Rebuttal of Chapter 1: Why Read the Bible?
This is a commentary on the Watchtower Society's 1989 book The Bible: God's Word or Man's?, Chapter 1: "Why Read the Bible?"
Why Read the Bible?
We are living in a world with too many problems and far too few answers. Many millions regularly go hungry. Increasing numbers are addicted to drugs. More and more families are breaking up. Incest and family violence are constantly in the news. The air we breathe and the water we drink are slowly being poisoned. Meanwhile, more and more of us are victimized by crime. Do you think problems like these will ever be solved?
There are problems in the world, yes, but certainly many answers as well. The problems they list are being dealt with by those who care to make changes. Many do. Drug use is down, crime is down, pollution is down. No, these problems will never go away completely, but neither will they just keep getting worse, as this paragraph seems to be saying.
Incidentally, hunger, drug abuse, broken families, incest, family violence, pollution and crime can all be found among the WTS. They should be careful about pointing fingers...
IN ADDITION, we live in an age of hard choices. Many, for example, are implacably opposed to abortion, calling it murder of the unborn. Others feel just as strongly that women have authority over their own bodies and should decide such a matter for themselves. Many view homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex as rank immorality. Others believe these practices are a matter of personal choice. Who is to say who is right and who is wrong?
Precisely, although this won't stop them from trying to tell us what is right and wrong.
2 The Bible offers guidance in matters of morality, and it describes effective solutions to the problems of crime, hunger, and pollution. The trouble is, most people no longer view the Bible as an authority in such matters. At one time, it was listened to with respect -- at least in the West. Although the Bible was written down by humans, in the past the majority in Christendom accepted it as the Word of God and believed that God himself had inspired its contents.
The Bible has some good common-sense guidelines that are followed by people all over the earth, including many who have barely even heard of the Bible. Look at the "non-Christian" nations, and notice how they seem to have the same problems, as well as the same solutions as the "Christian" nations. Why hasn't the Bible made a difference?
3 Today, however, it is fashionable to be skeptical about everything: customs, ideas, morals, even the existence of God. Especially, people doubt the value of the Bible. Most seem to consider it out of date and irrelevant. Few modern intellectuals view it as the Word of God. Most people would rather agree with scholar James Barr, who wrote: "My account of the formation of the biblical tradition is an account of a human work. It is man's statement of his beliefs." 1
As we will see, this is the viewpoint that makes the most sense, and that the facts of the case point to. Do you disagree? Feel free to create your own rebuttal of what I will write.
4 Is this your opinion? Do you think the Bible is God's word, or man's? However you answer that question, consider this point: If the Bible is merely man's word, then logically there is no clear answer to mankind's problems. Humans will just have to muddle through as best they can, hoping somehow to avoid poisoning themselves out of existence or blowing themselves up in a nuclear war. But if the Bible is the Word of God, it is the very thing we need to get us through this difficult time.
This is a clear example of the Society's faulty logic. There is nothing "logical" about saying that if the Bible is merely man's word then there is no clear answer to mankind's problems. One does not follow from the other, and it is a gross oversimplification of the facts. As far as humans muddling through, they have managed for millennia, and it seems they will continue to do so. Scare tactics don't help the situation.
5 This publication will present evidence that the Bible really is God's Word. And the publishers hope that after you have considered the evidence, you will realise that the Bible contains the only valid answers to mankind's problems. First, though, we would like to draw to your attention some facts that, in themselves, make the Bible worthy of your consideration.
We will see what kind of 'evidence' the Society provides...
An All-Time Best-Seller
6 To begin with, it is a best-seller, the most widely circulated book in all history. According to the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, an estimated 2,500,000,000 copies were printed between 1815 and 1975. That is an enormous figure. No other book in history has come even close to the Bible in circulation figures.
7 Besides that, no other book has been translated into so many languages. The Bible can now be read, in its entirety or in part, in more than 1,800 different tongues. The American Bible Society reports that it is now accessible to 98 percent of the population of our planet. Imagine the huge effort involved in producing so many translations! What other book has received such attention?
This, of course, only proves that people think the Bible is the word of God. It is not a proof that it actually is the word of God. Similarly, the Book of Mormon, the Koran and other 'holy' books have received a tremendous circulation, but of course in those cases, no Christian thinks that 'might makes right'. The Koran's amazing circulation means nothing to a Christian, other than the fact that they realize that Moslems think the Koran is the word of God. This is no proof, anymore than Mao's 'little red book' came from God, or that AOL disks come from God.
Remember, the key is for people to think something is the word of God, and then amazing things are done by those people. Zeal is the key, not accuracy.
A Book With Influence
8 The New Encyclopædia Britannica calls the Bible "probably the most influential collection of books in human history." 2 The 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine confessed: "I owe my enlightenment quite simply to the reading of a book ... the Bible. It is quite rightly called Holy Scriptures. He who has lost his God can rediscover Him in this book."3 During that same century, antislavery activist William H. Seward proclaimed: "The whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever-growing influence of the Bible."4
9 Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, called the Bible "the best gift God has ever given to man ... But for it we could not know right from wrong."5 British jurist Sir William Blackstone highlighted the influence of the Bible when he said: "Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation [the Bible], depend all human laws, that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these."6
This is anecdotal evidence, a favourite tactic of the Society. This means nothing, of course, anymore than quoting a bunch of people who think the Bible is rubbish would mean anything.
As far as it being an influential book, that is true, but it again goes back to people thinking it is God's word, and nothing more than that. For example, entire nations in the Moslem world are changing their very form of government and society in order to match the Koran's teachings. That's influence on a far greater scale than the Bible's, for what nation explicitly states that they are going to change their laws and constitutions to match the Bible? Does this mean that the Koran is the word of God, since it is a book of such influence? See how these arguments become meaningless?
Hated and Loved
10 At the same time, we have to note that no other book has been the target of so much vicious opposition and even hatred throughout history. Bibles have been burned on public bonfires, from the Middle Ages down to our 20th century. And reading or distributing the Bible has been punished with fines and imprisonment even in modern times. In past centuries, such "crimes" often led to torture and death.
This had nothing to do with the Bible as much as it had to do with political ends of the church. It had power, wanted to keep that power, and so conspired to keep information out of the hands of the common person. How does the political machinations of the church prove anything about the Bible being God's word?
11 Parallel with this has been the devotion that the Bible has inspired. Many have persevered in reading it despite relentless persecution. Consider William Tyndale, a 16th-century Englishman who was educated at Oxford University and became a respected instructor at Cambridge University.
12 Tyndale loved the Bible. But in his days, the religious authorities insisted on keeping it in Latin, a dead language. So, in order to make it accessible to his fellow countrymen, Tyndale determined to translate the Bible into English. Since this was against the law, Tyndale had to give up his comfortable academic career and flee to the Continent. He lived the difficult life of a fugitive long enough to translate the Greek Scriptures (the "New Testament") and some of the Hebrew Scriptures (the "Old Testament") into his native tongue; but he was finally arrested, convicted of heresy, and strangled, and his body was burned.
13 Tyndale is only one of a great number of people who have sacrificed everything in order to read the Bible or make it available to others. No other book has inspired so many ordinary men and women to rise to such heights of courage. In this respect, the Bible is truly without equal.
Again, as long as Tyndale believed the Bible was the word of God, he was willing to face death. Today, suicide bombers make the same point about the Koran. In neither case does this tell us anything beyond the state of mind of the person who gave up his life.
Claim That It Is God's Word
14 The Bible is also unique because of the claim made by many of its writers. Some 40 individuals, including kings, shepherds, fishermen, civil servants, priests, at least one general, and a physician, had a hand in writing the different parts of the Bible. But time and again, the writers made the same claim: that they were writing not their own thoughts but God's.
15 Thus, in the Bible we often read expressions such as: "The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue" or, "This is what the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, has said." (2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 22:15) In a letter sent to a fellow evangelizer, the apostle Paul wrote: "All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work." -- 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
If I were writing a 'holy' book, I would make the same claim too. It gives you power over others. But saying something does not make it so. It is merely a handy way out in case someone questions what you wrote.
16 In harmony with the claim that it is God's word, not man's, the Bible answers questions that only God can answer. It explains, for example, why human governments have not been able to bring lasting peace, how humans can find the deepest satisfaction in life, and what the future holds for the earth and mankind upon it. Now, as a thinking person, you must have wondered about these and similar questions many times. Why not at least consider the possibility that the Bible is God's Word and thus uniquely able to give authoritative answers?
We will, indeed, put it to the test. But just because it claims to give answers, it doesn't necessarily mean those answers are real. The Mormon writings tell you that you can be a god of your old little planet. That is an answer only God can give, but is it the right answer?
17 We encourage you to examine carefully the evidence presented in this book. Some of its chapters will discuss often-heard criticisms of the Bible. Is the Bible unscientific? Does it contradict itself? Does it contain real history or just myth? Did the miracles recorded in the Bible really happen? Logical evidence is presented to answer these questions. After this, powerful demonstrations of the Bible's divine inspiration are discussed: its prophecies, its deep wisdom, and the remarkable effect it has on people's lives. Finally, we will see what effect the Bible can have on your life.
18 First, though, we will discuss how we got the Bible. Even the history of this amazing book gives proof that it has more than merely a human origin.
Tune in next time to see these points rebutted...