This following answer was originally given here, in response to an unbeliever’s challenge to the historical reliability of the Bible.
A: The Nicene Creed holds no importance for me because it is a product of the post-apostolic church and therefore cannot speak with the same authority as Scripture, which comes from Israel’s prophets and apostles. As I’ve said elsewhere, church is obsolete in our day. The only one that mattered is described in the New Testament.
Neither do I cling to the idea of inerrancy. It is a flawed idea which, counterproductively, tends to focus attention on peripheral rather than central matters. Yes, I believe that the Bible is the word of God, but it was written by human hands long ago and can’t be treated as if it were an idol we should worship. It’s the ideas the Bible puts forth that should be considered as coming from God, and it is reflection upon, and practice of, those ideas that brings God’s blessing.
Treating the Bible as a set of religious documents – and therefore subject to a different set of rules – instead of as a set of historical documents is a mistake. And I see this mistake made not just by those who revere the Bible, but by those who, like you, dispute it. The Bible’s documents should be historically judged by the same standards as we judge any other ancient documents. You can’t throw out Paul’s letters, for example, because they deal with the subject of God. Those letters were written, sent, copied, distributed, and preserved in a historical context. The starting point of any study of them is their historical context and nature.
The Bible’s contents are as reliable as you can get for documents from antiquity. Their textual integrity makes reading them less an exercise of faith in copyists than reading Plato or Homer. Do we have photographic representations of the original documents? Of course not. Because of the abundance of copies and their relatively early dating, however, we can be confident that what we’re reading is, for all practical and important purposes, the same as what was originally written. Textual uncertainties are minor.
You don’t have to consider the New Testament as the word of God to come to decision about whether or not it’s reasonable to put faith in Jesus. All you have to do is acknowledge that those documents are more historically reliable than any other documents from antiquity and then draw conclusions from what you read.
There have been innumerable Bible scholars in the last 2,000 years: archaeologists, historians, theologians, linguists, and more. They have agreed on many things and they have argued about many things. Are we to throw out the New Testament because one, or even a few, archaeologists think Nazareth didn’t exist in the time of Jesus? If so, what are we to do about the archaeologists who disagree with him or them? There can be no end of controversies about the Bible, just as there can be no end of differing opinions about politics, business, and marriage. But we should quit none of these fields because of it. Rather, we should act like men, make our decisions, and live by them.
Some things are beyond controversy among scholars. For example, the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Even the famously skeptical Bart Ehrman thinks that Jesus’ Mythicists are not just wrong, but are dwelling outside the realm of scholarship.
Jesus Christ lived…and men must make their decision about what, if anything, they’re going to do in response. You are certainly free to disregard Him, for He has given you that freedom. Nor will your disregard of Him keep you out of heaven, because everyone is going there. You will, however, find that your experience in heaven carries with it the regret you’ll have for not having lived up to your moral potential down here. For once we get there, there’s nothing we can change about what we did down here. That’s why I want to spend the rest of my life down here making up for the selfishness I’ve previously practiced. When I get to heaven, in whatever place I land, I hope to hear Him say that I finished life better than I started it. If He’s been generous enough to give me the opportunity to repent, I don’t want to insult His kindness.