The little girl who asked the question was probably about 9 years old. It was a Sunday morning. The minister was at the door of his study when she just walked up and said, “Pastor, how do you know that the Bible is true?”
Good question, and certainly among the most basic of all the questions that can be asked about the Christian faith. In fact, if that question can be satisfactorily answered, most of the other questions waiting in line behind it can just turn around and go home – because they’ve also been answered.
Is there a God? Yes. Because the Bible says so (Genesis 1:1).
Are humans just a collection of chemicals arranged by evolutionary forces over time? No. Because the Bible says that we are created by God, and in his image (Genesis 2:7).
Is Jesus the son of God? Yes. Because the Bible says he is (John 3:16).
Does Jesus love me? Yes. Because the Bible tells me so (John 14:21).
Is there really a hell? Yes. Because the Bible says there is (Mark 9:43-44).
Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Yes. Because the Bible says so (Acts 4:12).
Obviously, all of those questions and answers beg another, more ultimate question and answer: Is the Bible itself true?
“Young lady, your question is a very profound one – and here’s my best answer. The Bible is true because it is reliable communication from God, and because what it says corresponds with reality.”
“But how do you know that the Bible is communication from God?”
“Well, for starters, it claims to be, [e.g.] 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.”
“But I thought that men wrote the Bible.”
“True. But God inspired the men to write what they wrote.”
“How do you know that’s really what happened?”
“One way to know is that the Bible has predicted many events which later occurred. We call such events fulfilled prophecies. Hundreds and hundreds of prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled. For instance, in the Old Testament alone, more than 300 texts refer to the coming Messiah, e.g. compare Psalm 22:18, written by David in 1012 B.C. to Matthew 27:35, written in A.D. 33. How could anyone but God have foretold so far in advance, and in such detail, what was going to happen?”
In the Bible, God says, “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done.”
“But how do you know that the Bible is true today? I mean, maybe it got changed over so many years. Maybe somebody copied something wrong.”
“We have many copies of what was written. And some of those copies were made very soon after the original writing. So what we have today is very reliable by all standards for the reliability of any ancient writing.”
I don’t believe that young girl ever asked what the minister meant when he said that “the Bible is true because what it says corresponds with reality.” And if she did ask that, I should remember it, because I was that minister.
Had she asked, I would have explained that some sacred texts mention places that archaeologists have never discovered, and of which there is absolutely no historical record. Other sacred writings relate vague mystical principles with little practical value. Still others leave their readers with no reasonable explanation of the high order and complexity marking our universe. None of those failings are true of the Bible.
My work requires me to be generally familiar with the literature of many faith systems. I have read from the Quran, Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Upanishads, The Tripitaka, The Book of Mormon, The Adi Granth, A Course in Miracles, The Humanist Manifesto and the Tao Te Ching.
As I’ve read, I’ve tried to objectively consider – if a totally unbiased being were to land on Earth from somewhere beyond our solar system, and if such a being were to study all the world’s religions and read all their sacred texts – what would that being consider to be the most credible explanation of life and reality?
My conclusion? The Bible. No other holy book fills the bill.
“And that, young lady, is why I believe that the Bible is true.”
The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer is founder and director of the AIIA Institute, a national apologetics ministry, and associate pastor of the Monson Community Church. He may be reached via DEWitmer@aol.com or AIIA.ChristianAnswers.Net. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.