Everyone has an authority base on which he operates his or her life. It may be simple or complex; unconscious or well-thought-out; but everyone has one.
The follower of a non-Christian religion like Buddhism bases his beliefs and life-style on the teachings of that religion as found in its written documents.
The atheist's authority base is the belief that God does not exist. Thus he concludes that there can be no revelation from God and no external authority for ethics. He cannot prove there is no God; he must believe it.
Agnosticism believes we cannot know whether God exists. Again it is a belief, for no agnostic can prove he is right. If anyone can know that God exists, agnosticism is overthrown. Agnosticism seems to be little more than another form of atheism. If we cannot know that God exists, we cannot accept anything that claims to be revelation from Him.
The free thinker finds his basis of authority in his own mind. What one person's mind may produce (including an ethical system) is as valid as what another's mind produces, even though the results are totally different. Consistency from person to person is unimportant; each person's own mind is his basis of authority.
The Christian—the conservative one at least—finds his authority base in the Bible. He, too, like all the others, operates on the basis of faith. But faith is not blind; it can be substantiated by comparing the Bible with other religious writings and by observing the Bible's claims for itself.
Is the Bible unique religious literature? Compare it with the writings of five other world religions.
The Koran of the Muslim religion consists of revelation Muhammad received and his followers wrote down. Although it claims that originally these revelations were written by the finger of God (and thus have divine authority), it is unsystematic and deals with non-religious as well as religious subjects.
The Tripitaka of Buddhism contain rules for community living, philosophic doctrines, and the oral teachings of Buddha, which mainly emphasize the soul's quest for escape from existence. Although the teachings of Buddha are very ancient, they were not written down much before the time of Christ.
The Veda of Brahmanism consists of sacred hymns, regulations for conduct addressed to nature deities with the aim of the soul's attaining absorption into the self-existent.
The Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism include liturgies and laws of mixed character.
The sacred texts of Confucianism contain moral laws, songs and magic formulas but claim no supernatural authority.
By contrast, the Bible claims to come from the true God, to reveal the true condition of mankind and to reveal the way to be acceptable to God. It offers hope, not the despair that characterizes other sacred writings.
The Bible is a book of books—one book of sixty-six books. Those sixty-six books were written over a time span of sixteen hundred years by more than forty authors, and yet the Bible is a unified book. A single author might write sixty-six books without glaring inconsistencies at least, but could forty different authors do that? Furthermore, those forty authors did not form a committee to decide how they were together going to produce the Bible. Most of them did not even know each other—their lifetimes spanned sixteen hundred years.
If you or I were choosing people to write the Bible, we would certainly choose people with similar qualifications of scholarship and communication skills. But the qualifications of the writers of the Bible were quite varied. Not one was a full-time writer. Many, like Moses, Luke, and Paul were well educated. Others included Amos, a shepherd; David and Solomon, kings; and Matthew, a tax-collector.
Many men, different backgrounds, hundreds of years apart—yet all their writings agree. How can you explain that? Certainly it could not happen by chance, but only by supernatural direction. Although there were forty or so diverse human writers, it is also true to say there was only one author, God. Or, putting both truths together, God used many human authors, who were different from each other, to give us a unified and consistent Bible. That does not mean the Bible is an anthology (a collection of selected writings); it is a unified book of sixty-six books.
The outstanding theme that ties those sixty-six books together is God's provision of a Savior in Jesus Christ. The Old Testament predicts His coming, and the New Testament announces the good news of His coming. Not every verse, of course, directly mentions Him, but He is the theme that ties the Bible together.