“But the Bible was written by men!”
Posted by Joseph Torres
A frequent dismissal of the Christian faith comes in this fashion, “I can’t believe the Bible to be the word of God, because after all, it was written by men.” Many have run into this objection at some point in their evangelistic efforts. How should we respond? Fortunately, as common as this objection may be, a proper response is not difficult to provide. There are various approaches to handling this objection. Let us walk through several of them, one by one.
First, my father has the habit of responding to this objection by replying, “Of course the Bible was written by men, would you have preferred monkeys write it?” I’ve always enjoyed that reply. It does make a strong point. If Christians are right, and God is invisible and without physical extension in space (i.e. Spirit), how is it that God is to write the Bible Himself? Theoretically, the god of Mormonism could have written upon the golden plates found my Joseph Smith all by his own hand. But this is not the God orthodox Christians are arguing for.
Secondly, the statement, “I can’t take the Bible to be the word of God, because it was written by men,” is not an objection. The person uttering these words may perceive them as a refutation of biblical authority. But, in fact, they are merely a statement of what the unbeliever cannot subjectively accept. I believe I understand the intention behind this objection, but we must make the non-believer aware that this statement is a display of their psychological state, and has no bearing on whether or not Scripture is God’s revealed truth.
Third, we should ask the unbeliever whether they would prefer the Bible to be written by the very hand of God Himself (i.e. by way of some physical manifestation, akin to the case of the first pair of tablets containing the Ten Commandments). If their reply is in the affirmative we may respond, “But why would God have to do that?” This approach to authority, if consistently acted out, would result in potentially dangerous actions, at least for them. Suppose the President of the United States summons this individual to the Pentagon because the CIA is suspicious of their current activity. Would this person ignore the Presidential command simply because the letter was not hand-written and personally signed by the President himself? What about jury duty? No, naturally we understand that the means by which someone communicates to us does not necessarily have to be absolutely unmediated and direct.
Forth, I believe the intention of the unbeliever’s objection is meant to convey the idea that since men are fallible, and the Bible was penned by men, therefore it must have errors and therefore is like any other religious book. Fair enough. But, we must ask, “Is it absolutely essential to human nature that everything that comes out of our mouths (or from their pens) must be false?” Of course not. Though mankind may be fallen, fragile, and fallible, not every word we utter is false. People make true statements all the time, do they not? For example: my name Joseph Emmanuel Torres and my birthday is November 7th. That is a true, completely 100 percent error-free statement. Imagine the kind of life that the objector must live in order to be consistent with this mindset. They could not trust anything that has ever been told to them, simply because we fallible humans have said it! Imagine their mother telling them as a child, “Son, I love you.” Lies! All lies! How could the objector’s mother be trusted, after all, to err is human. Naturally, I am well aware of the fact that the unbeliever does not live this way. Daily they watch the news for the weather, follow their Doctor’s instructions, and so on. But the objection seems to imply that simply because humans penned the Bible that it must not be trusted.
Lastly, we come to the strongest defeater to this objection. This objection simply assumes that which it ought to prove; it begs the question. When they state, “the Bible was written by men” the unbeliever of course implies that men can fail in total accuracy. This is true, given the qualifications above. But this ignores the Bible’s own testimony of its perfection and accuracy. Scripture says that God the Holy Spirit guided and directed the entire process so that the very words that the authors freely chose were perfectly preserved from error (2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore, the words that they penned were nonetheless the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Much like Christ the living Word, the written word is both divine and human. To ignore the Scripture’s testimony regarding its inspiration and accuracy is in essence to say “the Bible isn’t true because the Bible isn’t true!” How trivial. It’s a narrowly circular argument, all it serves to do is to show that the unbeliever has no true objection to Scripture; at least they haven’t given us one. They simply do not want to submit to the voice of their Lord!