How Can otherwise intelligent and Rational People Believe the Bible to be the Infallible Word of God?
Over the last few months then I've run into a few different variations of the above question. It does annoy me slightly, I mean, talk about a backhanded compliment! On the one hand who doesn't like being told they are intelligent? Yet on the other hand it vexes me that intelligence and Christianity should apparently be so contradictory.
I do plan to answer the above question but before I do then I think its good to examine why it is that atheists in particular will come out with questions like it. After all, there is hardly a shortage of intelligent Christians out there why then should our existence prove so surprising for people to accept?
It is no coincidence that it is largely only atheists who I have heard asking this question and that is because if there's one thing that challenges the very root of atheism it is the presence of intelligent believers in Christianity. Let me explain further: a foundational pillar of the atheist's worldview is that human reason is the ultimate authority by which we judge all things. This makes sense, from a naturalist view, then as the most advanced creatures on this earth, humanity's ability to reason is the highest form of authority which can be found to judge anything by. Rule out God and what's the next best thing left to judge truth by?
Therefore, what is hard for an atheist to accept is an individual who otherwise appears perfectly rational believing in the Bible. It is an ultimate failure of their ultimate authority. For when it comes to the Bible then the atheist applies his human reasoning to it and rejects it so cannot understand why someone would be rational and believe it. Once again, this is no surprise. In the letter to the Corinthians it is written:
"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,"
1 Corinthians 1 v 20 - 23
When it comes to spiritual matters human reasoning falls short; the message of God is foolishness to the unconverted man. We like to think that we can build up using our reasoning from man to God but how can the finite (man) understand the infinite (God)? What's more, a common lie we are told by our modern culture is that human reasoning is somehow unbiased and neutral. But when it comes to spiritual matters no such neutrality exists! We've all heard about studies showing that smoking does not kill and yet when we investigate further these studies were funded by tobacco companies and we rightly think: "Yeah right, well that must be wrong."
In the same way, human reasoning is coming at spiritual matters with a distinct bias - "the sinful mind is hostile to God." (Romans 8v7) as God says. Because we are all sinners, rebels by nature against God, then how can we think that anyone can be neutral on this matter? Human reasoning is subject to the condition of our soul. That's why the Bible describes sin as blindness, it is a blindness of our sinful reason to the evident truth of God and God's word.
We all know the failures of human reasoning. Take the most logical man in all the world, see him fall in love with a girl and all rationality goes out the window! If our reasoning cannot even cope with such down to earth affairs how much less can it cope with heavenly matters?
When it comes to believing the Bible then intelligence and rationality play no part. Wait! This does not mean the Bible is somehow unreasonable or illogical, far from it, I would argue it is the most rational book in all the world. But our reason cannot cope with it for our reason is by nature blind to the light of God's word. The failure is not in the rationality of the Bible but in our own rationality as sinful human beings.
To understand the supernatural we need supernatural help. Hence the Bible says: "What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us." (1 Corinthians 2 v 12) The reason why any Christian believes the Bible (the revelation God has freely given us) is not because they are more intelligent or more stupid than anyone else, nor because they are wiser or more foolish, nor because they need more of an emotional crutch or because their parents indoctrinated them but because the Holy Spirit enables us to understand the things of God.
Again, the Bible on this matter: "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2 v 10 - 11) The only way to understand God is avail ourselves to the help of his Spirit so that the Spirit can overcome our natural blindness to God's truth and grant us spiritual sight.
Behold then the graciousness of God in that he takes pity upon us in our blindness to his light and he sends us his Spirit to enable us to see!
Without the Spirit then human reason cannot comprehend gospel truth. Christians will always be called insane because the world cannot understand the things of God. To quote Scripture again: "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2 v 14) The reason why an atheist will reject the Bible as God's infallible word has nothing to do with the fact that they are more 'rational' than Christians or they have understood the 'evidence' better but rather because without the Spirit of God then no one will ever understand God and indeed they set themselves against God.
I do not speak as someone gloating in exclusivity. The news of the gospel is that God desires that everyone should know him! My earnest longing is to see everyone believe in the infallibility of the Bible as the word of God. The whole thrust of the Bible is that as Christians we need to preach this good news to everyone - holding out the invitation of the gospel to all people.
Atheism, by making human reason its ultimate authority, glorifies man and in pride exalts the ego above all else. It allows man with his 'reason' to judge God in his 'foolishness'. As such, it is naturally very appealing to the sinful mind. When a man says: "I do not believe in God" then what he is really saying is: "My reason is enough! I am my own highest authority! I will determine that God does not exist and therefore he will not." What a unstable tower of pride!
Yet when the Spirit works all is different. Rather than pride there is humility, a recognition than our own reasoning is too flawed and sinful to get us anywhere, a realization of our complete dependence on God to understand the things of God and a deep thankfulness that God has not left us in darkness but provided us with his Spirit to open our blind eyes to the truth!
Let us repent of our pride in thinking that we, mere man, could understand and pass judgement on God and let us humble ourselves before God and seek his Spirit to help us understand his wisdom.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1 v 18 - 31