The Ridley Institute

J.C. Ryle: Reasoning through the reliability of the Bible, Part 2.

“What evidence is there that the Bible is really from God?”

Last month, I began a three-part series looking at how Bishop J.C. Ryle answers this question. In his chapter “Inspiration” in Old Paths, he gives numerous reasons why the Bible is God’s inspired Word. These reasons he gave to persuade non-Christians he encountered in his ministry. In part one, I shared the first five. Here are two more that show that the Bible cannot be just a human creation:

1. There is an extraordinary unity and harmony in the contents of the Bible.

Ryle points out that the Bible was written over 1500 years by over 30 authors from multiple cultures, backgrounds, vocations, and educational levels. Most of these authors never met face to face. Each book has its own genre, setting, themes, audience, and message. Yet, despite all this particularity, they come together to proclaim one unified and consistent picture of God. They all tell one story of God, man, and salvation. Such unity and harmony is too complex a creation for even the most exacting editors.

While there are many examples of this continuity (my latest favorite is Alistair Hunter’s “dry land” re-creation theme that runs throughout the Scriptures), I’ll go with the biggest: Jesus fulfilling every office, institution, ritual, and figure of the Old Testament. There is no clearer explanation and example of this fulfillment than this short video. It is almost statistically impossible for so many variables to come together in the life of one man.

2. The Bible has had a most extraordinary effect on the condition of those nations in which it has been known, taught, and read.

While the Church hasn’t been perfect in this, Ryle invites “any honest minded reader” to concede that Christians have brought blessing to every country in which they are the majority. Ryle appeals to God’s common grace to give credence to the Bible’s inspired nature. Here are three examples. 

First, Christians have historically been the driving force behind medical care in these countries. The hospital system that we enjoy in this country was established by Biblically-shaped Christians. Moreover, Christians continue to lead the way in bringing healthcare to other countries (as clearly seen in the 2014 Ebola crisis).

Second, Biblical teachings have also positively shaped governmental structures. In his The Political Philosophy of James Madison, University of Virginia Political Science Professor Garrett Ward Sheldon highlights the key role the Bible played in shaping James Madison’s political positions. Specifically, Madison’s doctrine of the Separation of Powers (which eventually defined the structure of the U.S. Constitution) was based upon his belief that human beings are inherently selfish and corrupt. The temptation to live into this selfish nature is enhanced when one is in power. Thus, governmental powers (executive, legislative, and judicial) must be divided among different governmental branches, and these branches must have the power to “check and balance” each other.

According to the scholars, the separation of powers (and it’s checks and balances) is key in providing the United States’ internal political stability because it prevents one person or party from having to much power. The benefits separation of powers provides are so vast that governments in Europe, Africa, and Asia have built their political structures to include it. In fact, the United States Government so believes in the objective benefit of this governmental structure that it seeks to make it a reality in countries where it is not (see USAID’s “Separation of Powers” project).

What was the source of Mr. Madison’s wisdom that gave rise to the most stable governmental structure in history? The Bible (click here to see for yourself).

Third, the Bible has also defined and guarded human rights. Ryle points this out in the negative when he outlines the flagrant rejection of such rights in countries where the Bible has not been influential. I’ll give one positive example: the abolition of the slave trade. In the 19th century, English politician and evangelical christian William Wilberforce wrote the 1833 Act of Emancipation. This law ended slavery in the British Empire at a cost of half of the nation’s annual budget. His leadership and the support of the Church of England pushed this costly legislation through the House of Commons. Moreover, the Church is still leading the movement to end today’s sex slavery in the United States. This is possible because only the Bible gives all people equal worth.

Before I end, two things:

First, a quick reminder. These two arguments alone probably won’t convince a skeptic that the Bible is the Word of God. Ryle is the first to admit this. So why offer them? His hope (and ours) is that when all these proofs are taken together, the most likely explanation is that the Bible is truly inspired.

Second, a look ahead. Now that we have outlined Mr. Ryle’s reasons for the Bible’s inspiration, we will look next month at his answers nine of the skeptics’ biggest objections. These objections, and Ryle’s answers, are just as relevant today as over 100 years ago.

This post was written by guest contributor Rev. Hamilton Smith, Pastor and Lead Planter of St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in Mount Pleasant S.C.  Hamilton is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry, with a focus on J.C. Ryle’s Reformation theology for today.  You can read Ryle’s sermon, “The Great Gathering,” for yourself by clicking here.

This post was written by Rob Sturdy

Comments are closed here.

Contact Info
Contact Us
The Rev'd Randy Forrester
(843) 284-4320
E-mail The Ridley Institute