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Is this world all there is? That question has been debated for millennia. Or to put it another way, is this universe a closed system or an open system? Is there anything beyond the natural? Like the supernatural? The universe is either one or the other, but it cannot be both.
Ian McKellen’s argument against the Bible seems to be very simple. Whatever he considers to be out of the range of his experience (in the broadest definition possible), cannot possibly be true. He may extend that to whatever is outside of the range of the experience he has heard about and trusted to be true is not true.
McKellan has never been to the moon but he trusts that the pictures that have been taken of the moon are accurate. He has never been to any other planet but he relies on astronomers to tell him which planets exist.
In other words, he trusts other people’s testimonies, which is the primary way everybody learns – through the word of other people. When we sat in class and listened to our teachers and professors, we relied on their testimony. Most of the time, they relied on someone else’s testimony.
We in fact have experienced very little of what we know first hand. We do not experience first hand all of our news and history. When something happens on the other side of the country, we take other people’s word for it.
What criteria do we apply to the reliability of these witnesses?
Have the witnesses shown to have a credibility problem? Have they been caught lying? Do they have criminal records?
As we listen to them over a long period of time, we come to trust people who seem to be truthful. We can take what they tell us and apply it. The information they give us corroborates with what we have heard from other people.
Are these people skeptics or do they believe anything and everything? The longer we see them in action, the more confident we will feel about how gullible they are.
But even more importantly, do they have a motive for falsifying their information? Do they stand to gain a lot from the information they give us? Do they stand to lose anything by telling us what they know?
The gospel writers did not exhibit any “spin” factor. They write straightforward, warts and all. There is no demonstration of gullibility, hallucination, illusion or delusion.
But more importantly, they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Nothing to gain and everything to lose. They radically changed their cultural roots, which is critical to the Jewish culture into which they were born. They lost their homes, businesses, job and property. They were condemned by both Romans and Jews alike. They risked their lives and many died. None of the disciples broke ranks and confessed that they had conspired (lying is a cardinal sin in the Bible). So why would they persist? Why would they make something up that gets them killed and hold to it despite the deaths?
People die for something they believe to be true even if it is false in reality. They still believe it to be true. Nobody dies for something they believe to be false.
So there is no reason to distrust the gospel writers.