PART 1 - CONFIDENCE
There are a number of good reasons why a Christian can be confident that God is real. But the first thing to note is that we can be confident at all. Some people say that we “just need to have faith” to know that God is real. And sometimes when they say this, they imply that our faith is a kind of blind leap in the dark. But while it’s true we should have faith in God, the Bible itself never suggests that knowing God is nothing more than a leap of “blind” faith. As an example, consider a great work of art such as a painting or sculpture. As a person admires it, they won’t doubt that the artist who created it exists. This is true even if the artist isn’t standing beside their work of art. In this scenario we wouldn’t say that the person who believes in the existence of the artist is taking a blind leap in the dark. In a similar way, the world we live in is like a great work of art that gives us confidence that God exists.
"[God's] invisible attributes… have been clearly perceived." (Romans 1:20)
PART 2 - EVIDENCE
The reason sensible people believe that something like gravity exists, but don’t believe something like Bigfoot exists has to do with evidence. There’s strong evidence that points to the reality of gravity even though it’s invisible. By contrast, the ridiculous grainy videos of Bigfoot (apparently no increase in megapixels can bring Bigfoot into focus) and the absence of any Bigfoot feces or skeletons points strongly against the reality of such a creature. The belief that gravity exists and Bigfoot doesn’t hinges on the evidence. So if we’re going to be confident about the existence of God, we have to look at the evidence. We’ll cover only three pieces of evidence, though there is a lot more evidence than just these three:
Evidence #1 - The Universe
Our universe doesn’t explain its own existence. That is, we have no reason to think our universe could be here right now apart from God. God is the best explanation for where our universe came from and why it has certain extraordinary features. When we gaze at the beauty of a sunset or the power of an ocean or feel the warmth of a mother’s compassion, we’re indirectly witnessing the glory of God. But if we want to dig deeper into the nature of human life or of the sophisticated order of the universe, we will find even more evidence of God’s fingerprints. Science has done us all a great favor by discovering just how spectacularly ordered our universe is. This sophisticated order leaves the distinct impression that it was created by a Divine Designer.
[God's] invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived…in the things that have been made." (Romans 1:20)
Evidence #2 - The Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Though God is invisible, there was one extraordinary moment in history when he became visible by visiting earth as a human being. The unique and unmatched story of Jesus Christ has left unmistakably Divine footprints in the dust of history. Furthermore, a Christian can listen for the echo effect of his teachings in the canyons of history and see that his unique ideas radically changed the world for the better.
"The Word was God…and… became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory." (John 1:1, 14)
Evidence #3 - Majority Opinion
The vast majority of people, coming from many different countries, cultures, and languages, believe God exists. In fact, such an overwhelming majority of people throughout all of history have believed in God (in at least a general sense) that only a tiny sliver of people have ever been confident that God doesn’t exist. So even when a Christian stumbles into doubts about the existence of God, they should still remain skeptical of the small minority of people who assert absolute disbelief in God.
"The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" (Psalms 14:1)
Yes, every person observes at least some evidence pointing to the reality of God. Just as the sun’s light shines across the entire earth, in the same way the light of God is seen by all. Some of the evidence we mentioned in the first question is evidence that everyone can see, such as a beautiful sunset. In fact, many ancient thinkers who lived far away from the lands of Israel and were unfamiliar with the Bible wrote about their belief in God. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are some of the most famous Gentiles who believed in God long before Jesus was born.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9)
But there are two important things to keep in mind when we say that there’s evidence or “light” for everyone in the world.
First, there are degrees of light Not everyone witnesses the same amount of evidence. For example, some people know very little about the sophisticated evidence that science provides for the existence of God. Others don’t know much about the story of Jesus. God will judge each person according to the amount of evidence that they have witnessed. If a person has a lot of light and they refuse to believe, they will be judged more strictly than someone who has less light and refuses to believe.
“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” (Luke 12:47-48)
Second, we were created with an inclination to believe
God not only shines a light externally for all to see, he also has implanted inside of everyone a kind of homing device. People hunger for God in their souls. This hunger can’t be satisfied by anything we experience except by a relationship with God our Creator. A person who resists belief in God is, so to speak, starving their soul.
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
A person can know only a few things about God if they have never read the Bible. This is because the Sacred Scriptures are God’s words to humanity. In a similar way, people can know only a few things about you if you never open your mouth to reveal what you think. A philosopher once said that knowing God without reading the Bible is like seeing the shadow of a person standing out of view. Their shadow indicates that they are there, but it reveals only a few things about what they’re like. Here are four things a person can know about God even if they haven’t read about him in the Bible:
First, God is eternally powerful This means that God is outside of space and time. He doesn’t live within the universe the way you and I do, but the universe, so to speak, lives within him. Also, it means that God is unimaginably powerful. This is obviously true because the universe itself is spectularly large and powerful and it has been made by God. For some perspective on how big the universe is, if you could fly a rocket to the nearest star and travelled at 60 mph, you would arrive there in about 48 million years!
[God’s] eternal power…[has] been clearly perceived” (Romans 1:20)
Second, God is uniquely divine
This means that God, as Creator and Owner of the universe, rightfully commands every person’s worship and obedience. God is like the sun in that you wouldn’t just walk up to him even if you could traverse the distance. He isn’t like anything else in the universe in this sense and should be respected and feared.
[God’s] eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived” (Romans 1:20)
Third, God doesn’t need anyone else to accomplish anything he does
A person’s works don’t in any way fill a hole God can’t fill all by himself. Even if a person were devoted to him completely (and nobody is), their service wouldn’t make him feel obligated to compensate that person for their efforts.
“[God isn’t] served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25)
Fourth, God is good and wise
The world has an underlying goodness and order despite the obvious presence of great evil. Everyday we live, we experience God’s wisdom and goodness
“[God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you [Gentiles] rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17)
First, God is One: God isn’t a collection of different demigods who disagree with each other and don’t get along. Since God is one, every part of a Christian’s life should be oriented to God the way all cell phones in one area draw a signal from one tower. a Christian’s devotion shouldn’t be divided between God and anything else.
The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
Second, God is personal: he is more like human beings than he is like anything else in the universe. He is more like you than he is like an ocean or gravity or Godzilla.
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him (Genesis 1:27).
Third, God is love: he loves the world he has made and he wants the world to love him in return.
He is the author of love and nobody can truly enjoy love apart from his love. God is love (1 John 4:8).
Fourth, God is holy and just: he is totally separate from sin and never entices anyone to sin. He is completely good and his will always works toward a good end. Therefore, God will one day judge all the wrongs and injustice in the world.
[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31).
Fifth, God is merciful and forgiving: he delights in showing mercy to repentant sinners who otherwise deserve judgement. He freely chooses to forgive people who surrender the salvation of their souls to him in faith. This forgiveness is not something that people can “win” from God through sacrifices or good deeds. All Forgiveness arises from the free choice of an offended person to give a release to their offender. An offender can’t demand or earn forgiveness.
God [is] merciful and gracious, slow to anger,…forgiving…sin (Exodus 34:6-7).
Other religions also teach true things about God.
First, Incomplete truth:
Most religions teach at least some true things about God in a very vague sense (such as the fact that he is real and that he is powerful, wise, or good). But those religions are incomplete in their teaching about God.
[Paul said to the Athenians] “What...you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23).
Second, Flawed truth:
Religions outside of Christianity are not just incomplete. They’re also flawed. Jesus slammed the door shut on the notion that a person could approach God through paths that lie outside of Christianity.
Jesus said… “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
All religions outside of Christianity are dangerous. They mix falsehoods about God with the truth, just as the Devil did in his conversation with Eve. Turning to these other religions for information about God is like eating a slice of hot pizza - that’s poisoned. Jesus muzzled the demons even if they spoke the truth about him because they were never to be trusted.
Demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But [Jesus] rebuked them and would not allow them to speak (Luke 4:41).
There are three reasons why the biblical God is far more likely to be the true God than the gods of other religions.
First, the best explanation is usually the truth:
When the famous Sherlock Holmes solves a case, the explanation that ties all of the evidence together in the simplest way is usually the truth. In a similar way the Bible provides the best explanation for all of the mysteries of the universe (such as the origin and nature of human beings). No other religion comes close to the Bible in this respect. In fact, almost all religions offer explanations for only a small number of the mysteries of the universe. The more mysteries solved (satisfyingly), the stronger the whole explanation is. It’s like holding your cell phone: the more fingers you use, the stronger the grip.
A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Second, the findings from History:
God has revealed himself on a number of occasions throughout history. The historical accounts of these events serve as a recorded log of God’s visits to the earth. They allow a person later in history to investigate and evaluate the story of the biblical God. They reveal a clear pattern of God’s character and salvation across many events in different places and times. The same God doing the same kinds of things in the same way. They also contain precise prophecies which a Christian can see have been fulfilled accurately. Together these recorded historical events serve as “tracks” across history verifying that the Bible’s God is real and identifiable and incomparably superior to the gods of all other religions.
We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19).
Third, the person Jesus of Nazareth:
The most important and convincing of all these “God-tracks” left in the dust of history are the ones left by Jesus. No other religion apart from the Bible has as its central figure a person even remotely as unique and compelling as Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to be the Son of God. His extraordinary and unmatched story validates the truth of his claims.
Jesus said..., “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”
The best evidence against the the reality of God comes from two observations: one from morality, the other from science.
PART ONE - THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING
The most powerful evidence against the reality of God for most people arises from a moral problem: God doesn’t intervene to stop the unspeakable evil and injustice in the world. This acute moral problem arises only in religions which believe their God is both supremely loving and just. Therefore the power of this argument applies exclusively to the God of the Bible.
ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING
The Bible candidly acknowledges this problem. Evil and suffering deeply affect all people, believers and nonbelievers alike. It’s demoralizing to live in a world with so much evil and injustice, especially for the Christian since he/she professes that a supremely loving and just God created and oversees the world. For this reason, many of the major characters of the Bible (e.g. Abraham, David, and Job) openly protest to God. Jesus himself memorably expressed on a few occasions his own grief over the world’s evil and suffering. It’s unrealistic to think this problem has received a completely satisfying answer in the Bible. No reasons, however logically sound, are more attractive to a sufferer than a simple release from their suffering. That release eventually comes to everyone, even if through death only. For the Christian on this side of heaven, the Bible provides logically sound — and even appealing — answers to the problem of evil and suffering. Here are five ways the Bible answers the problem of evil and suffering:
First, the cause of most suffering is free will:
God created human beings with free will and that means people can make real choices to do good or evil. If these choices had no consequences - bad or good - they would have no meaning or value. For example, if a person was flying a plane on auto pilot, and couldn’t turn off auto pilot under any circumstances, then it wouldn’t make sense to say they were flying the plane. Their choices would have no effect on the flight of the plane. In the same way it wouldn’t make sense to say that you live your life if your choices had no real effect on the life you actually live. If God didn’t let our choices run their course, then our life wouldn’t truly be ours.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap (Galatians 6:7).
Second, there will be a total defeat of evil:
God has shown repeatedly that he judges evil, if not today, then in the final day. No evil or injustice will go unpunished or undefeated. It’s only a question of timing.
You are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:5).
Third, God restrains evil in the world:
God keeps evil in check primarily through human government. If God completely released his control of human affairs, evil would erupt like a volcano eventually and people would utterly destroy each other. In other words, left wholly to ourselves people would destroy each other just as Cain destroyed Abel.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad (Romans 13:1-3).)
Fourth, God uses evil and suffering to strengthen human character:
God chooses to use evil as a way to shape and develop their character (and other people’s character) for good. The evil itself isn’t a good thing and God himself never causes it, but it’s harnessed by God for a good use. It’s like the flooding of the ancient Nile River. Though destructive in itself, the Egyptians utilized the fertile soil left behind after the flood season to grow so much grain that Egypt was known as the breadbasket of Rome.
Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope… (Romans 5:3-4).
Fifth, God offers two things that ease the burden of daily suffering:
Two final points that don’t answer the problem of evil and suffering, but should help ease the difficulty of experiencing pain: first, God himself in the flesh has suffered egregious injustice and excruciating pain. He fully understands how difficult your experiences are. So you pray to a Good Shepherd who doesn’t lack sympathy. If he doesn’t answer your pleading for a release, it’s only because he sees a way to use your unpleasant circumstances for your greater good. Second, as hard as it is sometimes to believe that a loving God would allow us to experience so much suffering, our situation would be depressingly worse if there is no good God at all who oversees our lives, cares about each one of us, and allows all the suffering for our good.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15-16).
PART TWO - THE PROBLEM OF SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS
As our knowledge of science advances, certain mysteries of nature, which were previously believed to be direct acts of God, are no longer understood as such. Instead, they are explainable by natural causes (e.g. lightening bolts are no longer believed to be hurled down to earth by a god). This leaves the impression that God is a placeholder explanation until science inevitably discovers the real and natural explanation. Eventually, almost everything about the universe could be explained naturally without the need to invoke a God as the cause.
ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS
This problem is not as difficult to answer as it first seems. There are three reasons for this:
First, the scientific problems multiply faster than the answers
The mysteries of the universe are like the mythological snake called the Hydra; every time it lost a head, two more grew up in its place. Science tends to create new questions faster than it resolves old ones.
Second, some problems are unanswerable by science
Though science will continue to solve amazingly complex problems, it may be inching closer to the limits of what is answerable. There are likely to be major mysteries that are simply unsolvable. The evidence as it stands in our times points strongly toward the reality of a Divine Designer.
Third, the starting point of science
The accomplishments of science are staggeringly impressive. But the entire pursuit of science starts with the assumption that the universe is ordered and operates by comprehensible laws. This assumption is unwarranted if the universe exists by mere chance. If at its roots the universe is the result of chaos, then there's no reason to assume that the solutions of science are meaningful and valid.
These two titles emphasize different things about Jesus.
First, the Christ means Jesus is the long-promised Savior-King:
“Christ” is the Greek word for Messiah. It means “The Savior-King” when applied to Jesus. The Jews had been promised by God for many centuries before Jesus that the Messiah would come, deliver Israel from its enemies and from sin, draw Gentiles to belief in God, and establish an eternal kingdom. When Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, he was marked out as this Savior-King.
John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him (John 1:32). [Andrew] ....said..., “We have found the Messiah (which means Christ) (John 1:41).”
Second, the "Son of God" means Jesus is Divine in three ways
First,Jesus is the unique and full revelation of God. His words and deeds are in perfect alignment with the will of God. He is one with God. He is God, come in the flesh.
"[Jesus] was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." John 5:18
Second, Jesus isn’t the same divine person as God the Father, under whose authority he subjected himself in becoming a man. Jesus is the same being as God, but a different person. In a similar way, a son is a human being just as his father is. But the son isn’t the same person as his father.
"The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing." (John 5:19)
Third, Jesus is the sole heir to all of God's kingdom.
"[God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things." (Hebrews 1:2)
This claim about Jesus is so extraordinary — and even ridiculous from a non-believer’s perspective — that a tsunami of evidence is rightfully demanded if one is to take it seriously. A reasonable person should expect a constellation of evidence, pointing brightly and clearly to the truth of the claim. Here are six of the most striking pieces of evidence that show Jesus was actually the Christ, the Son of God:
First,Jesus claimed it
Jesus personally identified himself as the Messiah and Son of God. No one else in history has made such a radical claim for himself and anyone who did wouldn’t be taken seriously by many people.
[Jesus] said, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36).
Second, many eye-witnesses suffered greatly for believing it
Many eye-witnesses to the story of Jesus believed he was the Messiah and suffered great harm due to their firm belief. Indeed, many were tortured and died never wavering in their conviction that Jesus really was the Son of God whom they saw alive after he had died.
He who saw [Jesus’ death] has borne witness-his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth-that you also may believe (John 19:35).
Third, Jesus performed miraculous healings
Jesus performed miracles of deliverance that were witnessed by countless people. Even many of his opponents didn’t deny that he performed miracles.
These [signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31).
Fourth, Jesus' life fulfilled many detailed Old Testament prophecies
The prophecies about the Messiah contained in the Old Testament were fulfilled — some with great precision — in the life of Jesus. Many of these were fulfilled by circumstances that were beyond his control — such as where he was born and his family lineage.
We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).
Fifth, Christ's moral teachings
Jesus’ moral teaching is widely recognized as unique and superior to all other ethical teachings in history.
The [arresting] officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46)
Sixth, Jesus didn't match anyone's ideal expectation
It’s implausible that the story of Jesus is just a fictional ideal of what a Jew, Greek, or Roman would have hoped for. That is, in his day nobody initially thought of Jesus as the ideal messianic figure. It’s just easier to believe the account of his life is what happened rather than what some people fictionalized.
Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
There are two major factors in fully trusting Jesus as the Son of God and “Savior of the World:”
First, the miraculous events in Jesus’ life are important, but insufficient
Although there is a constellation of weighty evidence pointing to the truth of the claim that Jesus was and therefore is the Son of God, this evidence is not a sufficient basis to confidently believe in him. The Bible itself, although placing emphasis on the strong evidence in favor of Christ’s claims, never suggests that the evidence alone leads to the full assurance that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, it cautions a person against believing in Jesus merely because of the evidence of miraculous signs. The signs by themselves aren’t intended to cause confident faith, but to make it reasonable.
When the crowds were increasing, [Jesus] began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign” (Luke 11:29).
Second, a person must hear God speaking to them through Christ
The Bible asserts that the best reason for a Christian to feel assured that Jesus is alive and exalted to the throne of God is because they have heard him speak to them — not audibly, but in their soul. The soul has “ears” designed to hear nothing but the voice of God. To hear that voice is to hear the full truth about themselves and about God. It leaves the unmistakable impression that the source of the voice has been around longer than the universe. It has the power to sear the reality of the living Son of God into the inner core of a Christian’s thoughts and desires. Like a pair of spiritual tweezers, it reaches into our deepest conscience, intellect, fears, and desires and removes the stubborn thorn of disbelief.
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13) Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).
The Bible is inspired by God in two senses:
First, inspiration means the Bible has the power to impart the life of God
The word “inspired” in Greek means literally “God-breathed.” This expression is an allusion to the story in Genesis 2 where “God breathes” into Adam’s lifeless corpus and transforms him into “a living soul.” Sort of like CPR, the breath of the one imparts life to the other.
All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:15-16).
Second, inspiration means the Bible is divinely authoritative
The Bible possesses the exclusive and final authority to communicate the will of God and the story and meaning of Jesus’ mission.
[Paul says:] I have applied all these things to myself…that you may learn…not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Christians can be assured that the Bible is inspired by God in two simple ways:
First, the Old Testament
A Christian can be assured that the Old Testament is inspired because the Lord Jesus himself treated the Old Testament as “God-breathed.”
[Jesus said,] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).
Second, the New Testament
A Christian can be assured that the New Testament is inspired by God because it was written under the auspices of the Apostles whom Jesus personally selected and named “apostles.” “Apostle” means an ambassador or official spokesman. So Jesus himself designated the apostles as his official spokesmen.
[Jesus] called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles (Luke 6:13).
A Christian shouldn’t expect that a non-Christian will believe the doctrine of biblical inspiration before they have converted. But it probably will be helpful for a Christian to explain to the non-believing why Christians believe the Bible to be inspired by God. A person will come to believe the Bible communicates God’s words only as they read Scripture and hear God’s ‘voice.’ In a similar way, you can’t persuade someone by mere argument to like pudding. They have to try it for themselves. God says people should “taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:1).” On becoming a Christian, a person should believe in biblical inspiration or they are in denial of the Lord’s own example.
There was no single person, church, or even group of churches in one place and time who chose which books would be included the Bible.
Below is a description of the six steps that led to the formation of the twenty seven books of the New Testament (NT):
Step One - before any NT writings (30-50AD)
Two facts are important about the historical period between Jesus’ ascension and the first writings of the NT around 50AD, the period when the Apostles were preaching rather than writing:
First, the Apostles claimed their message was Divinely authorized - When the Apostles proclaimed the teachings and story of Jesus, they claimed that they were selected and commissioned directly by Jesus himself to do so. No Christians except the Apostles made such a claim about themselves.
[Peter]: “[we] had been chosen by God as witnesses… [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:41-41)”
Second, the earliest disciples believed the Apostolic message was Divinely authorized - The earliest Christians believed that the Lord himself had chosen the Apostles to be his official spokesmen. They also believed that Jesus had personally named them “Apostles.” This name means an “official spokesman” or “ambassador.”
[Paul:] “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as…the word of God (1Thessalonians 2:13).”
Step Two - the NT books (50-100AD)
When the Apostles and their closest associates wrote the various books of the NT, the earliest Christian churches treated their books and letters as they had their teachings: they believed them to be Divinely authoritative. An later letter from the church of Rome to the church in Corinth shows this to be true: “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What did he write to you in the beginning of the Gospel? Truly he wrote to you in the Spirit… (I Clement 47:1-3).”
Step Three - First NT copies (50-100AD)
These original books and letters were then copied and shared with other churches.
When this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16)
Step Four - The formation of groups of NT books (50-200AD)
Over many decades churches acquired copies of these apostolic writings and bound them together in groups of books such as 1) the four Gospels 2) Paul’s letters 3) the ‘catholic’ letters (catholic means “universal”. These letters are ‘universal’ because they weren’t addressed to a single church or location.
Step Five - Formation of the NT as one book (200AD)
The various groups of books were bound together into one large book, often joined with the Old Testament writings. Most Christian families wouldn’t have possessed a hand-copied edition of the entire Bible because of the high cost to produce it.
Step Six - Canonical lists
Lastly, heretics began to distort the apostolic message found in the New Testament writings and even to write new books that communicated their heretical message in the form of the NT writings (essentially fake Gospels). These later heretical books caused Christians to make various attempts to establish which books should be in the Bible. By about 200 AD, the majority of the books of the New Testament were well known and regarded as Divinely authoritative on a par with the Old Testament.
Yes and no. If (hypothetically) the Bible is wrong about Jesus being raised from the dead, it’s not inspired by God. This is because the event of the resurrection is one of the central parts of the message of salvation. On the other hand, if (hypothetically) a copy of the the Bible is inaccurate by two years in describing the duration of the reign of Solomon, it’s hard to see how this would affect the doctrine of Inspiration very much. The information isn’t that important in the broader context. Even though it’s true that all the information in the Bible is important, it’s not all equally important.
But the following two points should be kept in mind:
First, the main point about Inspiration is that the Bible imparts God’s life, not that it’s inerrant (even though the Bible is inerrant)
Jesus and his apostles insisted that the Bible presents an inspired revelation of God’s will down to the very choice of words. A Christian should view the Bible the same way. But the primary importance of Inspiration is that through these unique books God supernaturally imparts his spiritual life to a believer. This would be possible even if (hypothetically) the Bible had minor inaccuracies about less important details. Consider how some people, who have never been trained to administer CPR, have saved someone’s life through CPR in an emergency situation. CPR isn’t effective because the procedure is followed without error, but because a person tries to breath for someone and to press up and down on their chest to get the heart pumping again. This is the main point of CPR and it can work even if a person makes minor mistakes in the process. Similarly, the message of the Bible can impart life to a nonbeliever even if it’s not communicated perfectly in every detail.
Second, the perception that the Bible contains contradictions is usually the result of user-error
Most of the perceived contradictions in the Bible are in the readers’ minds rather than in the books themselves. So it’s helpful to remember two things about the habits of biblical authors:
First, the authors were sometimes imprecise
For example, Luke tells us that Paul traveled from Syria to Jerusalem after he spent “many days” in Damascus (Acts 9:23). Paul refers to the same time frame as “three years” (Galatians 1:18). Do these two passages contradict each other? No. Luke is simply being less precise than Paul. What Luke generically describes as “many days” Paul more precisely describes as “three years.”
Second, though the authors were inspired by God, they weren’t omniscient
For example, Luke tells us that there were two angels at the empty tomb (Luke 24:4) while Mark tells us that there was one (Mark 16:5). Do they contradict each other? No. Mark may not have known that there were two angels at the tomb. It’s also possible he knew but it wasn’t important to him to convey this more precise detail. Inspiration doesn’t imply that a biblical author knew literally everything that could be known about an event in Jesus’ life. Rather Inspiration empowered the biblical authors to remember and understand whatever God wanted them to communicate.
It teaches this for two reasons:
First, everyone needs salvation because of the penalty for sin
All people choose to do things they know to be wrong before God. They also choose to be hurtful to other people in a variety of ways. God is just and will judge everybody for the wrongs they’ve committed. Therefore, all people need salvation from this coming judgment.
It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment... (Hebrews 9:27).
Second, everyone needs salvation because human nature is corrupt
When people resolve to stop doing things they know to be wrong, they find that they don’t have the power in themselves to overcome all their weaknesses and bad habits. Therefore, all people need salvation from their own corrupt human nature. This corrupt nature wasn’t a part of humanity when God first made humans. Rather, it spread through the human race after the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death (Romans 6:21).
"What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death." (Romans 6:21)
Salvation isn’t merely deliverance from sin and its effects. Salvation is fundamentally a restoration of the broken relationship between God and humans. The most extraordinary aspect of this biblical salvation is that, although humans caused the rift in the first place through disobedience, God himself in love initiates and accomplishes all the work of restoring humans to God. This is why the saved - or restored - people desire naturally to praise God.
God restores this relationship in the following two ways:
First, God frees humans from his rightful anger
In salvation people are forgiven by God so that God is no longer angry with them over their disobedience and welcomes them into full fellowship with him.
We shall be saved...from the wrath of God...we were reconciled to God (Romans 5:9-10).
Second, God frees people from sin’s destructive hold on human nature
Salvation repairs Christians in their heart, mind, and body, so that they become more and more like God’s Son in their character. This transformation occurs over many years by the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within all true Christians. At death, Christians will fully blossom into the full glory of God’s beautiful and holy character.
You... were taught... to put off your old self which…is corrupt…, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
When a person calls out to God in faith for deliverance from sin, God chooses to forgive them. At that same moment, God also bestows on the person the gift of the Holy Spirit who takes up permanent residence in the soul to guard and protect that person eternally for God. The Spirit is then able to begin to cultivate and develop this person’s new spiritual life in God. God faithfully presses ahead in this effort right through death and will never abandon us.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11).
The Bible repeatedly highlights two ways that a Christian can be assured they’ve experienced salvation:
First, Christ’s promise
Jesus promised that God won’t withhold salvation from any person who genuinely repents of their sin and calls out to God in faith for deliverance. His promise is the only reliable basis for being fully assured that a Christian has experienced salvation. The Bible says God’s promise is “an anchor of the soul.”
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
Second, the fruit of Christ’s life found in a Christian’s life
Though it’s not the primary basis for assurance of salvation, the life of Christ manifested in a Christian’s life is secondary evidence that their salvation is real. If a Christian loves things that Jesus loved and desires to do things that Jesus did, this reassures them that the Spirit of Jesus resides within their soul. Of course, this does not mean that a Christian won’t ever be tempted to like things Christ doesn’t like or do things he didn’t do. They’re still a sinner. On the other hand, if they rarely love the things Jesus loved or do the things he did, this isn’t reassuring to them. Perhaps the clearest indication that a Christian hasn’t experienced salvation is that, when they sin, they feel no need to acknowledge and repent of their sin.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us... by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments...we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 1:8, 2:3).
The death and resurrection of Jesus are the axes of salvation for the following two reasons:
First, Jesus’ death
Because my wrongs have harmed others, God must punish me in order to show that the lives of the people I’ve harmed matter to him as much as my life does. Christ’s death is the priceless value that God places on all people, including me, because I’ve also been wronged by people.
[Christ] gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6).
Second, Jesus’ resurrection
This crucial event is a pledge that God will fulfill two promises:
First, the resurrection signifies that God will raise up after death all Christians and free them from their sin and brokenness just as God raised up Jesus from death.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
Second, the resurrection signifies that God will judge the world. Jesus is a real and practical example of someone who was deeply wronged by other people and whom God later vindicated by reversing the wrong done to him. This example is a pledge that God will some day right all of the wrongs done to all people. That is, Christ’s resurrection is a down payment on the final judgment that will come at the end of the world.
[God] will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31).