Two thirds of all western citizens no longer believe that there is any such thing as absolute truth. Our society has embraced moral relativity and has rejected the concept of objective truth, for ultimately, this would mean that someone would be right and worse, another would have to be wrong. Our cultures highest virtue has become tolerance and we’ve sacrificed the notion of an ultimate or universal truth in order to give credence to every religion and ideology.
Tolerance toward another person may be a wonderful thing, but it shouldn’t mean that we have to mindlessly accept everyone’s beliefs as having some form of legitimacy. After all, truth is by its very nature, exclusive! The Renaissance would have never happened had the western culture's thinkers believed that reality was somehow wrapped up in what an individual believed about truth. Scientific methodology was built on the premise that the universe or nature is not affected by people’s subjective experience, but is ordered by observable and predictable principles. For example, what you or I believe about the law of gravity has no effect on what happens if we jump off of the Empire State Building. If we did jump, we would quickly learn that gravity is not swayed by prejudice or a man’s will. A rude awakening to the objective nature of truth would wait for them on the ground below.
Liberal theologians, philosophers and the atheistic scientific community have won the war in discrediting the Bible in the eyes of our western culture. A popular author, Philip Wylie, wrote in his book, “The Magic Animal”, "The bible must be put away in libraries where it belongs. Filed to gather dust beneath appropriate labels: Mythology, Ancient History, Superstition, Folklore, Pre-scientific Philosophy and so on".
The result . . . our society requires adherents to ever changing ethical beliefs that are only popular for a time, or to role models who have the privilege of articulating their views through the media. The question is, how can we possibly persuade this generation’s youth to aspire to a higher moral standard, if we don’t have a reasonable basis to give them to live an ethical life?
This ethical confusion we find ourselves in today directly relates to the way in which people have discarded the Bible as a source of moral authority in their lives. We’re lost in the runes of our own ghettos while the irony is, the Bible, unlike any of the other so-called religious holy writings, can actually stand up to many of the principles of scientific methodology. Few people would argue with the tenants of the scientific method in discovering truth about the physical world, but somehow they reject this or any other form of reasoning in discerning spiritual truth. Certainly, we can’t expect to find God in any telescope or microscope, but the guiding principles that determine sound scientific evidence or theory can be applied to verify the uniqueness and supernatural qualities that the Bible exemplifies.
So what kinds of tests can we apply to the Bible to determine if we need to throw it out, or uphold it as the inspired word of God? Sound scientific theory always exhibits the following qualities:
• Cognitive Relevance - Which means that the notion has meaningful reference to the properties or behaviour being observed. It deals accurately with the actual data!
• Coherency - Which means that the idea should contain no elements that are logically inconsistent with other elements or principles.
• Predictive Accuracy - Which means that an authentic scientific theory is able to predict the values of measurable properties.
• Unifying Power - Which means that the theory may unify what once was considered unrelated phenomena.
If you remember, Philip Wylie stated that the Bible should be labelled under titles like "mythology and folklore" but if we can determine that it is historically accurate, it would not only seem that these kinds of titles were inappropriate. No other sacred writings come close to giving this amount of historical information to test its integrity. This fact demonstrates the fact that the Bible displays a kind of cognitive relevance by proving that the scriptures conveyed a true representation of events and information. And the Bible was recorded in a time when other people's attempts at recording history were steeped in mythology and exaggeration.
Example 1 - The story of Joshua and the Israelites conquering the land of Cannah was thought to be a fanciful tale along the same lines as the travels of Sinbad. But evidence is coming to the forefront that demonstrates the historicity of the event. Cuneiform tablets were found in the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna, that represent a plea for Pharaoh's help by people in Cannah against the Khabiri. Modern scholars are convinced these Khabiri are the very Hebrew people in the book of Joshua, and the time frame matches perfectly. Part of this tablet reads - May the King harken unto Abdi-Heba and send troops, for if no troops come this year, the whole territory of my lord will be lost. The Habiru are capturing the fortresses of the king. May the King care fore his land. The Habiru are taking the cities of the King
Example 2 - In 1845, Sir Henery Layard began to explore a mound about 20 miles north of Nineveh. He discovered a black obelisk which shows a sculptured relief of Jehu, King of Juda. The period of time matches the Biblical account and it provides us with our only record of what an Israelite King looked like. The obelisk reads - At that time I received the tribute from the inhabitants of Tyre, Sideon, and of Juhu, son of Omri
Example 3 - Critics had scoffed at the thought that God judged Sodom and Gomorra by raining fire on these towns, until archaeologists found the neighboring town of Zoar just south of the Dead Sea. The buildings of the town were burned from the inside out as if the roofs were set on fire, and there was a layer of volcanic ash covering the site.
Example 4 - Another interesting discovery was made during the excavations at Jericho. Archaeologists found the walls of the city to have collapsed outwards. This was very unusual as walls of cities at this time always fell inwards when they were destroyed because of the housing structures built together with them just inside. The evidence matches the account given in Joshua chapter 6, verse 20 which states that, "when the people gave a loud shout, the walls fell down flat; so every man charged straight in".
Example 5 - The Moabite stone was discovered in 1868, and once again clarifies events, names and times recorded in the Biblical record. It reads - I am Mesha, son of Chemos. . .King of Moab. . . Omri, King of Israel, oppressed Moab many days because Chemosh was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him, and he also said I will oppress Moab. . . Now Omri had possessed all the land of Medeba and dwelt in it in his days and half the days of his son.
These are only a few cases, as there are literally thousands of examples of the Bible being clarified and substantiated by archaeology. From the existence of cities and their rulers, to where battles were fought and who won, to small details like the amount of money Joseph would have been sold as a slave by his brothers, archaeology has demonstrated the historicity of the scriptures over and over again.
Yale archaeologist, Millar Burrows says, “On the whole, however, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record” Renowned Jewish archaeologist, Nelson Glueck, wrote, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” William F. Albright, known for his reputation as one of the great archaeologists, states: "The excessive scepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries... has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history".
In the last few centuries, many people have tried to undermine the credibility of the entire Bible by casting doubt on specific historical events. Today, however, few credible scholars believe this would be an effective way of bringing these holy writings into disrepute, for there are mountains of archaeological evidence that say otherwise. Even highly controversial events like the Novidic flood, find similar recorded accounts of a universal flood in virtually every ancient civilization around the world. The Bible does deal honestly and accurately with the evidence of history, so we can say it displays cognitive relevance. The question we need to ask now is, does it contradict other disciplines we know to be true? Wylie wanted to categorize the Bible under the title "Pre-scientific Philosophy", so if we can determine if this ancient book actually contributes to modern scientific understanding, we would have a high degree of confidence of its coherency.
What we find in the Bible, is an amazingly accurate description of modern scientific concepts. One profound example of this unexplained knowledge of science is the sanitation laws of the Pentateuch. To understand how unique these laws are, we need to compare them with the cultures that should have influenced Moses when he wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. It is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey that "the Egyptians were skilled in medicine more than any other art", yet most of Egyptian medicine consisted of a series of fruitless rituals and grotesque concoctions that would intensify disease in most cases, rather than cure it. Egyptian doctors would advise a mixture of worm's blood and ass's dung to treat imbedded splinters. People with any form of eye disease were required to rub gall of tortoise mixed with honey in their eyes, and then have repeated washings of cattle urine mixed with pig bile. As a matter of fact, waste products figured so often in the prescriptions that medical historians have labelled the Egyptian practice as sewage pharmacology. Babylonia, the other predominant culture at the time the Mosaic Law was recorded, used the same products only for a different reason. They used swine's fat and all kinds of excrement because they believed that these products would disgust the demon that inflicted the disease and the demon would leave the patient.
Pretty disgusting stuff today, yet you would think that if these culture's medical practices were so respected by the rest of the world, the Bible would just mimic what they taught. But it doesn't! Of all the sacred writings of every major religion in the world, only the Bible sidesteps the errors that pervaded the medical sciences of its time. In fact, scholars are nearly unanimous in attributing the world's first system of sanitary laws to the precepts laid down in the first five books of the Bible.
The idea of washing yourself when you were exposed to a dead or diseased person never became a common medical practice until Ignaz Semmelweis implemented it in the mid 1800's. Yet 1500 years before Christ, the Bible not only commanded this, but instructed people to use running water (not stagnant still water) and for them to wash themselves with wet branches of hyssop. This hyssop contains a chemical called caracrol, which is almost identical to thymal, the antifungal and antibacterial agent that modern surgeons use to scrub with before an operation. Incredible! If you take a close look at Leviticus chapters 13 and 14, you will discover a number of medical practices that are over 3000 years ahead of their time. The chapters first of all aid in the recognition and diagnosis of disease. They then direct the diseased person to be separated from those who were healthy (quarantine in other words). They direct the placing of a covering over the nose and mouth of the diseased person and the destruction of anything that had been touched by the diseased person. If these precepts had been followed down through history, millions of lives in the Black Plague of Europe alone would have been spared. It has taken science thousands of years to discover what the Bible taught all along.
Another area the Bible divulges modern scientific principles is the discipline of geology. Isaiah 40:22 is speaking of God when it says, "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth". The word 'circle' comes from the Hebrew word 'kag' and it more specifically implies sphericity or roundness. In other words, we have a statement made about 2200 years before Columbus that describes the world as being round. Very interesting!
If you turn to Job chapter 28, you can find a number of geological truths that haven't been known by science until the last 150 years. Verse 4, "Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft, in places forgotten by the foot of man". So where people once walked a miner can now cut a shaft. This speaks of the modern geological principle called 'superimposition', which basically states that a sedimentary sequence of rock and soil gets older as you dig deeper into the ground. Verse 5 speaks of the earth's hot interior, "The earth from which food comes is transformed below as by fire". This fact was not confidently affirmed by scientists until the middle of the 19th century. Verse 11, "He searches the sources of rivers", speaks of ground water being the source of rivers. Did you know ground water is the source of rivers? Finally, verse 9 provides insight into a geological principle that had not been known until 1959. The verse says, "Man's hand assaults the flinty rock and lays bare the roots of mountains". Did you know mountains have roots? You see, the earth's crust is less dense than the underlying mantle, so the crust floats on top of the mantle like an iceberg. Wherever there is a mountain, the crust reposes down deeper into the mantle like an iceberg in water. In other words, mountains have roots.
The Bible gives the first recorded example of mankind's understanding of the hydrologic cycle. Isaiah 55:10, 11 says, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sewer and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
These examples are only a few of the disciplines in which the Bible makes clear and accurate statements that are several millennia ahead of their time. As with the topic of archaeology, a whole book could be devoted to how the light Bible sheds on areas of science like astronomy, botany, geology, medicine, and psychology. Although it’s not a science textbook, when the Bible talks about science, it is astoundingly accurate.
If archaeology demonstrates the historicity of the Bible, and its insight in areas of science give us reason to believe in its uniqueness, fulfilled prophecy confirms the inspiration of this remarkable book. The most highly acclaimed psychics have less than 10% of their predictions come true, and even at 10%, their predictions are so vague that you would think that something they said would have to eventually come true. The Bible, on the other hand, has a perfect track record, and many of its predictions are strikingly specific.
In Ezekiel chapter 26 we find God pronouncing judgment on the city of Tyre. Verses 12 and 14 predict that this great city would be destroyed, the stones of the city would be cast into the sea, and that fishermen would use these stones to fish from. Three hundred years later, in 332 BC Alexander the Great attacked the city, destroyed it and cast its' stones into the sea. To this day, fishermen fish from these ruins.
Nineveh was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world and the capitol of the Assyrian empire. It was a massive fortress and any army that attempted to attack this city would have to scale the first wall, cross a 150 foot moat, and scale a 100 foot wall that was 50 feet thick, and guarded by 200 foot towers. Yet, all this fortification could not protect them from prophecy being fulfilled. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust I him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Neneveh. . . trouble will not come a second time.” (Nahum 1:7-9) How would this city be destroyed, and never be rebuilt to face trouble again? With an overwhelming flood! History tells us that the Tigris River flooded the city gates, washed them away, and the Medes, Babylonians and Scythians just walked into the city and took it.
The 9th chapter of the book of Daniel gives an interesting prediction about the Messiah. It states that Messiah the Prince would make himself known in Jerusalem 483 years after the command to rebuild the city was given, which at that point lay in ruins. Now if we use the 360 day lunar year, which was used at Daniel's time, and count down from the time King Artaxerxes commanded the city to be rebuilt, on March 14, 445 BC, we arrive on the very day that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, riding on a donkey: the very day that Christ would be known to the people as Messiah the Prince. Daniel then goes on to describe how the Messiah would be cut off (the crucifixion) and that Jerusalem would once again be destroyed - which happened in 70 AD by the hand of Rome.
Incredibly accurate and specific! This is only one of many sections of Scripture in the Old Testament that describes who the Christ would be, where he would come from and what he would do. Dr. Charles Ryrie has pointed out that, "by the law of chance, it would require two hundred billion earths, populated with 4 billion people each, to come up with one person who could achieve one hundred prophecies, fulfilled without any errors in sequence". But the Old Testament records not just 100, but over 300 prophecies fulfilled in Christ's first coming. Over 300! How could such a book have been written by men alone?
Just to review, we have seen how the Bible displays Cognitive Relevance, Coherency, & Predictive Accuracy, but how would one demonstrate that it brings Unifying Power to other truths or disciplines? The simplest proof of this is that the Bible actually works. When people read this book with an opened mind, their hearts are often wooed and lives are transformed into something bigger, something richer, and something sweeter. No book in the history of literature has taken so many different people, from prisoners to statesmen, from poppers to executives and brought meaning, and hope, and vitality to their spirits.
But don’t take my word for it – read it yourself. Start with the Gospel of John. I did!
Bruce Paul is a Christian business man, father of three, lay apologist, and freelance writer. He is a principle of Faith-Friends, a new portal concept to promote local Christian ministries and Christian business people in the marketplace, one community at a time. http://www.faith-friends.com/
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