"The Bible is Just a Story That Works for Some People"

(Or "Can a Story Really Do All of This?")


(Quick one: If stories can do this, then most of America should've transformed for the better after watching them on Netflix all 2020. They got more vicious. How does one, "fake story" get better results in tens of millions of people than all of Netflix's combined? Or maybe there's something special about it that makes it pierce hearts.)


This article isn't going to go deep into archeology, theology, etc. It's just about what it says: whether the Bible is a good story that impacts people how it did. We'll take a deeper look into what people are really saying when they claim the Bible is just a story. I made this claim myself as a agnostic evolutionist who tore Christians up in debates. The most I'd let them get away about the Bible was that people believed it, learned moral lessons, and some changed. Stories and new beliefs can change people, esp good ones. That's gotta explain the Bible's impact.

This morning, I realized how foolish and unscientific that was. At least, about the Bible. All I had to do was describe what the Bible does as if it's a fictional story with imaginary characters. I found just doing that made plainly obvious whether or not it was true. For comparison's sake, we'll first do a one-paragraph summary each of what the Bible says and what proofs it offers.

The Bible claims to be the Word of God. In it, God says He created us to be in an eternal relationship with Him, to love each other selflessly, that we all failed to do that, our just God will severely punish that, and He instead wants to redeem us (show mercy). He deals out justice and mercy simultaneously via the perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He claims all who turn away from sin and follow Jesus will be forgiven, given the Holy Spirit of God, and be slowly made more like Jesus via His Spirit. Eventually, they receive eternal life while others receive eternal punishment.

On my Evidence page, I offer proofs of the Bible's claims. They include prophecies predicting the future in specific detail, miracles that peak when Jesus shows up, a promised transformation of believers walking closely with God, more love/peace/hope that comes regardless of circumstances, better suffering, loving/forgiving worst enemies, and divine intervention (sometimes miracles) happening in response to their prayers. Followers of Jesus Christ always experience some of these things with larger groups reporting all of them. Tens of millions of people worldwide have testified to the Bible's truth for 2,000 years straight. That's many forms of evidence with a massive amount of corroborated, eyewitness testimony. That's the status quo.

Now, let's describe the same thing as a fictional story people are hearing. We have a book with many stories. The main story, the Gospel, takes about 2-5 minutes to read or hear. They receive 2-5 minutes of fiction, speak to the imaginary character in it, have a personal experience (surrender to Jesus), and are confident something objectively happened in them. They regularly read the book and talk to its imaginary character. Their lives begin transforming, quickly or gradually.

People sometimes report specific experiences from the book before reading about them in the book. Many skeptics or opponents of the main story claim unusual events or even supernatural ones (eg incurable diseases healed) occurred before they believed its claims. They tried talking to the imaginary God in the book, unusual things happened, and then they believed. All of this is already unusual for individuals briefly exposed to works of fiction. Maybe groups of people will react differently, without reproducing the results, to the fictional story and character they're imagining.

The individuals that believe the story is true join clubs of like-minded people. Their goal is to read more of the book daily/weekly, do what it says, speak to the imaginary God as a group, and get the results the imaginary character in it promises. They'll also support each other like a family. The book said to do all these things. So, they do them regularly.

Some invest a lot more time into the book. They teach the others to see real life in terms of the fictional book, relying on its fictional God and theories more than themselves and wordly theories. They often report greater results than they got from self-reliance at a time when they didn't read or opposed the teachings of the book.

Others start sharing the main story widely. They tell both strangers and people they know. At some point, people who heard a few minutes of a story in a fictional book feel called to believe in it. The number of people who believe in and surrender their lives to the imaginary character of the book grows. These new groups of people report the same kinds of experiences, including supernatural ones.

The new people are really different, too. Diverse audiences receive the same, exact story before having the same experiences. They get the same results from obeying the imaginary character's words. When results vary, they vary in the ways the book says they will. The effect is reliable across groups.

Maybe it's all a rare, special, psychological phenomenon that helps people. If so, psychiatrists should want to understand and field it more than any other group. What are its psychological effects? Most report kicking bad habits. The story either totally eliminates or helps people deal with anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions. Some with hopeless, physical conditions either beat the odds or are supernaturally cured. People stop doing hard drugs, being in gangs, beating their wives/children, and other violent crimes.

There's also benefits. They report inner peace and joy that's not dependent on circumstances. They start working harder on their menial jobs instead of slacking. They invest more time into family, friends, strangers, and communities. Their relationships improves along with their character. They forgive enemies who hurt them. Others experience internal changes that let them endure, even peacefully, horrible conditions like being quadriplegic. They report life circumstances changing in unexpected ways after asking the character in the story for help.

Skeptics tell me all of this occured because people heard a work of fiction, talked to an imaginary character, had imaginary experiences, and sustained them by regularly reading the same piece of incorrect fiction and talking to the same non-existent character. That sounds... unbelievable. In most things, those skeptics would say the results of a belief speak for themselves. Compared to psychological findings, this story has high impact across many people. While psychological theories appear and are later debunked, this same story has consistently achieved positive, psychological results. It's plenty rational to think there's a supernatural force behind the Gospel making that story do what it promises it will. I'm still up for putting the Bible to the test as God's power or what stories do.

Let's do basic science. I challenge people who think "a story" did all of that to get those results with a story. Get a large number of diverse people to inventory their life problems (esp sins and lack of virtue), read a few minutes of quality fiction, talk to an imaginary character in it, and regularly read incomplete pieces of the same book with others. They should experience a certainty it's true, start kicking bad habits, love others more, sometimes die for them, and sometimes experience supernatural events like incurable diseases being cured after asking for them. That's what it takes to reproduce the individual experiences. I challenge each of you to change your own life by reading a few minutes of fiction speaking to imaginary people. If you're right, many of you will get the Bible's results without the Bible.

Next test for "Bible's just a story:" getting the results across groups. I challenge you to share those non-Biblical, fictional stories with people who have spent years struggling, bored, and finding no answers to life's, deepest questions. Tell them they just need to believe about 2-5 minutes of your fiction, speak to invisible characters in it like they're real, and one or more of those problems will be solved. If they re-read it regularly, they'll stay solved.

Actually, we should already see this since people across the globe constantly watch and discuss fiction aimed at impacting their lives. Americans spent most of COVID/2020 watching Netflix. Whole country should've tranformed for the better. If this is psychological, those should've had such strong, placebo effects by now that we disbanded psychiatry, got most people off mind-altering drugs, and ditched most self-help books. Our opponents claim a single work of fiction achieved those kind of results already. So, a few more of theirs should've sufficed to get the job done, including for them.

I know what they'll say: it works for some people, not for others, and isn't universal. That would predict, as folks like Voltaire did, that this story would mostly die off with the handful of Jewish writers that made it 2,000 years ago. Or soon after with minimal effect. The God in the story says His word will go out and get the results He sent it for. Impossible results. Let's test that. His story (His Word), without the Internet, spread across over 100 countries to over 1,000 people groups in about 2,000 languages reaching over a billion people. It heavily impacted Western civilization, too.

Let me rephrase that in case it didn't sink in. The same story kept getting the unlikely results it predicted as people heard it, believed, and obeyed what it said to do. It worked for every type of person: white/black/whatever, men/women/ex-trans, straight/ex-gay, rich/poor, intellectual/simple, able-bodied/handicapped... every... type... of person. That's universal. Anything that worked for every kind of person and problem on Earth across the whole Earth would work for you. If just a story, you all should be able to get these results with arbitrary or at least really good stories. You haven't, you know you can't, and that's why you aren't even trying to. At this point, you should know it's not just a story. If not, what is it? And scientifically?

Instead of guessing, let's look at it via the lens of testable claims vs real-world results. From a scientific perspective, the testable claims of the Bible achieved reproducible results in what looks like the largest, most diverse, and inclusive set of humans in all of human history. It achieved both subjective and objective results. The objective results include supernatural events that science can't explain, but the story predicts, with global corroboration by eyewitnesses across thousands of years. Both types of results show up in highest concentration almost exclusively in devout followers of the genuine Gospel with the effects increasing with obedience to its God.

The evidence is now in. The humans involved merely wrote down, read, obey, study, discuss, and pass along both the story and rest of the book. Just with that, the Bible should've had limited impact like all the other stories. The massive, consistent impact that followed can only occur if something beyond human psychology is making that story, book, and activities surrounding them more effective. Therefore, the most credible claim is that the Bible is the Word of God, it contains the will of God, and its success is due to the Spirit of God.

Given the weight of all that, doesn't it make more sense as a rational person to think the Gospel is true, believe its claims, and act on it? If it say's we'll be judged, shouldn't we believe its claim that our wrongdoings will earn us an eternity of severe punishment? Shouldn't we believe the God behind it wants to forgive our sins, transform us, and spend forever in lovingkindness to us? Shouldn't you ask Jesus to open your heart to God, humble yourself, and listen hard to His Gospel? Do you want to do that now?

(Read the Gospel, learn to share it, read other essays, or back to home.)

(Credit: This is built on my Evidence page which took inspiration from Voddie Bauchum. Strangely, the sophist ways I mocked Christians by describing their beliefs in terms of a book probably planted seeds for this. Like in the essay, I actually was thinking about entirely different topics this morning. I was out of the Word and prayer time too much, had brothers/sisters praying I got closer to Him, that I wasn't as lazy, and He'd work through me. I prayed a little, did some worship, and managed to focus only a small amount of my time on Him. This just popped out, last of three drafts, when I attempted to spend time with God. He graciously gave opportunities to serve that I didn't deserve.)