Question: “How can I answer someone who asks, ‘How do you know that the Bible is God’s Word?”
Answer: There are many different ways to tackle this question, and the best way depends on the state of mind and heart of the questioner. Your answer should be different if they are doubting and yet inclined to believe in the authority of Scripture, as opposed to being a skeptic and seeking to disprove Scripture’s authority. Also, your answer should be sensitive to the person’s current religious beliefs and knowledge of the content of Scripture. Overall, our culture is much different than it was a couple of generations ago, so you can usually expect the questioner to be almost completely ignorant of Scripture’s teachings and inclined to dismiss it as nothing more than primitive human ideas.
The approach that I use most often is to begin by trying to establish some common ground in a belief that God exists. Very few people deny there is a God, although many have bought into the idea that we can’t know anything definitive about Him or His will. This is where I would try to put together some key pieces of the puzzle. I would ask: If you believe there is a God, do you believe that He created this world (by some means), and deserves the credit for the intricate mechanics and indescribable beauty of the universe? If so, do you recognize that human beings are unique creatures of God, able to reason and relate to one another at a far higher level than the rest of His creatures? The vast majority of people will answer “yes” to those questions.
Then I would ask the hard question: Do you think that God, having created such intelligent, relational beings in such a beautiful and complex environment, would leave them without any answers to basic questions about their existence? Here is where you will lose many people. Many people are willing to seek a God of “general revelation” (who can be known by what He has made), but few these days are willing to seek a God of “special revelation” – a God who has spoken to us, who has given us definitive answers to the central questions in life. We’re all like rebellious children – we try to avoid knowing what the rules and principles are in life so that we can attempt to avoid accountability. Therefore the idea of God placing an “inner light” inside each of us to guide us is very popular these days, but that is nonsensical, unverifiable, and is only another attempt to stay unaccountable for beliefs and actions. But if a person is sincerely seeking spiritual answers, they will be open to the obvious question – how can a God care so much about the details of creation and not reveal clear information about who He is, who He intends us to be, and what He expects from us.
I would ask the person to consider what human beings do when they invent or create something. What manufacturer would create a kitchen appliance, a piece of electronic equipment, or new computer software, without writing an “owner’s manual” to explain how the product is supposed to work and be used, complete with warnings for misuse? If man as a creator always does this, why would we expect less from God? The idea is to get the seeker to accept the possibility that God has spoken, that there is a written account where He reveals Himself and His will. If they will accept this, a major spiritual barrier has been overcome.
The obvious question then becomes, “Which book has a right to claim to be God’s Word?” I don’t have space here to give a response to that important question, but let me say that at that point I can put forth the Bible with supreme confidence and great enthusiasm as THE Word of God. Other “holy books” (the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the teachings of Buddha, etc.) are quickly exposed as frauds and human compositions when honestly compared to the brilliant light and purity of the Bible, and of the Christ which it presents. It is good to be prepared to answer questions about alleged errors or contradictions in Scripture or to be able to explain how God inspired men to write His words or to explain how the different writings were brought together to form one consistent testimony to God and His will (there are many good resources for this information). However, the only way that a skeptic or seeker will be convinced is to read the Bible himself or herself and experience its transforming power. Their experience of God’s presence and power as they read His Word, if their heart has been opened by the Spirit, will confirm its authenticity. I know that’s what happened in my life, and in the lives of many, many others!
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:1-3