Monday, March 30, 2020

What do we believe about the Bible? Sufficiency and Clarity

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law" (Deut 29:29).
Many people today are looking for “a new word from God” or search for other spiritual insights. As important as it is for us to know that the Bible is true, it is equally important for us to know that it is enough.

Pastor Tony Evans explains, “God’s revealed word has everything we need to know to be all that God expects us to be.” God has not left us to search out how to please him; he has told us exactly what he wants. Nor has he left us to seek out the secrets of knowing him; he has revealed all that he wants us to know about himself at this time through his Son and his word.

That doesn’t mean he has told us everything we want to know. “The secret things belong to the LORD.” There are things he will tell us in glory. There are things we may never be privy to. But what he wants us to have, we have, and what he does not want us to have, we are not going to get. The ancient Gnostics and the modern New Agers search for hidden secrets in vain. There is nothing that has not been disclosed to those who will submit themselves to the scriptures.

Wayne Grudem offers some practical applications of this doctrine:

  1. It should encourage us as we try to discover what God would have us think or to do.
  2. We are to add nothing to scripture, nor should we consider anything else equal to it.
  3. God does not require us to know or believe anything about him or his work that is not found in scripture.
  4. No modern “revelations from God” should be treated as equal with scripture.
  5. Something is not a sin unless it is forbidden by scripture either explicitly or implicitly. 
  6. God requires nothing of us that is not stated in scripture either explicitly or implicitly. 
  7. We should emphasize what the Bible emphasizes and be content with what God has revealed. 
Of course, the sufficiency of scripture doesn’t do us any good if we can’t understand it, which is why the counterpart to this doctrine is the clarity of scripture.

“The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7b). We mustn't think of the scriptures as if they're written in code, and only special people have the key. God gave us his word to be understood. He wants to make the simple wise. He wants us to know him and to know how to please him.

However, the clarity of scripture does not mean that you can understand the scriptures easily or that all parts are equally clear. Grudem says, “The clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.”

One reason for the doctrine of the clarity of the scriptures is the Holy Spirit. The same God who inspired the text lives in the hearts of believers and will help those who seek him to understand his word. As Spurgeon said, “If you do not understand a book by a departed writer you are unable to ask him his meaning, but the Spirit, who inspired Holy Scripture, lives forever, and He delights to open the Word to those who seek His instruction.”

The scriptures reward diligent study. The essentials (eg, how to be saved) are easier to find and understand than ancillary issues (eg, what will happen when Jesus returns), but nothing is guaranteed to those who refuse to come to the word with humility.

So why do we need Bible teachers? First, not everyone is equally diligent about Bible study. Some study the scriptures as their career, and the rest of us fit it into our lives where we can.

Second, that’s the way Christ set up his Church. His design was that the Church should be made up of people with different gifts, including teaching, who all work together to one end (cf, 1 Cor 12). Spurgeon remarked, “It seems odd that certain who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.” The wisdom and understanding the Spirit has given one has been given them for the edification of all.

However, even though there are specialists, every believer is called and equipped to search and understand the scriptures so that they can know God and live according to his ways. He has promised that his word will refresh the soul, make wise the simple, and give joy to the heart and light to the eyes (Psalm 19). Those are gifts that should not be left unclaimed.

I think anyone would benefit from a close reading of “The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (4) Sufficiency” in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. “The Bible is Sufficient” in Tony Evans’ Theology You Can Count On is also well worth your time.

Part of Christianity 101

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Who's to Blame for Coronavirus?

Every time there's some kind of calamity we have people offering their opinions about why this is happening to us. In recent weeks I’ve seen a few versions of the idea that this virus outbreak is God’s way of punishing or correcting our love of money, sports, busyness, etc. Such as:

In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, "you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don't want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can't go to church."
It’s a compelling idea — we went from idolizing athletes to having all sports canceled in just a couple of weeks. It sounds very Old Testament.

Which is the problem. We’re not in the Old Testament. Praise Jesus, we do not live under the old covenant!

Under the old covenant, there were very clear rewards for obedience and penalties for disobedience. If an invading army or a plague swept through ancient Israel, it was accompanied by some prophet saying, “God warned ya!” The Pentateuch spells out exactly what the Israelites should expect if they disobey God, and the script plays out out exactly throughout the rest of the OT.

But that’s not our world. Neither the United States, China, Italy, nor any other modern nation have a covenant like that with God. All of that died with Christ on the cross.

Jesus taught that bad things are not necessarily tied to what we’ve done (cf, Luke 13:1-5, John 9:1-3). In fact, bad things happened to very faithful people. Remember Paul's recounting of his hardships?
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Cor 11:23-27)
God is in control of everything, so when bad things happen, it’s natural to want to know why he allowed this. Most of the time, he doesn’t tell us. We should not feel free to guess. Unless you have a literal special revelation from God, don’t tell people you know why the bad thing happened. You don’t.

People around us do not need to hear that God is taking away their livelihood and possibly life because Americans like sports too much. What people need is to hear the Christians around them talking about the hope they have in Christ Jesus and to see them loving sacrificially.

Monday, March 23, 2020

What do we believe about the Bible? Inerrancy

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matt 5:17-18).
Inerrancy is one of the most controversial teachings in the Christian church. It’s also one of the most misunderstood. Those two things are probably related.

Inerrancy is an idea that results from the doctrine of the inspiration of the scriptures. The idea is simply that when God speaks, he speaks correctly. But of course it can’t be that simple.

When scholars say the Bible is inerrant, they mean different things, but among conservative evangelicals, you’ll find broad agreement with Wayne Grudem’s definition from his Systematic Theology: “The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” That is probably the simplest statement. I prefer Millard Erickson’s slightly longer version from Introducing Christian Doctrine: “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all it affirms.” If that second statement seems like it’s loaded with weasel words, let me reassure you. All it’s saying is that we cannot accuse the authors for being untruthful when they could not have been trying to say the thing we’re trying to draw from the text.

Some caveats. First, inerrancy applies to the original manuscripts, none of which we have. So why do we care? While we do not have the originals, we do know what they said (within 99.8% certainty). Second, inerrancy does not mean that we should read poetry or other symbolic language in a woodenly literal manner. We have to try to understand what the author was trying to communicate, not just nitpick based on the words printed on the page.

Third, and most importantly, our faith does not depend on an inerrant text. This is probably the most controversial thing I’ll say in this project.

I believe in an inerrant text. But if someone were to convince me that there was an error in the Bible, it would not force me to abandon Christianity. As Andy Stanley put it in Irresistable, “The credibility of our faith is not contingent upon our text being infallible or inerrant. It rests securely on an event.” I am not a Christian because I believe the Bible is inerrant. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

Pyramid of possibilities
I think of inerrancy as a protective cap on Christian theology. God said what he meant, and he meant what he said, and we shouldn’t think we have the right to change things or pick and choose what to believe. Inspiration requires that. Inerrancy preserves that ... somewhat.

But if we were to determine that there was an error, or more than one, of fact in the Bible, what would that tell us? That our understanding of inspiration was wrong. That it was possible for God to give the apostles and the prophets the wisdom to communicate his message without his ensuring the accuracy of every little fact. If someone made a typo or had a “senior moment” and messed up a name or a number, would that invalidate everything the author said? Of course not. The death and resurrection of Christ are still true, and we should follow the teachings handed down by his followers.

What if we are wrong about inspiration? What if the writers were hopelessly optimistic about what was going on and the Holy Spirit was not at all involved in authoring the scriptures? What if all we have is the historically reliable memoirs of godly but flawed men writing out of their memories and the wisdom God gave them? According to Gary Habermas, the historian who is the reigning expert on the resurrection of Christ, then the resurrection still happened, and Christianity is still true.

What if these texts aren’t “historically reliable?” What if these are just a book of ancient literature on the level with Plato or Homer? According to Habermas, Christ was still raised. (We’ll return to this topic in more detail later.)

I think it is vitally important that we understand that we are not dependent on an inerrant text for a risen savior. If there are minor errors in the Bible, if the Exodus never happened, even if evolutionary theory is true and Genesis 1-3 are pure myth, Christ was still raised, and his teachings should still be followed.

But I believe that we do have the word of God, carefully delivered and preserved. And our response should be, to borrow from J.I. Packer, to “attend respectfully and thankfully receive all that God imparts to us.”

For more on the doctrine of inerrancy, see “The Dependability of God’s Word: Inerrancy” in Introducing Christian Doctrine by Millard J. Erickson.

Part of Christianity 101

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What do we believe about the Bible? Authority and Inspiration

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
After all the discussion about the reliability of the biblical text, the intent of the authors, and the selection of the books, the only question that really seems important to me is “Why does any of this matter? Why does this book matter?”

The answer is this book matters because it claims to be the very words of God. From the beginning (Gen 1:3) to the end (Rev 22:16) and many, many times in between we see some version of “thus saith the Lord.” If these are the words of God to his creatures, we should know them.

Are these the words of God? Besides the inexplicable transformative power of the scriptures, the best thing I can point to that demonstrates this really is the word of God is fulfilled prophecies. Besides the dozens of prophecies about Jesus that were fulfilled hundreds of years later in his life, the Bible records specific promises that were fulfilled, specific threats that were carried out (eg, the temple was built, then destroyed, then rebuilt, then destroyed again as prophesied), and named names (Cyrus, see Isaiah 45, 2 Chron 36:32-33). So there is good reason to believe there is a supernatural power behind the scriptures.

But how did that happen? We say that the Bible is “inspired,” a term that we get from 2 Tim 3:16 where Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed ....” Peter informs the idea a little more when he says, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21).

The way we believe it works is that God the Holy Spirit, acting through human beings who communicated in their own styles, made sure that the words communicated were exactly what he wanted said. People did not go into a trance. They were not puppets, writing things they did not understand or with hands that moved of their own accord. But they produced the word of God. Because it is the word of God, it is binding.

There are two kinds of revelation. There is a general revelation, where God has revealed himself to humanity through the natural world. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom 1:18-20). God’s wrath will fall on those who do not obey what they know through general revelation.

But God has given us his special revelation, the scriptures, so that we may know him more clearly. If his wrath will fall on those who do not obey the general revelation, we can expect no less for those who possess his special revelation and do not obey it.

Don’t think of the scriptures, though, as a sword hanging over our heads. The word was given to us as a gift. God wants us to know him and how to please him. He gave this gift to us so that we can be reconciled to him. We should respond to that gift by cherishing it, studying it, and obeying it.

Most systematic theology books will have a chapter (or several) on this topic, but I especially recommend “God’s Book — God’s Voice” in Growing Deep in the Christian Life by Charles R. Swindoll.

Part of Christianity 101

Monday, March 16, 2020

Do we have the right books?

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Critics allege there were (depending on who’s raving) hundreds to thousands of potential books, especially gospels, that could have been in the New Testament canon. The NT and modern Christianity are what they are, these people say, only because of political wrangling that allowed the books we use to rise to the top of the pile, helped by the influence of the Roman emperor Constantine. Is there any truth to that? Should we doubt the books we have or explore the ones that didn’t make the cut?

In AD 367, Athanasius published a list of the NT canon as we know it today. Did he pull those out of thin air? Did some committee choose those books? Let’s look at some interesting points in history.

The road to the formation of the NT canon began when the heretic Marcion, who held to a form of gnosticism, published a list of the books he considered acceptable, somewhere around AD 140. This gnostic would, naturally, have chosen some of the several gnostic gospels to be in his canon, right? Nope. His canon consisted of an edited version of Luke and edited versions of ten of Paul’s letters. (In truth, most of the gnostic gospels hadn’t been written yet, so he couldn’t include them.)

Somewhere between 160—175 Tatian produced his Diatessaron, which was a harmony of the four canonical gospels. No other gospels were included.

The Muratorian Canon, written 170ish, listed four gospels (our copy is damaged, we can’t tell which two gospels preceded Luke and John, but it’s not hard to guess), Acts, thirteen letters of Paul, Jude, two letters of John, and Revelation as well as the Wisdom of Solomon and the Apocalypse of Peter.

Origen (c. 184—c. 253) published a suggested canon. There are, he says, people in the church who are unsure about Hebrews, James, and 2 Peter, but about the gospels he clearly lists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John saying, “The Church possesses four Gospels, heresy a great many.”

The pattern should be clear by now. Though there was discussion about which books should be in the Christian canon, there was never any doubt about which gospels should be in it. The four gospels quickly became a unit. The letters of Paul also, according to Lightfoot, were quickly accepted and assembled into a unit. As the verse quoted above shows, Paul’s writings were considered “scripture” before the NT was even completely written.

Why were some of the other books disputed? From Lightfoot:

Several of our New Testament books, at least for a while, were included among the “disputed” books. But these books were questioned not because they taught a different gospel but, especially in several instances, because they were not well known and widely circulated in the church. James, 2 and 3 John, and perhaps others, are to be included in this group.
But over time the church worked out a way to tell which books were authoritative. They were books that were written by apostles or their close associates, that were widely accepted, and that conformed to the traditional teachings of the church as they had been passed down.*

The gnostic books fail on all three counts. They were written late, long after the apostles had passed on, were never widely accepted, and they did not teach the same gospel.

There were orthodox books that were in the early running to be considered canon that also didn’t make it. In addition to the two mentioned above, the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the First Letter of Clement of Rome were widely respected, but they were not written by apostles. Today these are still considered useful writings, but they’re not scripture. RC Sproul says, “It becomes clear if one reads them that the writers were conscious that their work was subapostolic and postapostolic.”

So the truth of the matter is that the books were not selected by a committee; they were the ones that naturally rose in prominence above all the others. They were not forced on us by Constantine, who died 30 years before the canon was finalized. And the gnostics were recognized as heretics and their “gospels” rejected pretty much as soon as they were written.

I think of the process like gem stones. In the end, gems are just rocks. What committee decided that diamonds would be more valuable than quartz? No one did. Certain rocks began to be valued because people admired them for their characteristics, be it color or hardness or simply rarity. In the same way, the early Church began to value characteristics that they saw in some of the books that were in circulation, so those books rose in prominence above all the rest.

The bottom line is that we don’t need to worry that we’re missing something by reading the NT we have today. The early church separated out the forgeries, the heretics, and the merely good from the great, keeping those that experience had taught them have the power to change hearts and lives.

* This, by the way, is why the canon is "closed" (meaning that no more writings can be added to the Bible today): the apostles are gone.

For more information, see How We Got the Bible by by Neil R. Lightfoot.

Image credit: Amila Tennakoon, creative commons

Part of Christianity 101

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Deconstruction of my Faith

Deconstruction stories are all the rage right now. Apparently when something happens to damage your faith, the appropriate response is to share it with everyone you can so that your doubts can become their doubts. So it seems I am obligated to tell my story for all the world to hear.

The source of my troubles was, as is so often the case, the internet. Debating skeptics on the web can be fun and educational, but you run the risk of one of them actually making a good point. The vast majority of the alleged contradictions and errors skeptics claim are in the Bible are simply passages taken out of context, maybe metaphors that use different pictures to describe the same thing, or places where cultural biases make us concerned about details that simply didn't interest the original audience.

But then someone presented me with a contradiction that couldn't be just flicked away. These two passages clearly seemed, when read in context, to explicitly contradict each other on a simple matter of fact.

My world was rocked. If these two passages contradict each other, then at least one of them is wrong. If one passage in the Bible is wrong, then more could be. Which ones? How do we know which ones can be trusted? Can any of them be trusted? Maybe the whole thing really is just make-believe.

Our faith is built on the Bible. If the Bible isn't trustworthy, then all of Christianity is in doubt. I had to stare the question in the face: Can I be a Christian anymore? What can I believe?

It became necessary to deconstruct, to tear all of my beliefs down to find out what, if anything, I could stand on.

Of course, no one deconstructs their faith without reconstructing it. Everyone believes something. It's only a question of what. What would I rebuild upon?

OK, full disclosure: These events occurred in the late '90s. Sorry if that ruins the drama: My faith obviously survived. But how? To answer that, we have to look back even farther, to the mid '90s.

There were three events, moments really, all happening within a year, that set the stage for so much in my life to come. The first was in my college astronomy class. I loved the class, but only one thing still stands out in my memory: The professor told us that there should be no matter in the universe today. The Big Bang produced nothing but energy; when that energy cooled enough to create matter, it should have created the same amount of matter and antimatter. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other when they come in contact, so there should be no matter left in our universe. The fact that there is means, for some inexplicable reason, slightly more matter was created than antimatter.

The second was in a guest lecture at my university by the famous Stephen Hawking. He was a great speaker, even though he couldn't speak. (He was very good with his speech synthesizer.) I still remember a couple of his jokes, told in that robotic voice. I also remember that he said, "If the universe's rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even 1 part in 100,000,000,000,000,000, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size. If it were just that much greater, the matter in the universe would not have collected together; there would be nothing but hydrogen in the universe."

The third was in my advanced mechanics class. We were talking about gravity. The gravitational force scales as one over distance squared (1/r2). The professor told us that there was no particular reason why it had to be r2, but if it were not an even whole number, stable orbits would not be possible, and if it were not 2, the behavior of gravity would be so complex that we would never have been able to figure it out. There was a guy in my class who was ... the physics major version of a biker. He was the smoker/drinker. He was the cynic loaner. In the silence that followed the professor's statement, this guy spoke for all of us when he said, "Gee, I feel like I need to go to church now."

(At this point in my life, I had never heard of apologetics, much less the argument for God from design (aka the teleological argument). But because of these three events, I was primed for it. When I encountered it, my reaction was something along the lines of "oh, of course!")

So, just a couple of years later, when I had to answer the question "what can I believe," I whittled my beliefs back as far I could go, but I ran into something I couldn't get past: There is a God. I could not look at the laws of physics and not see a mind behind them.

If there is a God, then a whole world of possibilities opens up, including that he may choose to reveal himself to humanity. That let me pause, take a deep breath, and keep looking for answers. It took many weeks.

I'm not going to go into what the alleged contradiction was. It's immaterial. As it turns out, Josh McDowell had addressed it in one of his many books. His answer didn't seem like a perfect solution, but it was plausible enough. Over time I've come across a more satisfying answer to that "contradiction."

More than that, I learned that there's nothing new under the sun. People have been studying the Bible for 2000 years. No one's going to find anything new today. Dan Brown, Bart Ehrman, and Richard Dawkins can only put a new spin on something the Church dealt with centuries ago.

Another thing I've learned is that the Christian Faith does not depend on an inerrant Bible. It depends on a risen Savior. And as Gary Habermas has ably shown, you do not need inerrant, inspired, or even historically reliable gospels to prove that Christ rose from the dead. If Christ is risen, then the gospel is true.

The problem is that we don't do a good job of sharing these things.

I thank God that those three physicists planted those seeds in me. Most people don't get that. Where would I be, who would I be if they hadn't provided that?

Lots of people today are running into intellectual and/or emotional issues with their faith, and they're basically floundering alone in the dark because they haven't been prepared, haven't been equipped. One recent high-profile "de-convert" said, "How many miracles happen? Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it." We do talk about it. We talk about it all the time. Whole books have been written about some of these things, but many people don't know that. They don't know where to look. And we never prepared them, never told them that their "childlike faith" was going to need to grow up.

We, the 21st Century Church, have to do better. Jesus didn't tell us to get little kids to pray the sinner's prayer. He told us to make disciples. It is up to us to equip the next generation to take the gospel to the world.

Monday, March 2, 2020

But how do we know the Bible is true?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).
OK, so we know we have the words the apostles actually wrote, and we see there is good reason to believe they were trying to tell the truth and actually knew what they were talking about. But is the Bible really true? How can we know?

There are millions of saints, either in the world today or who have gone on to their reward, who never knew any of what I’ve shared here, but they were convinced the Bible was true. Is it because they were simple rubes who were easily duped into believing a book of fairy tales? Or is it because they knew something ineffable? I think it’s the latter.

All the evidence in the world can only do one thing: It can convince you to give the Bible a chance. Nothing can prove to the unwilling mind that Christianity is true, but if the evidence convinces someone to approach the Bible with an open mind, a strange thing will happen: They will meet God.

Except for those few who met God or Jesus face to face, God has chosen to reveal himself through the written word. That’s the way it was then, and that’s the way it is now. To those who submit themselves to that written word, who come to it, not out of a desire to find fault or even to learn facts, but to know and follow God, the Holy Spirit will make himself known. The glory of God will be revealed. The power of the Lord to transform lives will be experienced.

You don’t need to know about manuscript evidence or archeology to know that the Bible is the true word of God. John Piper says, “The pathway that leads to sight may involve much empirical observation, and historical awareness, and rational thought. But the end we are seeking is not a probable inference from historical reasoning but a full assurance that we have seen the glory of God. Thus, at the end of all human means, the simplest preliterate person and the most educated scholar come to a saving knowledge of the truth of Scripture in the same way: by a sight of its glory.”

This experience is available to everyone who comes to the word. He says, “[T]he sweetness of well-grounded, God-honoring confidence in Scripture is not reserved for scholars but is available for all who have eyes to see.”

So why go through all of the preceding? For two reasons. First, even the most convinced heart can be attacked through the mind. Feelings are fickle. The world wants you to doubt the Bible. When your feelings ebb and the intellectual pressures mount, it’s helpful to know the facts that support the truth of the Scriptures.

Second, non-believers generally cannot start here in modern Western society. People need to hear the facts before they are willing to give the Bible an opportunity to change them. They need to know — and to know that you know — the Bible is no mere book of fairy tales before they are willing to give it a chance.

But in the end it is not knowing the facts about the Bible but experiencing the power of God through his word that changes people. When you read the Bible in such a way that it begins to read you, you will know that it really is the word of God.

Or, to use the metaphor of the passage above, you will know it is the word of God when you get cut.

Putting all that we've covered together gives us a wonderful statement of why we can trust the scriptures (borrowed from Voddie Baucham's The Ever-loving Truth):

The Bible is a life-changing collection of reliable historical documents written by eye-witnesses to supernatural events that occurred in fulfillment of specific prophecies demonstrating the Bible's divine origin.

For more on this topic, see A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by John Piper.

Image credit: Søren Niedziella, creative commons

Part of Christianity 101