Can The Gospels Be Trusted - page 1


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From the Summer 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Can The Gospels Be Trusted?

by Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

.S. Lewis argued that if the gospel is true (if Jesus was the Son of God come in flesh, if He lived a perfect life, performed miracles, died for our sins, was physically raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and reigns at present as the living Lord), it is of infinite importance. If it is not true, it is of no importance, except as a cultural phenomenon. But it cannot be of moderate importance. The events mentioned above either happened, or they did not. In other words, our faith is rooted in history. Paul Johnson says, “Christianity is essentially a historical religion. It bases its claims on the historical facts it asserts. If these are demolished it is nothing.”1
   So historical evidence is important for establishing the truth of the Gospels, as well as the rest of Scripture.

The Case for Scripture

  In fact, a case for the authority of the Bible begins with historical evidence and convincingly ends with the total trustworthiness of Scripture. It goes like this:
   Premise A: The Bible is at least a generally reliable document. You can establish this (as you would for any other historical document) by looking at the bibliographical test (textual reliability), the internal test (what it claims about its sources), and the external test (outsider verification, archeological evidence, etc.). There are many books about each of these tests. (Start with Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Thomas Nelson, 1993.)
   Premise B: Jesus is a messenger sent from God. Assuming that the Bible is at least generally reliable, you could then look at various lines of evidence pointing to Jesus as someone sent from God to speak truth to us. He is certainly more than that, but that’s all you need to establish for now. You would use such evidence from prophecy (332 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament), miracles, and particularly His resurrection. Again, many books have been written on these topics. (Start with Lee Stroebel, The Case for Christ, Zondervan, 1998.)
   Premise C: Jesus teaches that the Bible is totally trustworthy. Again, assuming general reliability, you can show that Jesus teaches that the Bible is more than generally reliable; in fact, totally trustworthy or absolutely authoritative. In about two hundred passages in the Gospels Jesus teaches either explicitly or implicitly a very high view of the trustworthiness of the Old Testament. (See John Wenham, Christ and the Bible, Baker, 1994, or R.T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1971.) There are also numerous passages in which Jesus affirms the apostles’ authority and promises to send the Spirit to teach them everything they need to know for the future.
  Conclusion: The Bible is totally trustworthy. The conclusion is as strong as the evidences mustered in the above premises.

The Reliability of the Gospels

  I can’t in this short article provide a defense of questions about this approach or provide all the evidences required. So I will focus on one aspect of the “internal” test: the reliability of the Gospels, particularly the charge (made by Rudolf Bultmann, the Jesus Seminar, and many liberal theologians) that the character of Jesus was largely invented by the early church. What can be said to such a charge? Here are just a few—of many—helpful arguments to show that the character of Jesus is real and not created by the early writers and their communities.

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