by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, November 2, 2018
"The first and last thing required of genius is the love of truth."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
One of the buzzwords of this generation is "authentic." Young people, especially, want to live authentic lives, eat authentic foods, travel to authentic places, enjoy authentic music or theater, and engage in authentic conversation and debate. They tend to sneer at things and people whom they deem not to be authentic, that is, fakes or copies of realities in the world. For instance, the truly authentic dismiss "Mexican" food served in America because it is not what Mexicans in Mexico eat.
In times not too far removed, a catchphrase was "Keep it real." Coca-Cola was "The Real Thing." "Authentic" is merely the Millennial version of the same idea, updated and modified to fit their priorities and expectations. For some, authenticity is simply any actual experience, not something that is learned secondhand. So, classroom instruction about Thailand is not authentic; one must travel to Thailand and experience the culture to be authentic. Ditto for reading books or watching a movie.
Another more disturbing definition of authentic is "being true to one's own nature in the face of pressures to conform to norms; a life that rejects modern expectations" (a definition slightly modified from one in the online Urban Dictionary). For some, this means that they will not wear makeup, have plastic surgery, or put on deodorant—the rest of us must accept them as they are. Taken to an extreme, authenticity is living a life that spurns all social standards to do whatever feels good at the moment. Such an attitude is a severe form of narcissism, as well as idolatry, making oneself a god who submits to no one or no standard.
In this milieu, some young adults look askance at religion, especially Christianity. It, they judge, is not authentic. Why? Traditional Christianity depends heavily—almost exclusively—upon what is written in a book, the Bible, and it is not authentic to believe based on other peoples' experiences with Deity. To be truly authentic, one must have similar experiences oneself, not trusting in the honesty, accuracy, or authenticity of others to report reality.
In addition, no two people will react the same way to any experience, supernatural or not, so each must experience "God" in his or her own way. This kind of thinking has led to an increasing number of young people leaving their parents' religion behind for a "spirituality" that they construct for themselves. To them, their spirituality is more authentic, real, actual, than anything passed down from ancient history.
Under this twisted definition, the Bible is not authentic. It does not contain an individual's personal experience, so it cannot be trusted to report the truth—because, as post-modern thinking suggests, no absolute truth can exist since each individual establishes his own truth. One may agree with some of what is written in Scripture, but ultimately, the individual is the final arbiter of what is true for him or her. So, what many do is pick out the parts they agree with and chuck the rest over their shoulders.
Those who have swallowed these satanic, self-centered lies will only through God's grace accept the Bible as authentic. But what about the rest of us? How do we know that the words of Scripture are accurate and trustworthy? This question has always been a point of contention between Christians and secularists because, before a person can believe in the teachings of Christianity, he must accept that the Bible presents God's Word to humanity. To most people in this world—even to a great many professing Christians—that is a bridge too far.
So, on what do we base our trust? If we would ask a hundred Christians, "How do you know the Bible is God's truth?" we would likely get a bevy of different answers from them:
"I grew up believing it because my parents did, and they've been blessed by it."
"The prophecies that have been fulfilled have been 100% accurate."
"God is our Creator, and He wouldn't leave us without an Instruction Manual."
"I saw my mother healed after being anointed, so I know God's promises are true."
"God has answered so many of my prayers—down to the very detail!"
"No other book has been preserved so accurately for so long. God must be behind it."
"I've seen so many people completely changed by following what it says."
"Proverbs 30:5 says, ‘Every word of God is pure,' and I believe it!"
"Jesus said, ‘The gates of Hades shall not prevail against' His church, and since the Bible is vital for the church, God's Word will continue forever!"
Each of these responses and many others contains an element of truth that we can use to anchor our trust in the Bible. Perhaps together, they add up to a substantial proof for the reliability of God's Word. As individuals, we are impressed and convicted in different ways to believe in the divine origin and authority of Scripture.
However, our affirmations of these proofs will not convince the skeptic. He will call them "subjective" and dismiss them as inconclusive. Just as the Pharisees criticized Jesus' witness of Himself in John 8:13-18, the doubter will scoff at the Bible's self-proclamation of being God's pure and truthful Word. He will say, "A person's or thing's testimony about himself or itself is worthless. Doesn't even the Bible demand two or three witnesses for a truth to be established?"
However, in the passage in John 8 where Jesus defends His self-witness, He provides a clue or two about why we can trust the Bible. Since He is the Word of God, we can use His defense of Himself as a defense of the reliability of Scripture.
First, He points out to the Pharisees, "You judge according to the flesh" (John 8:15). The critics, skeptics, and post-modern thinkers who reject the Bible are following the Pharisaical method in evaluating God's Word. They examine and judge it by entirely physical, sensory, human means. To them, it is ink on pages between two covers—nothing more special than any other book—so why should they base their lives on it?
Second, Jesus tells them, "The Father who sent Me bears witness of Me" (John 8:18). In this sentence, He inserts the spiritual element the Pharisees ignored, one that critics of the Bible overlook too. Jesus says in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." Before our calling, we were just as likely as anyone to doubt what the Bible says, especially if it stepped on our toes in some area of life we enjoyed. But once the Father opened our minds to His truth—His Word, both Christ and the Bible—we began to believe and trust it.
This spiritual intervention by the Father is why we can trust the Bible. It is God's means of providing the knowledge that we can rely on to illuminate our path toward His Kingdom. We can trust it because it is a gift of God personally presented to His children to teach them to live abundant lives.