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Is God's Existence Is Proved By Scripture?
To the Christian who says that God's existence is proved by scripture, Why There Is No God author Armin Navabi counters, "This argument presupposes its premise: the people who hold up their holy scripture as evidence are the same people who already believe its contents to be true…This is no different than saying, 'This is true because I believe it,' which hardly counts as evidence…The existence of scripture does not automatically prove anything about the veracity of what those scriptures contain."
Navabi makes a critical mistake, which I will address in a moment.
Navabi goes on to cite several passages from the Bible which he says are inconsistent or contradictory, yet review of those scriptures reveals that Navabi did not dig too deep to truly understand what he was reading. A classic example of this is his statements regarding Matthew 28 and Luke 24 about how many angels were at the tomb of Jesus. Navabi says that Matthew reports one angel while Luke reports two angels. He sees this as a contradiction. However, he failed to note that in Matthew 28 the Gospel writers mention one angel outside the tomb, sitting on the stone that had been rolled away. Luke 24 records two angels inside the tomb. Systematized we see that there was one angel outside and two inside. How is that a contradiction?
Like many atheists before him, Navabi points out that the oral histories that became the Bible "transformed over time by gaining embellishments, mixing up details and forgetting important facts." Yet, his statement is not corroborated with any evidence. Why? Because there is none. It is a fact that when the oldest documents, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls dating to 100 years before Christ are compared with Masoretic text from 800 AD - 1,000 AD, there are no changes of any consequence that affect the meaning of the passages in question. For further proof, click here for a brief article about the reliability of the biblical text.
Navabi's critical mistake? Let's ask the question. Is scripture self-authenticating? To this challenge I would answer yes for the simple reason that unlike Navabi's book or a book like the Quran, the Bible is not a single text by a single author. The Bible is a single volume of many text by many authors, many who were eyewitnesses to the events about which they wrote. Why is this important?
Let's take the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as an example. Matthew writes about Jesus from his perspective as an eyewitness apostle. Mark, whom history records became secretary to the apostle Peter, wrote down Peter's teaching in Mark's Gospel. Peter was a second eyewitness. Luke was not an eyewitness, but was a careful researcher of the events about which he reports. He gathered his information from Paul, Jesus' mother Mary, and other eyewitnesses. He is like a newspaper reporter or a detective who carefully investigates a matter then writes a report about it. The Gospel of John was written by John the apostle and he provides perspective and accounts not provided by the first three writers. Essentially, the Gospels are records of eyewitnesses reporting about what they saw and experienced. John puts it this way in I John 1:1, "…which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim."
The apostle Peter, in his epistles, referred to Paul's writing as scripture. This is remarkable because Peter lived with Jesus for three years. Paul did not. Yet, Peter saw fit to testify to the supreme authority of Paul's writings, placing them on the same level of authority as the Old Testament writings.
These are just two examples, but we could provide many more. Over 40 authors wrote the Bible and what they wrote is in agreement. People begin to believe in scripture because it records facts accurately and those facts, by nature of what they imply, demand a response. It is like the jury, who upon hearing all of the witnesses in a case decide to believe the witnesses. In one sense, the jury's belief validates the witness testimony as true or untrue. The jury's belief does not invalidate the witnesses anymore than believing the Bible invalidates what it records.
It's one thing to say that single books of the Bible are not necessarily self-validating. But as a volume of many books they are indeed self-authenticating.