Greg offers reasons we can know the gospels are the inspired Word of God both from objective and personal standpoints.
So here’s a question that has stumped me a little bit because I wasn’t exactly sure the best way to answer it. The question is: Is there a good way to show that the gospels are inspired? Now I believe they are inspired. I believe in the inerrancy of God’s word, and I actually have an approach to show that the Bible is inspired, and I give six different reasons that the Bible has the mark of the supernatural on it.
It claims to be a book by God to men and taken as a whole it gives reasons we can see—issues, or elements, or evidences that it is what it claims to be. God is involved in bringing this to men. It’s not merely a human document. But the question really is about the gospels proper. And the reason I pause there is because I do not try to demonstrate that the gospels are inspired. That is, that God is the one responsible for having written the gospels, essentially, and therefore they’re reliable.
I don’t think that’s the best way to go about making the case for Christianity. I don’t want to try to persuade someone in a sense, independently—these books are spoken by God and therefore then we ought to believe what they have to say, okay? I take a different approach and frankly, most of my my colleagues in the business, so to speak, take the same approach that I take, okay? We don’t invite people to consider the inspiration of the gospels. Rather, we try to demonstrate that the gospels are historically reliable documents about the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
The reason we do that is because there is a separate, in a certain sense, secular canon of tests that can be used of any documents from the past to see if those documents reflect or report accurate history. And so this then becomes a secular kind of enterprise, not a religious enterprise which actually turns out to be more persuasive for a lot of people. If they’re asked to believe some religious truth, well that’s what they’re resisting already, but if we say here’s how secular historians go about the task of determining what documents from the past are actually historically sound, and it turns out that the gospels are that, okay now we’ve got a whole different situation.
And in fact, in The Story of Reality I have a couple of chapters that deal with this very issue, okay, and it makes it very plain and easily accessible. I don’t want to go into those details right now, but I just want to point out that the key here is to show that the gospels are historically reliable because when we look at the history that they reliably record, what do we have?
We have this incredible history of Jesus of Nazareth who teaches profound things does profound things, dies on a cross, three days later the tomb is empty, He’s risen from the dead. Wow, if that’s historically reliable, you see how that can make our case? And in fact, the early Christians who were, I should say the early skeptics who became Christians, were not convinced about Jesus because somebody had an argument why the New Testament or the gospels were divinely inspired. They weren’t even written yet. What they had was a testimony of the disciples who were eyewitnesses of the events that Jesus had died and risen again, and they saw Him, and they ate with Him, and they talked with Him, and they were willing to stake their life upon that, and therefore their testimony was persuasive, okay.
We can do the same thing, alright? So I think the key here is not to argue that the gospel accounts are inspired by God because then that invites all kinds of objections about apparent contradictions. If instead what we say is they were historically reliable, well historically reliable accounts, parallel accounts, do have apparent contradictions. That’s ordinary. So that wouldn’t be a problem for us at this point, okay? And in that way they come to trust the content of the gospels. What they say actually happened with Jesus, and now we have a grounds to make the case that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
Okay, one post script: As I was thinking about this, I realized there is a way that I use to help people to discover that the gospels are inspired by God. I have them read them. Just think of not only all the Christians you know but yourself. If you believe that the gospels are God’s inspired word, did you come to believe that because some Christian gave you a great argument for that particular fact? No, most people who are Christians and believe the gospels are inspired believe it because they encountered the gospels and the Jesus in the gospels, and as they read, and as they engage, and as they thought about it, something happened, and they were persuaded that this was not just the words of man but the words of God Himself. That’s the most powerful way to persuade someone that the gospels are in fact God’s word.