I was doing some research recently for a lengthy (book length!) project I am working on and was searching Amazon for some books on Bible prophecy. I came upon a work by John Walvoord called Every Prophecy of the Bible. It looked interesting, so as always, took a look at the high reviews as well as the low reviews. I looked at the one star reviews and came upon one by a user named “gavin.”
I was perplexed by his (a male, judging by the picture) objection to confirming the Bible as true through prophecy. He wrote, “The book basically runs off a list of biblical prophecies that have supposedly been fulfilled. Amazingly pretty much all the evidence for these so called fulfilled prophecies comes from the same book making the prophecies in the first place ie the bible.” He then proceeded to ridicule Christians who do believe this as holding to an “infantile” belief.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have seen an objection like this. Put simply, the objection is that the Bible can’t confirm itself, because that would be a circular argument. In other words, one can’t use material from one part of the Bible to confirm other parts of the Bible because then one is arguing for the truth of the Bible from the Bible.
Most people should immediately see what the problem is. Although the Bible as we have it today is a single “book” in the sense that its contents share the same binding, it is really a collection of independent works written across over a thousand years by various authors in different parts of the world. In other words, the Bible is not “one book,” at least in the sense that one needs to maintain for this objection. Thus, if there is a prophecy found in one book which we know to be earlier than a book which is later that records its fulfillment, then there seems to be at least some evidence, prima facie, for the truth of the prophecy. (Of course this would be contingent upon the historical accuracy of the books, etc., etc. but the simple fact of an alleged prophecy’s existing before its fulfillment is an interesting facet to consider.)
A friend, Anthony Weber, made an analogy: think of the Bible as a library of books. Would it not be silly to think you couldn’t pull one book of the shelf and say that it confirmed another book? Suppose each book was about history, and one made a mere mention of a topic, while another featured a more detailed description. Would we not be surprised if someone came along and objected, saying “Well, they’re in the same library, so we can’t trust them!”
Christians need to realize that this has implications for doctrine as well. For example, those who maintain inerrancy–and I strongly believe that consistent Christians should do so (see my arguments to this end and defense of the doctrine here)–may be concerned that viewing the Bible in this fashion comes in danger of breaking it up piecemeal and pitting each segment against the others. But this is not what follows at all. Instead, it is simply an acknowledgment that the Bible is a collection of works in different genres written at different times in different places which, when put together, form a coherent whole.
Concluding call for intellectual honesty
In light of what I have explored, I want to first issue a call to the atheists out there: I know that you (atheists) do not all hold to objections like this and would find someone else using this objection a bit alarming. I call you to challenge your fellow atheists to a more honest interaction with positions of faith. If you want to criticize someone else’s position, fine. But do it without completely misrepresenting them. Call out your fellow atheists when they try to put forth this kind of drivel as a serious objection to Christianity. I try to call out fellow Christians when they do the same with other views.
To my fellow Christians: be aware that objections like these are not the backbone of atheism. Frankly, I think people like “gavin” are just grasping at anything to maintain unbelief and ridicule others they choose to look down on as “infantile.” Let’s engage with people who make these objections, but if they persist, dismiss the objection as the ridiculous notion it is. Finally, if you catch yourself treating the Bible like one book without any distinction in genre, time, place, etc., stop yourself. It is important to note the Bible is united in message, but God used different people as they were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.” It wasn’t delivered all by divine dictation.
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