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Chapter 7

Ready to Give an Answer

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Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

When I was a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, I attended classes with a number of Islamic students, most of whom were from the nation of Saudi Arabia. They were very good students, highly motivated, very devoted to one another, and especially zealous for their Islamic beliefs. At the graduate level, students are continually making presentations of one kind or another. It was always striking to me that along with the presentation, the Islamic students invariably talked about their religion.

For instance, if a student was giving a presentation on some kind of educational policy in his country, he would likely begin like this: “Before I speak of the educational policies of my nation, it is first important for me to talk about the tenets of Islam with you. The reason is, you cannot understand the educational policy of my country without understanding Islam. They go together.” And so the student had a captive audience, and they always, courageously and forthrightly, told us first about the basic tenets of Islamic religion.

I can remember being impressed with their zeal and their sincerity. One night I said a prayer during the break of a class, asking God to give me the courage and opportunity to share openly about my faith in Christ. At the end of class one of the students from Saudi Arabia came to me and said, “Mr. Greg, do I understand correctly that you are a Christian minister?”

“Yes,” I said, “I am.”

He then asked me if I had time to spend with him and teach him about the Christian Scriptures.

We made plans to meet a few days later in one of the empty classrooms before class so I could teach him about the Christian Scriptures. Prior to that scheduled meeting, I thought he probably did not even have a copy of the Bible. When I gave him one the next day, I could tell that I had done something very, very wrong. He quickly took the Bible, shoved it into a book bag, and took off very abruptly. I honestly thought I would never see him again.

Mr. Greg, it is a capital offense for me to have a copy of the Christian Bible. I could be killed for this.

But he did show up for our appointed meeting, and he explained what happened when I gave him the Bible. “Mr. Greg, it is a capital offense for me to have a copy of the Christian Bible. I could be killed for this. We must not let my colleagues know what we are doing. We must meet in secret.” And meet in secret we did, for many weeks as I taught him about the Scriptures.

I began by having a discussion with him about our common ancestor in the faith, Father Abraham. The connections between Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac were fascinating to him, and he would take copious notes on everything I said. I will never forget the lessons we had on the Gospel of John. One night he opened that Gospel and read these words to me: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“What, Mr. Greg, is the meaning of this?” I can honestly say, even after 20 years, that when I recall the enthusiasm he had for learning and his desire for truth, a feeling comes over me that I cannot explain. When I realize that God has put the desire to know His truth in every human heart no matter what our background or faith, I am awed at how God works to make His truth known.

“What you are reading about is the ‘incarnation,’” I told him. “Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate. God in human flesh. We believe He is fully God and fully man. Jesus is Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ ”

Then he questioned me about the phrase “the glory of the One and Only,” and I talked to him about the Christian conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus, that we believe that He is the only way any of us ever get to God. He alone is the payment God accepts for sin. He alone has the plan for the salvation of all who believe in Him.

At that, my friend got angry. Very angry. And he said to me, raising his voice, “Do you mean to tell me that Jesus is the only way we can get to God?” I said that was exactly what I meant. And I tell you honestly, I was scared. But then, all of a sudden a calm and peace came over him and he said to me, “Thanks, for telling me the truth.”

Over the course of many weeks we continued to meet. I would talk and he would take notes. I would write on the board, and he would take more notes. He asked question after question. I thought, I have never encountered anyone with more enthusiasm and energy for God’s Word. He could not get enough. I had in fact, never had a student like him. And have not since.

Then one day, he asked “the” question. He began with these remarks. “I thank you for spending time with me. I have enjoyed our discussions. And I am impressed with your command of the topic and especially your knowledge of your Bible, but . . . do you have any evidence that it is the truth?”

The Question

“Do you have any evidence that it is the truth?” That is a fair question. In the marketplace of philosophies, ideologies, or worldviews, it is a question anyone must answer before putting their faith in any one particular system or pattern of thought. Now, I understood that we all have the same evidence and that how one interprets it depends on one’s starting point. However, from his perspective he obviously wanted me to defend the Christian faith. As Christians we are commanded to give a reason for the faith that is within us. As a matter of intellectual honesty and practicality, what possible good is a worldview for which you cannot give a defense? If we cannot give a defense, we probably don’t know enough about our alleged worldview for it to be of much value to us either!

Do you have any evidence that it is the truth?

Having an answer to this question is far more important than most people realize. The main issue is this: ideas have consequences. Truth is at the heart of what has become nothing less than warfare in the marketplace of competing worldviews as to which ideas will get your attention and gain prominence in your mind. Once those ideas are firmly embedded in your thinking, your mind will devise the ways for you to act in accordance with what you “know.”

What we believe about the world around us and developing a framework for thinking and acting starting with the Bible is the single most important thing we do as humans. When we see that these “ideas” have serious personal consequences, we will naturally want to see the evidence that confirms they are true. I have been in the ministry of the church for over 30 years as a pastor and university president, and there has never been a time in those years when Christians have not had to learn to contend for the truth of God’s Word, the Bible.

It has always been the case that the enemies of God have tried to dishonor and discredit the Scripture. In fact, the original sin of humankind was a moment of an attempt to pervert the very Word of God. From Genesis 3 we read:

The serpent . . . . said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Then, in an attempt to pervert the truth again, the serpent responded:

“You will not certainly die. . . . For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1–4; NIV).

Note that the very first attack was on the Word of God. Eve believed the tantalizing lie of the deceiver rather than the truth of God’s Word. This encounter brought sin into a perfect world—it was an “act of cosmic treason”1 as Dr. R. C. Sproul put it—and it was a result of a successful attempt to discredit God and His Word. That has always been the case, and it always will be. Today, both secular and Christian colleges are filled and infiltrated with people who seek to discredit God’s Word in the same way. Thankfully, there are a number of highly skilled, highly credentialed scholars and pastor/teachers who have a very high view of Scripture and teach it as the truth.

  • They understand the Bible to be God’s written revelation to man and that the 66 books of the Bible have been given to us by the Holy Spirit as the plenary (inspired equally in all parts) Word of God.
  • They believe the Bible to be an objective propositional revelation, verbally inspired in every word, absolutely inerrant in the original documents. As such, it is “God breathed” and infallible as a rule of faith and practice and on everything it touches upon (biology, geology, etc.).
  • They teach that God spoke in this Word through the Holy Spirit, who superintended the human authors so that by using their own personalities and varying styles of writing still composed and recorded God’s words to man without error.
  • They show that while there are many applications of Scripture to the issues of life, there is one true interpretation. Through the Holy Spirit who guides us into truth, it is possible for believers to ascertain the absolute intent and meaning of Scripture.

But it must be recognized at all times and in all ways, the truth of the Bible stands in judgment of man, and not the other way around. As Dr. R.C. Sproul says in the introduction to the New Geneva Study Bible:

It is a sacred book because it transcends and stands apart from, above, every other book. It is holy because its ultimate author is holy. It is holy because its message is holy. . . . The Bible is an inspired book that is “breathed out” by God . . . it offers more than brilliant insight, more than human sagacity. It is called “inspired” not because of its supernatural mode of transmission via human authors, but because of its origin. It is not merely a book about God; it is a book from God. Therefore, the church confesses its trust and confidence that the Bible is Vox Dei, the veritable “voice of God.”2

At stake in the battle for the Bible is the very nature and character of God. And at stake in the greatest issues, questions, and debates about the meaning and purpose of life around us is the authority of Scripture. You must remember and be willing to be discriminating and discerning, because there are plenty of persons who think what I have just described for you is crazy and they will do anything possible to discredit this position and the Scripture itself.

The Bible is true in all it says, equally inspired in all parts. When it describes the origin of life in the book of Genesis there are actually those of us who believe it actually happened just that way—just as the writers of the New Testament believed. And contrary to what naturalistic philosophers try to teach our students, operational science has in no way proved this to be false—it is the other way around. Observational science today has strengthened the case for understanding the creation account in Genesis 1, not undermined it.

The debate of the origin of life is not Darwinism versus creationism, the debate is really over the very authority of Scripture itself.

You must “get it right” when it comes to Scripture. That is of utmost importance, because the debate of the origin of life is not Darwinism versus creationism, the debate is really over the very authority of Scripture itself. It is an issue of authority. Where do you stand and what do you believe? And do you realize how your thinking will likely be affected by the educational environment you place yourself in? Are you prepared to answer “the question” of “evidence” when you are confronted with personal doubts and attacks from militant naturalists and compromising Christian institutions? Your life and mind are literally at stake in this whole discussion.

Some will agree with me that this book, the Bible, is glorious. Some detest it. Some ignore it. Some professing to be believers will argue with me, preferring that I would eliminate words like “inerrant” and “infallible” when describing it. They will consider me a fool. And all I can say is, “Guilty as charged. I would be honored to be a fool for Christ’s sake” (see Matthew 5:11).

But I have a question for believers who undermine the authority of Scripture. Why, if you are a believer, do you spend so much effort on teaching a different position? Some think it is a matter of intellectual honesty. I just have a hard time understanding the energy I see expended on making the Bible look like any other religious text rather than the supernatural work of God that it claims itself to be. In other words, why call yourself a believer if you do not trust the Bible, which is the source of why you claim to believe?

In an age where “tolerance” is the spirit of the day, people (non-Christians and Christians alike) do not want anyone telling them what is truth and what is not. People want to decide for themselves (i.e., elevate themselves to level of God), picking and choosing from the options according to their momentary desires. Some say, “What is true for you may not be true for me.” And so they say, “We discover truth by deciding what it means to us.” Fewer and fewer people today believe in objective truth. It’s all “relative.” So why can’t we handle the truth?

Suppose two men were standing at the top of a very high building. One man says to the other, “I am going to jump.”

The other man says, “You cannot jump; you will die in the process because of the law of gravity. It is a fact you will die if you jump.”

So the man replies, “I do not believe the law of gravity is true. I do not think it will happen like you say. The law of gravity might be true for you, but it is not true for me.”

Will such a belief change reality? Of course not. However, we accept the jumper’s rationale every day in the spiritual dimensions of life. We do so every time we deny objective truth and think truth is only personal preference. We readily agree that physical laws remain true no matter what we may think about them. But sadly, we, as a whole, believe spiritual laws and moral laws are anything we want to make them.

What is at stake in that silly illustration? Authority. And it is why each of us must draw the battle line for what spiritual authority will dominate our lives. I implore you to trust the Bible and the God who gave it. At the center of the believability of Christianity is the question of the reliability and validity of the sacred text—our Scripture, the Bible. And sadly, it is doubt with regard to this sacred text that is being promulgated by many of those entrusted to teach our children—as our survey sadly shows.

Evidences of Truth: Historical and Prophetic Tests

At the same time I was meeting with my Muslim friend, I had been studying Paul’s sermon from 1 Corinthians 15. When he asked if I had evidence for the truth, part of the answer to his question was in those verses.3

First, we talked about historical evidence for faith. In verse 3, Paul said, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised the third day according to the Scriptures” (NIV). And we talked about the historical reliability of the Bible. This is evidence that is important in seeking the truth of Christian faith.

As he came from an Islamic background, I understood that he already believed in a creator—in one god. So I didn’t in essence have to deal with that issue at that time. The Koran, though, does not give a history as Genesis does. So he did not understand the origin of sin and death and his need for a Savior. I asked a question: Would you believe in Jesus if it was determined some or all of Scripture could not be considered to have actually happened in history? The fact is, if you put the Bible to the test any other document must be put to, through the academic discipline of historiography, you will find out the New Testament alone is one of the most, if not the most, historically reliable documents in human history.

Would you believe in Jesus if it was determined some or all of Scripture could not be considered to have actually happened in history?

Next, we talked about the prophetic evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian message. I asked him if the Koran had prophecy, and his answer was no. The Bible however, in the Old Testament, foretold events that came true in the New Testament with phenomenal accuracy. I can remember telling him about the dozens of prophecies of Jesus that were made hundreds of years before they were fulfilled in His life.

We talked about Josh McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The prophetic evidence presented in this book includes a mathematical calculation of the odds of prophecy coming true—overwhelming odds! As a scholar, my Muslim friend identified with the historic and prophetic evidence. We already had some “common ground,” if you like. Thank God that many, many volumes of material are readily available to anyone who wishes to strengthen their faith by being able to explain the evidence and use the correct interpretation of that evidence (based on God’s Word) to give a gentle, reverent answer to others who are asking the question.

The final evidence I want to share with you is far more powerful than the first two combined; they actually pale in comparison. First Corinthians 15:10 reads, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect” (NIV). The dynamic evidence for the truth of the Christian message is the power of Christ to change and transform the human heart and experience, now and forever.

But further, the Bible is true because only it satisfies the preconditions of intelligibility. Only the Bible has the basis for knowledge, logic, uniformity, morality, and so on. In other words, if the Bible is not true, nothing would make sense. Other worldviews, including Islam, must borrow from the Bible to make sense of reality. For example, why we wear clothes comes from Genesis 3; why does logic exist and why can we use it, because God is logical and we are made in the image of a logical God. (Logic, which is not material but abstract, has always been a problem for a naturalistic/materialistic worldview where only material things are said to exist.)

Evidences of Truth: The Personal Test

We need to know if the Bible is true. We need to know if it can be trusted. We need to determine if the Scripture should in fact be considered as any kind of authority for the issues of our lives. Does Scripture make claims or demands upon the human family with which we must contend?

The Bible has for all time been a source of contention for those inclined not to believe it and for those who gladly base their lives upon it. The most powerful thing about the Bible is that it is not neutral—in fact, there is no such position as a “neutral” one. One way or another, we must all contend with its claims. To not make a decision about whether or not it will serve as the authority for your life is, in fact, to decide against it.

There is no way out of this dilemma. And so you can see why its message can be so contentious for so many. Is there any other literature in human history that has caused such a situation? The Bible stands alone in its claim to be a written revelation of the sovereign God, its author. Its authority carries the weight of its author—authority and author share a common root word for an especially good reason when it comes to Scripture.

Now, when you consider the Scripture’s claims upon your own life, you can do so in different ways. One, you can approach it like a scholar might. You can contend with the historicity of the document, or its several literary styles and genres. You may want to approach it in a more scientific way, trying to determine if the scientific evidence related to such physical events as the origin of life in the creation account or the events of the Flood are consistent with operational science. Today, doubts in regards to these accounts are where the slippery slide of unbelief has really begun for many.

But I suggest at some time in your life you explore it simply by reading it (starting at the beginning—Genesis) in its context and believing that the God who gave it has a message to give to His creation. It’s a message that can be understood. It’s not a secret; it does not take special talent. It is a message laser-focused for understanding to any human heart trying to comprehend it. You must realize this book was not given to the theologians and scholars in the first place. It was given to common folk who, I believe, were created with a place in their soul to seek the knowledge and apply the wisdom to life in this world and the one to come. Romans 1:20 states that an awareness of God comes from the evidence of creation. I also know that the Scripture itself teaches that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

You can be sure the scholars and theologians who believe in the Bible as God’s Word have clearly helped in our appreciation and understanding of this book. They have verified the historicity of the Bible many times over. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that the Bible is the most historically reliable book in human history. Sadly though, our survey confirms that many scholars today are dismantling belief in the Bible—and it is creating havoc in our churches and culture.

The Bible claims for itself a kind of spiritual power that many are looking for.

But the real power of the Bible is that those who read it find it to be the most plausible and authentic explanation of human existence. The Bible claims for itself a kind of spiritual power that many are looking for. If you want a glimpse of what is available for you in the Bible, consider the words of Psalm 19:7–9. This is the Scriptures’ own testimony of itself. Here is what it says:

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. It perfectly tells the truth about every subject included in the sacred text. It is truth that transforms our souls. Do you ever feel empty inside? Are you looking for more out of life? Do you ever wonder what is true in this life? The Bible is for you; it is God’s perfect law of life and it will restore your soul.

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Do you have all the answers you need for life or is there anything you would benefit from knowing? Do you need clarity of mind as you face the pressures and struggles of life? Do you need to face destructive patterns in your life? The Bible is “sure.” That means you can believe it and trust it. You find wisdom for life in its pages. The accounts given there are the stories of all of life’s questions and the answers given are your answers, too. The Bible is God’s guarantee to you of wisdom enough to live a good life—and yet it is so much more.

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The Bible sets the right path for you and it is a path of joy. Do you need direction in your life? Are you confused or scared about the track you are currently on? Do you realize you will end up in the direction you are headed right now? Is it really the way you want to go? Have you seen the alternative route? Just because you don’t see it yet does not mean it’s not there. God delights in showing you the way to go. Jesus said in the Bible, “I am the way” (John 14:6). He is your direction and destination. He gives the direction for your journey in the Bible. It is the path of joy to follow Him.

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening your eyes. Are you able to face the dark, calamitous days of life? Disease, devastation, and death—they are all part of the human experience. You cannot make believe they are not, and all of us must one day face the darkness of this life. In these times the Bible enlightens our eyes. This is so powerful because in the dark world we need light. In dark times, the Bible gives us vision we otherwise would not have. The vision God gives in His Word is the ability to see the tragic side of life through the eyes of God. Once your eyes are enlightened by Scripture you will see a picture of the glorious life God has for you that makes all the darkness go away forever.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The Scripture remains the only thing in our world untouched by the evil of sin. It is pure and clean, devoid of error. Its truth endures forever. The truth of God’s Word is timeless and endures for all generations.

The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. God’s Word says of itself it is true. We all want to know what is true in life. People do not follow what is fake or purposefully untrue. There is a desire in every human heart to be right and know what is true. All the evidence supports what the Bible itself claims: it is a trustworthy and true description of a sovereign God who created all that exists and who desires to walk with us in a personal relationship full of grace, joy, and forgiveness.

Decision Time

Every time we are confronted with propositional statements (statements that claim to be true) we have a decision we must make: is it true or not? And there is a follow-up: if it is true do I need to do anything about it (1 Thessalonians 5:21)?

In our relativistic, postmodern culture there is a paucity of those committed to any kind of objective truth. The postmodern mind says language is the only way we construct meaning and any reference to truth is forever hidden. And so we tell our stories and truth becomes what you can get others to agree to.

There is, in fact, objective truth with which to contend in this universe.

But above that wasteland of belief and meaninglessness stands a worldview that claims there is, in fact, objective truth with which to contend in this universe. This truth is that which corresponds to reality. It is truth that is non-contradicting, it does not violate laws of logic, it is absolute, it does not depend on time, place, or conditions. This truth is discovered, for it exists independently of our minds. We do not create it. It is inescapable. To deny its existence is to affirm we are bound by it. It is unchanging. It is the only standard upon which any other claim is measured.

This is the kind of truth we find in the sovereign God revealed in nature and in His Word, the Bible. This is the reality of the One who made these claims:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
No one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known me, you would have known My Father (John 14:6–7).
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31–32; NLT).

Answers in Genesis and Warner University seek to give glory and honor to God as Creator, and to affirm the truth of the biblical record of the real origin and history of the world and mankind. Part of this real history is the bad news that the rebellion of the first man, Adam, against God’s command brought death, suffering, and separation from God into this world. We see the results all around us. All of Adam’s descendants are sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5) and have themselves entered into this rebellion (sin). They therefore cannot live with a holy God, but are condemned to separation from God.

The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that all are therefore subject to “eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). But the good news is that God has done something about it. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ the Creator, though totally sinless, suffered on behalf of mankind, the penalty of mankind’s sin, which is death and separation from God. He did this to satisfy the righteous demands of the holiness and justice of God, His Father.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice; He died on a Cross, but on the third day He rose again, conquering death, so that all who truly believe in Him, repent of their sin and trust in Him (rather than their own merit) are able to come back to God and live for eternity with their Creator. Therefore, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18; NKJV). What a wonderful Savior and what a wonderful salvation in Christ our Creator!

My friends, this type of thinking is not an option—it is essential both for our salvation, our survival, and for the integrity of our witness in the world. We need to be thinking about what our children are being taught in regard to such matters, and as our survey makes clear, as we consider the college we are entrusting their education to. If we as a church, parents, and educators are going to have a credible response to the attacks that we have suffered from secular forces, we must understand how high the stakes are in this war, and then learn to think strategically and accurately about God’s Word and the world that He created.

And, oh yes, you may be wondering what happened to my friend from Saudi Arabia. Our time together abruptly came to an end the day the first Gulf War started. I never saw him after that. I think he may have been called back home. But I will always remember him as the most intensely interested person in the Scripture I have ever known. And I will always consider it a privilege to have shared with him the Book that is the truth for life and hope for his salvation in Jesus Christ.

Already Compromised

Christian colleges took a test on the state of their faith and the final exam is in.

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Footnotes

  1. R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishing, 1998), p. 116.
  2. R.C. Sproul, general editor, New Geneva Study Bible (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1995).
  3. All evidence is God’s (Psalm 24:1 and Colossians 1:16). What really matters is the proper interpretation of that evidence.

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