The Best Defense
I can hear the squeak of new shoes. Somewhere there is a facility manager who is finishing the final buff on hardwood floors that display a painted collegiate name under layers of polyurethane and wax. Nets are being hung and balls are being inflated. It’s time for college basketball. Which also means it’s time for statistics and lots of them. For whatever reasons, whether team size, conference inequality, or the tournament schedule, college basketball is a statistician’s dream. And those numbers provide an opportunity for fans to settle disputes about their own team’s greatness, that is, before the national champion is crowned in March.
Imagine with me for a moment that you and I entered into just such a dispute. I’m convinced that my team, the Virginia Cavaliers, had the best adjusted defense last year. But you disagree or at least highly doubt that anything good can come out of Virginia when it comes to ACC basketball. What are we to do to settle our dispute? Name call? Arm wrestle? No, we can appeal to statistics, in which case we would find out that Virginia did indeed have the best adjusted defense in college basketball last season.
Controversy and Authority
In my little analogy, what we see is that in matters of controversy we appeal to a higher authority. That higher authority provides judgment or certainty that is incontrovertible. It is why the highest court in our land is called the Supreme Court. It is supreme. It is the highest. You cannot appeal higher than the Supreme Court.
For a moment then, let’s consider the existence of God. You and I, after our discussion on Virginia basketball, now get in an argument about something a little more weighty that has more bearing on our everyday life than does, say sports. We begin to argue whether or not God exists. We might go back and forth, making arguments from creation or citing our favorite theologian or philosopher. But where are the statistics? Where is the Supreme Court? Let’s stretch our analogy a little bit more. Assume that you and I could appeal to the highest authority, to God himself. We stand there before the throne of God and ask, “Do you really exist?” He answers, “I do really exist.” Imagine then the absurdity of responding to God by saying, “I don’t believe you, I want to appeal to a higher authority.”
You see there is no authority higher than God. So God must be the one who finally attests to himself. At this point you may argue that this is all circular reasoning. And it must be. The last authority is the one who must authorize itself simply because there is none greater to appeal to or from whom to receive subsidiary authority. The ultimate must present a type of circular reasoning because we are in a closed system with limits. In the end God must say I am God and there is no other (Isa 45:22). And we must believe him.
We now take a step back into reality and out of our little throne room parable to ask the question, “Where does God declare himself?” The answer is obviously the Bible, the book in which God speaks with absolutely authority and without error (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible, then, is God’s supreme declaration of himself. And that the Bible is that declaration is by it’s own declaration picking up the same supreme-circular reasoning we discussed above. How do we know God is who he is? We know because he tells us. How do we know the Bible is the word of God? We know because it says it is the word of God.
If I could at this point press hard on my "courtroom" and "ultimate authority" reasoning above I think it would help rid you of any emotional baggage you have from childhood. You see, this all sounds a good deal like a parent saying, "it is that way because I say it is." As a parent, I know there are times this statement has to be said but it is also unfortunate that this statement is often said to silence a child who has legitimately picked up on parental hypocrisy. So I wonder if this line of reasoning that we’re running down doesn’t sound a bit like divine or religious hypocrisy, like God, arms crossed, is saying, “Because I said so.” Because you see, he is saying, “Because I said so,” but not as a hypocritical parent but as the only one who can, the omnipotent judge of the universe.
Letting the Lion Lose
It may be that this question has haunted you before, “How indeed can the Bible be the word of God? How can I know it is?” And it may be you’ve shuffled past the response that the Bible is the word of God because it says it is. Can I call you back to that simple answer as the one that you should rest on and never leave from? In the end, even the atheist must admit that highest authority must be self-attesting, must be auto-pistic. It reminds us of CH Spurgeon’s response to how someone should defend the Bible. He said,
There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion—it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the grand old monarch, the British Lion, with all our strength. Many suggestions are made and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and the other. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.1
1. An excerpt taken from Charles Spurgeon's lecture, "The Bible (Part 2)" in Speeches at Home and Abroad (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1878) p. 17
Mike Kruger, Canon Revisited
Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word
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