Wasn’t the Bible Created to Control the Masses?

Jan 24, 2019

Was Christianity created by the Romans to control the masses? How can we know that the Bible is complete or authoritative in its present form? Join Drs. Jo and Vince Vitale this week on the Ask Away podcast as they seek to answer questions around the history of Christianity and reliability of the Bible.

Want to talk about this episode with fellow podcast listeners and the RZIM team? Start the discussion on our online community: connect.rzim.org.

Have a question you want the Ask Away crew to cover? Email us at askaway@rzim.org or use the hashtag #askrzim on social media.

Subscribe to the podcast on: iTunes or Google Play.

Follow the Ask Away crew on Twitter:

Vince Vitale - @VinceRVitale
Jo Vitale - @Joanna_Vitale
Michael Davis - @mdav1979

Want to listen to this later?


Note: Ask Away is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Michael Davis: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask Away with Vince and Jo Vitale. I am your host, Michael Davis. Throughout the history of Christianity, there has been one unifying constant in regards to the challenges to the faith: they all attack God's word. Those who wish to undermine the faith have attacked the inerrancy, the clarity, and/or the sufficiency of scripture. On the other hand, whenever theological orthodoxy has been re-established, it has been the Bible which has been the sword that was wielded, but how do we know that the Bible we have today is true? Isn't it simply a tool that was created by men to control the simple and gullible? How do we rely on scripture for our faith when so many people are trying to undermine it?

But before we get started, Jo, can you tell our listeners a little bit about our upcoming Refresh Conference happening this June at the Zacharias Institute in Atlanta, Georgia?

Jo Vitale: Absolutely, this conference is always the highlight of my year. This is the third time we're going to be running it. It's specifically aimed at those who are preparing to go to college, so if you're a junior moving into your senior year at high school, or a senior heading off to college, or even a college freshman, then this is the conference for you. It will be run from June 18th to the 21st, and this year we're looking at the theme Who Do You Say I Am? So both in relation to Jesus, who do we say Jesus is, what is the evidence for him in history, but also the secondary question of who does Jesus say we are? Questions of identity, trying to figure out who you are is a great thing to have to engage with before you head off to college, because certainly, lots of questions are going to be thrown out once you get there.

It's a fun week. We usually have 200 or more students coming down to spend time together. There's a lot of breakout sessions so you get the chance not just to listen to talks, but to share your own opinions, learn from each other, and we have a lot of fun as well, so I really encourage you to come. If you're wrestling with questions, it might be you're a Christian, it might be you're not a Christian, but you have questions about the Christian faith, or it might be that you're somewhere in the middle and you've grown up in a Christian home, but you're not sure if this faith is your own or something that you've inherited. This is a great week to come and explore why you should believe in Christianity rather than it just being the case that it's what you grew up with.

Michael Davis: Okay, let's jump into the first question, this question is from Marilyn.

I am married to my husband whom in the last year has had a lot of questions about our faith in Christ. He told me that Christianity was created by the Romans to control the masses. Is this true, and how does this stand for us today?

Vince Vitale: Marilyn, thank you so much for your question, and I'm so encouraged to hear about your husband, that he's had a lot of questions about faith in Christ, that's fantastic, and I would ask him, as a follow-up, to what he said to you, ask him why he believes that. Maybe ask him if there's something that you can read to better understand why he accepts that position, and maybe that would even lead to an opportunity for you to ask him if he'd be willing to consider a different perspective. Maybe you can read a book together on this topic, that could be a fantastic open door as you continue to explore faith together. I'm really encouraged to hear that you're having that interaction as a married couple.

It may be that your husband came across a book titled Caesar's Messiah. It's a 2005 book by Joseph Atwill, and, in that book, he argues that the New Testament gospels were really made up by Roman emperors, and by the scholars who were connected to and controlled by Roman emperors. He sees it as wartime propaganda. He thinks that the primary purpose of the gospels was really, from the Roman side, to create a religion that would limit the spread of Judaism, and he thinks that's why we find the pacifist leanings of Jesus in the gospels, and also why Jesus says things like give to Caesar what is Caesar's. I have some questions about that approach, Jo, I know you do as well, I mean, what are your initial reactions to that type of approach?

Jo Vitale: Yeah, I mean, that one's an interesting idea to me, in part just because in terms of the timeline of history, it doesn't actually make a lot of sense, because by the time that you have Roman emperors really coming to faith in Christianity, or appropriating Christianity within the Roman Empire, you're really talking about Constantine, and that's the fourth century, but the issue we have here is that, actually, the most significant resistance that the Romans ever had from the Jews was really back in the first century, and they've already, utterly crushed them by this point. It's around AD 70 that the Romans have already gone in and crushed the Jews, they've destroyed Jerusalem, there isn't really much of a resistance left to talk about, so this idea that the Romans are responding to this great movement within Judaism, it's really just several centuries too late, for starters.

There's also just a bunch of other problems with that in terms of our understanding of how the canon comes to be formed. When that takes place, when the scriptures of Christianity are put together, and we're going to talk about this more in the second question of our episode, but I would say that has already come to pass before Constantine has come into power, and before the Romans are really getting involved within Christianity. It's also a bit problematic to say that the Christian faith is a way of just suppressing opposition to government and having people live peacefully. Christians do, in general, make great citizens because we are part of a peaceful religion, but we're still a religion that, you know, as Peter says in Acts chapter five, you know, we don't obey men, but God. Ultimately, we're under the authority of God, so that's problematic for any Roman emperor who wants to be worshiped as God himself, as we see throughout the early history of Christianity for the first several centuries, and we'll go into that a little bit more in a couple of seconds time, but I think that thesis is actually riddled with problems.

Vince Vitale: Yeah, those are good points, and I think if Roman emperors did want, at some point, to win over Jewish support, you could have gotten that just by giving freedom of religion. To construct a huge conspiracy of constructing an entire religion based on the idea of a coming Messiah, that seems to me a much more difficult way to go about getting that support than to just give the freedom of religion that the Jewish people desired.

I also have a hard time thinking of Roman emperors being the ones to intentionally create a religion which was very exclusive and would exclude their own deity, so when Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." It's quite an exclusive claim, and it's difficult to think of Roman emperors saying, "Yes, I want my own deity to be undermined in light of the exclusive nature of Jesus' deity."

So, this idea, Marilyn, it hasn't been received very well. Two biblical scholars, Robert Price, he speaks of Atwill's book and he says that, "Atwill gives himself license to indulge in the most outrageous display of parallelomania ever seen."

Jo Vitale: Good word there. Not sure what that means, but I like it.

Vince Vitale: I did not think I'd get that coming out of my mouth smoothly. And then biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, who many will know, again, a non-believer, says, "I know sophomores in college who could rip this to shreds." And he points out that Atwill does not have training in any relevant field. So I would take this as only a starting point in your consideration. Read the book, if this is the book your husband's referring to, read it in detail. Don't just take it on the authority of others who have questioned it, but maybe the fact that others who know a lot about these subject matters have questioned it and questioned it quite severely could be enough, at least, to re-open the question for your husband, and maybe start an exploration together about whether this is a true position, or whether we have to look in a different direction.

Jo Vitale: And lets just look at some of the fundamental facts of history here. As your starting point, the least disputed fact about Jesus is that he's put to death on a Roman cross by a Roman proconsul called Pontius Pilate. So, for a starting point, it's hard to think of the Romans as creating Christianity when, at the very beginning, it starts out, in a sense, in opposition to Christianity, and we know that that fact comes from Tacitus, a Roman historian. This is recording his own history and saying that Christ was put to death by those in Roman power. We have similar sources from Pliny the Younger who's writing to the Emperor Trajan in the second century when he basically says, "I've been interrogating Christians, and if they refuse to denounce their faith by the third time, then I order them to be executed." And then we have a long history of Christian martyrdom under Rome.

Now, at times it's more intentional than others over the next several centuries, but there are specific periods of history where there's a very intentional policy of persecution led by the Roman emperors, whether it's Decius around 250 AD, or whether it's Valerian just about a decade later, deliberately targeting Christians and then, if they won't renounce their faith, they're either exiled, they go into forced labor, or they die in horrible, tortuous ways. This carries on for all the way to AD 303, have Diocletian who, again, goes around destroying churches, destroying Christian texts, and this goes all the way up to AD 313 when you have the Edict of Milan, and that's when Constantine comes on to the scene, and so there's a long history of battling within the Roman Empire against Christians, precisely because they don't like the message of Christianity, which is, essentially, as Vince has said, the worshiping of Jesus as the only true God, and a refusal to bow down and worship Roman gods, including, often, the emperor himself, who they would not worship.

You have that history, you also have the earliest apologists, people like Justin Martyr, who, in his very first apology that he wrote, he's actually writing to the Roman emperor and trying to explain what Christianity is about, because they seem to have misunderstood it, and so he's trying to dispel myths, but he's also protesting unjust persecutions of Christians. In Justin's own words he says, "You are able to kill us, but not to hurt us." Basically, your persecution will not stop us, so actually there's a strong history of being counter-cultural within Christianity against those in power when that power isn't representative of who God is, and what, as Christians, we're called to believe.

Vince Vitale: Sometimes people think that, if Constantine exerted this type of influence, it must have been at the Council of Nicea, but the history seems to indicate that, although Constantine may have been present, he wasn't directing, or chairing, in a sense, that council. Athanasius speaks of Bishop Osius of Cordoba as chairing that council. When there are lists of those who were present, Bishop Osius is listed first, as well, also implying that. If you're going to make up the Christian religion, you would have had to have had control over the corpus of writings that was going to direct it, and it doesn't look like Constantine had that control at the Council of Nicea, and of course the Council of Nicea is not a council about putting together the canon in the first place. It's about certain beliefs of Arius and how we should understand the divinity of the Son of God, of Jesus, but it's not a council about constructing the canon, and that's what Constantine would have had to have had control over if he was really going to direct the emergence of this religion in the way that some have claimed.

Jo Vitale: It could be possible, Marilyn, that maybe some of the ideas behind your husband's thinking here came, another place it could have come from is The Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown, who also talks about Constantine, and he's the one who sort of inserts into popular culture this idea that Constantine is the one who basically manipulates Christianity as a power play. But, actually, when you really get into the history here, as Vince has just said, far from it being the case that Constantine is taking control of the Christian faith, it's more like despite centuries of persecution, Christianity just will not be put out, and no matter what they do, it just keeps growing, and so, in a way, there's a question mark over whether Constantine's conversion to Christianity is authentic or not.

Certain church historians like Eusebius will make the case that it was, others are more skeptical, but whatever the case in his own motives or personal motivation, it seems to be more that what's going on is that Christianity has become so widespread across the empire, that it's just politically expedient. It just makes sense, in terms of holding on to his own power, to go with the flow and to have a freedom of religion where Christianity is acknowledged and certain bishops are given positions of political power, that's true that they have greater power than they ever had at that point onwards, but, even having said that, that doesn't mean that Constantine shuts down other faiths. He still has freedom of religion for other beliefs as well. Other Pagan systems, Roman gods, so it's not like suddenly Christianity is forced upon everybody else. Actually, it's just a more tolerant policy where Christianity is brought to the forefront but other beliefs are still on the scene as well, so it's just a different picture to the one that's sometimes presented in the, sort of, Hollywood or popular versions of the story.

Vince Vitale: Hollywood doesn't always tell the truth? No.

Jo Vitale: I wouldn't go that far, but maybe.

Michael Davis: That goes to show you that all you have to do to get a book published is be critical of Christianity and they'll publish anything. So that actually brings up the point, considering there's a lot of books out there that maybe aren't necessarily, intellectually honest, I've got a recommendation, it's called The Story of Christianity, it's by a guy named Gonzalez. He's got two volumes, one is on the early church up until the Reformation, and then volume two is from the Reformation 'til today. Jo, do you have any recommendations?

Jo Vitale: Yeah, a couple of others that would be helpful. There's one by Alister McGrath, Historical Theology, which is an introduction to the history of Christian thought.

Michael Davis: Yeah, that's a good one.

Jo Vitale: That's very helpful, slightly more academic. Another one that, being at a more popular level, but very good and speaking specifically about the process of canonization and how the books of the Bible come together during this era is Michael Green's book The Books the Church Suppressed, and that one is good as well. A couple of helpful resources there.

I think the other thing, just to say in light of this question, is how does it stand for us today? I think it's good for us just to reflect on the fact that, because you often hear this rumor that religion is about controlling the people, or forcing people to believe certain things, or hold certain political positions, but it's just worth remembering that Christianity doesn't belong to a political party, and actually we're worshiping a God who is the king of the universe, and not a particular citizen of a particular nation. In fact, as Christians we're told our citizenship is in heaven. We deeply care about the world, we deeply care about politics because we're called to love people, and that's one of the processes through which we do, but it's never intended to be a power play. It's dangerous to try and take hold of Christianity and make it conform to a particular political position or a particular regime, or particular party or government, because God will not submit to human institutions.

The reality is, throughout history and up until today, as well, very often it's precisely because of the Christian views you hold, that, rather than being in a position of power to manipulate people, more often than not, you're in the persecuted minority. You only need to go to Open Doors and check out their resources online just to see the unbelievable amount of persecution taking place in the world today of Christian believers, whether we're talking about in the Middle East, and whether we're talking about Asia, North Korea, increasingly in India today we're seeing the same thing going on. Syria, and the treatment of both the Yazidi and Christians who live there, and so time and again you're seeing Christians being persecuted. In fact, people talk about it as one of the under-reported and most overlooked crimes within humanity of this generation, that people are really ignoring it in a way that they didn't used to, but persecution is actually extreme.

For many Christians around the world, we're super blessed to live in a culture right now where my life isn't really endangered for being a Christian, but also there's no guarantee that things stay that way forever, you don't know. You just don't know what is gonna come down the line, but the point is this isn't about holding political power over other people, but actually it's about giving your life to God and saying do with me what you will, I wanna live by your laws, and if that brings me into conflict with another rule, another way of doing things, then, actually, God, I'm saying yes to you first.

Michael Davis: All you have to do is just interact with our global speaking team and they can tell you how completely untrue this kind of perspective is.

Okay, let's get to the next question, this is from Justin. How is it that we can know that the Christian biblical canon, as recorded in the Bible that most Christians carry today, is either complete in its present form or that it does not contain potentially extraneous, though consistent, texts within it? Is the Word not still active? Can God not still speak greater things through whom he chooses? Many Christians believe wholeheartedly in the continuing gifts of the Spirit, which includes prophecy. If there is continuing prophecy, is it impossible to hold this equally within biblical prophecy?

Vince Vitale: Justin, that's a really thoughtful, nuanced question, and it's an excellent question, and it's under-asked, as well. On what basis is scripture authoritative? There's a lot more to your question, but this is a central theme that's floating around it, and I think for many of us, as Christians, we tend to just take scripture as our starting point, as our given. We believe it because it was handed on as an authority by those who came before us by, perhaps, our parents to us, and their parents to them, and generations before. We accept the canon as authoritative because that's what the church has done for hundreds of years.

Is that a good enough explanation? Is that a good enough justification for the authority of scripture? I think it's problematic if that's our justification, for at least a couple of reasons. First, that sounds to me a lot like saying something is authoritative just because its old. Like when an older person says to you, "I've been thinking about that question before you were even born." Right? And says it in patronizing way that just the fact that they are older is supposed to, therefore, convince you that they're right. That's not a very good argument. Just because something's old doesn't make it right.

And then John Piper raises a second problem with this approach, which I thought was very helpful. If we trace this approach, this approach that we just start with scripture as a given because it was given to us, if we trace that back through the generations, each generation starts with scripture as a given authority because it was given to them by the generation that came before them, and you keep tracing that back through history, eventually you get to the first generation of believers, or the first generations of believers, for whom the canon was not yet compiled. They couldn't meet that condition. They couldn't accept the canon on the basis that they were given to it by people who came before them because the canon didn't yet exist for it to be given to them. So were they wrong, or did they just get lucky, or did they have a completely different reason for accepting the canon as authoritative?

I think it's a lot simpler and more compelling to say that we should accept the canon for the same reasons that the early believers who first formed and accepted the canon did so, and they formed and accepted the canon not because it was old, not because just because it had been passed on for a long time, but because of the quality of its content and because of the nature of its origin. It wasn't just a bunch of powerful people who got together and picked their favorite books, that's not the way it went down. The church was affirming the authority that was already recognized as inherent in certain books because those books were closely connected to the apostles and to eyewitnesses. That was the standard.

Because of their closeness with Jesus and direct experience of him, the early church looked to the apostles to confirm theological truth. Then when those apostles died, that apostolic authority couldn't just be passed on in the same way. The next generation did not have people in it who had walked this earth with Jesus and who had interacted with him directly as eyewitnesses and in that direct relationship with Jesus in bodily form, but we did have the apostles writings, and we had the writings of those who had interacted directly with the apostles and who were eyewitnesses, or had that on very strong authority from the apostles themselves. This, I think, was the main question, at least the primary question as the canon was being formed. Not just were these books old, not just were they given to me by someone who I trust, but do they carry with them apostolic authority? And that was the question that needed to be asked about each book that wound up in the New Testament.

Jo Vitale: That's so important for us to get to grips with, because otherwise we wind up with this idea that there are a bunch of guys who sat around a table in the fourth century, and they just sat down and they decided these are books we're gonna include, and we're gonna leave out these ones, and by doing so, they radically changed the face of theology or what made it into the Bible, at the same time excluding a lot of people who maybe thought differently.

That's just not a true narrative. That's just not what takes place here. Vince has mentioned one of the criteria is apostolic authorship. Was it written by people who were eyewitnesses, who were close to Jesus, within the first century? That being the primary basis on which things were decided. Another criteria seems to have been orthodoxy. Is it coherent with the picture of Jesus that we have from the earliest eyewitnesses? Because if you're getting something that reads radically differently, against the testimony of all the other letters and all the other gospel accounts and what Christians believe, actually that calls into question whether it is authentic or whether it is something that has been twisted or changed.

The third criteria, one way to put it would be catholicity, the origin of that word really means was it used universally by the breadth and the width of the church. Not just in one country, not just in one place, but across Christianity in all the different places to which it had already spread at that point. So that's great, because it means it's not just a bunch of powerful men sitting around deciding what people get to believe. Actually it's what people for generations have already been understood to be the sacred writings because they go back to apostolic authorship and it was already widely accepted. It wasn't the case that they were sat down and it was a really difficult decision what to include or what not to, but it was more that certain heresies were coming into the church and people were hearing about these other texts, and so they just sort of thought, you know what, we need to formally ratify what we already, basically, are agreed upon and know to be true, and so let's just formalize it. But it wasn't a case of deciding what would make it in so much as just saying, hey, we already know these are the books, so let's all just make a list so that it's agreed on so there can't be any confusion when certain other ideas or heresies come in.

One example would be the gnostic gospels. Again, going back to Dan Brown, he basically makes this major claim that the gnostic gospels contain the real truth of Jesus, but they were left out in the process of canonization because people didn't like what they had to say. Actually, that's just not the truth of it. The issue with the gnostic gospels is they were written much later, they weren't written by eyewitnesses, they weren't written by apostles who actually knew Jesus personally. As a result, because they're written later, they do contradict the basic facts of the Christian faith from those who knew Jesus best, and the majority of the church saw that and knew that and they didn't use them or recognize them. So it wasn't that they were leaving out key ideas in the attempt to manipulate people, but actually they were just agreeing upon what they already knew to be true.

Vince Vitale: You can see that today, as well. I would encourage you, read the New Testament, read some of the other gnostic gospels that were floating around several centuries after and see how the content is different. When you open up the gospel of Thomas and Jesus says that a woman can only be saved if she first becomes a man, and then you go back to the gospels in the New Testament and see the way that Jesus valued women and honored them. It's very obvious at a variety of points, the way the gospels, which are hundreds of years removed from people actually walking the earth with Jesus, are having things come out of Jesus' mouth, which are very inconsistent with what we saw to be true in such a constant manner in the life that he lived, which is true and consistent across the four gospels, which are the earliest accounts of his life.

So I would say read it yourself, read the gospels, the New Testament gospels, read other gospels as well, and the same sort of discernment that was taking place when the canon was being put together, I think, will be obvious to you as well.

Jo Vitale: What's also encouraging is to see how much earlier you already have the circulation of the books of the New Testament. So, for example, by the second century, the four gospels are already being circulated together. You have Paul, even in 2 Peter 3, it references Paul's letters, which seems to imply they've already been collected together at that point. They're already being formed and understood to be a critical piece of Christian literature. You also have plenty of church fathers who are already grouping these texts together, so Tertullian has 22 of the New Testament letters. You have Origen who mentions all 27 of them, Eusebius lists all 27, so they're already being used widely by this point, and what's encouraging is, in the places where a couple of books are left out, it's because they're taking this criteria so seriously that they're truly debating should Hebrews make it into the Bible because did Paul write it or somebody else? How do we know that it's eyewitness based, that it goes back that early? It's asking the question were these genuine texts? Should they be included because they meet that very specific criteria, and so ultimately they're included because it was considered that they did.

Meanwhile, you asked the question, Justin, about what if there are extraneous texts that are included because they're consistent, but actually they're not as important, but actually it's precisely for that reason that certain books were left out of the New Testament, despite being consistent in their theology. For example, The Shepherd of Hermas, or the Epistle of Barnabas. Both were books that early Christians knew, that they respected, that were consistent in their portrait of Jesus, and even helpful, but they didn't make the cut because they weren't considered to have had apostolic authorship, and there was a certain question of whether they, therefore, carried the same authority because they were second century texts. That seemed to belong to a different group called the Apostolic Fathers, and therefore they just weren't treated with quite the same reverence 'cause they didn't match the criteria. It wasn't they weren't helpful, but they weren't up to scratch when it came to the various criteria. So we can see just how careful people were in terms of not letting things in just for the sake of it, just because they liked it, but because it met these other criteria.

Michael Davis: So what about when he was talking about, and this is, because if you look a lot of the modern heresies as well, some of the other ones, it seems like an attack on the sufficiency of scripture, where God is saying something to me. So if you could maybe explain a little bit about how important the sufficiency of scripture is in regards to the way that we view the Bible.

Jo Vitale: I think that's a fantastic question, because you might just say, okay, we had the Old Testament, that was one covenant, we had the New Testament, that's another covenant, why couldn't God just send another prophet with another revelation? That's what Islam claims, for example, that Mohammed is the next prophet, and so you could say, well why not just say God couldn't bring a new revelation, bring new scriptures. Why do we need to look back to the New Testament when it's 2000 years old, but I think it's a misunderstanding of what's going on when you read the Bible, and why it is sufficient.

For example, the Old Testament does speak of God's law as being perfect and lasting forever, but even within the Old Testament, there's clear indications that they're expecting a messiah and looking forward to a new covenant. For example, in Jeremiah, it won't be written on stone tablets as it was first given to Moses, but will be written on people's hearts. So you look forward to that second new covenant, which comes with Jesus, that's what testament means, it means covenant, but Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the old covenant. Everything that history has been building up to, that it's been pointing towards, is the coming of Jesus, and as Christians, we don't think of Jesus as just another prophet with a few other words to say, but we believe Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore the full revelation of God, and, therefore, everything that God was driving towards in history.

Everything that needed to be said and done for our salvation comes in Christ, and he inaugurates it, and he initiates it. After that, we don't need anyone else to come because God has already come in the flesh, and so my question would be if you think God is gonna give another revelation, or that some other prophet or person is gonna come along with more to say, on what basis and on what authority? Because God Himself has already come and said, "I've done everything I need to do for you to be saved." So why would we expect Him to them reveal Himself again when He's already done it. It's like saying who Jesus is and what the cross did wasn't enough when it was God himself who came.

Vince Vitale: And yet, God continues to be a speaking God today. So we don't have that additional Revelation, that capital R Revelation, and yet, at the end of your question, Justin, I like that you brought it in this direction and you said, "Many Christians believe wholeheartedly in the continuing gifts of the spirit, which include prophecy. If there's continuing prophecy, is it impossible to hold this equally with biblical prophecy?" So is there some sort of tension between believe that God can continue to communicate with us in some way today in the context of personal relationship through creation, through community, through prayer, and also holding to a constant and fully sufficient biblical revelation in the canon, and, yes, I think that that's absolutely consistent, and not only that, but I actually think that God's ability to speak to us today, and in particular, our ability to discern His leading today, depends on the revelation of the biblical canon.

Michael Davis: Amen.

Vince Vitale: If we didn't have that, then when we had some subjective sense that God might be leading in some direction, what would we test that against? We would have nothing to test that against other than our subjective feelings, and then whose feelings? Mine, or yours, my culture, or someone else's culture? God has found this beautiful way to give us a standard which is objective and is constant, and yet not so overpowering that he takes away our free will, and yet it's still external to us, and we can take our subjective sense of how God might be leading, and we can filter that through, and we can put that up against and judge it in accordance with the biblical revelation.

So yes, God can continue to speak today, not, in spite of the fact that there's a sufficient biblical revelation, but precisely because of it.

Michael Davis: Well guys, we are out of time. Vince, sum it up for us.

Vince Vitale: Well, Marilyn and Justin, thank you for a couple of excellent questions. Marilyn, I hope we've given you some confidence in the canon, that it wasn't put together in just a random way, it wasn't just put together in a haphazard way. We don't trust it just because it's old, or just because it's been passed on to us, but the content and the origin of it in particular justify that trust that we have in it. I'm gonna be praying that you and your husband can have more conversations about this. Ask him questions, listen to his answers, try to understand where he's coming from, and I really hope that opens doors.

And Justin, thank you for raising for every one of us this question of scriptural authority. How can we know that our Bibles, as we read them today, are complete and authoritative in their present form? There's a challenge for every one of us. We've given you some starting points today, but for every Christian listening, let's make sure we can answer that question, because we are asking people to join us in reading the Bible and in trusting the person that that Bible points to, so let's be ready for that question and excited when people ask it, so that we can answer it in a way that gets them excited about pursuing a relationship with Christ.

Michael Davis: Vince, Jo, thank you for joining me, thank you all for listening, and we'll catch you next time.

Every article, podcast, and video on this website is made possible by the kindness of our supporters.

If you'd like to support our mission of sharing a thoughtful Christianity to the world, you can donate through our site.

Get our free , every other week, straight to your inbox.

Your podcast has started playing below. Feel free to continue browsing the site without interrupting your podcast!