Category Archives: Other Apologetics or History

Related to broader apologetics, philosophy, or history/archeology

Why I still believe

I have recently passed the “milestone” of having been a Christian for forty years and I still believe. If you asked the question, “Why did I become a Christian?” that has mysterious aspects. The process of becoming a Christian is where we run into the mysteries of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. I think that without God’s acting in someone’s life, they would not believe. But it is not that God forces the person to believe. It really is their real choice, but somehow God helps a person get over the spiritual handicap they were born with, so they can believe. I wrote a blog post about coming to faith in November of 2018, called “The Road To Faith.” I explained how I see the role of reason in believing in God. There is a relational side of the issue of believing in God, and a mental or rational side of it. In becoming a Christian, I think the relational side actually is more important to most people than the rational side. But this varies with each person. On our “road to faith” we put blocks on our own path because we want something to stop us from believing. But just because you have an unanswered question that your reason cannot answer, this does not in and of itself make it a roadblock. It only becomes a roadblock when you decide it’s a roadblock. To make an unanswered question a roadblock we sort of give that question a special status. So if an unanswered question has been vested with the status of being a roadblock to faith, then we must decide how to respond to it. Will we find an answer that allows us to remove the obstacle, or will we go around it, try to jump over it, or give up and go backwards?

So the road to faith is not entirely a rational process, but that doesn’t mean there are no reasons for faith. Having genuine questions is not a sin in and of itself. Questions about why we should believe do need answers. But having answers is often not enough in and of itself to satisfy us. There are some who seem to give up on faith along the way, after years of believing, as they describe it. I’m not addressing explaining that situation. People like that become ambiguous cases. I haven’t been one of those cases. It is common for some Christians to struggle at certain times in their lives over the question of are they really a Christian? I have never struggled with that question in the forty years I’ve been a Christian. But that does not mean my faith hasn’t wavered or weakened at times. In living the Christian life, there is still a relational aspect and a rational aspect. God certainly has an active role in the path taken by a believer. In fact, without God leading and sustaining a Christian, any Christian could fall into doubt and trouble. So I have to thank God for a good 40 years, though they were far from being easy years. I do think it is over time that the rational side becomes most relevant in a way. If I have a bad day where I do something I regret, that does not have to make me question that I am a Christian. But it could make me question something in the Bible or something I’ve been taught by believers.

Why have I not given up on faith after all the challenges and difficulties? This question is something where I would have to first thank God that I have not given up on faith, but I may not fully understand how God has been involved. I believe he has been involved from my experience. There have been many times where Christian friends were supportive in ways that was vital to me also. I’ve been very fortunate to have some wonderful long term friendships. We all need a combination of support from others, the will to persevere, and reasons to persevere. I try to understand everything in life from the Biblical perspective. I find this always leads me in the right direction, as long as I am understanding Scripture correctly. So with all this said, I will proceed with summarizing some reasons why I still believe as a Christian, after forty years. Reasons to believe are there when your feelings fail you. So the reasons for faith I’ve learned about have helped me to “keep my balance” you could say.

1. The uniqueness, authority, and trustworthiness of the Bible

Much can be said about this, but I will only say a little here. Nothing compares to the Bible. It is amazing how 40 authors from different times in history, different walks of life, and different levels of education wrote the Bible and yet it has one coherent consistent message throughout. The way it has been instrumental in the lives of many people throughout history is another good argument for it. People who don’t know much about the Bible may bring up the question of how can you trust it, and believe that there are no copying errors. But this kind of statement shows ignorance of how the Bible came to us. It’s not that there are no copying errors. It’s that we have so many manuscripts to compare to that it is pretty straightforward to show when you have a copying error. The Old Testament was copied by use of extreme methods to ensure accuracy and again there are manuscripts from different times in history to compare. The New Testament was copied so much we have many manuscripts from different times in history. So copying errors are not an issue. There are other good reasons to say that we can trust the text of the Bible when you compare it to other ancient literature. The New Testament was written down pretty close to the time of the original events. This is not true of much ancient literature we have. The Bible’s “story” is also in the context of history. This means it does relate to history and many historical details have been verified. Many religions in the world don’t really depend on historical documents like the Bible does, other than perhaps the history surrounding the life of the founder of the religion.

2. The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection

The resurrection is critical to Christianity. One of the most important arguments for the resurrection revolves around how skilled the Romans were at it. The Romans did many crucifixions and they had it down to a very refined diabolical process. The Romans could not produce the body and they could not prove someone else took the body. There are many things that point to a real miracle at the resurrection, such as who moved the large stone, or why did Pilate allow a false story to be told? The various attempts to explain away the resurrection are pretty flimsy when you dig into them. There are also several well established facts that are well attested historically about Jesus’ death and resurrection. There’s no question Jesus died by crucifixion, the Bible’s description of it is medically accurate. It was not feasible for the disciples to steal the body because of how the posting of a guard was done by the Romans. A Roman “Guard” usually meant at least 4 men, and in the case of Christ’s burial, it could have meant some larger multiple of 4. So I would say no one has ever had a realistic alternative explanation for the resurrection. The best a skeptic could say would be that it is a mystery what happened.

3. The many changed lives which are all based on the same truths from the New Testament

This is still one of the best arguments for Christianity. Some would bring up “other religions” and say following any religion might lead positive changes in a person’s life, so what makes this evidence of Christianity? I would say that if someone thinks any belief can lead to the changes Christians have experienced, then they don’t understand. There are a lot of people that have tried other beliefs, various religions, before becoming a Christian. They are not equivalent. They describe those as being partial answers but not the real thing. In fact, this is being generous. In many cases, the experiences people have with various non-christian religions are painful stories of abuse, corrupt or harsh leaders, or other tragedies. To try out various religions is a frustrating negative experience for many. There are certain common values in various religions and the accountability to others in that group can have some positive influence. But if it is not based on a Biblical faith in Christ, it ends up becoming outward rules and not a complete change from the inside out. Living the Christian life means that as you learn about God and live as the Bible says, God changes you from the inside. In experiencing this as a Christian, you find that though God’s way of living may not always be what you originally wanted, it does turn out to be what is best for you. The way the Bible says we should live is not arbitrary harsh rules. It is the way we were designed to live. Christ has changed the lives of all kinds of people, from all languages, of all skin colors, education levels, and any kind of family background. If you want to compare the changes in lives of people of other faiths, I think they don’t really compare because they become unsatisfying one way or another. Biblical Christianity satisfies in explaining how we experience life as well as answering the big philosophical questions about the world and the universe. But you cannot experience this without really living a life of obedience to God. Some don’t experience this because they aren’t living by Biblical principles. Sometimes skeptics of Christianity have become turned off to faith in God because of a Christian they knew who let them down or who failed in some way. But you can’t judge if Christianity is true by considering only a person who is a bad example. The evidence for the truth of Christianity exists even apart from whether Christians know it or not.

4. Historically fulfilled prophesy

There are a lot of examples of events or people described in Scripture well before the events happened, then in history it happened in a manner that agrees with Scripture. First, there were prophesies about Jesus’ birth from long before the events happened, such as that he would be “born of a virgin” from Isaiah 7:14. Also that he would be of the Tribe of Judah in Israel, from Genesis 49:10 (written in the time of Moses). Then there was Micah 5:2, which mentions that the Ruler of Israel would come out of Bethlehem. Then there are other Old Testament prophesies of significant historical facts, years before they happened. I wrote about these in an article called “Why Believe the Bible, Part 2” on CreationAnswers.Net in the Christianity section. A notable example is in Isaiah 44:28 the prophet Isaiah mentions a king named Cyrus who would one day give the order to send the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city. This was written roughly 80 or 100 years before Cyrus was born; this was the Persian king known as “Cyrus the Great.” Mentioned by name years before he was born and before the Persians were in power! Then there are the prophecies of the prophet Daniel while he was in exile in Babylon. He predicted a number of details about great kingdoms of the world that would come to power after his lifetime. Some of these details are remarkable predictions about Alexander the Great, who conquered Persia. Daniel 11:4 describes what will happen after the rule of a powerful king (Alexander the Great). It says “his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendents, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.” (NASB) This is a remarkable prediction. For an explanation of how this was worked out, see my “Why Believe the Bible, Part 2” article.

5. The historicity of the Old and New Testaments

Both the Old and New Testaments tell about what God did through history. Thus Christianity depends on historical events. Miracles described in the past in Scripture may not be something that can be confirmed by historical or archeological evidence. But there are many people, places, and events that have been confirmed by archeological and historical sources. This is true for both the Old and the New Testaments. On the other hand, there are questions where there is not a clear consensus on how the Biblical account relates to the history. We may not know the location of every city or town mentioned in the Bible, for example, but we know the location of many of them. Christian faith is supported by multiple types of categories of evidence, as I am trying to overview here. So if scholars get some particular question about archeology wrong regarding the Bible it need not shake my faith. Over time, more and more discoveries from archeology have confirmed the Bible.

The historicity of the Bible for the Old Testament goes back to the time of Abraham as described in Genesis and it also encompasses many details in the New Testament. There were manners and customs regarding marriage and how agreements were made between people from the time of Abraham that have been confirmed from ancient writings from the time of Abraham. The New Testament has many references to people, places, coins, and Roman officials in the four gospels that have been found to be accurate about the first century from historical sources. Many places in and around Jerusalem mentioned in the gospels have been confirmed to exist by archeologists. The gospel writer Luke, who wrote the books of Luke and Acts has been found particularly careful in his description of Roman officials, places, and events. Luke’s writings are very helpful in dating events surrounding the ministry and crucifixion of Christ. So information like this is confirmable by historical and archeological discoveries. This doesn’t in itself confirm everything the Bible says, but if it is right on the confirmable details like people, places, events, and other historical facts, then we should not dismiss it. The Bible tells a great story of how God worked to save mankind through history. So, it is worth reading.

6. The attempts to keep people from reading the Bible

If the Bible were not true, why would so many governments and other powerful organizations throughout history work to destroy it, subvert it’s transmission and dissemination, make it illegal, and generally persecute people who believe it? No one has been able to eliminate the Bible or stop its influence or stop the spread of its message around the world. Many times the lives of some believers have been made miserable by people who persecute Christians. This happens today as well. The efforts to subvert the Bible or prevent distribution of it, coupled with the lengths people will go to to obtain a Bible, shows the truth of it. The efforts to subvert or prevent access to the Bible tend to expose corruption and deception from various leaders. Often making the Bible illegal makes people more curious about it. It makes people want to find out why it should be restricted!

7. The evidence from science that confirms the Bible

Science confirms the truth of the Bible. But this does not mean the Bible gives scientific detail, it doesn’t. But as God’s word, the Bible is authoritative on everything it addresses. Thus to understand how the Bible and science agree, it is necessary to learn how to interpret the Bible correctly and also learn how to interpret the facts of science correctly. There are sometimes some scientific questions we don’t have complete answers to. But there are so many things where science does agree with the Bible that no one should really consider science to be an obstacle to faith. I can understand that science can seem to be such an obstacle, but from years of looking into how science and the Bible relate, I’m thoroughly convinced science is no obstacle. There is now much documented evidence for intelligent design in the way things are made, such as in the properties of the atom or in the information content of the cell. Young age creationists put forward evidence for intelligent design long before there was such a thing as todays “Intelligent Design (ID) Movement.” The “ID” movement produces some very good materials and has generally been a good thing but it does not specifically point people to the truth of the Bible. For my creation writings and ministry I’ve never been satisfied with leaving it at evidence for some unnamed intelligence. I think we can point to evidence showing how the Bible and science agree and the science points specifically to the Bible and not to other beliefs.

Some examples of things in the Bible that are supported by science:

  • Ceremonial washings and isolation of people with diseases in ancient Israel laid down some practices that were very healthy for preventing the spread of disease in the community. This was in the Law of Moses long before there was medical knowledge to motivate it. It was put in the context of God’s laws for Israel but it still had health benefits. (See Leviticus 13 for example.)
  • Solomon wrote about the hydrologic water cycle in Ecclesiastes 1:7. This was a very astute observation for someone of his time. Isaiah 55:10-11 also alludes to it.
  • Job 26:7 says God suspends the Earth over nothing. An accurate statement from very ancient times.
  • Genesis chapters 6-8 describe God’s judgement of the Earth in the global Flood of Noah’s day. Jesus reaffirms it in the gospels and the Apostle Peter also mentions it in 2 Peter 3. Scientific evidence for a global Flood that covered the Earth and formed great layers of rock and many many fossils of living things has been documented by creationists. (See this blog article on some of this Flood evidence.)
  • Jeremiah 33:25 alludes to God setting down fixed laws of heaven and Earth.
  • Genesis chapter 1 describes living things reproducing “after their kind.” This is realistic in that it allows for limited adaptation to the environment but implies basic types of organisms that cannot change from one to the other. This is a realistic description based on modern biology and genetics.
  • The Bible implies that dinosaurs lived from the time of creation only thousands of years ago, then they died later. The soft tissue and unmineralized stretchy organic material found in fossils today supports this from science. I have a short handout about this.

The Road to Faith

Before Jesus began his ministry in the first century, the Jews had a long tradition of accepting the Old Testament Scriptures as being the word of God. They had scribes that had used extreme measures for centuries to accurately copy the Old Testament Scriptures. However, there had been a long hiatus without God sending a prophet for some 400 years. Then came John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus called out a group of 12 disciples to follow him. He taught them more in a life-mentoring manner than in an academic manner.

In the period of Jesus doing his ministry in Israel, someone might have asked the disciples, “Why are you following Jesus?” The various disciples of the time may have had different answers to this question. But I think their answer would revolve around what they had seen and heard personally from their direct interaction with Jesus. They could have mentioned his miracles and how no one else did miracles like Jesus. They could have mentioned his authoritative teaching and argued that he was the Messiah, that he was a prophet and much more. They could have mentioned his character and how he conducted himself and how he led them. Or they could have mentioned the special intimate kind of relationship he seemed to have with God. The point is they followed him because they met him and he asked or invited them to come with him. It was a personal relationship.

But today we are far removed from the times of the writing of the New Testament and Old Testament. We have not had the direct interaction with Jesus that the original disciples did in the first century. So today questions come up like how can we believe what the Bible says? There can be questions about the Bible writers and questions about the transmission of the text for example. How do we know what we have is like the original manuscripts? There are good answers to these questions but that is not what I’m addressing at the moment. Other confusing issues come up in which people ask how two different statements or verses in the Bible can both be true? These issues are alleged contradictions in the Bible. To the original disciples, these questions did not come up, because they knew Jesus personally in a day-by-day manner.

So in the first century, the question about ‘why believe?’ was mainly a personal question, not an academic question. So if you asked the disciples in the first century, “Did Jesus pay his taxes?” The Apostles Peter or John could have told about incidents when Jesus paid his taxes or taught about taxes. Jesus could answer their questions directly. When the phony religious leaders of the time tried to trap Jesus in what he said, they always failed. But what if the disciples in the first century said something incorrect about Jesus? At that time other people could have verified or caught the mistake, since there were many other people around who also saw many of the same incidents in Jesus ministry years. So, many outside of the small group of 12 disciples could have confirmed what the Apostles said about Jesus. The Apostle Paul encountered questions in his dealings with Roman Gentiles which were different from what he would have heard from Jews. We have an example of this in Acts chapter 17 for instance. Paul had both a Greek/Roman education and a Jewish education. He seemed to often speak of his conversion and how he met Jesus personally. But he could also reason with Jews and Romans.

So what is the role of reason for us today, in putting faith in God? I would think of it in the following way. This may be simplistic approach, but I hope it is useful. There is a personal relational side of the issue and a more rational or mental side of it. We are born with a bias against God. But I think children are more open than adults. I think this difference between children and adults is largely from learned attitudes and ideas we pick up in life as we grow to adulthood. But we have the ability to choose also. I would imagine our journey to coming to faith in God as like traveling on a road. We have a seemingly innate knowledge that this road heads toward God, or away from God. On the road toward God we tend to put up on it roadblocks and obstacles that we ourselves make. We may also add to it obstacles made by others. Friends or family may give us blocks to add to our path. A child may have fewer and smaller blocks on their path, but as they get older they tend to add to the roadblocks, to make them higher, or to add more of them. It is each person’s choice how big an obstacle is and whether to go around the obstacle or not.

Having a question does not in and of itself make that question a roadblock. To make a question a roadblock involves making a choice to put the block in your own path. If you find an answer to the question, you can remove the roadblock, find a way around it, or you can leave it in the path. To go forward toward God, you may be able to step over or climb over a roadblock and keep going forward in spite of it. Or you may decide it is such a tough roadblock that you can’t go any further. I would think of apologetics, or reasons for faith, as like learning things that make the roadblocks or obstacles smaller and fewer in number. The blocks are never 100% removed, but it is possible to remove most of them. However, removing the roadblocks requires a choice. So finding reasons to believe are not enough in and of themselves to come to faith because there is a relational aspect of the problem.

I was consciously an agnostic as a young man in high school and early years of college. But I had personal problems that became serious, including serious depression for a time. In the midst of personal pain (of whatever form) you can become desperate. In desperation you may ignore the obstacles and go around them and “take a chance” by reaching out to God in some way. I did this in asking God for help as a young man. I did not think of “why believe” questions at the time, because I felt my need was urgent. Why I made the choice to move in a direction toward God and not away from God is something I just cannot explain. I think I have to attribute this inexplicable aspect to God. Another person may deal with it differently than I did. I essentially decided to skip the obstacles and move toward the end of the road toward God.

Other people may react to desperation in a different way. They may change to a different road altogether, one that goes away from God, and ignore the dangers. Personal pain can lead you to ignore reason and try to jump to the end. This leads some people in a very unhealthy or destructive direction. Also, asking questions like “why should I believe” can be either honest or dishonest. An honest question is not an obstacle, it is an unknown. An unknown is not a reason not to believe in and of itself. A dishonest question is something that you have latched onto because you want to make it an obstacle on the road toward God. You may not want a clear path, whether the question can be answered or not. It is not easy to sort out your own real motives and determine what really matters.

Now if someone who is not a believer would have talked to me at my moment of desperation, they may have advised me not to ask God for help. Perhaps they would have advised me to do something else instead. This was actually more like the advice I was actually getting from counseling I received at the time. So to someone who is traveling on the road in the opposite direction that I’m going, it appears to them like I am going the wrong way. But because of certain things I was experiencing I decided to consider something no one was advising me to do, to ask God for help. We do not have the direct interaction with Jesus that his original disciples had in the first century. But we can have a kind of indirect interaction. Answers from God are almost never like  bolts of lightning, they are more often quiet subtle things. But they can also be great insights now and then, if we are ready for them. Asking God for help did not make me a Christian yet, I don’t think. But it started me moving toward a different way of thinking that eventually led to me becoming a Christian. Talking to some Christian friends were an important factor for me as well. So I did have friends who pointed the way. Someone might say that in my desperation I made an irrational decision. This may have been true when it happened, but it was the right decision. There are also plenty of rational reasons to make the decision I made. This is true whether I knew it at the time or not. Many others have made the same decision to follow Christ, and it was a decision with good consequences for them, and for me.

All this is to say that there is much more that goes on in someone’s head and in their motives than just asking a question like “if this is how it is, why should I believe?” I do not mean to imply that the questions do not matter or that they do not deserve answering. They do deserve answering. But finding the answer to such a question is not necessarily making progress in and of itself unless you can get past it being an obstacle. Different people have different obstacles that hold them up. But obstacles or not, Jesus can get through somehow if that is his purpose, in spite of obstacles. Think about the Apostle Paul, or Saul as his given name was while a nonbeliever. For Paul there were many obstacles because of all the baggage he had that made him feel compelled to arrest Christians. Yet he met Jesus and he responded properly by doing as Jesus told him. He gave up his intended plan to arrest Christians and became one of them instead! For a while Christians had trouble trusting him. But God was very evident in his life. All the reasons Paul had against believing in Jesus evaporated into nothing when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. So I think the relational side actually outweighs the rational/mental side. So it takes more than a rational answer to remove an obstacle. How a Christian treats the nonchristian can be a major factor in whether the nonchristian makes their question an obstacle or not.

There is a passage in the New Testament book of John that kind of illustrates what I’m saying here. Jesus taught something that kind of shocked people and as a result some stopped following him. So he spoke to the twelve who were still there, and he said ” ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’ “ (John 6:67-69, NIV)

I have searched for some good websites that deal with answering contradictions or difficulties with certain Bible passages. The sites below are pretty good in dealing with some common questions and the topic of the inerrancy of the Bible.

This is like a list of alleged contradictions with links that go to more detailed pages on each issue.

This is a list of 52 issues. It is answers to issues brought up by a Bible skeptic.

This is a website from a man named Mike Winger. He also has some good videos on YouTube. He deals well with answering apparent contradictions and various common questions about the Bible

This is a good site about the issue of inerrancy, what it means, and some issues skeptical scholars have brought up about the Bible.

So to sum up, why do people believe the Bible?  Really, it’s because they need to.  But whether you are aware you need to or not, there are good rational reasons to believe it.  The reasons come from logical evidence, textual evidence, archeological evidence, scientific evidence, and the evidence of changed lives.