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Blog / Why Belief in the Bible is Rational: An Interview with K. Scott Oliphint

Why Belief in the Bible is Rational: An Interview with K. Scott Oliphint

K. Scott OliphintFaith is the foundation upon which the Christian life depends. But what are the good reasons for that faith? And how does the Bible factor in to the basis of that faith?

Bible Gateway interviewed K. Scott Oliphint (@ScottOliphint) about his book, Know Why You Believe (Zondervan, 2017).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog, Why Creeds are Still a Big Deal: An Interview with Justin Holcomb]

What is “knowledgeable faith”?

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K. Scott Oliphint: Many people consider the notion of “faith” to be the polar opposite of knowledge. This has never been the Christian view of faith. For Christianity, faith is typically understood as including three inextricably linked categories: assent, trust, and knowledge. “Knowledgeable faith” is trusting the One—Jesus Christ—to whom we have assented and whom we know. Christ himself says eternal life consists of knowing the Father, and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent (John 17:3). Christ ties our eternal existence to knowing him. There can be no true faith without true knowledge.

What do you mean, “Christianity is a way of seeing”?

K. Scott Oliphint: The apostle Paul reminds us that in our conversion to Christ we’re renewed “unto knowledge” (Col. 3:10). This means that, upon our conversion, we begin to see ourselves and the world in its proper light (Matt. 13:15; Mk. 8:18).

Christianity is not something we add to an otherwise complete and useful life. The Christian life is a new life, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Because, when we’re converted, we’re renewed unto knowledge; we see everything through the spectacles of Scripture. We begin, by grace, to “think God’s thoughts (as those thoughts are given to us in his revelation) after him.”

Why is the Bible trustworthy?

K. Scott Oliphint: The short answer to this question is that it is the Word of God.

Scripture purports to be the Word of God from the beginning (Gen. 1:28-30). It’s the history of God first creating and then redeeming a people. Its history is not confined to one person getting a “special” revelation at some limited point in time, but its history spans centuries in which the Lord himself speaks through his chosen representatives.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, section 5 lists a number of reasons why we should believe that the Bible is God’s own Word. These include the “heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof…” All of these, says the Confession, “are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God.”

The wonderful point made by the Confession is that one has to actually read and consider what Scripture says in order to recognize it to be God’s very Word. No other book provides such a wealth of evidence for its own character.

The “negative” answer to the question is to consider what happens if we refuse to trust that the Bible is God’s Word. The implications of this go all the way back to Genesis 3. Once we question the Word of God, we’re set squarely on a path toward inevitable death. That path begins in this life—in which we try to make sense of God’s world as God’s creatures, but without God—and it continues into eternity.

Is the fact that the Bible was written over a period of 16 centuries a strength or weakness?

K. Scott Oliphint: This fact is actually a strength of Christianity. As I said earlier, when one considers the vast amount of time and people involved in God’s covenant with his people, throughout the Old Testament and the New (Heb. 1:1-4), one would think there would be vast areas of inconsistency and incoherence in what’s written in Scripture. However, when Scripture is read, it’s nothing short of miraculous that its message is uniform throughout history (John 10:35), that it moves inexorably toward a distinct purpose and plan (Rom. 11:36), that its focus, from the beginning to the end and into eternity, is God’s presence with his creation and his people (Rev. 21:1-4).

This is no book produced in secret. It’s not a book given to one man who alone “founds” a religion. This is God’s book, given by him to a number of his select representatives, and written down for his people, that they might know him and know what it is he requires of them (2 Tim. 3:16). No other religious book can claim such a pedigree. No other book so far transcends its limits that it moves its readers toward heaven itself.

What do you mean, “Believing that the Bible is true is more like being in a marriage relationship than like a scientific experiment”?

K. Scott Oliphint: It’s not enough simply to know what Scripture says. Satan knows as much. As in a marriage, we do not simply know our spouses. We commit ourselves to them. We pledge our allegiance to them. So it is with Scripture.

After delineating the “arguments” for Scripture’s evidence that it’s God’s Word, the last section of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, section 5, says this: “…our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts (1 John 2:20; John 16:13-14; 1 Cor. 2:10-12; Isa. 59:21).

This truth helps us to see that if biblical faith includes trust and assent, such trust and assent has to come to us by way of a supernatural intervention from God the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-7). In order to trust and assent to what Scripture says, we need heart surgery that only the Holy Spirit can perform. Our hearts of stone need to be changed to hearts of flesh (Ez. 11:19, 36:26). We cannot do this ourselves; only God can do this. When he does, he moves us from a mere knowledge of him, to an unwavering commitment to him and his glory, through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Beyond the Bible, Know Why You Believe explores reasons to believe in nine other Christian tenets, including God, Jesus, miracles, and Jesus’ resurrection. Briefly explain your chapter on “believing in God despite the evil in the world.”

K. Scott Oliphint: The problem of evil is both a pastoral and philosophical problem. Pastorally, everyone is a victim of evil and sin in the world. Sin enslaves the human heart (Rom. 6:17-22); the world fights against the truth of God (John 15:18-19, 17:9); the devil and his legion fight to oppose God and all he has made (Lk. 8:12; John 8:44; 2 Tim. 2:25).

The problem with the problem is that, for those who believe in and trust the Triune God of Scripture, it’s difficult for us to reconcile the sheer amount of evil in the world with the infinite goodness of the God who made everything. How could things go so wrong when God made them so good?

We will not be able to provide a comprehensive answer to this question. God keeps some things to himself (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 11:33-34).

We do, however, know this much: the problem of evil has its genesis in us. It’s because man sinned that the world began its ruinous revolt against God. The problem of evil is so insidious, extensive, and prevalent because it’s a violation of the One who himself is infinite in his holiness. In other words, the magnitude of sin and evil in the world show forth the magnitude of God’s character, and what a violation of that character by us entails.

The wonder of it all is that the Triune God planned, from eternity past, to solve the problem that we committed by committing the Son of God to the suffering that we ourselves brought on God’s creation, and that we alone deserve (Eph. 1:3-14). One of the most glorious and mysterious passages in Scripture is this: “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Is. 53:10). This passage speaks of that “Suffering Servant,” the Lord Jesus Christ.

The most mysterious aspect to the problem of evil is not why the Triune God included it in his sovereign plan. It is, rather, why he determined himself to suffer so that our problem would be his, and so that those who trust him would not have to suffer the penalty they deserve.

Why is a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible the most productive way of defending the Christian faith?

K. Scott Oliphint: Because Scripture has, at root, one author, it’s important for Christians to understand what that author teaches the church, from Genesis to Revelation. We’ll never be able to plumb the depths of Scripture entirely, but we should be as clear as we can be on the doctrines that Scripture teaches us. When we see Scripture’s unity, we’re better able to explain to people why we believe what we do, and why it’s incumbent on all people to bow the knee to Christ.

Bio: K. Scott Oliphint (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and is the author of numerous articles and books, including Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God, and The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. He’s also coeditor of the two-volume Christian Apologetics Past and Present and a contributor to Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy.

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Filed under Apologetics, Books, Interviews