Not Just Another Book

I’m not a big fan of fictional writings. No matter how moving or how many real truths they contain, the subconscious yet prevailing thought I have is “this isn’t true.” While some people can push past this thought to enjoy a certain text, I believe it’s a thought all have. We recognize that it doesn’t fully coordinate with reality. Therefore it does not have the impact that recants of history contain.

Some people approach the Bible this way. They don’t believe it is historically accurate or even true at all. They see contradiction in it. Or maybe they believe it’s true, but too old to be relevant. All these thoughts and beliefs undermine the power of the Bible. If these ideas about the Bible are true, it’s like fictional novels cannot coordinate with reality.

We can’t really attack any hard questions of Christianity if we don’t believe the Bible is true. While God speaks to us through prayer and in our hearts, the main way he communicates with his people is through the writings of scripture. If they were untrue as some claim, the entity of our faith would collapse. Any answers we have would equally be untrue.

I will not claim to know everything. I have not gone to seminary nor have I formally studied apologetics. And even the books I have read on historicity of the Bible say that there is no way we can absolutely prove that what the prophets, kings, and apostles wrote is true and actually happened. But there is phenomenal evidence for it. We can clear up some supposed contradictions. We can see the relevance a book that is well over 2,000 years old still have today. We can be convinced of the book Christians love and live by.

Evidence for truth

Few people would argue the historicity of Homer’s Iliad. It was written in 1800 BC. While we do not have an autograph (the original book written by Homer himself), there are more than 1,800 manuscripts (ancient copies of the original) in existence today with the earliest manuscript copy dating to 400 BC. This listing of ancient manuscripts that date close to the original is a form of bibliography and is a test in which historians use to weigh the accuracy of a text. The Iliad is seen as one of the most historically credible ancient documents because if the amount of manuscripts found.

Yet, the Bible does better than the Iliad in the bibliographical test. For just the New Testament alone, around 25,000 manuscript copies are known to exist with the earliest dating back to 125 AD. The new Testament is estimated to have been written from around 60 AD to 100 AD or perhaps a little after. The sheer amount is astonishing in itself but the closeness of our copied manuscripts to the autographed originals provides even more evidence for the historical reliability. There wouldn’t be much room for error or change in such a short period of time.

It’s worth noting the accuracy of Jewish scribes. Before the days of the printing press, manuscripts had to be copied by hand. They didn’t simply let anyone write holy scripture down. It was a meticulous process to ensure every letter was written correctly. Scribes were well trained. Even to the point of a cleansing ritual they had to undergo while writing the name of God. They had to stand up, cleanse themselves, get a new pen to dip in ink all before writing the sacred name of the Most High. While some mistakes did slip through, they were simply spelling errors and did not compromise the essence of the Bible. We can be reassured that while we don’t have the original copies of the Bible books, they were transcribed accurately and in vast amounts.

Contradictions or clarity?

Another issue some have with the Bible is the idea that the Bible contradicts. While I do not claim to understand everything it teaches, I do believe if we dive in to better understand the context and culture of the time, most “contradictions” will be cleared up.

For example, one of the most blaring supposed contradictions is Proverbs 26:4-5: “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” For a long time this confused me. I then reasoned that context of the situation matters. While, yes, situational context does matter, both answering the fool and not answering the fool is always correct.

It was explained to me by those wiser than I (Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict) that both are always true. We are never to answer a fool with the same type of foolishness that they have. We are not to react unwisely or unjustly to prove out stance. We are not to react out of selfish motives. Yet, we are to answer the fool with God’s truth. We must bring light and clarity to the argument. We must present them with God’s truth so that they may have the potential to learn and we are acting in the will of God himself. We are never to answer a foolish argument with equal foolishness, but we are always to answer a foolish argument with God’s wisdom.

Other biblical contradictions can be cleared up if we take a moment to understand Jewish culture and the heart of God. I don’t believe God being holy would breathe into the living scriptures contradictions. God does not contradict. Therefore, his word does not contradict.

Relevant today

Some struggle to see the relevance of a book written 2,000 plus years ago. Wasn’t the Bible written to a specific people at a specific time? How can that apply to us today?

While some do struggle with the overall relevance of the entire Bible, generally, much of what people discard as not applicable to them is in the Old Testament. They ration that after the death and resurrection of Jesus the OT became irrelevant. The need to read and preach on the Old Testament isn’t seen as necessary by some Christians.

Yet, Jesus never declared this as truth. He did not come to destroy the Old Testament; rather, he came to complete it. He said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purposes. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. We as Christians do not live by the law as the Israelites had to prior to the coming of the Messiah. Rather, we live in the fulfillment of the law. It was never cast out or set aside. It’s purpose was simply fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

As to the Bible being written to a certain people at a certain time, this is entirely true. Just because God told Joshua to march around Jericho in order to conquer it (Joshua 5:13-6:27) does not mean that we are today supposed to go march around the modern day city on that site in hopes of the walls falling. Rather, we are to glean the principles taught in stories such as this and better understand the might of our God. We can see that God can fight our battles much better than we can. We can recognize the power of the one true God who rescues those who serve him.

But there are also parts of the Bible that are timeless. They apply to all people at all times. The ten commandments provide moral law that we should apply to our lives today. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount could just as easily be preached in a modern church as it was on the countryside so many years ago. The apostles letters teaching the new church how to live and act applies to our church today as well. The universal God breathed universal truths into his written word.

The Bible in its entirety will always be relevant. We don’t serve an ancient god who cannot understand this modern life we live. Instead, we serve an eternal God who will always be relevant. Because of his eternal purpose, his word will always be applicable.

I haven’t scratched the surface on the uniqueness of the Bible. I mentioned little of the enormous amount of evidence for the historicity of scripture. I barely dove into the clarification of supposed contradictions. I only wrote a glimpse of the relevance it has to modern life. There’s so much about the Bible that I don’t believe I could write a book and still cover all there is to know. If you wish do dive in deeper to the evidence for the Bible, I recommend reading God Breathed by Josh McDowell, A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, PhD.

From the little I wrote, I hope you see that the Bible isn’t some fictional book that you can’t trust. It wasn’t written by a careless author that wrote a subpar storyline. It’s not some nice novel that doesn’t apply to life. The Bible is the powerful, life-giving, God breathed scripture. It will change your life. It certainly has mine.

3 thoughts on “Not Just Another Book

  1. Rachel! What a gift it was to discover your eloquent and thoughtful blog. I had the privilege of reconnecting with an awesome Dexter Lake friend not too long ago (who shall remain nameless for the sake of their privacy!), and it was great fun learning what so many of y’all Cool Avenue alumni were up to, haha. You and your family were always such lovely people, and my family has your Dad to thank for our constant surfeit of high-quality beef! We are deeply in your family’s debt.
    So, I’ll keep this brief, as I’m not here to argue with you, but as someone with a keen interest in apologetics, as well as both an insider’s and outsider’s perspective on Christianity, I’d love to chime in with my perspective:
    First and foremost: Bravo! The fact that you care enough about your faith to think critically about it, and not just credulously accept the word of other Christians sans scrutiny, really sets you apart from many other Christians. I mean that. Not many Christians have the courage to openly grapple with difficult questions of faith, and I commend you for the strength of character you demonstrate in doing so.
    Now, I’m going to briefly comment on a few of the arguments you’ve adduced. Remember, I’m not here to argue with you, but to provide outside perspective, or point out ways in which you can strengthen your arguments.
    Your invocation of the Illiad as a “historically credible document” is deeply misconstrued, but I don’t fault you for that. I haven’t read McDowell directly, but that strikes me as the sort of argument he’d advance? Strobel makes similar claims. What I think you mean to argue here is something like this: The probability of an ancient document recording accurate history increases with higher numbers of manuscripts dated closer to the autographs. Now, in principle, yes, that is a fair heuristic. However! The Illiad isn’t remotely historically credible in the slightest. No serious historians consider it to be a reliable account of ancient history; it’s an epic mythological poem about the exploits of the Greek gods. Not an actual account of historical events! Unless you want to argue that Zeus really was throwing around lightning bolts, a better argument here is: We’re confident that our surviving texts of the Illiad cohere closely with the originals, and since our surviving manuscripts for the Bible are more numerous and date closer to THEIR originals, we’re even more confident that our reconstructed texts of the New Testament reliably reflect the texts of their autographs. Which…fine. Still not an argument for the veracity of the events depicted therein (even if we had the original copy of the Illiad, nobody would actually believe the Greek Gods were bickering and interfering in human affairs!), but at least you’ve got reliable reproductions of the original words. That’s something at least?
    Here’s a corollary question for you to consider: If God is all-powerful, all-loving, and performs miracles to corroborate his claims to divinity…why didn’t he just preserve the original autographs? God can raise people from the dead, turn water into wine, and heal the deaf/lame/blind, but oops, he just didn’t bother to preserve the original copies of the texts… All those crazy miracles, and he decided not to preserve a few pieces of paper miraculously? If Christianity is true, it’s inexplicable that we DON’T have any autographs! Come on, if God wanted, he could’ve produced a video recording of his resurrection on a Blu-ray and preserved it for 2,000 years until we were able to watch it on our televisions, haha. But that’d be too easy, right?
    On to contradictions!
    Your allusion to Proverbs 26 strikes me as utterly odd; I’ve never seen anyone cite those verses as consequential contradictions. If you want some actual serious contradictions, start with the beginning of the Bible: There are two mutually contradictory tales of Creation in the first two chapters! And two mutually contradictory accounts of the flood to boot. That’s not to mention the wildly conflicting genealogies of Jesus in Matthew vs. Luke (different in almost every detail!), nor the four drastically different accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. How did Judas die? We don’t know, there are two versions! What were Jesus’ last words on the cross? We don’t know, there’s a different version in each gospel! I could go on and on and on…but that’s not the point.
    The point here is that if you’re determined to believe there are no mistakes in the Bible, you can construe an explanation for anything, no matter how ad-hoc or implausible. Josh and Sean McDowell are basically professional lawyers for Jesus. They’ve sold millions of books and made millions of dollars in defending their client. Ever heard of Norman Geisler? He penned an exhaustive encyclopedia of apparent Biblical contradictions, then answered all of them. But why does Jesus need a lawyer? If God had anything to do with the composition of the Bible, would there be any hint of confusion or any possible misinterpretations of anything contained therein?
    Here’s another question for you to consider: What if some of the Bible’s authors just…made a mistake? Humans make mistakes all the time! It’s not difficult to explain how someone could’ve made an error in writing the Bible; it IS difficult to explain why we would need dozens of authors to write thousands of pages explaining away all the “apparent” contradictions when, if God actually cared enough as a perfect editor and communicator, nobody would possibly misunderstand or perceive ANY apparent contradictions.
    I’d like to end on a note of agreement: The Bible absolutely is timeless! I love reading it much more now that 1) I don’t believe it’s the word of God and 2) I don’t feel obligated to read it every day. Because that got exhausting, haha!
    But speaking to a broader point here: You and I grew up in some very similar church backgrounds as children. So I understand completely where you’re coming from in your desire to defend the Bible. You want to believe it’s God’s perfect word to humanity, because you grew up listening to adults you loved and trusted telling you that it was. And let me be absolutely clear: Arnie and Denice are amazing people! As are my parents, Dwayne and Jill Long, the Wolevers, Greg and Christie Green, Tony and Cory Barger, Julie and Steve Franklin, etc. All awesome people who I loved as a kid, and who I love now.
    But here’s the thing: People get things wrong sometimes. Even good, caring, kind, and awesome people. That’s a hard reality to wrestle with. But it’s true. Sometimes the people we care about the most in the world get things wrong, even when it’s something that means the world to them.
    What if God exists, and that God is much better than the God of Christianity we were raised to believe in? What if the God of Christianity is a false god? What if the Bible’s just a regular book with errors and contradictions just like every other book in history? Does that change how we live our lives?
    I don’t think it does. I haven’t been a Christian for the better part of a decade now, and my views on my Christian friends and family haven’t changed or lessened. They’re wonderful people, who just so happen to get some of their views wrong. Just like every other human being in the history of the planet.
    Here’s my challenge to you: Read a counter-apologetics book sometime! Something written from a non-Christian perspective that challenges your beliefs; if Christianity is true, you’ve got nothing to fear. And if it’s not true, wouldn’t you want to know? I’ve got a few recommendations:
    – “The Case Against the Case for Christ” by Robert M. Price. Superb! Read it concurrently with Strobel’s book for maximum effect.
    – “Why I Believed” by Kenneth Daniels. A thoughtful, thorough, riveting account of a former missionary’s apostasy from the Christian faith.
    – “Why I Became an Atheist” by John Loftus. Mentored by Christian apologists and steeped in their traditions, Loftus knows the arguments for Christianity inside and out. And yet, in the end, it didn’t add up for him.
    But last, and certainly not least, I’d like to recommend the following from a Christian perspective: “The Sacredness of Questioning Everything”, by David Dark (Jon Foreman’s brother-in law! aka, the lead singer of my favourite band Switchfoot, who I’ve seen 23 times in concert…).
    Thanks so much for your wonderful post! I can’t stress enough how delighted I was to read it. You seem like you’ve become a lovely person as an adult! Although we were never really friends in any meaningful sense beyond our parents’ friendships with one another, I appreciated your family all the same. I regret living so much in my own head as a kid; I grew up around an incredible amount of smart, thoughtful, and cool people in church, and unfortunately I was too shy and afraid of social groups to ever meaningfully engage in church culture or youth groups. I took wayyy too many people for granted! But it makes my heart happy to see what an intelligent and cool human you’ve become. Best of luck to you, your husband, and your children in all your future endeavours! And keep writing! The world needs your voice.
    P.S.: I’d prefer if you don’t mention this comment to your family. Word tends to get around, and while my parents (and family and friends) know I’m not a Christian, they still don’t like reading my thoughts critical of Christianity, so I try to spare them and keep my mouth shut so as to make them happy and not rock the boat. I’d prefer if they never learned about this comment! And they probably will eventually if you mention it to your family; odds are it’d get back to mine at some point. I’d appreciate if that did not happen. (:


    1. Hey Daniel!

      It was good to hear from you! I hope you are well.

      First, thanks for reading the blog! My days are now filled with different ventures, but I’m glad it’s still being seen. And really appreciate how charitable you were despite disagreeing with me. The internet is such a weird space for communicate as much of the humanity behind conversations and disagreements gets lost. But you made it clear you meant well and I appreciate that.

      An apologist I used to follow once said that every Christian should at least be able to get their feet wet in apologetics then be able to point people to the deep end even if they cannot argue the deeper points themselves. This is what I meant to do in this blog, even if done so in perhaps not the best way. I see your points and I do appreciate them. I could have presented my case eith more clarity and better. This was written several years ago and should I have the time/feel compelled to write on the topic in the future, I’ll definitely take your points into consideration!

      I suppose I do have a question for you. I’m not sure where you land on religion, obviously not Christianity, but what do you do with your guilt? You eluded to the idea that my faith is still that of my parents. For awhile I suppose it was. But as I entered into my adulthood and into quite a rebellious phase, I ended up having to personally grapple with this question. We all have to. I have yet to meet a person who never feels any guilt ever. It was in wrestling with my guilt that I abandoned the faith of my parents and formed my own thinking faith. While I land on the main points of the faith of my childhood, truly my theology is much different than that of Dexter Lake and even my parents now.

      I may not convince you of my beliefs as you have not convinced me over yours. But I do appreciate you! I appreciate you taking the time to read my little nobody blog and your thoughtful comment. I wish you well in your endeavors and life!


      1. Hey Rachel! Thanks for taking the time to reply.

        It’s very important for me to remember that there’s a face behind every comment and a person behind every keyboard. I often engage in quite vigorous disagreements with my friends in real life over myriad and sundry topics, but to me, disagreement never supersedes anyone’s basic humanity or dignity. Thanks for recognizing my efforts; I worried I would come across as condescending or as if I were “Dan-splaining”, to borrow/reappropriate a pejorative internet term, haha.

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by your question re: guilt, but I’ll briefly comment on a couple possible interpretations.

        First and foremost, I am an agnostic atheist. I was raised Christian, obviously, but after many years of study and consideration, I found the belief claims and morality of Christianity to be utterly untenable. But that’s a very long discussion. Suffice it to say, I’m absolutely open to the existence of a deity, and I’d love to be proven wrong, but as far as I can tell, we’re on our own in the universe. And frankly, I’m glad that Christianity in particular is not true, as I’ve come to see it as an absolute affront to our basic human dignity. If I ever came to belief again, I’d most likely arrive on some form of deistic panentheism. Who knows, maybe I’ll someday write the book that I’ve been brainstorming about my deconversion? First I need to finish the foreword to my newest poetry volume, haha.

        As for my guilt? Well, that’s two-fold. How did I deal with my guilt for discovering that I was no longer a Christian? Well, I didn’t! I felt like a miserable failure as a human being and a total disappointment to my friends and family. All I ever wanted was to be a good Christian husband, father, son, brother, and friend. And in the end, I couldn’t force myself to believe, no matter how hard I tried. I carried an immense burden of guilt and shame for many, many years, and I hid my apostasy for as long as I possibly could, out of fear of disappointing my family. I was a failure!

        But, over time, I’m happy to report that my fears were completely overblown. None of my friends forsook me. My parents didn’t disown me. I didn’t slide off a hedonistic slope into despair and ruination. Sure, I drink a beer once in a while, I’ve engaged in casual sex a few times, and I’ve cursed once or twice, but by and large, I’m the same dorky nerd I’ve always been, haha. In fact, I’m pretty happy with the person I’ve become, remembering of course that I’ve still got a lifetime of growth ahead of me. Here’s what I came to realize: my real fear was rejection. Not rejection from God. Rejection from people I care deeply about. And, come to find out, nobody rejected me! People still love and accept me. And I believe with all of my heart that any God worth worshipping is AT LEAST as kind and compassionate as the people in my life. Which is why I’m so vehemently opposed to the doctrine of hell. But that’s another topic, haha, and the one topic I WILL argue with anyone about.

        But maybe you were asking how I deal with guilt in general? If so, here’s what I try to remember: I’m not omniscient, I’m not omnipotent, and I’m not omnibenevolent, but I still do the best that I can. I only get one shot at this life, so I’m endeavoring to make it count. Do I have regrets? Yes! I’ve made COUNTLESS mistakes, and I’ve got no end of embarrassing moments in my life. I’m just a human trying to be the best person I can. And yes, my sense of ethics and the moral values I aspire to embody are inherently subjective, not arbitrary, but as far as I can tell, that’s what we all do. Yes, even Christians! (Morality is still an opinion even if it’s God’s opinion…which, if we’re basing it off the Bible, God seems to be really, really fond of genocide, rape, and human/animal sacrifice. 🙂 But again, that’s another tangential topic!

        Lastly: I have no doubt your views differ in small and large ways from those that you held as a child. That’s true for all of us! When was the last time our parents held a group Bible study together that we both attended? Probably 15 years ago. That’s half a lifetime! People change, and I’m sure you have too. (As far as I can tell, you’ve become a lovely human being!) My broader point is merely that you’re still a Christian, and that’s what you (and me!) were raised to be, even if some of the details differ. You didn’t somehow decide that the Book of Mormon is inerrant, or the Quran, or the Bagghavid Gita, but you almost certainly WOULD HAVE, if you were raised in a different family which believed in a different holy book. That’s all I mean to say!

        In closing: I’m not here to convince you of anything! Just to dialogue together, as a fellow human being trying to figure out life. And I’m happy to keep the dialogue going; I know I’ve got a lot to learn from your perspective, and I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have. To quote my favourite band again: “I need you (to be wrong)”.

        And oh, by the way: You are not nobody, and your blog is not nobody. You matter! Indeed, you matter infinitely. As far as I can tell, the universe/God don’t care about us…but we care about each other. And that is an encouraging thought! I hope you keep writing, and I hope someday you write that book you’ve got inside of you. You matter, your voice matters, and the world is a better place because you were invented. Your husband and daughter love and need you, your family loves and needs you, your friends love and need you. Even if the God of Christianity doesn’t (IMO, there are MUCH better Gods out there to believe in, if you’re so inclined). Never stop being awesome! (:


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