I remember sitting in my seat, stunned quite a number of years ago by what I’d just heard. My mind replayed the words of the recent seminary grad just to make sure I didn’t mishear him. “We can’t be absolutely sure the Bible is true or that the God of the Bible exists,” he stated again in the Sunday School class. What’s worse is that he went on with the approval of the silently nodding heads in the room as if he had just communicated what everyone had always thought. They were just not intellectually honest enough to admit it. The class went on, and the teacher went on to argue how God and the Bible are practically absolute because they are so probably absolute.
I sat there dumbfounded, because I knew what he said couldn’t be true, or what the Bible said about itself wasn’t true. I knew that the Bible spoke of its own reliability and truthfulness so absolutely that either anything less (no matter how probable) had to be wrong, or the Bible itself was wrong.
Unfortunately, I suspect that it is not my position that is the majority view in Christianity today, but rather the aforementioned seminary grad. Many Christians are content with a “probably true” Christianity. After all, isn’t that what our faith is for — to draw the dots between what is “probably true” and what is “absolutely true?” To put it another way, doesn’t faith need to be a “blind” faith, even if it’s only a little bit blind?
In short, no.
It is not those who have faith that are blind, but those who don’t (Jn. 14:15-16). Those who have faith are those who “see” (Ps. 119:18).
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).
Yes, we hope in what we don’t see, but that is far from a “blind” faith. The word “conviction” in Heb. 11:1 is a word that means “proof” or “the act of presenting evidence for the truth of something.”1 You can also translate that word “assurance” as “realization,” “guarantee,” or the “actual being” of something or “reality.” Very simply, you can say that faith is to put trust in what you know to be true (ironically, it seems that those who adhere to a non-lordship view of salvation ignore the “trust” part). The truth of God is obvious and undeniable. And the Bible presents Him that way. Though there are many passages that defend the absolute truthfulness of God and the Bible, there is one that earnestly merits your attention.
I am convinced that this passage single-handedly denies any position that speaks of God (and specifically the God of the Bible) in anything less than absolute terms. I’ve highlighted key words in bold that I want you to take notice of. Those words are the basis for the 4 reasons why the Bible can’t be merely “probably” true.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
1. The wrath of God is revealed. This is a word that means “to be made fully known.” It’s not a partial or incomplete knowledge. So, to say that God or His Word are only probable, even to the point where you say it is so probable that it is practically absolute, is to say that it is not FULLY known. There would have to be something missing, however small, that is absent in order for it to be “fully” known.
2. Knowledge of God is self-evident. There are two keywords here that we need to understand. The first is translated in vs. 19 as “known,” which is a word that speaks of something that is obvious, or undeniably true. Acts 4:16 actually uses it in a way that is extremely compelling. In that passage, the Sanhedrin, the enemies of the Gospel of Christ, arrested Peter and John for proclaiming the truth. There was just one problem: What were they going to do with the miracles the apostles were performing that proved the validity of their message? That included all of their message. The whole thing was irrefutable. This then is what they said:
What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy(that’s the same word for “obviously known”) miracle has taken place through them is apparent (another word for “known” that means “to be clear,” “plainly evident,” etc.) to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
That truly speaks to their condemnation, because they admit that not only could they not deny it, but neither could all Jerusalem. This is the same kind of knowledge we’re talking about in Rom. 1:19. It is a knowledge of God that is so obvious that there is no refutation of it. But not only that, it is a self-evident knowledge (it needs no evidence… think: “We hold these truths to be ‘self-evident…'”). Interestingly, this is also the same word translated “apparent” in Acts 4:16 as well.
3. His power and nature are clearly seen. The word “clear” refers to something that is so obviously noticeable, it can’t be missed. It is impossible to go through life and say, “I never thought about the fact that God exists before.” No one is that thick-headed. But they are thick-headed enough to deny it.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (Ps. 14:1-3).
After all, you can’t undo what you say, and what you saw was the truth about God manifest in creation. We’re not done yet though, because this is truth that is “clear” and “seen,” but Paul also says it is “understood.” You see the truth about God manifest in creation, you know the knowledge of God is “self-evident,” and you understand what it means. In other words, you think about it and grasp its implications.
4. Denial of the God of the Bible is inexcusable. The reality that we stand condemned and are under the wrath of God is so obvious, denial of it is inexcusable. “Without excuse” is a compound word in the Greek that means it leaves you “without a word.” You have nothing to object. You have no case against it. No wonder their speculations were futile, or, to put it another way, their reasoning proved worthless and their foolish hearts were darkened. Anyone who denies the existence of the God of the Bible, revealed in the Bible, stands in gross violation of all their available faculties.
What does all this mean?
First, it is not more “intellectually honest” to claim that we can’t actually know with absolute certainty that God, or the Bible is true. Quite the contrary. The intellectual honest position is one that affirms the absolute testimony of the Scriptures, not the other way around.
Second, when we argue for the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Scriptures, we must argue not in terms of probabilities, but in the absolute. We should follow the example of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:3-8. In that passage, Paul argued for the authenticity of the Christian faith through the Scriptures. That was his source of authority, and the best defense against any who doubt. It should be ours as well.
- BDAG, ελεγχος ↩