Foundational to being a Christian is one’s understanding concerning the Bible. There are three bases for people to have confidence in the Bible.
The written book we call “the Bible” (meaning the Greek Textus Receptus combined with the Hebrew Tanach that was later translated into English and other languages) is the very Word of God—His preserved written supernatural revelation to mankind (especially His elect covenant people) about Himself and His purposes for the world. At the crux of this revelation is the Gospel message itself.
To summarize why we believe the Bible is the Word of God, these are the three bases: the fully objective basis, the intermediately objective basis, and the personal basis.
The surest basis for confidence in the Bible as the Word of God, revealing the character of God and His purposes, was re-articulated aptly by Dr. Cornelius Van Til and later his protogé Dr. Greg Bahnsen in response to the rising pressure from proponents of so-called “higher criticism” and then the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth. It is also known as the “transcendental proof” or the “presuppositional proof.”
In short, the Christian’s confidence that the Bible is the revelation of the one true God is due to the impossibly of the contrary. The contrary is impossible because only the description of God and His purposes for the world revealed in the Bible provide the necessary preconditions for human experience. We could not coherently operate in this world as we do based on the assumptions of life that we have hard-wired into us if it were not for the fact that the God of the Bible’s revelations about Himself and His world are accurate.
For example, no other God besides than the Trinitarian God of the Bible can explain what we observe in human experience about the presence of both universals as well as change and diversity—and reconcile these seemingly opposing principles of life. Because the Trinitarian God of the Bible alone is both One and Many—both unity and diversity—He alone has within Himself the bases for the existence of universals as well as variety. He is Three and One. Because He was and is the first cause of action or change (i.e. “motion”) in history (and continues to be the ultimate cause of all action or change), and yet He Himself never changes—only His creation changes—we have an adequate stable explanation for the human experience of both constancy and change reconciled.
Only in the God of the Bible do we have an adequate explanation for universal morals, universal logic, universal mathematics, and other similar universals found in human experience. Simultaneously, in the God of the Bible we have an explanation in human experience to employ these dependable and predictable universals to produce improvements (change) upon the raw resources set before us in nature. We have an adequate basis upon which to rely that the rules governing certain things will not change so that we can accomplish the change that we desire to induce.
For man to deny the preconditions of human experience such as universals would not merely render him illogical, but if he were to be consistent in that denial, it would render him completely incapable of interacting with reality in any way whatsoever. He would not have to merely embrace deliberate insanity but would necessarily pursue suicide. Thus, to seek to live at any degree in the realm of human experience without doing these things necessitates a borrowing of capital from the Christian worldview found in the Bible.
In contrast with the God of the Bible, other gods of other religions from other alleged holy books or the like do not provide adequate explanations for the pre-conditions of human experience. For example, Allah, the god of the Muslim faith is only a mono-theistic deity with no facet of diversity to his nature. Thus, he cannot provide a basis for the diversity we observe in human experience and that we interact with in order to survive and succeed in life.
Likewise, polytheistic religious systems and their claims of revelation or divining can also not provide the necessary pre-conditions for human experience because, among other problems, they can provide no adequate basis for universals. They have no constancy, no ultimate, no unifying element that reconciles them all cohesively for a reliably stable and predictable view of the world.
We often call external material evidence “objective” evidence because it exists outside of human consciousness and is not subject to alteration in its status quo by human consciousness. However, in many ways, external evidence is also subjective. What people in America externally experience in nature, for example, is not completely the same as what people in China experience. We experience many things in common but we also experience many differences. What the people in North America externally experienced in 1492 was very different from what people in North America externally experienced in 1992. So in many ways even external experience is subjective.
Ultimately, only God is purely objective and all of His creation is subjective—including much of the material reality we have around us that we think of as “objective.” It is for this reason that I designate this basis for confidence in the Bible as an “intermediately objective” or a semi-objective basis for confidence in the Bible not as exhaustively sure as the previous one, but certainly one highly convincing in the realm of external evidence wherein many proofs about various realities are discussed in forums ranging from courtrooms to scientific laboratories.
Perhaps the foremost reason this evaluation holds less surety than the previous one is due to the fact that so much of man’s perception of external evidence has been corrupted by his Fall into sin, and so much of even nature itself (which comprises much of external evidence) has been likewise adversely affected by the curse of the Fall (Romans 8:20-22).
However, Dr. Voddie Baucham summarized this basis for confidence in the Bible as the Word of God well this way:
“I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.”
The final, personal, and most subjective basis that provides one confidence in the Bible as the Word of God is due simply to the testimony of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart that this God of the Bible has made him or her His child (Romans 8:16). For people who have had this experience, when we read the Bible, our “heart burns within itself,” as it were, down to our internal conscience that we are taking in the very words of God (Luke 24:32).
This kind of personal experience is not one that can be conjured up by any effort of ours. It only happens supernaturally by the Spirit of God working in the heart of a person to regenerate them to saving faith. It is one of the evidences that one has been transformed by God into a “new man.” That is, that he is a real Christian with a personal relationship with God.
The first two confidences can technically be held by persons who have no actual personal relationship with God. The book of James tells us that even demons believe in God, and we observe many examples in the historical narratives of the Scriptures in which these demons relied on the authority of God’s Word. But they do not trust in God personally. So it is the case that many people can believe in the Bible intellectually based on either the first or second confidence, and yet have no personal relationship with God—experience no saving faith.