Recently, it was recommended that I read Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not had time to read the book yet. I hope too soon. However, I have become acquainted with its first chapter. The book opens with the claim that the Bible is unique. There are two central ideas within this claim – the response to the first will essentially render the response to the second unnecessary, but I’ll go ahead and respond to both briefly in two parts.
Uniqueness and Correctness
The first idea is not stated, but I think it’s implicit (this is my personal opinion), and it’s an idea that I’ve heard before so I don’t feel too bold in making my assumption. The idea is that if the Bible is unique, then that has some bearing on its truth value. To expand on this point, if the Bible were the same as the Koran, the Buddhacarita, the Book of Mormon, etc., then it wouldn’t place Christianity in any special standing. And, if Christianity is uniquely correct (and these other religions incorrect), then it needs to be different. For example, creationism (in our current form) and Darwinian evolution cannot both be correct because they make contradictory claims. But intelligent design and creationism can both be correct because they make very similar, non-contradictory claims. So, in order for Christianity, and only Christianity, to be correct, the Bible needs to be unique.
I have no problem with this line of reasoning—the Bible should differentiate itself if it is to be considered the only true religious text. However, we make a mistake when this claim is given explanatory power. The Bible being unique (and I don’t think that’s a given) is an empty claim. What I mean is uniqueness does not equal truth. Ulysses by James Joyce was certainly unique when it was published, but it doesn’t make it a true story. A better example might be a book that claims to be non-fiction, like Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. This was wildly unique and even provocative when published, but is now widely disregarded by Psychologists. The matter is further complicated when you consider that, if you consider the Bible unique from the Koran, then you also consider the Koran unique from the Bible. It creates a kind of standoff.
McDowell himself admits that none of the evidence for uniqueness proves it is the Word of God, which leads you to wonder why include it at all. I think it’s for the reasons I gave in the second paragraph. As I’ve shown, though, there is no logical entailment of truth from the claim.
Why is it unique?
My first point is all that is necessary to counter this argument, but I wish to respond to the second element of McDowell’s claim just because I think he is being dishonest. This second element pertains to reasons why the Bible is considered unique by McDowell. These reasons include its continuity, cohesiveness, survival, unique teachings, and influence.
The response to these claims is considerably more in-depth and not really related to the main point of this writing, which is that uniqueness is not an adequate explanation. So, I will discuss these claims in a second part to hopefully come within a few days.
- The Bible is Unique (Part 2 of 2)
- Historical Method: Tell me what is probable.
- Biblical Inerrancy is Not Probable