish true words and inspired ones?
    The bible says "all scripture" is inspired and true. Every test we have shows that to be verified. The prophesies coming true verify it. History verifies it. If it is all true, and the bible says it is inspired, then that must be true. Simple logic. You either have faith in that or you don't. There is no absolute proof. The church has no special magical ability to claim the bible was revealed from God any more than anything else does. Why should you believe the Church over the bible itself? What is the Church's basis for claiming the scriptures are inspired? and what is the evidence for that?

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    Well the bible actually claims the scriptures are inspired by God.

    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    This would be helpful if it actually identified what was considered scripture. It's probably safe to say that it included the 22 books identified by Josephus (= the 39 books of the OT Protestant canon), but we are on much shakier ground concerning the NT; if Paul wrote 2 Timothy (which I grant but many scholars do not), then some of the NT was not even written yet when this was penned. It is fairly obviously the church (likely basing its decision at least in part on this passage) which determined which books were considered scripture. Some books were considered useful, but ended up outside the canon (which never was formally ratified by the church1), such as the Apocrypha, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Protevangelion of James, etc.


    1. The earliest surviving list of NT books which matches our current Bible was penned in 367 (IIRC) by Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria in private correspondence. The only church council of which I'm aware that specified the OT books was the Council of Trent, which failed to represent most of Christendom.
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    Undergraduate Physiocrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    The bible says "all scripture" is inspired and true. Every test we have shows that to be verified. The prophesies coming true verify it. History verifies it. If it is all true, and the bible says it is inspired, then that must be true. Simple logic. You either have faith in that or you don't. There is no absolute proof. The church has no special magical ability to claim the bible was revealed from God any more than anything else does. Why should you believe the Church over the bible itself? What is the Church's basis for claiming the scriptures are inspired? and what is the evidence for that?
    I'm not defending the Catholic view- I criticised it on the grounds that the Church must have reasons for including certain books in the canon and the question is what grounds are they.

    I think your strongest point is that the Bible is accurate and that it claims to be God's word. If it's accurate in all ascertainable respects and claims to be God's word gives good grounds for believing that it is.

    There is the difficulty for those at the time however determining the truth of what is written as the other commenter states (sorry, on phone and can't see your name). This is where signs and wonders and personal endorsement by Jesus comes into play

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Physiocrat View Post
    I'm not defending the Catholic view- I criticised it on the grounds that the Church must have reasons for including certain books in the canon and the question is what grounds are they.

    I think your strongest point is that the Bible is accurate and that it claims to be God's word. If it's accurate in all ascertainable respects and claims to be God's word gives good grounds for believing that it is.

    There is the difficulty for those at the time however determining the truth of what is written as the other commenter states (sorry, on phone and can't see your name). This is where signs and wonders and personal endorsement by Jesus comes into play
    Also remember the bible isn't a single book by a single author so it isn't a single source verifying a single source. It is 66 books by around 40 different people.

  10. Amen Cerebrum123 amen'd this post.
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    tWebber lee_merrill's Avatar
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    You might be interested in reading "The Canon of Scripture" by F.F. Bruce.

    Blessings,
    Lee
    "What I pray of you is, to keep your eye upon Him, for that is everything. Do you say, 'How am I to keep my eye on Him?' I reply, keep your eye off everything else, and you will soon see Him. All depends on the eye of faith being kept on Him. How simple it is!" (J.B. Stoney)

  12. Amen Physiocrat amen'd this post.

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