Where can I find balanced information on historical/theological reading of
the Word? As a born again, Bible-following Christian for 22 years, I’m
always excitied to read of some archaeological development that sheds
light on people, times and/or places of the Bible. But I’ve also I’ve read
enough about what archaeology has not been able to prove (and in some
cases has disproved) in the historicity of some parts of the text. I am
therefore not an inerrantist by any means. I know that God exists, and has
preserved His Word, with all its historical inaccuracies (biases?), to
communicate to a fallen world about Him. I’d like to read more about how
to glean the truth of the Scriptures, free from the agendas of either
extreme. Almost more importantly, how do I share my faith with unbelievers
from a “balanced” point of view?


This is a very difficult question. I am not sure you can find a fully
“balanced” book on any issue, except the Bible itself. I cannot suggest
any completely balanced sources, as I do not even know what it would mean
for a resource to be balanced. Truth is truth and human beings are not
able, by themselves, to proclaim truth.

Here is how I see you ought to approach questions such as biblical
inerrancy, historical and archaeological evidence and so forth. You ought
to read the work of others with a mind which balances the need for faith
with the need for honesty and skepticism. I can see from what you write
that you can, to some extent, distinguish for yourself between highly
biased unscholarly writing and the work of scholars who make a good effort
to provide accurate, well-supported, reasonable arguments. My suggestion
is that you make it a habit to continue to read material written by people
on both sides of the issues at hand. Personally, I would give some
precedence to things written by men and women of faith, but you can learn
from the skeptics as well.

One problem is that we need to be “balanced” on some issues, but not on
others. There is no “balance” on the question of whether Jesus is the Son
of God and whether he was raised from the dead. Either he is and he did
or he is not and he did not. There is no balance on this. Either heaven
and final judgment are real or they are not. The “balanced” view on such
questions is not a stable one! On the other hand, we need to reach a
balanced perspective on questions such as the source and authorship of
certain Bible books. In the case of history, archaeology and the Bible,
“balance” includes recognizing that archaeology can not “prove” the gospel
message. Balance includes looking for the evidence which underlies the
accuracy of the Bible but reading with some caution those who make
stronger claims than what is implied by the data. I do not agree that
archaeology has ever disproved the Bible, but neither can archaeology ever
prove that every event recorded in the Bible happened. The reliability of
the Bible can be suggested and even supported by archaeological evidence,
but it cannot be proved by historical sources. In addition, it requires
great care to understand what historical accuracy would have meant to a
Near Eastern writer in the first millenium BC.

So, my answer is that the ball is in your court. You obviously want to
place a strong emphasis on intellectual honesty. I obviously applaud that
stance! Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), this will require a lot
of work and careful thinking on your part. Let me make one suggestion.
You cannot be absolutely unbiased. It is literally impossible to do
that. I suggest that you apply at least a little bias, as you look at
evidence, in the direction of assuming that critical attacks on the Bible
are probably not right. The vast majority of scholars have a great bias
against the assumption that the Bible is inspired by God. It will require
a determination on your part to counteract these blatant biases as you
read the work of scholars. Do not ignore the Jesus Seminar people and the
form critics. We can learn from these people, but do not forget that they
reach the absolutely incorrect final conclusion. Satan can use these
followers of him to influence you in subtle ways to reject faith in Jesus
Christ. Your job is to approach evidence in an unbiased manner in order
to glean the truth from a mountain of confusing and sometimes incorrect
information. Do not forget, however, that part of your job is to use this
evidence to convince people of the truth, which is that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God. Do not use false or unsupportable arguments, but do not
be intimidated by the lies of the skeptics and atheists either. Use what
you learn as a tool for bringing people to God. Your ultimate goal should
not be to achieve balance (althought that is important!). Your goal is to
win people to a relationship with God–to help them to get to heaven. You
do not always have to present “the other side.” but you youself should
take what they say into account. Most of those you communicate with think
in more simple terms. When you tell people that you believe in the
inspiration of the scriptures, you do not always have to say “but bear in
mind that the question of inerrancy is a difficult one.” It is not
“unbalanced” to state to the average person the simple truth without
always bringing up the legitimate difficulties which a careful scholar
will point out. I guess what I am saying is that you need balance in your
application of balance when you teach others. Does that make sense?

There is a sense in which I have not answered your question! If you want
my opinion on any one single source I will be glad to give you my
perspective. There is a lot of junk out there and some of the worst of it
is put out by believers. I pray you will reach your goal of using your
studies to help bring people to faith in Jesus.

John Oakes, PhD

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