Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 12, 1959
NUMBER 44, PAGE 1,13b-14a

The Bible, Whence Is It? From Heaven Or From Men? -- (II.)

Robert H. Farish, San Bernardino, California

The former article in this series was devoted to a discussion of the need of studying the evidences of the divine origin of the Bible — the respective consequences of the two views comprehended in the subject and a brief discussion of some good books on the subject. This article will be a brief discussion of evidence and its relation to conviction.

Firm conviction of the divine authority of the Scriptures must be had by any person before he can contend earnestly for any doctrine peculiar to the Bible. Paul's eagerness to preach the gospel was based upon his conviction that "it is the power of God unto salvation." Confidence in the gospel to accomplish its design is always present where conviction of its divine origin exists. One of the pressing basic needs of our generation is the conviction that the Bible is from heaven.

"So-called Christendom today faces the awfully important responsibility of choosing between a return to faith in the Bible as being the word of God, and as containing the revelation of his will to man or simply abandoning any serious convictions regarding it and depending entirely upon the wisdom, desires and impulses of man. There is no middle ground. All efforts at a synthesis between the two ideals is futile." (Olan Hicks in introduction to "Attitudes and Consequences").

But firm conviction or belief in any matter of fact cannot exist in the absence of evidence. It is impossible to believe without evidence, hence, in view of the essential relationship of evidence to conviction in this as well as in any matter that involves faith, it is important that we know some of the fundamental principles of evidence. The power to believe, when satisfactory evidence is available, is one of the powers possessed by man, however the power to believe does not enable man to believe in the absence of evidence. Man cannot believe arbitrarily but man's will does have to be exercised in determining to search out and examine the evidence in any given case, in order to come to believe one way or the other.

Knowledge And Faith

Some distinctions have been made between faith and knowledge which do not hold true in every particular. If we define knowledge strictly and simply as that which we know by "sight" (personal experience) then there is a clear cut distinction between faith and knowledge. But knowledge cannot properly be limited to that which we gain by personal experience for this would prevent men profiting by the experience of others. Much that we "know" and act upon has been learned, not by observation and reflection, but through the evidence of the testimony of other men. We can know God and the things of God only through testimony. It is hard to see how people of intelligence ever came to subscribe to the idea that Christ could be known by men today through men's personal experiences. Every fact of history or science which is outside the scope of our personal experiences is accepted by faith. These facts are "facts, which, upon the narrow basis of his own 'firm and unalterable experience' upon which Mr. Hume so much relies, he would be bound to reject, as unworthy of belief." (Greenleaf on Evidences, P. 15.) "The knowledge acquired by an individual, through his own perception and reflection, is but a small part of what he possesses; much of what we are content to regard and act upon as knowledge having been acquired through the perception of others." (Greenleaf on Evidences; P. 12) We wonder how Mr. Hume, if he were living today, would react to the "explorer"? What about you? What does your own "firm and unalterable experience" teach you about this piece of matter hurtling around out there hundreds of miles in space? Do you know that it exists? How do you know it? It is beyond the reach of your personal experience. Perhaps not one in several thousand have personal experiences which establish this matter of fact. These general observations will serve as a hint of the essential place which that faith, which cannot exist on the evidence of personal experience, occupies in the affairs of men.

Evidence can be classified under two general headings (1) Evidence of personal experience and (2) Evidence of testimony. Christ said to Thomas, "because thou halt seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed." The evidence that brought conviction to Thomas was the evidence of personal experience. In this passage, there is recognition given to the two classes of evidence: the evidence of our five senses (the kind Thomas had) and the evidence of testimony (the kind upon which those who "have not seen" must believe). The second kind is the kind upon which our faith that Jesus is the Son of God must rest. It is strange that those who are unbelievers in the deity of Jesus are believers in the historical Jesus; yet, the same kind of evidence (testimony) is the sole dependence in each case. Faith in Jesus as the Christ the Son of God comes by hearing testimony of witnesses. "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word -" (John 17:20.) " -but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." (John 20:30) "So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ". (Rom. 10:17 etc.)


"Moral evidence" is the legal designation given to the kind of evidence upon which those who "have not seen" must depend for proof of all matters of fact which have not come within the range of their own personal experiences. By moral evidence "is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not either from institution, or from demonstration." (Greenleaf on Evidences, P. 3). Testimony comes under the heading of moral evidence; upon it we rely, in the main for proof of the divine origin of the Bible. The testimony of the Bible is in turn our evidence of the fact that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. We have already seen that faith in this proposition comes by hearing the word of the Lord.

"General notoriety" is classified as moral evidence. When a thing is generally believed, it is accepted on the basis of its general notoriety. This is the sort of evidence upon which most of us depend for our earliest conviction that the Bible is from heaven. As we mature and become able to weigh and examine evidence, our conviction no longer depends upon the evidence of the general notoriety of our parent's and teacher's belief. It is well to remember that perhaps the majority of the things which one believes are believed upon the evidence of general notoriety; he believes them simply because they are generally believed. Here is an illustration of this: not many can perform the experiment by which the presence of carbon dioxide in the air exhaled from the lungs is established. Yet are any who read this doubters of the fact? "Even though mathematical truths, this writer justly remarks, that, though capable of demonstration, they are admitted by most men solely on the moral evidence of general notoriety." (Greenleaf on Evidences, P. 4). It is, however, a mark of immaturity when people, who by reason of time ought to be able to give a reason for their hope, continue to offer nothing more than general notoriety in proof of their hope. Such immaturity causes one to depend upon human tradition for his faith; his faith must always rest in men and not in God. General notoriety is not satisfactory evidence, for the mature, in things that pertain to the soul; too much is at stake.


Demonstration is another kind of evidence, it is defined as "act or example of making known by visible means or of giving tangible evidence of something." (Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged). The word is used in this paper to designate the kind of evidence which the apostles had. Thomas said, "except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:25.) Thomas demanded visible (see) and tangible (touch) evidence. He was demanding a demonstration. John wrote, "That which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled concerning the word of life . . . . that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also . . . (I John 1:1-3.) The apostles had the deity of Jesus demonstrated to them and that which they declare (their testimony) is our evidence of the fact of the miraculous signs by which the deity of Jesus was declared. This is affirmed in John 20:30,31 "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing ye may have life in his name."

We do not have this sort of demonstration for our day i.e. we cannot literally see and touch the Lord Jesus. But there is a kind of "demonstration" which the Lord requires of his followers . . . . "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one, that the world may believe that thou didst send me." (John 17:20,21.) Here the unity of believers is recognized as contributing to the conviction of the world of the deity of Jesus. Paul cites the suffering and righteous conduct of the apostles as evidence of their being "ministers of God". (2 Cor. 6:3-9.) Real Christians are people who manifest in their deeds as well as by their speech that they believe on him through the word of the apostles. What an unanswerable argument against the infidel it would be if "the word of hearing" were "united by faith with them that heard". (Heb. 4:2.)

This brief discussion gives the reader an idea of the role of faith in the lives of men and the relation of evidence to faith. Testimony is the evidence by which the superhuman origin of the Bible is established. The testimony of witnesses, in whose writings references are found which aid in establishing the authenticity of the books of the Bible and in establishing that the writers of the Bible endured extreme suffering and sacrifices, on account of their testimony, is classified as external or historical evidence. The evidence of the superhuman origin of the Bible which is seen in the Bible itself is classified as internal evidence. Both kinds will be noticed and discussed in this series. (To be continued)