Brian Zahnd

I hold a high view of Scripture. I accept as authoritative for faith the canon of Holy Scripture. Scripture forms and informs my faith. But why? Why do I believe the Bible?

I know very few Christians who can adequately answer this question. If they are challenged by a skeptic as to exactly why they believe the Bible they find themselves on uncomfortable ground; their hands break out in a sweat as they fumble for a defense. Perhaps they go home, dig out a Josh McDowell book , cram for the “test”, try to memorize a few apologetic facts, and then head back the next day ready to explain why they believe the Bible…based on the arguments they read and tried to memorize the night before.

But the problem with this defense is that it is disingenuous. As true as the apologetic arguments for the veracity of Scripture may be, it is not why they believe the Bible. The truth is, they believed the Bible before they knew a single apologetic argument. I doubt that one in ten thousand Christians believes the Bible because of historical, archeological, textual, literary, philosophical evidence. They believe in the Bible for a completely different reason, though they probably have never consciously understood this reason.

I believe the Bible because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and because I believe in the Church.

Here’s how it works…

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus because of my own encounter with the resurrected Savior. It is entirely a subjective experience. I can’t prove my own subjective experience to another person, but I know my own experience. I can’t prove empirically that I love my wife. But I do and I subjectively know I do. Likewise I can’t prove empirically that I have encountered Jesus of Nazareth as the risen Savior and life transforming Lord, but I have and I know I have. My subjective experiences are not invalidated by my inability to empirically prove them to an outside observer. You can either regard the testimony to my personal experience as credible or not.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth has many credible witnesses and historical attestations and these are well documented and can be persuasively presented. But I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, first and foremost, because of my own experience with Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord and Savior.

But my encounter with the resurrected Christ did not occur apart from mediation.

The gospel of the risen and reigning Christ was given to me by the Church — the community of believers who have passed this gospel on from generation to generation. The only reason I have access to the faith-inducing gospel of Jesus Christ is because the Church has maintained a faithful witness within the world. My leap of faith toward Christ was made possible by the witness of the Church.

And this Church which first introduced me to the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus also told me about their sacred book — the Bible.

Because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus by my experience, I also believe in the Church that gave me the message that led to my experience. And the Church also gave me their book. Quite simply, because I believe in the Church I believe the Bible.

Jesus (experience)….Church (witness)….Bible (authority).

This is why Christians believe the Bible…whether or not they understand it.

The problem with Sola Scriptura (as modernly misunderstood, which is not what was meant by the Reformers) is that you have the Bible floating out there on nothing — as if the Bible fell from heaven unmediated. This is what Muslims claim for the Koran and what Mormons claim for their special book, but it’s not what Christians claim about the Bible!

The authority of Scripture is predicated upon the authority of the Church.
The authority of the Church is predicated upon the authority of Christ.

By accepting the authority of Scripture based on the authority of the Church the believer does not have to defend the Bible all alone.

When Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc., attack the Christian faith, the individual believer does not have to go toe-to-toe and try to match wits with them or do their own apologetic heavy lifting. Instead, they can simply say, “Sorry, Richard, Chris, Sam, I trust the credible witness of the Church.” The Church can bring forth its own scholars, its own heavy-weight champions to do battle with the antagonists. Let Richard, Chris and Sam fight with David Bentley Hart, Alister McGrath, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, etc….but not with the lone individual Christian.

This way Brother Baffled doesn’t have to spend all his time reading Josh McDowell books trying to convince himself that this is why he believes the Bible, when in reality it isn’t so. If he does this and tries to defend his faith with a collection of memorized-last-night-pop-apologetics, he is really being disingenuous…because this is not why he believes the Bible. And he will come across as ill-informed, ill-equipped, and insincere.

The Church has its apologists (from Irenaeus and Origen to McGrath and Hart) so that not every individual believer has to be an apologist.

If you believe in the Church you don’t have to fight all your own battles. The Church will fight many battles for you. And that’s a relief.

But if you are a believer without the Church or apart from the Church, you have to defend the faith on your own. And you are almost certainly incapable of that.

(Not to mention that a believer who is disconnected from the Church has no real right to claim the Christian Scriptures — for they were written, collected and canonized by the Church!)

Thus the benefits of a higher ecclesiology!

The community of believers can trust the Church, call on the Church, lean on the Church, depend on the Church.

But the Enlightenment influenced individual by himself as a lone(ly) believer has a huge responsibility, that quite honestly, he is probably not capable of.


I believe in Jesus Christ because of my own subjective experience with the risen Christ.
(I can also make a case for believing in Christ as a received tradition, but that’s another argument.)
I believe in the Church for it has borne witness to the Christ of my faith.
I believe the Bible because it has been created, collected and canonized by the Church.




PS The artwork is Credo by Esme Thompson