All men build their world and life views on basic presuppositions. Some hold these views consciously; others hold them subconsciously. Some articulate their presuppositions clearly and then fail to carry through on them consistently in the details of life. Others who never state their presuppositions nevertheless tell us what they are by what they do.

When it comes to religion, the most important question lurks behind an obvious fact. Men tell us what they believe. Or what they don’t believe. That is important. But even more important is where they got their beliefs. We ask them: What is the source of your religious knowledge?

The Marxist begins with materialism. He denies that spiritual reality is the ultimate that precedes the material. He is an atheist. From whence does he get this knowledge? Certainly it is not innate, for millions of other people don’t agree with it. If it comes from intuition, the Marxist must ask himself why anyone should trust his intuition against that of others who arrive at opposite poles using their own intuition. If he gets his knowledge from reason and observation, he is hard put to explain why his reason is superior to someone else’s and how his observations of the external would provide a compelling thesis for his presuppositions.

The agnostic is in a worse predicament than even the atheist. He does not believe there is any possibility of the knowledge of God or of ultimate things. All knowledge is relative and therefore uncertain. At least the atheist makes the claim to certainty. Marxism indeed is a religion that has its absolutes. It claims to foresee and it promises a utopia to come, and this gives it status, so that it appeals to empty bellies, hungry hearts, and minds that search for finalities.

The mariner with his sextant has for his basic presupposition or absolute his belief that the sun and the stars are fixed in their courses and that his sextant is accurate. If he had nothing constant against which to take his sighting, the mariner’s ship headed for New York might end up in Singapore.

Marxism is indeed far superior to agnosticism, which leaves man in a state of flux. The only certainty of agnosticism is its arbitrary absolute that there is no certainty. The agnostic leaves man slowly turning in the wind, blown in whatever direction chance takes him. The Marxist like the mariner does claim to have a polestar that guides him; the agnostic is left stripped and naked.

The Marxist Absolutes

In today’s world, Marxism with its absolutes is the chief opponent of the only system of religious thinking that provides a better alternative and one which from an evidential standpoint has a world and life view that is infinitely superior. But first we must understand the nature of Marxism. It begins with materialism as the ultimate basis of reality. It then embraces the dialectic, by which the Marxist means that all of life is inexorably ordered so that the end envisioned—pure communism without the class system, a state in which all men are equal and the perfect utopia men dream of has come—becomes a reality. Society is developmental, going through certain stages until at last the highest stage is reached. The present world is divided into two camps, the capitalists or the Marxist or socialist. The next state will be marked by the demise of capitalism and the victory of socialism, and socialism will then yield to communism, which is the ultimate goal of history. The Marxist believes that no one can stop the operations of these historical forces. He is indeed a predestinarian of the predestinarians, except that he has no god or spiritual base and yet believes this mindless force at work will bring about the desired result.

Article continues below

Christianity and Marxism share one belief in common—the belief in absolutes. And Christianity is at last the only acceptable alternative to Marxism. But once this assertion is introduced it raises what in effect is a prior question: From whence do Christianity and Marxism get their knowledge? From what sources do these antithetical systems spring and which is to be trusted? These questions are significant, for if Christianity is true, then Marxism is false, and vice versa. And, of course, there is a third alternative: perhaps neither Christianity nor Marxism is true.

Marxism is indebted to Hegel for its dialectic, but its “sacred scriptures” were penned by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Stalin and Mao expanded and perhaps refined the basic tenets of their peers. The Marxist, if he is serious about his convictions, starts with the assumption that all he needs to know about life can be discovered from his sacred writings. In those writings he finds the answers to all his questions. Stalin and Mao got their guidelines from Marx, Engels, and Lenin. However much Mao and the Chinese differ with the Soviet Union in their understanding of Marxism, the differences lie not in a repudiation of their sacred writings but in the claim each makes that the other has misunderstood what Marx, Engels, and Lenin taught.

Article continues below
The Christian’S Source Of Truth

Even as Marxism has its sacred scriptures, so does Christianity have its own sacred writings, the Bible. This book, composed by many different authors over almost two millennia, lies at the heart of the Christian faith. There are really two sides to the question of the source of our religious knowledge. The first question is answered for the Christian by his assertion that the Bible is the sourcebook for him. On a larger scale, wholly apart from Marxism, the same two questions, of which I have adduced the first, must be applied to the writings and the writers who have left their imprint on other religions and cults.

The ethnic religions like Buddhism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Mohammedanism, and Jainism all have their sacred writings. So do the Christian Scientists, the Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the case of these cults they profess to accept the Bible and add other writings to it as the source of their religious knowledge. There is the second question that must be asked: Is the source from which I get my religious knowledge trustworthy? In other words, why do I believe the Bible and not Marx, Lenin, and Engels? Why the Bible and not the Upanishads? Why the Bible and not the Buddhist Sutras?

It should be clear that if the source from which I get my religious knowledge does not tell me the truth, then I’m in great difficulty. This is true with respect to Marxism and, as we shall see in a moment, with varieties of Christianity as well. Nobody in his right mind who is willing to examine the evidences can say that Marxism’s truth claims stand up evidentially. They don’t. And neither do the truth claims of the ethnic religions or the cults of our day. Anyone who is interested in pursuing this further will find plenty of material available to demonstrate the truth of my statement.

When we come to Christianity, which has the Bible and only the Bible for the source of (that is, the final authority for) its religious knowledge, one quickly finds that a curious paradox enters into the picture. There are those who claim to be Christians who, in one fashion or another, modify or deny the authority on which the Christian faith is supposed to rest. The source of their faith which they theoretically accept is for them a most unreliable instrument. In other words, its truth claims stand up evidentially no better than those of Marxism, the ethnic religions, or the cults. If what Marx wrote cannot be trusted, then Marxism doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If what the Bible teaches cannot be trusted, then Christianity doesn’t have a leg to stand on either. It is as simple as that.

Article continues below

In the latter part of the nineteenth century Auguste Sabatier pointed out that “if part of an absolute authority, for example an important statement of scripture, is shown to be false, then the scripture in and of itself ceases to be an authority; for even if we still accept others aspects of its message, it is on other grounds than simply their presence in scripture.” Indeed Sabatier argued that “to question even one proposition in scripture is to divest scripture of its own absolute authority, and to remove that authority into the critical, questioning, and judging mind of the reader” (quoted by Langdon Gilkey “Naming the Whirlwind: The Renewal of God-Language,” Bobbs-Merrill, 1969, p. 74).

Theological Liberalism And Scripture

Historically the Christian faith has accepted the Bible as its authority. At the heart of theological liberalism lies its denial of the Bible as the true source of faith even as liberalism continued to identify itself as Christian. In the place of the Bible other ultimates were substituted. Schleiermacher substituted religious experience. But whose religious experience was to become the true basis for all religious experience was never answered satisfactorily. Nor was there any way to determine whether Schleiermacher’s religious experience came from God or the Devil.

Ritschl “rejected both metaphysics and experience as bases for religion and established religion on the basis of man’s moral nature and its fulfillment in the historical growth of the kingdom of God.” Scripture, for him, was no longer the ultimate source from which he got his religious knowledge. All liberalism used either one or the other of these alternatives or a combination of them. Once this road was followed, it soon resulted in the refusal to believe anything in the Bible that ran counter to scientific inquiry, moral experience, or religious experience. Out went the supernatural, the transcendent, miracles, hell, a substitutionary atonement, and the like.

Liberalism gave up the notion of infallible propositional truth. It also surrendered absolutes for the relative. It replaced the concern for the heavenly with concern for this present life, with emphasis on justice, freedom, and the temporal welfare of men. A vague and amorphous kind of love characterized the liberal, who was inclined toward syncretism and universalism, wherein the defense of Christian doctrine against competing options was lost sight of.

Article continues below

Whatever good may be said of liberalism and its humanistic impulses, and however genuine its concern for improving the general conditions of men, it was not a faith that was grounded in the Bible. For the liberal, the Bible was really superfluous. It was not the ultimate source of the liberal’s theological convictions. Those convictions rested on authorities extraneous to Scripture that sat in judgment on Scripture and were superior to it.

Neo-Orthodoxy And Scripture

In time liberalism was shown to be defective. Neo-orthodoxy came into being and sought to do what was really impossible—join a serious concern for the Bible with an acceptance of critical biblical scholarship and a naturalistically interpreted world. This combination made it quite difficult for the neo-orthodox theologians to take the Bible seriously as history. It was easy to slide into a framework of faith that was existentially based. Thus Scripture was not objectively and propositionally the living Word of God. It became the Word in experience.

In line with biblical criticism, the neo-orthodox scrapped the notion of a historic Adam and Eve. They professed to believe that God acts in history, but they did not believe that the waters of the Red Sea parted and the Israelites went through dryshod. Out went the plagues in Egypt, the divinely inscribed tablets of ten commandments and the literal pillar of fire. The so-called acts of God lost their historicity and became symbolic. So also with the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave. For most of the neo-orthodox, the identification of the Word of God with Scripture was an impossibility. Jesus as the Word of God for faith, yes; but the Bible as the Word of God in any truly historical sense conveying factual material, no.

It can be said that however much neo-orthodoxy represented a serious return to biblical theology, it was not a return to the belief in the Bible as having absolute authority, nor did it hold that whatever could be found in the Bible could be considered normative and accepted as true simply because of its presence in Scripture.

Biblical Orthodoxy

Theological orthodoxy, like Marxism, has an invariable absolute. Its absolute is the Bible. This is its benchmark, and from it Christianity takes all of its bearings. But if the Bible is not accurate, the bearings taken from the Bible as the benchmark will not be accurate. This leads logically to the second question we have asked. If the Bible is the source of our religious knowledge, how do we know that the Bible can be trusted, that it is infallible? The answer to that question is found in Christian evidences. They demonstrate the reasonableness of orthodoxy’s basic presupposition.

Article continues below

Orthodoxy believes that God is, that God has spoken, and that God has revealed himself. How? And how does that revelation assure us of the trustworthiness of what we claim to have been revealed? God has spoken first through natural revelation, and then through supernatural revelation. And to this we turn our attention.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). Paul says that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Natural or general revelation is rooted in creation and in the ordinary relationship of God to man. But natural or general revelation is deficient in itself. Nature has ceased to be an obvious or perspicuous (i.e., clear or plain) revelation of God, although it may have been so before sin entered the human race. Even if it were now, man, because of sin, has been so blinded that he cannot read the divine script in nature. General revelation does not afford man the same kind of reliable knowledge of God and spiritual things that the Bible does. It is therefore inadequate as a foundation for the Christian faith. However, there is enough light in general revelation so that man is left without excuse. The Christian, because he is a Christian and has a converted mind, not a reprobate mind, understands general revelation better through the Word of God, and thus he is able to see God’s finger in nature and in history.

God has also disclosed himself in special revelation. God has done so in at least three different ways: through theophanies, direct communications, and miracles. Theophanies are appearances of God himself. God disclosed himself a second way through direct communications. In doing so he made his thoughts and will known to men. God disclosed himself a third way through miracles. These showed the special power of God and his presence. They were often used to symbolize spiritual truth. They confirm the words of prophecy and point to the new order God is establishing. The greatest of the miracles in Scripture is the incarnation (see here Acts 3:20, 21).

Article continues below

Special revelation as I have spoken of it so far is redemptive. It is a revelation of word and fact; and it is historical. It is intended to redeem lost men and to reveal the plan of salvation. It is the revelation of God in the law, the prophets, the gospels, the epistles, the history of Israel. All of this happened in history over many centuries. It was progressive and unfolding in character, dim at first and gradually increasing the light until the fullness of the revelation had come.

This revelation of God has become inscripturated. It has come down to us in written form. Thus there are two words: the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, and the Word of God written, the Bible. It is the Word of God written that reveals the Word of God incarnate to men. The Bible then is The Word of God, and it is of this Word we now speak. When we say the Bible is the Word of God, it makes no difference whether the writers of Scriptures gained their information by direct revelation from God as in the case of the Book of the Revelation, or whether they researched matters as Luke did, or whether they got their knowledge from extant sources, court records, or even by word of mouth. The question we must ask is whether what they wrote, wherever they may have secured their knowledge, can be trusted. This brings us to the doctrine of inspiration, which is clearly taught in the Bible itself.

Inspiration may be defined as the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of chosen men who then wrote Scripture so that God got written what he wanted. The Bible in all of its parts constitutes the written Word of God to man. This word is free from all error in its original autographs. It is wholly trustworthy in matters of history and doctrine. However limited may have been their knowledge, and however much they may have erred when they were not writing sacred Scripture, the authors of Scripture, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were preserved from making factual, historical, scientific, or other errors. The Bible does not purport to be a textbook of history, science, or mathematics. Yet when the writers of Scripture spoke of matters embraced in these disciplines, they did not indite error; they wrote what was true.

The very nature of inspiration renders the Bible infallible, which means that it cannot deceive us. It is inerrant in that it is not to be found false, mistaken, or defective. Inspiration extends to all parts of the written Word of God, and it includes the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit even in the selection of the words of Scripture. Moreover, the Bible was written by human and divine agencies, that is, it was the product of God and chosen men. The authors of Scripture retained their own styles of writing, and the Holy Spirit, operating within this human context, so superintended the writing of the Word of God that the end product was God’s. Just as Jesus had two natures, one of which was truly human and the other truly divine, so the written Word of God is a product that bears the marks of what is truly human and truly divine.

Article continues below

Inspiration involved infallibility from start to finish. God the Holy Spirit by nature cannot lie or be the author of untruth. If the Scripture is inspired at all, it must be infallible. If any part of it is not infallible, then that part cannot be inspired. If inspiration allows for the possibility of error, then inspiration ceases to be inspiration. Now no one will assert that the human authors of Scripture were infallible men. But believers in infallibility do say that fallible men were made infallible with respect to Scripture they indited. They were kept from error by the Holy Spirit. But there are those who argue that this refers only to Salvatory matters. John Murray has pinpointed the basic problem connected with this viewpoint. He argued the case this way:

If human fallibility precludes an infallible Scripture, then by resistless logic it must be maintained that we cannot have any Scripture that is infallible and inerrant. All of Scripture comes to us through human instrumentality. If such instrumentality involves fallibility, then such fallibility must attach to the “spiritual truth” enunciated by the Biblical writers, then it is obvious that some extraordinary divine influence must have intervened and become so operative so as to present human fallibility from leaving its mark upon the truth expressed. If divine influence could thus intrude itself at certain points, why should not the same preserving power exercise itself at every point in the writing of Scripture? [The Infallible Word, edited by N.B. Stonehouse and P Wooley, Eerdman, 1946, pp. 4, 5]

Need we add the very obvious? If Scripture itself professes to be inerrant only with respect to revelational or salvatory truth, where is the evidence for this to be found? Not in Scripture. For when the Word of God speaks of its trustworthiness, at no point does it include any limitation. Nor does it indicate that some parts of Scripture are thus to be trusted and other parts are not. If there is any doctrine of infallibility based upon the biblical date, it must include all of Scripture or none of it.

Article continues below

Those who stumble over inerrancy do so because of the supposed errors they find in the phenomena of Scripture, by which they mean those parts that can be verified. The late Edward John Carnell wrote:

B. B. Warfield clearly perceived that a Christian has no more right to construct a doctrine of biblical authority out of deference to the (presumed) inductive difficulties in the Bible, than he has to construct a doctrine of salvation out of deference to the (actual) difficulties which arise whenever one tries to discover the hidden logic in such events as (a) the Son of God’s assumption of human nature of (b) the Son of God’s offering up of his human nature as a vicarious atonement for sin. This means that whether we happen to like it or not, we are closed up to the teaching of the Bible for our information about all doctrines in the Christian faith, and this includes the doctrine of the Bible’s view of itself. We are free to reject the doctrine of the Bible’s view of itself, of course, but if we do so we are demolishing the procedure by which we determine the substance of any Christian doctrine. If we pick and choose what we prefer to believe, rather than what is biblically taught, we merely exhibit once again the logical (and existential) fallacy of trying to have our cake and our penny, too [Letter, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Oct. 14, 1966, p. 23].
Christianity’S Uniqueness

We have advanced the truth claims of Christianity. Is there reason to believe that the Bible, which is the ultimate source of our faith, is to be trusted? Here we look to Christian evidences that support the Bible’s truth claims and at the same time show us that all other systems of religious knowledge, although they may contain elements of truth, are essentially false.

Fulfilled prophecy supports the Bible’s claim to truth. The fulfillment of the Deuteronomy 28 prophecy of the Jewish diaspora, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies relating to Jesus, and the predicted downfall of Tyre, Babylon, and Jerusalem make this clear.

The miracles recorded in the Bible also substantiate its claims. These miracles were open and sensible, witnessed to by many people, and supremely attested to in the life of Jesus Christ. The greatest of miracles and the one that marks off Christianity as unique is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Mohammed, Gautama, Zoroaster, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and all the other founders of competing religions or cults are dead. Jesus Christ is alive!

Article continues below

Archaeology supports the truth claims of Christianity in the accuracy of facts that can be checked. The existence and witness of the Christian Church through the ages lends further support to this. The pragmatic test by which Scripture challenges men to “taste and see that the Lord is good” adds to the evidences. And surely the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, converts from unbelief to faith, and seals every believer and indwells all the saints of God bears his own special testimony that the Bible is the source of true religious knowledge and is dependable and to be trusted in a way no other book ever can be.

God indeed has spoken, and he has not stuttered in his speech. And the vehicle he has chosen for the witness to himself and to his salvation is the written word of God. Without it there could be no Christian faith. With it, reinforced by the work and power of the Holy Spirit, we know that as long as time lasts there will always be the Church that comprises the people of God borne along by the assurance of the divine promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.