Embarrassed by the Bible
by Dr. Mike Stallard on October 1, 2015
When people ask why we believe what we do, many are hesitant to quote the Bible. After all, few people believe the Bible, and many parts are hard to explain.
“I’m a Christian and I love the Bible, but most people don’t believe the Bible and don’t respect what it says. So how do I reach them?”
Most people who ask this question feel uncomfortable quoting the Bible’s claims to support their views. Some aren’t sure about the Bible’s accuracy. Others believe the Bible is completely true but don’t know how to answer difficult questions they encounter about its teachings, history, and science.
Even though they may not say it, they are embarrassed to accept the Bible at face value (such as the unpopular belief that the earth is only thousands of years old, or that a worldwide Flood devastated the whole earth). In essence, they do not believe the Bible is adequate for defending the Christian faith (apologetics).
Certainly it helps to know good historical, scientific, and philosophical arguments when defending the Christian worldview. However, the Bible, taken at face value, is the ultimate authority for apologetics. The Bible says it is the inspired Word of God and is “profitable for doctrine” so that we can be “complete, thoroughly equipped” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). What could be a better authority?
Jesus, the Apostles, and Apologetics
Jesus often emphasized the Bible’s ultimate authority to defend the truth. In Matthew 22:23–33 when a group of religious scholars questioned the resurrection, Christ accused them of “not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (v. 29). Then He quoted from Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” to show that the Bible says the Patriarchal fathers are still alive. This fact proves the coming resurrection. Jesus was reminding them of what they should have known all along from the Word of God.
Jesus is even clearer in the story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man. Here He gives perhaps the strongest statement about the Bible’s authority for defending truth (Luke 16:19–31). The rich man in torment begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to his five brothers so they will not end up in hades (vv. 27–28). Abraham answers, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29). The phrase Moses and the prophets refers to the Old Testament, the Bible of Jesus’ day.
When the rich man insists that the sight of a resurrected Lazarus would convince his brothers, Abraham firmly closes the conversation: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (v. 31). Jesus is teaching that the Bible’s truth is stronger evidence than actually meeting a resurrected person!
But surely, we think, the right physical proof would force people to see the truth. For example, finding a living dinosaur would send evolution to its grave. Or the discovery of the Ark would silence scoffers once and for all. But the problem isn’t a lack of proof. Jesus actually demonstrated the truth of His words by raising another Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead. But even then, many eyewitnesses refused to believe and instead sought to kill Him (John 11:47–53).
The apostles followed Christ’s example in their reliance on Scripture. When Paul spoke to the philosophers at Mars Hill, he confronted the pagan, unbelieving culture of Athens with Scripture: its claims about Creation, the need for repentance, coming judgment, and the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:22–34). Paul referred to the Scriptures to present and defend the Christian view.
The Need for Humility in Using Apologetics
Relying on God’s Word instead of our own intellectual ability puts the emphasis where it belongs. It is a grave mistake to rely on ourselves to do God’s convincing. Christians have often experienced the arrogance of antagonists who mock the Bible’s many literal teachings. We should emphasize by our own example the need to humble our finite minds before an all-wise God. It is hand waving to assert that science can prove an old age for the earth or the evolution of life from inanimate chemicals.
In the same way, Christians must not rely on their own finite understanding and should be eager to learn from science. The Copernican Revolution (1500s) forced an erring Christendom, which had not taken the Bible at face value, to reexamine its understanding of the universe and Scripture.
Christians should never be embarrassed to quote the Bible as their ultimate authority. If we make science, history, or philosophy our ultimate tools for defending the faith, we undermine the Bible’s claim to authority (2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:19–20; John 10:35). Jesus was not ashamed to stand on the authority of God’s Word. He knew it would accomplish God’s purpose if He depended on it unapologetically.
Discussion Questions . . .
- Does any teaching in the Bible embarrass you? Why or why not?
- What attitudes should Christians have toward scientists, historians, or philosophers who teach things contrary to the Bible? Read Luke 16:19–31.
- What does this passage suggest about the Bible’s importance in witnessing to the truth? Read John 11:47–53.
- What does this passage teach about the old saying, “Seeing is believing”? Read 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
- Does the Bible’s inspiration mean it should be the starting point for apologetics?
- When defending the faith, how can a Christian maintain a balance between being firm using the Bible and speaking the truth in love?
- Does a person contradict himself or herself by claiming to follow Christ but rejecting Jesus’ view of the Bible’s value for apologetics?
Dr. Mike Stallard received his PhD at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a Baptist Bible Seminary professor and dean. He has published several articles and books, including First and Second Thessalonians and Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant.