Is History Written By Those Who Believe Their Writings Reliable?

Recently, I was surprised by an assertion that I had read about, but had not given much thought to since I’d never heard it before in personal conversation. After some inquiry, I found out that it is becoming a popular objection to the trustworthiness of the Gospel records.

The main premise of the argument is this: The New Testament accounts are unreliable simply because the authors of the books were followers of Jesus, and because of that were prone to exaggeration and fabrication.

Now, the person who presented this to me was quite convinced that this was not only a valid argument, but a powerful one as well. After all, if you can’t trust the authors to be accurate, you can’t reasonably believe what they write to be true. Therefore, the argument goes, Christianity cannot be true.

By the strict rules of logic, this argument is valid, but only if the premise is true. Show that to be false, and the conclusion becomes not only irrelevant but rather silly.

The premise (the text is unreliable because the authors believed the unique claims about the subject) is obviously false once you apply it to other works of nonfiction. If it is true, it is also true that all of the following are unreliable simply because the authors believed the facts presented are true:

* All history texts, both modern and ancient
* Any published scientific texts
* Any owner or service manual for a mechanical device
* All biographies
*Any courtroom testimony

… and the list goes on. My point is that just because the presenter of an implausible fact or historical event believes it to be true, it does not follow as a necessity that what he is relating is untrue. So, with the premise being shown false, the argument falls apart.

But the logical fallacy is not the only problem with this argument. It presupposes that the Gospel writers were purposely making up their writings in order to deceive people into believing that Jesus is the Christ when in fact he was not.

I’ve dealt with that idea before here and here if you want more detail and many resource links. Briefly, it is highly unlikely that the writers could have gotten away with it if that was their goal – there were scores (if not hundreds) of witness to the activities of Jesus alive at the time of publication who could easily refute their claims. The only Gospel account that is disputed by any available contemporary writings is the resurrection of Christ, and those few texts offer no evidence other than speculation to support the allegation. No body was ever found or said to have been found by contemporary writers.

It should also be noted that three of the Gospel writers did not start out as ‘true believers’, and not enough is known about Mark to be able to tell when he became a follower of the Christ. Two of the authors (Matthew and John) were disciples of Jesus, but even they admit that it wasn’t until after the resurrection that they realized that He was God. Luke was an historian (and probably a doctor); according to the introduction to the Gospel he wrote, his intent in writing it was to provide an orderly and factual account of the Christ. That many archaeological finds and ancient text corroborate formerly disputed passages and none have contradicted him is testimony to the truth of Luke’s Gospel.

So, because the Gospel accounts agree with known history on every point in which they can be verified AND there are no contemporary historical accounts that give any verified evidence to contradict them, the argument that the Gospels are untrustworthy because the authors believed that Jesus was the Christ falls apart on historical as well as logical grounds.

The Power of Questions

Here’s a question all of us apologists have asked at least once if we are serious about presenting Christ to those who are steeped in a different worldview:

“How do I effectively show them that their worldview is false and destructive without alienating them or shutting them down completely from hearing the Gospel?”

The usual answer I hear is profoundly true: “Follow the leading of the Spirit, and do so with love and an attitude of peace” BUT it isn’t really a complete answer.

You see, God has given us tools to use, and it is foolish for us to either ignore them or fail to learn and be able to use them when appropriate.

One tool is that of the simple question. Simply asking pointed questions with the proper attitude can point out the fallacies and consequences of a worldview without being snarky or confrontational.

Remember, the goal of presenting the Gospel to those who are skeptical or even decidedly opposed to Christ is not to ‘make the sale’; it is to give them enough information and reality to think about for them to come to the point where they can clearly see who Christ is, and then decide whether to follow Him or not. It is God’s work to bring them to Him; it is our task to live our lives and present His truth in such a way that they will hear His voice. Continue reading

Pluralism and Illogic Revisited

Recently at a Bible study, one of the guys there made some (for me) very frustrating and adamant statements. They weren’t really arguments, as he offered nothing to support his statements; he just repeated them, sometimes in a slightly different way. Here are the two that bothered me the most, especially coming from one who professes to be a Christian: Continue reading