More Than Just a Story
by Greg Gilbert
Don’t believe everything you read. Everybody knows that. Especially in our age of the Internet, only a misguided person takes as absolute truth everything he or she reads. From newspapers and magazines to tabloids and click-bait online “news” services, one of the most valuable skills we can learn is telling the difference between fact and fiction, truth and fabrication. We don’t want to be dupes, and we’re right not to want that.
In my own family, my wife and I are trying very hard to teach our children exactly that—the skill of reading and listening carefully, of not accepting everything they read or hear at face value but rather putting it to the test and seeing if it seems trustworthy. Even with our five-year-old daughter, we’re working on trying to teach her to recognize the difference between things that are real and things that are “just a story.” She’s gotten pretty good at it, too:
- George Washington was the first president of the United States. “That’s real, Dad.”
- Uncle Matt got a new job and moved to a different city. “That’s real, too.”
- Batman chased down the Joker and threw him in jail. “No, that’s just a story.”
- Elsa built an ice castle with her special power of freezing thin air. “Just a story.”
But then imagine I throw her a curve ball. A man named Jesus was born to a virgin about two thousand years ago, claimed to be God, did miracles like walking on water and raising people from the dead, was crucified on a Roman cross, and then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, where He now reigns as King of the universe. How is she supposed to answer that one? “Um, real?” If you’re a Christian, then I’m sure you’d answer it with a firm “That’s real.” But let’s be honest. Most people in our culture think it very strange for normal, seemingly well-adjusted individuals to take that story seriously. And if they had the chance, they’d probably smile politely and ask, “Okay, but wouldn’t it make more sense—wouldn’t it be slightly less ridiculous—for everyone to admit that those fantastical stories about Jesus are just that—stories? Isn’t it just unreasonable to think those stories are meant to be taken seriously, to be thought of as real?” In my experience as a Christian and pastor, it’s encouraging to me to see how firmly Christians really do seem to trust the Bible. They believe it, they stake their lives on it, and they try to obey it. When it says something that challenges their beliefs or behavior, they try to submit to it. In short, they allow the Bible to function as the foundation of their lives and faith. For all these hopeful signs, though, my experience also tells me that a good number of Christians can’t really explain why they trust the Bible. They just do.
Oh, they give lots of reasons. Sometimes they’ll say that the Holy Spirit has convinced them of it. Other times they’ll suggest that the best evidence for the Bible’s truth is its work in their lives or that it simply has “the ring of truth” about it. Some will point to data about how archaeology corroborates some of the Bible’s statements. Others, when pressed, will throw up their hands and say, “Well, you just have to accept it on faith.”
So if you’re a Christian, let me put it to you straight: Why do you trust the Bible? How would you explain to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible why you trust it?
The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15 that we as Christians should “always [be] prepared to make a defense” for the hope that is in us. In our day, that defense has to go all the way to the first question, because long before we even get to questions like who is Jesus? or what is the gospel?, another question vexes many people around us, a question they want to ask but (if they’re honest) doubt we can answer: Why do you trust the Bible in the first place?
Content taken from Why Trust the Bible by Greg Gilbert, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
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