In The Republic, the philosopher Plato tells a very famous story. It’s about a man and his friends chained to a low wall deep inside a dark cave. 

There’s a fire burning behind the wall. People walk back and forth between the fire and the barrier carrying objects which cast moving shadows against the back of the cave. The man and his friends can’t see anything else, so they discuss the shadows and invent stories to explain them.  

This is all they know of reality until one day when one of the men breaks free and makes his way to the fire, and eventually to the cave entrance. He finally encounters the real world.

Soon, however, he begins to wonder whether the rocks and trees lit by the sunlight are shadows of a greater reality. If his experience inside the cave was so inaccurate, maybe this new experience is artificial as well!

The question the story asks is, “How can we know what is really true?” 

 1

What Is True?

Plato gives a complex answer to this question—one involving geometry and long-winded conversations between philosophers. Basically, he believed that we can reason our way to what is true. But can we?

Even if our chains are broken, so to speak, and we escape the cave, how do we get from our experiences and opinions to reality?   

The Bible’s answer is that we need revelation. Revelation just means something that is revealed or shown to us. Because this world was created by God, we can know something about him from the things we observe around us. We can experience and understand a lot about God’s character, creativity, and greatness. We can taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8).  

Just through observation and a bit of reason, Plato knew there had to be an ultimate source of truth and beauty and goodness. He came close, but he couldn’t know that source personally. 

This world points us to realities that we can’t fully comprehend without help. We might see order and beauty in the things around us and suspect that the world was designed by a good Creator, but we cannot know who that Creator is. 

2

Our Darkened Hearts

What’s more troubling is that we’re prone to lie to ourselves and to create false explanations for reality or even false gods to replace the true Creator. In Romans 1:20-23, we’re warned about this tendency:

For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they [humankind] are without excuse.For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Claiming to be wise, they became fools,and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 

Not only do we have a limited perspective, but we also have “darkened hearts.” We need to be shown the way out of the cave and beyond our experience to God himself. This is why God provided us with the Bible. 

The Bible is God’s self-revelation. And not only do we have the written Word, but we also have the Word that took on flesh in Jesus, as well as his Holy Spirit to help us understand God’s Truth. 

 3

Our Map

The Bible is our map to truth. From the very beginning, God made himself known to people by speaking. God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. God’s words and his dealings with men and women were retold, recorded, and collected into what is now called our Bible.  

The Bible’s testimony is trustworthy because God inspired it. 

Let’s look at the word inspired for a moment. 

We say that artists are inspired to paint pictures and musicians are inspired to compose songs. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we are told that “all Scripture is God-breathed.” This means that God is the one doing the inspiring or “breathing” of the Bible. God supplied the “creative juices” and guided the process and prepared the writers who then sat down to pen the words, not as robots, but as people motivated, shaped, and enabled by God. God also directed the process of choosing which books belong in the Bible, and he guides the translation of the Bible.

We can trust this map. It’s accurate and reliable because ultimately we trust God, who inspired it as a means of revealing himself to us.  

4

Our Destination

A map leads to a destination, and the destination the Bible leads us to is a person named Jesus. We are not like Plato struggling to climb beyond human experience to reach God. God came to us as a man (John 1:14)

We learn in the Bible that Jesus was fully God, but he didn’t cling to his equality with God or his heavenly position. He laid it aside and became a servant who obeyed God in every way, even to the point of dying on a cross. By doing this, Jesus made it possible for us to be reunited with God. God has given Jesus a name that is higher than any other, and God has said that someday we will all bow before Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11). 

This is our destination. Each of us will encounter Jesus. The only uncertainty is whether that encounter will be a joyful homecoming or the judgment of continued, painful exile. The Bible describes Jesus as the “true light.” We find these words in John’s Gospel:   

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:9-13 NIV)

We don’t have to scramble out of the cave on our own, because Jesus came to us. The light broke through the darkness. Jesus offers to remove our chains and to lead us to truth—that is, himself—and he is the way to be reconciled to God. We only need to trust him.

5

Our Guide

If the Bible is our map and Jesus is our destination, the Holy Spirit is our guide (John 14:16, 26). 

In 1 Peter 1:10-12, God tells us that, through the Holy Spirit, the prophets predicting Jesus’ coming. The Holy Spirit also proclaims Jesus wherever the good news is spoken (John 15:26). The Spirit is constantly pointing us in the right direction and correcting us when we lose our way. The Holy Spirit provides the compass and flashlight that we need to read the map and to see our destination.  

Plato’s story is just a story, but it makes us stop and wonder. How do we know what is really true? 

If you’re asking that question, you aren’t stranded in the cave of your own experiences, opinions, or speculation. There’s a light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). A map leading us to our destination. A Guide to accompany us along the way. 

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Will you cry out to Jesus, ask him to take your hand, and lead you out of the darkness and into reality today 

How Do You Approach the Bible?

Intro

We at Bibles.net believe that the Bible is God’s Word, the very thoughts and will of God in written form given to us out of his love, to tell us the truth about ourselves, our world, and about him. But not everybody believes this. Let’s take a look at six ways people view the Bible.

Rationalism

A person with this view of the Bible prioritizes the natural world. Rationalists trust their reason and intellect to determine truth.

Because most rationalists deny the supernatural, they deny that the Bible is from God. Instead, they believe it to be a book like any other book written by men. Atheists are of course rationalists, but even some who believe God exists may still not believe that he reveals himself to mankind, or even cares to do so. Now, some rationalists would allow for the possibility of divine revelation, but human reason would still be the final judge of that revelation. Thus, they would conclude that people wrote the Bible, and since those people were prone to mistakes, the Bible contains errors and contradictions.

Someone who holds this view might say, “If there are things in the Bible that don’t make sense to my reason and thinking, I simply ignore them. The guys who wrote the Bible didn’t understand my culture and how we think these days.”

Romanism

A person with this view of the Bible holds the Roman Catholic view that the Bible is the product of the Church and is therefore not the sole authority. What is truth? Tradition and Scripture determine that, they would say.

A person who holds this belief would say that the Tradition of the Catholic Church stands alongside the Bible and both are authoritative for the Church. They believe that the Bible is a source of truth, but it is interpreted by the Church. This approach to the Bible is also present in churches where they only interpret the Bible in agreement with their own doctrine and tradition.

Someone who holds this view might say, “I know what the Bible says about marriage, but my pastor or priest told me otherwise, so I will listen to what he says, because he’s my authority too.”

Mysticism

A person who holds this view of the Bible believes that their experience is authoritative alongside the Bible. In other words, the mystic believes that God can communicate to them directly outside of the Bible, even if this somehow contradicts the Bible in some way.

Therefore, experience is placed alongside the Bible as an equal source of truth. The mystic may claim that the Holy Spirit is dealing with them directly, which makes it okay for them to ignore the revelation found in the Bible at times.

Someone who holds this view might say, “Why would I look in the Bible at things someone else wrote 2000 years ago when God’s Spirit can speak to me in my heart?” Or, “God told me who I’m going to marry, so I don’t need to hear what the Bible says about marriage.”

Neo-Orthodoxy

A person who holds this view of the Bible believes that the true “Word of God” is Jesus Christ, and the written word of God in the Bible is an imperfect witness to this Word, Jesus.

A person with a neo-orthodox view believes that the basic kernel or essence of Christ is contained in the Bible, but there are errors and mistakes and other non-essential matters also in the Bible. Therefore, they believe they must look beyond the “useless” material in the Bible and dig deep to find the hidden message about the true Word, Jesus.

Someone who holds this view might say, “The Bible is partly from God and partly from imperfect humans. We need to sift through the Bible and discard the parts that we determine are in error.”

Syncretism

A person who holds this view of the Bible believes that the Bible is authoritative along with the writings of their particular group’s founder or leader. This view of the Bible is held by cults. For example, the Mormons believe that the writings of Joseph Smith are of equal authority with the Bible.

People who hold this view would say that the Bible alone is no longer authoritative for today. Instead, we need men and women to supplement the Bible’s truth with new truth.

Someone who holds this view might say, “The Bible is a word from God, but was just for a certain time period. Now our cult’s leader has new revelation, which supersedes the revelation of the Bible.”

Evangelical

People who hold to an evangelical view of the Bible believe that the Bible alone is our authority. Evangelicals believe that every word of the Bible was inspired by God, and that his Word determines truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

This belief is the position that the Bible itself teaches. Because the Bible is God’s Word, it reflects God’s character: because God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), the Bible is completely reliable and trustworthy (Psalm 119:42); because God is perfect (Psalm 18:30), his words are flawless (Proverbs 30:5); because God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15-16), his words endure forever (1 Peter 1:25).

Someone who holds this view might say, “I filter what my pastor says through God’s Word to see if it aligns with what God says. I consider how God’s Word would interpret my experiences, and at the end of the day, I obey to the best of my ability what I can understand from God’s Word, because he has the final say on everything in my life.”

Three Answers to "What Is Truth?"

We mentioned six ways to view the Bible. Each of these six views is one of three attitudes towards the Bible: We either stand under God’s Word, over God’s Word, or beside God’s Word.

We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and it is our sole authority for knowing God and knowing how to live in a way that pleases him (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, the only safe way to live is under the Word of God, taking it as truth and letting God be our judge. When we stand over the Word, judging it for ourselves, we are refusing to submit to God’s authority. And when we stand beside it, thinking we can pick and choose what we like from it, we are also undermining God’s authority and the clarity of his Word.

Isaiah 66:2 describes the type of attitude God wants us to have towards his Word: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (ESV). So what is truth? God is truth (John 14:6), and what he says should have the final say in our lives. God alone is worthy of our trust and hope. So where do you stand? Over, beside, or under God’s Word?