Can I trust the Bible? – A question of presuppositions

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Presuppositions are the foundational beliefs that underpin our worldviews. Why is this important when we are considering the question “Can I trust the Bible?”

Well, when we are talking about the amazing things that the Bible describes, we are either pre-disposed to take them seriously or to dismiss them. You see, I will either have a presupposition that says “miracles can happen” or one that says “they cannot.”

In fact, underpinning that pre-supposition will be my belief about origins. Do I believe that this word was created by a supreme, infinite, eternal God from nothing or do I believe that it evolved out of pre-existing matter?

If I pre-suppose that God is sovereign, made the World from nothing, is actively involved in sustaining it and knows the future, then I am more likely to be open to the possibility that an account describing healings, water being changed into wine, 5000 people being fed and the future accurately predicted being true. If my pre-supposition is that all we have is the material world, then I’ve already discounted the possibility of supernatural intervention. I am likely to immediately dismiss accounts that describe the supernatural.

Indeed, if I take the second position, then I’m likely to dismiss those who accept the possibility of the supernatural as primitive and superstitious. Yet, that is not necessarily so. There is a big difference between superstitious belief in a world that is magical and belief in a God who is sovereign and may intervene in miraculous ways.

From the first point of view, the world is chaotic and unpredictable.  You don’t know how physical matter will respond to you.  I may step out of my door in the morning and be dive bombed by a flying pig, a lake may turn solid so that I can walk on it and then the land may turn to liquid and drown me.  I would not be surprised if something magical happened. I would however live in fear of the world around me.

Christian belief in God does not work like that. In fact, it was the Christian/Biblical claim that God has made this world and ordered it so that it conforms to his laws which enabled scientists to go out and observe how the Universe behaved.

So a Christian expects the world to be ordered and follow rules. They know that there are fictional stories, fantasy worlds, dreams, nightmares and superstition out there. They don’t assume that every weird and wonderful story is true.

However, their presuppositions mean that they are able to be open minded about claims about miracles, to observe and to test. They know that such events will be unusual , that they will surprise and astonish.

So, when we come with open minds to the Bible, what do we find? 

  1. We find descriptions of one off miraculous events that cause astonishment – just as we would expect.
  2. We find people describing events that culturally they are not pre-disposed to believe in. For example, as Tom Wright argues, the people of Jesus’ day simply weren’t re-disposed to expect a one off physical resurrection and therefore unlikely to make one up.
  3. We find that examples of supernatural intervention such as the giving of prophecies are verifiable as we have seen with the prophecies in Daniel 11 and Mark 13.

Once again, we are challenged to check and change faulty assumptions. 

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