One of the criticisms of the Bible that has gained traction in recent decades is the notion that we cannot believe the biblical narratives because they were written entirely by the proponents of the faith expounded by the writers. In other words, what the biblical writers tell us is inadmissible as evidence insomuch as history and truth are concerned merely because they all had the same belief system, and were collectively writing about things that were broadly in agreement. Is it reasonable to be so cavalier in our disregard of early Christian testimony (or anything at all) on those grounds alone?
No one is devoid of a prior bias to any subject. Everyone has some position on any number of things, some more strongly than others. Don’t all writers have a belief system that in no small extent informs the kinds of things about which they write? Can’t all writers be labeled in some manner? To dispense the claims of a particular grouping of people based solely on the fact that they have a particular vantage point is ludicrous. Consider the fact that atheists are the ones who write all books arguing for Atheism.
Should we reject all atheistic materials solely on the basis that atheists wrote them? Of course not. That the writer of any material has a particular point of view is inescapable. Can we justify disregarding views for no other reason than those who favor those views would self-identify with those views? Absurd! If the general population believes in some notion of a higher being, should we all collectively dispense with all atheistic literature without even opening any one of those books? Absolutely not! And why not? Because we’ve not considered what the books say but are merely rejecting the writings by claiming the authors have an a priori bias for the position being espoused. How absurd would it be for people to write materials arguing against the positions they held during their writing?
Of course, the author is going to lean in a particular direction. People writing atheistic materials are sympathetic to Atheism. That fact alone cannot tell us anything about whether Atheism is true or not. The ideas contained in the writings could. But if they are never evaluated simply because “Atheists” wrote them, we will never know if they are true or not. Part of being a rational adult is to entertain ideas, and put them to the test. Conversely, a mere wave of the hand and ignoring others is what pouty little children do. Let’s think about this – how absurd is it to disregard a particular set of writings based solely on the fact that the writers believed in what they were writing? It’s absurd enough to be filed in the chronicles of hogwash.
The only legitimate way to dispute the biblical narratives is first to accept the early Christian testimony regardless of the manner in which the writers would identify themselves and then evaluate them as one would any other claim. This would involve the engagement and dissection of the individual claims made therein, and then come to a reasonable conclusion about whether or not they are true. But in order to properly weigh the evidence, the evidence must first be admissible. If one is inclined to reject evidence before adequate consideration, one has already made up his mind before examination – a position that is disingenuous at best, and psychologically self-manipulative at worst. Those who routinely carry out this sort of behavior are not interested in finding the truth; they are more interested in only presuming themselves to be right. What does the a priori rejection of testimony say about the psychological state of the one who is doing the investigation? Is it not a maneuver meant to sustain one’s beliefs against what might potentially be the kind of evidence that might just capsize their ship of beliefs? Not only is it erroneous to dismiss early Christian testimony on grounds of bias but it is also erroneous to reject miracles on grounds of precedence and wrongheaded to dismiss the Bible itself as evidence because of Christian bias. When the proper manner of analysis is used, the biblical narratives demonstrate an incredible trustworthiness and precision that we rarely find in other ancient writings.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.
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