Is the Bible on Trial?
If we believe God exists, and that he has revealed himself, why are we often reluctant to submit fully to his Word and trust it whole-heartedly? It’s because the lie of the serpent in the garden still rings in our ears ― “has God really said?”. We reach for forbidden fruit, not so much because we don’t know or understand God’s commands, but because we think we know a better way.
C.S. Lewis addressed this notion of modern man acting as though he is the judge and God is on trial. He uses the expression “in the dock” as a designation of the one who is on trial. He argues that modern man lives as though God is the one in the dock:
“For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God in the dock.”
We act as though God is on trial when we place the Bible under our authority instead of submitting ourselves to its authority. God’s Word is not the one on trial. We are the ones in the dock. Not only do we know we are really the ones in the dock, we already know the verdict, we are guilty as charged. There’s ample evidence of our transgressions.
We have broken God’s Word. We continue to break God’s Word. Maybe that’s why we try so hard to reverse roles and place the Bible in the place of being judged. We don’t want it to judge us. But the good news is that there is one who fully obeyed the words of God and now stands ready to advocate for us and acquit us ―not because of anything good in us ― but because of the goodness in him.
As the hymn states: God the righteous judge is satisfied to look on him and pardon us.
How do we know this? Because God has revealed it to us in his Word. We are the recipients, the beneficiaries, of this Word. Moreover, we are not God’s editors. God is not waiting for our revisions. He has already gone to print. His Word is our final authority, not merely a rough draft or a proposal.
The prophet Isaiah said God’s Word will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus said that it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for God’s Word to fail (Luke 16:17). That’s why the Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of the manner in which we receive God’s Word, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
You see, the authority of God’s Word is not something we give to the Bible. It is an authority that God has given to his own revelation of himself. In other words, the authority of the Bible comes from the power of the very One who inspired it. We recognize its authority we don’t desginate or confer it.
You cannot separate God and the authority of his revelation. You can’t say you love one while being flippant towards the other. To love God is to love what he has graciously revealed about himself. This is not only good for us. This is our greatest good. This is life itself.
So, is the Bible on trial? No. Humanity is on trial. You can put all your eggs in the basket of your own authority if you like, in your own intellect, if you will, but at the end of human history the Bible is not the one that will be tried and found wanting.