Recently, my family and I traveled to Disney world for a holiday. Disney is all about the experience—all about the story. And we interacted with plenty of stories—fairy tales—while we were there. We met characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Jake, Mary Poppins, and even Darth Vader and Chewbacca), princesses (Elsa, Anna, Belle, Merida, Alice), and experienced the stories embedded in the rides and films at Disney. We were immersed in the Disney universe of stories and characters which give hope that we “can live happy ever-after.” We realize that these are just what they claim to be—stories. They are worlds of fiction designed to encourage, inspire, or escape.
Can the same be said of the stories of Scripture? A church member posed the claim to me from an atheist family member that the Bible is just a bunch of made-up stories. Is the Bible nothing more than a book of fairy tales?
My short answer is categorically, no, the Bible is not a book of fairy tales and made up stories. We can trust the Scripture as truth. Let me offer some reasons I think we can trust the Bible.
- The Bible claims to be more than a book of fairy tales. The Disney stories do not claim to be true historically, but that cannot be said of the Bible. Paul claims the Bible was inspired by God, literally God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). While I believe Paul’s claim to be true, I realize that’s not sufficient for the criticism above. But we have to acknowledge that the authors of Scripture did not believe they were writing “fairy tales” or fiction stories. They actually believed the events they wrote were true. So, it is not sufficient for a critic of the Bible to merely claim the Bible’s stories are false, but rather they have to be able to show they are false.
- The Bible’s stories are supported by testimonial evidence. The charge that the Bible’s stories are simply false rises (in part if not mainly) from the Enlightenment. Contemporary culture has been shaped by the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment provided the basis for the United States as a nation and also the advances in science and technology. Enlightenment thinkers posited that reason is ultimately authoritative. Reason, for them and for many today, is limited to what can be proven empirically or scientifically. Thus, we know that gravity exists or that 2+2=4 because of science or math (reason). These facts are true. The argument then goes something like this—the Bible claims Jesus walked on water, healed blind men, and rose from the dead. These are not stories that can be empirically (scientifically) verified. They are claims of the miraculous, and they contradict reason (empirical evidence). So, they cannot have taken place. Several problems are evident in this charge. First, the Enlightenment grew from Christianity’s foundation (Galileo, Copernicus, Newton were all believers who explored and discovered based on their belief that God created the world). Second, the claim that reason alone can verify truth is inconsistent. The claim itself is not verified empirically (it is a presupposition that fits with philosophy, but not science). Testimony and witness are valid means by which truth can be verified and are even used in our court system. While the supernatural stories of the Bible cannot be verified scientifically, I believe they are supported strongly as testimony.
- The testimonial evidence for the truth of the Bible can be observed. The first believers genuinely believed in Jesus’ resurrection. Most of the apostles were martyred for their faith and all were tortured. None of the first apostles ever denied their adherence to Jesus’ passion and resurrection. They preached Jesus as the resurrected Christ. Their preaching began the movement that is Christianity—the largest religion in the world. Anecdotally, only a small minority of those within Christianity do not believe in a bodily resurrection (those influenced problematically by the Enlightenment, and those who do not believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection would not be orthodox).
- The supernatural events of Scripture are not in discord with reason. Supernatural events are rational and reasonable inside a world created by God. It is not out of the realm of possibility or reason that God could walk on water, heal the sick, part the sea, send plagues, or resurrect the dead. Indeed, God who created the world, the laws of nature, and the way things work can do whatever he wishes in the world he made. And that is not irrational. However, it may be irrational to see a universe full of order and design and contend it all came about by chance.
Finally, when someone suggests to me that the Bible is just a book of false stories or fairy tales, I generally just ask them to show me the false ones. Most of the time, they are unable because they are repeating a claim—not seriously developing an argument they believe. Certainly, many will deny the truth of the stories of Scripture. But they cannot deny the reality of the influence of those stories—the worldwide expansion of the Christianity built on the belief in a resurrected Savior.