Originally posted on Vyrso Voice.
My colleagues Josh Chatraw, Darrell Bock, and I wrote our latest book, Truth Matters, as a passionate plea for the importance of truth in our culture today, especially among younger Christians. This is nowhere more important than in the college classroom where skeptical professors often await biblically illiterate students in order to strip away vestiges of their religious faith. “We’re not in Sunday School anymore,” the book opens. And then the professor enters the classroom: “Students, meet Dr. Bart Ehrman, one of the leading voices attacking the reliability of the Christian faith.” Over the course of a semester, students are treated to the following menu of critical contentions:
- The Bible was put together to suit an agenda.
- The Bible is basically a forgery.
- The Bible doesn’t contain the real words of God after all.
- The Bible can’t seem to keep its story straight.
- The whole basis of Christianity is in question.
And then, the trump card:
- God doesn’t care. Maybe God isn’t even there.
Yet the problem isn’t primarily atheistic or agnostic professors out to destroy (or, as they would see it, more properly inform) your children’s faith. The problem is that many of them enter college like sheep led to the slaughter, an easy prey for the wolf who awaits them, ready to tear apart the belief that the Bible is reliable, Jesus is true, and God really is there and certainly does care.
1. The skeptical mystique: what makes unbelief so terribly believable?
In short, detractors of the faith speak young people’s language, know many of their students have probably never contemplated some of the ideas before with which they’re presented in the classroom, and stand ready to comfort and confirm an air of unbelief. Most importantly, they constantly reinforce the view that faith is at odds with reason.
2. Is God there? Does God care? Then why can’t he do any better than this?
Turns out, it’s not that the Bible doesn’t have any answers to the questions of evil and human suffering (in fact, the answers it gives are the best there are). No, the problem is rather that people like our college professor don’t like the answers the Bible gives (not that they have any better ones to offer—but they don’t have to, they’re sitting in the critic’s chair).
3. Let’s make a Bible: who picked these books, and where’d they come from?
Good questions! What you’ll hear in many college classrooms is that the choice of the books in our Bible was merely arbitrary, the result of power, politics, and a set of conspiratorial forces. Kind of like Washington politics. What we show in Truth Matters is that the 66 books in our Bibles and other supposed candidates for inclusion are leagues apart—not even close!
4. Contradictions, contradictions: why does my Bible have all these mistakes?
Rather than wax eloquent about matters in general, we address several specific issues raised by the likes of Dr. Ehrman: (1) different accounts of the crucifixion; (2) the virgin birth; (3) Jesus’ miracles (called signs in John’s Gospel); and (4) saved by works or by grace? Along the way, many supposed contradictions dissolve into different, yet equally legitimate, ways of looking at things.
5. I’ll need an original: how can copies of copies be the same as the real thing?
Essentially, we see that many critics of the Bible play a kind of cat-and-mouse game. To be sure, we have 5,800 manuscripts containing all or parts of the Scriptures, but because we have so many manuscripts, there are also many (mostly inconsequential) variations in the wording of individual passages. Not a problem—unless, of course, you really, really want to find one!
Finally, we chronicle the triumph of apostolic Christianity in the early church and defend the veracity of the Resurrection. Truth Matters concludes that faith need not be unreasonable. In fact, honest faith welcomes critical inquiry, as long as it is not excessively skeptical.
Truth Matters is a wonderful, winsome tool equipping the next generation to understand and defend their faith in a culture that is all too often out to destroy it.