Which is today more important that ever as skeptics abound. Or not even skeptics, really, so much as people who simply don’t know the rational, historical, and archaeological reasons we believe that the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God. This is what makes Simmons’ book so particularly relevant. I cannot image there are many Christians who wouldn’t want to be able to defend their confidence in the Book that is central to their beliefs.
I certainly do.
Don’t let the rather scholarly looking cover fool you. The subject matter within, and the style in which it’s presented, is supremely accessible. It’s neither dry nor academic, and it’s a resource that belongs on any Christian’s bookshelf right alongside those of other apologists such as C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel.
Today I’m pleased to have with me Reliable Truth‘s author, Richard Simmons, to answer some of my questions about his book. I hope you’re enlightened, as I was.
Richard, welcome. In Reliable Truth, you say, “What I am trying to accomplish in this book is to take the various pieces of a puzzle and put them together in a simple and clear manner in order to answer the question, Is there a good reason to believe that the Bible is the Word of God?” Well—is there?
The pieces fit together in such a way that they make a compelling argument that the Bible is valid and true. I start by pointing out its incredible uniqueness, then move into the historical record and look at how the Bible is historically accurate. This argument is powerfully fortified by the next chapter on the archaeological record. I then compare the Bible with other ancient writings. The New Testament for instance has more manuscripts, earlier manuscripts and more abundantly supported manuscripts than the best ten pieces of classical literature combined. I then look at how the Bible squares with modern science, which is quite fascinating. I then look at how the Bible has provided the world with a moral compass throughout the centuries. I close with this thought: The Bible is the word of God because Jesus says it was. Ninety-two times Jesus quotes the Old Testament and proclaims it to be the word of God. The real question then becomes, not is the Bible the word of God, but is Jesus the son of God. The last chapter I lay out four arguments on why Jesus is the Son of God. The evidence is quite compelling.
I wonder how many Christian have even thought to ask the question, How imperative is it to know why we believe what we believe? Why is it important that we do ask this question, and where does the Bible fit in?
Faith has to have a foundation, otherwise it is blind faith. Christians believe that faith and reason do not conflict, but instead complement one another. Reason does not and cannot cause a true faith, but reason can and will, when properly applied, support faith. St. Augustine, considered by many to be one of the great Christian thinkers of the early Church, defined “faith,” as “trust in a reliable source,” and, as such, he showed that it is an indispensable element of knowledge. We cannot live without faith, and Augustine recognized that it is imperative that the source in which we put our faith be reliable and true.
A good example of the importance of this is when kids, who have been raised in the church, leave for college. They may believe the Christian message but few will have a solid intellectual foundation to bolster their beliefs. They will go off to college and their faith will be challenged by many of their professors. Without anything to stand on, these young adults have no response to the brilliant men and women who choose to tear their faith apart in the classroom.
When Christians have strong, valid reasons for believing the Bible is the word of God, their faith in it will be much stronger.
Based on scholar Huston Smith’s unbiased, thorough comparison of the world’s great religions (in The World’s Religions), you say, “The Bible…unlike most of the world’s great religious literature and traditions, is not centered on a series of moral, spiritual, and liturgical teachings, but, rather, on what God did in history and what he revealed in history.” Why is this distinction important in our understanding of the Bible as a reliable source of truth?
I believe any search for spiritual truth should begin with Christianity, because it is the only falsifiable religion in the world. Its foundation rests on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If He did not rise from the dead, the Christian faith crumbles. It is a false religion. However, what would it mean to the world if He did indeed rise from the dead? It would mean everything. This, to me, is where every person in search of spiritual truth should start. The resurrection. I challenge every skeptical person I encounter to examine the evidence for the resurrection. Please note, you cannot go to a scientific lab, or a philosophy department. This is an issue of history and one must look to the historical record and seek historical proofs for the answer.
You observe that those who challenge morality based on Biblical authority fall into two basic camps: “The first does not believe in morality itself because they don’t believe in God. The second believes the morality of the Bible is old-fashioned and not relevant to moral society.” But if we can accept the Bible as reliable truth, how does that refute these claims?
If a person believes that the Bible is the word of God then it becomes the ultimate moral authority in that person’s life. As I point out in the book when people are confronted with the option of obeying God or to be free to live however they want, the natural tendency is to choose the latter. Particularly when it comes to human sexuality. Modern people reject the morality of the Bible primarily because of its teaching on sexual conduct, which they believe is outdated and irrelevant. As Blaise Pascal said 350 years ago, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of what is true, but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Too many people learn the hard, painful truth that God’s decrees are not arbitrary but correspond to reality and the way life is.
You mention Fyodor Dostoevsky’s famous quote, “If there is no God, all things in life are permissible.” In this era of moral confusion, how can we use the Bible to counter arguments in favor of ambiguity and “personal choice”?
Most people today believe that moral truth is merely subjective. They believe it comes from within the heart, and that it is an inner feeling that you discover for yourself. “It is my truth.” “It is true for me, but it might not be true for you.”
It’s so easy to see how this view of morality results in moral confusion. Clearly it makes few demands on a person’s life. And what should you do when your heart doesn’t speak clearly and you don’t know what to do? How do you get an anchor in your life so that you can make wise, moral choices? Western Civilization was built with Biblical truth as its foundation. We have to have a moral foundation on which to build a culture.
Christianity has always contended that moral truth is an objective, outer reality to which one submits his or her life. It is true for all people at all times. God does not have to change or adjust His moral law every fifty or one hundred years to keep pace with the change of popular culture. Modern people believe that following God’s law will lead to unhappiness because it is a restriction to their freedom. I point out that freedom is not a lack of restrictions, rather it is finding the right restrictions. Freedom occurs when you discover the restrictions that best fit your being and that lead to harmony, peace, and joy in your life.
After reading Reliable Truth, I’m compiling a list of other books to read to increase my understanding of the reasonableness of my Christian faith, among them one you mention, Alvin Schmidt’s How Christianity Changed the World. Why aren’t more people—including Christians—aware of the profound goodness Judeo-Christianity has given our world?
I personally believe our modern culture does not want to acknowledge the profound influence Christianity has had on western civilization. We are living off benefits from the past that were created by the biblical worldview, but these benefits are slowly slipping away.
We need more scholars like Schmidt demonstrating how human rights come straight from the Bible as God places a high view of human life and its sanctity. Christianity greatly elevated and exalted the view of women. Philanthropy came from the wellsprings of Christian compassion. This lead to the establishment of the first hospitals and mental institutions. Slavery was accepted by virtually every culture in history, because it never occurred to anyone that it was wrong. The abolition of slavery goes back to the earliest teachings of Christianity.
It makes you wonder today what western civilization would look like if it had not been shaped by the biblical worldview.
So true. Thank you, Richard!
About this book: (from the publisher) What do science, history, and logic have to say about the reliability of the Bible?
This book presents in a profound way how the Bible reflects the true nature of reality. Reliable Truth is about seeing the world as it is while debunking the myths, legends, and false beliefs about the Bible.
“There is a type of Christian faith which seems to be quite common where people accept a Christian belief that is not dependent on reason or evidence. They believe that any type of historical investigation on their part is not necessary. They seem to have no desire to know about Jesus as a person of history . . . I cannot share this point of view. I am profoundly convinced that the historic revelation of God and Jesus of Nazareth must be the cornerstone of any faith that is really Christian. Any historical questions about the real Jesus who lived in Palestine [twenty] centuries ago is therefore fundamentally important to develop a strong faith.”
From the writings of Dr. Millar Burrows (1899-1980) Department Chairman of Near Eastern Language and Literature at Yale.
About the author: Richard E. Simmons III received his B. A. from the University of the South (Sewanee) in Economics in 1976. He later studied Risk Management and Insurance at Georgia State University prior to beginning a 25-year career with Hilb, Rogal, and Hamilton, a property and casualty insurance firm where he was CEO for ten years.
Much of Simmons life has been devoted to giving back to the community by advising businessmen and professionals. Through these experiences, he discovered he had a calling for teaching and public speaking.
In December 2000 Simmons founded the Center for Executive Leadership,a not-for-profit, faith-based ministry. When he s not spending time with his wife and three children, you will find him teaching, counseling, writing, or speaking to men s groups across the country.