Tag Archives: Bible

Why Trust the Bible for Moral Guidance and Wisdom?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Turn on the TV nowadays, and for the most part we hear that the Bible is outdated and full of culturally irrelevant foolishness from the ancient near east. Nothing to be learned from it. No reason to study it. Every reason to ignore it.

Commentator Dennis Prager, though, recently wrote a piece at National Review Online where he claimed, shockingly enough, that he goes to the Bible for moral guidance and wisdom. How strange! Why does Prager take the Bible seriously? For beginners:

It was this book that guided every one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, including those described as “deists.” It is the book that formed the foundational values of every major American university. It is the book from which every morally great American from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to the Reverend (yes, “the Reverend,” almost always omitted today in favor of his secular credential, “Dr.”) Martin Luther King Jr. got his values.

It is this book that gave humanity the Ten Commandments, the greatest moral code ever devised. It not only codified the essential moral rules for society, it announced that the Creator of the universe stands behind them, demands them, and judges humans’ compliance with them.

It gave humanity the great moral rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It taught humanity the unprecedented and unparalleled concept that all human beings are created equal because all human beings — of every race, ethnicity, nationality, and both male and female — are created in God’s image.

Prager offers several more reasons, and then sums up:

Without this book there would not have been Western civilization, or Western science, or Western human rights, or the abolitionist movement, or the United States of America, the freest, most prosperous, most opportunity-giving society ever formed.

This reminds me of Reg in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. As he was complaining bitterly about the Romans, his comrades kept reminding him of the good things the Romans had done. His response: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

Indeed, aside from Western civilization, Western science, Western human rights, the abolitionist movement, and the United States of America, what has the Bible ever done for us?

For those who claim we should find our moral guidance somewhere else, Prager answers:

If not from the Bible, from where should people get their values and morals? The university? The New York Times editorial page? Those institutions have been wrong on virtually every great issue of good and evil in our generation. They mocked Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” More than any other group in the world, Western intellectuals supported Stalin, Mao, and other Communist monsters. They are utterly morally confused concerning one of the most morally clear conflicts of our time — the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and other Arabs. The universities and their media supporters have taught a generation of Americans the idiocy that men and women are basically the same. And they are the institutions that teach that America’s founders were essentially moral reprobates — sexist and racist rich white men.

We need clear moral teaching as much as ever, and secularists have utterly failed to provide it. With Prager, I stand firmly on the moral wisdom promulgated in the Bible. God’s word shines today as brightly as it ever did.

Are There Things that Really Bother You about Christianity? – #1 Post of 2010

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Does it bother you that the Bible is composed of 66 different books instead of one single tome?

What about the fact that there were errors made in copying some of the Bible manuscripts over the last few thousand years?

Does it cause you to doubt Christianity because there are some difficult passages in the Bible?

Do you wish Jesus didn’t say some of the harsh things he said?

Do you find it strange that the biblical authors come from vastly different backgrounds (e.g., shepherds, kings, fishermen)?  Or that they composed poetry, historical narrative, allegory, and apocalyptic letters instead of a theological/moral textbook with each point being carefully outlined (e.g., “see section for why murder is wrong”).

Does it irritate you that Jesus only ministered for a few years and covered a limited range of topics?

Are you worried about the way the canon of Scripture developed over time in the church instead of God sending Scripture to earth in a black obelisk, like  in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Do you wish Jesus and the apostles had addressed more social ills than they did?

Listen carefully: If these kinds of things really eat at you, you have either rejected Christianity or you have erected barriers around your faith so that you can shut off your brain and not think any more.

You see, what you fail to realize is that God has chosen to use flawed and fallible human beings in the framework of human history to accomplish his purposes.  We are included in his plans and he allows us to be important actors in the drama he has written, but there is a catch with this approach: Christianity turns out to be messier than some of us would like.

Jesus is both divine and human; the Bible is both divine and human.  Both of these are tenets of Christianity, so why do so many of us want to drop the human part of the Bible and the human part of Jesus?

Jesus, as the God-man, was sinless during his life in earth, but that doesn’t mean he was some kind of emotionless Spock with no feelings and no passion.  The Bible, because it is divinely inspired, is inerrant in what it teaches, but that doesn’t mean that God had to compose the Bible as a dry textbook that dropped from the sky one day, avoiding all human interference.

Learn to appreciate the fact that God has included humanity in his plans.  The sooner you do, the better you’ll understand Christianity.

Why Don’t We See Miracles Today? – #5 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Many people wonder why we don’t see miracles such as the parting of the sea, the raising of the dead, and people walking on water.  It seems like miracles were pretty common in the Old and New Testaments, but today nothing like that seems to happen.  Why?

First of all, I believe there are indeed miracles being performed by God today, as I have certainly heard many accounts from Christians that I know and trust.  Most of these accounts, however, are hard to verify as true supernatural events, and they are never captured on CNN for the whole world to see.  So even though miracles seem to be occurring today, they still aren’t typically the public displays of supernatural power displayed in the Bible.

I think one reason we don’t see these public miracles is that God is not confirming new revelation today.  You see, the Bible records some 250 miraculous events, but they are concentrated, according to Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in three time periods: 1) the time of Moses, 2) the time of Elijah and Elisha, and 3) the time of Jesus and his apostles.

According to the Bible, God used miracles as signs to confirm his messengers (prophets)  to skeptical populations.  Read the Gospel of John to see how John records seven miraculous signs performed by Jesus to prove he was from God.  Likewise, consider Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18).  One of the ways God confirmed his messengers was through miracles.

There were hundreds of years recorded in the Bible with no miracles, so it is false to say that miracles occurred all throughout biblical times.  They did not.  They primarily occurred when God was confirming a new revelation from his prophets.  By the way, this is one reason why Jews and Christians rejected Muhammad as a prophet of God while he was alive.  He did not perform any miracles (Sura 3:181–184).

So, today we do not have new revelation coming from one of God’s prophets, because Jesus and his apostles were the final revelation from God.  Everything God wants us to know about himself, through his prophets, is recorded in the Holy Scriptures.  Since there is no need for new prophets to tell us new things about God, then the need for public displays of supernatural power is absent.

Can God do miracles today?  Of course.  But we should not expect the same kinds and numbers of miracles today as when Moses, Elijah, and Jesus lived.

Nehemiah’s Wall: Found – #6 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Eilat Mazar reports that she has discovered a portion of Nehemiah’s Wall.  These are the walls that were described in the book of Nehemiah in chapters 3 and 4.

Nehemiah's Wall

The wall was discovered as Mazar continued excavations of King David’s Palace.

Mazar's Excavation

If this was not fascinating enough, Mazar also discovered two small seal impressions in the same excavation.  These seal impressions actually contain the names “Gedaliah son of Pashhur” and “Jehucal son of Shelemiah.”  Both of these seals are dated to the time period of King Zedekiah, who ruled from 597-587 B.C.

Why are these names important?  Both of them are named by the prophet Jeremiah as court officials in Jeremiah 38.  Mazar discovered actual impressions of the names of biblical figures!  I concur with her exclamation: “How amazing these finds are!”

The Palace of David, Nehemiah’s Wall, court officials mentioned by Jeremiah – truly impressive finds which further corroborate the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Does God Take People’s Lives? – #9 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Clearly, yes He does.  Many people express shock over the fact that God took human life in the great flood or that He commanded Israel to kill Canaanites.  There are many other instances in the Bible where God either directly or indirectly takes lives.  There is no getting around this fact.  It makes us uncomfortable to read these passages in the Bible and some of us try to avoid these passages altogether.

It’s not just an Old Testament issue either.  Anybody remember Ananias and Sapphira?  Have you ever read the book of Revelation?  No, we can’t escape the reality of God taking human life by fleeing to the New Testament.

So, as Christians, how do we deal with this fact?  Is it wrong for God to take life?  Do we have to cringe every time a critic of Christianity raises this issue?  No, we don’t.  If we truly understand who God is, then we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that He takes people’s lives.

The Bible teaches two things about God that helps us understand why He takes human life.  First, He is ultimately just.  He hates sin and evil.  God is perfect in righteousness and goodness, so the existence of sin and evil repulses Him.  As the ultimate judge of the entire universe, He must punish sin.

If God did not punish sin, then what kind of God would He be?  A God who winked and nodded at sin would be like a deranged trial judge who lets every murderer, rapist, and child molester go free, regardless of their guilt.  Is that really the God you want?  Every single person yearns for justice, and if the ultimate Being never administered it, there would be no ultimate justice.  We’ve all sinned.  If God is going to judge sin, then all people come into His court.

Many people say that they want a God who doesn’t punish sin, who is a big, cuddly, teddy bear in heaven.  But what they really mean to say is that they don’t want a God who punishes their particular sin.  As soon as they are wronged, they immediately call for justice!  They think God should let them cheat on their taxes, but they are outraged if they are ever cheated out of money.  We all want justice, so don’t believe anybody who says they don’t.

Fine, so God has to punish sin, but why does He sometimes punish sin by ending lives?  Isn’t that murder?  Isn’t God breaking the sixth commandment?  “Thou shalt not murder.”  The truth is, God created all life, and therefore it is His right to also take life.  When you couple God’s right to take life with His justice, you start to see what is going on with those “difficult” Bible passages.  In each instance in the Bible, when God ends earthy lives, He is always punishing heinous sin.  He is meting out justice to those who are reveling in evil.  As Judge and Creator of life, He is doing what only He can do.

Here are a couple other things to remember.  First, God takes every person’s life because every person dies.  The only question is when, where, and how a person dies.  These things are in God’s hands, as they should be.

Second, when God takes life, He can bring it back.  In fact, the Bible promises that we will all be given resurrected bodies.  God can bring life back, but humans cannot.  Therefore, you cannot apply the command to not murder to God.

God is just, and He must punish sin.  God creates all life, and so it is His right to take it.  If you remember these two things, then you’ll understand how to deal with God’s command to kill the Amalekites, or the great flood, or Ananias and Sapphira.  In the end, if humans weren’t constantly producing evil, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  Let’s take a look in the mirror instead of criticizing God for cleaning up the mess we make.

What Do God and Science Have to Do with Each Other?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Ever since I became an evangelical believer in Christ, about 12 years ago, I have noticed that there is uneasiness among my evangelical brothers and sisters with certain fields of science.  This uneasiness, I quickly learned, has much to do with the age of the universe and the origins of mankind.  There are other areas, as well, but those are the two primary areas of dispute.

Because of the perceived hostility of science toward basic beliefs of Christianity, some evangelicals have forsaken science altogether.  So what I want to address today is what science and God have to do with each other.

Christians have long recognized that there are two ways that God communicates with mankind: special revelation and general revelation.

Special revelation is what is communicated about God through the incarnation of Christ and the Bible.

General revelation is what is communicated about God through the natural world, including physical nature, human nature, and human history.

Science offers a method for observing and then explaining facts about the natural world, so science is the study of God’s general revelation.  Christians that forsake science are, in effect, dismissing God’s general revelation.

Why?  Because they feel that the findings of science contradict the teachings of Scripture (special revelation).

But the answer is not to throw out one of God’s revelations.  In cases where general and special revelation overlap, we must examine our fallible interpretation of Scripture and compare it to our fallible interpretation of scientific findings.

You see, the Bible is infallible, but our interpretation of it is not.  Likewise, God’s revelation about himself in nature is infallible and will never contradict his revelation in Scripture.  But our interpretation of general revelation is not infallible.

What do we do when our fallible interpretation of science conflicts with our fallible interpretation of the Bible?  We seek the interpretation that seems more certain and we go with that.  If the special revelation interpretation seems more certain than the general revelation interpretation, then we go with special revelation.  If the general revelation interpretation seems more certain than the special revelation interpretation, then we go with general revelation.  We can’t just assume one is always right and the other always wrong.  That will lead to error.

Notice that this method of seeking the right interpretation requires the Christian to study diligently the Scriptures and the findings of science.  We cannot just study the Bible, but we must also dig into science if we want any hope of finding the answers to these tough questions where science and the Bible seem to conflict.

Fortunately, these perceived areas of conflict are few, and usually do not have to do with essential doctrines of Christianity.  However, they are still important and we owe it to God to honestly and earnestly seek the answers.

Should You Only Read a Bible Verse?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

If you do, don’t stop!  Read the rest of the chapter and even the book you found the verse in.

One of the biggest mistakes Christians make when reading the Bible is opening it up to a book and only reading one verse.  We all have favorite verses that we like to quote, but there is a danger.

The danger with only focusing on isolated verses is that the Bible wasn’t written that way and was never intended to be read that way.  The books of the Bible were originally written as complete works, and they did not contain verse or chapter numbers.  These were added hundreds of years later to help readers navigate the Bible more easily.

Verses and chapters are very helpful to Bible students, but they are also a curse.  They have taught Christians to atomize the Bible into thousands of isolated sentences.  Remember that a verse only makes sense in context with the surrounding paragraphs and the book it is found in.

Christian scholar Gary Habermas emphasizes reading verses in context.  He tells a story of a woman who was angry at God for allowing suffering in her life.  She continuously quoted James 5:15 as evidence that God had promised to heal believers of their suffering.

Here was his response.  Habermas asked the woman, “Did the same James that wrote James 5 also write James 1?”

Whatever verse 15 in chapter 5 means, it must be read in context with the rest of the book of James, which clearly says that Christians will suffer trials and that they should “consider it pure joy.”  This lady had fallen into the trap of reading a single verse and not reading the rest of the book the verse is found in.

Don’t make the same mistake.  If you find yourself quoting a Bible verse, that’s wonderful.  Just make sure that you have read the entire book the verse is in and make sure that your understanding of the verse is consistent with the context.

Are Religious People Unable to Get History Right?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In my frequent conversations with non-Christians, I hear the following kinds of statements: “I can’t believe what the Bible authors wrote because they were religiously motivated.”

The idea seems to be that if you are religious, you will not be able to tell the truth about historical events.  You will twist history to fit your agenda.

This may surprise some of you, but I can see where this viewpoint comes from.  I run into various religious groups who do monkey around with history and fail to get the facts right.  In fact, the very reason I could never be a Mormon is because Joseph Smith manufactured an entire history of the Americas that has absolutely no external evidence to support it.

But, just because some religious groups manufacture history does not mean that all religious groups manufacture history.  As I’ve written before on this blog, the writers of the Bible get their history right whenever archaeology can confirm it (see Did the New Testament Writers Record Fact or Fiction? Part 7).

At the very least, a skeptic should acknowledge this truth about Christianity and not lump it in with religions who do not accurately portray history.  The Bible deserves the benefit of the doubt as it has proven itself many times to be historically accurate.

The well-known scholar N. T. Wright explains that the New Testament writers were clearly trying to record accurate history alongside their theological teachings.  It is only modern man who struggles with the juxtaposition of the two.  Watch this brief video clip below posted by The John Ankerberg Show.

Is Mark 16:9-20 the Original Ending to the Gospel of Mark?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

We don’t know.  Scholars divide sharply on this issue, although it seems that the majority of New Testament scholars believe that verses 9-20 were not part of the original Gospel written by Mark.

Why?  Because the two oldest manuscripts containing Mark’s Gospel (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) do not contain these verses, church fathers Eusebius and Jerome both said that these verses were missing from Greek manuscripts they knew of, the style and vocabulary of verses 9-20 are decidedly different from the rest of Mark, and it would make sense for later writers to add to the Gospel because verse 8 seems like an abrupt ending.

On the other hand, most manuscripts from the fifth century on contain the verses and second century church fathers Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Irenaeus quoted verse 19, thus supporting its early existence.

One popular compromise view is presented by John D. Grassmick in The Bible Knowledge Commentary:

A view which seems to account for the relevant evidence and to raise the least number of objections is that (a) Mark purposely ended his Gospel with verse 8 and (b) verses 9-20, though written or compiled by an anonymous Christian writer, are historically authentic and are part of the New Testament canon . . . .

In other words, the early church accepted the tradition represented in Mark 16:9-20 even though many understood that Mark did not write it himself.

Again, we do not have enough data to determine the answer with certainty, so dogmatism is unwarranted.  Whether or not you believe that verses 9-20 were part of the original Gospel, according to Timothy Paul Jones in Misquoting Truth,  should not affect “Christian faith or practice in any significant way” because the concepts found in these verses echo ideas found in other Old and New Testament passages (see Luke 10:19; Isaiah 11:8; Psalm 69:21, 29 for references to protection from snakes and poison).

How Should We Not Read the Bible? Part 6

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Continuing from part 5 of this series, we now turn to the final three mistakes critics make when alleging errors in the Bible.  These mistakes are taken from Norman Geisler and Tom Howe’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties.

Mistake #15: Forgetting that Only the Original Text, Not Every Copy of Scripture, Is without Error.

Christians readily admit that there are copyist errors in the manuscript copies of the Old and New Testaments (see What is Inerrancy?).  But we also hold that inerrancy only applies to the original words written by the biblical authors.  Finding an error in one of the manuscript copies may or may not trace back to the original writing.  It is only through the science of textual criticism that this investigation can be done (see How Do Textual Critics Choose Among New Testament Manuscript Variants?).

If it can be shown that an original writing contains an alleged error, then the critic must show it is truly an error, that it contradicts well-established facts, something which traditional Christians hold has never been successfully done.

Mistake 16: Confusing General Statements with Universal Ones.

Geisler and Howe explain: “Critics often jump to the conclusion that unqualified statements admit of no exceptions. They seize upon verses that offer general truths and then point with glee to obvious exceptions. In so doing, they forget that such statements are only intended to be generalizations.”

The Book of Proverbs, for example, contains numerous general statements of wisdom, but these proverbial sayings are not universally true.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Even though it is generally true, many of us can point to examples of children who, even though they were raised in a strong Christian home, rebel and never straighten out their lives.

Mistake 17: Forgetting that Later Revelation Supersedes Previous Revelation.

In God’s dealings with mankind, as recorded in the Bible, he progressively revealed more and more of himself as history advanced.  God tested mankind in the Garden of Eden with a tree, but this test is no longer in effect.  The commands to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins was in effect for a time, but once Jesus died for mankind’s sins, the animal sacrifices were no longer necessary.  Jesus was revealed as the Son of God, but only to the people of his time, and not to those who lived before him.

Some critics point to later revelation and claim that it contradicts earlier revelation, but this accusation cannot be sustained if the “error” in question was a command given for a specific time period.  Again, God has dealt with mankind in many different ways throughout history.  This fact does not prove that errors exist in the Bible.


All Christians are well advised to memorize the 17 mistakes that critics make when alleging errors in the Bible.  Truth be told, Christians sometimes make these same mistakes.  We may not accuse the Bible of error, but we often forget that the books of the Bible were written by human writers, in different literary styles, and with differing perspectives.  These 6 blog posts, therefore, are not just a call for critics to stop improperly maligning the Bible, but a call for Christians to better understand the Word of God that has been handed down to them.