The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
Recently, an atheist challenged me to share reasons for faith in Christ. His premise was the Bible is full of errors and Christians are ignorant. He also denied any possibility of communicating with God, denying the Deity of Christ of course.
When it comes to ancient documents including the Bible, historians apply a number of tests to determine authenticity and accuracy.
Eye witness accounts are highly valued, just as they are in a court of law.
Intense scrutiny of the New Testament documents has been engaged for almost 2000 years, and to date, no one has debunked the testimonies.
You fail to realize that the New Testament writers were a collection of people from various walks of life, from common fishermen to academics and even a physician, and they had an audience of thousands: people who embraced the Gospel, and a great number who were hostile to the Gospel, even to the point of persecuting early believers and killing them. In other words, the New Testament writers were held accountable, even to the point of death.
(Note that all the disciples save two were martyred for their testimony.)
The Romans had no use for Christians, obviously, and the Temple Jews hunted them down. If there was an opportunity to discredit the disciples and early believers these most powerful groups would have seized the opportunity in a heart beat. For example, all they had to do was present the body of Christ to completely destroy the resurrection claim, and as Paul wrote, without the resurrection, our faith is a myth. (Remember that both the Romans and the Temple guard were deployed to guard the tomb. Failure to secure the tomb meant the death penalty.) Do you believe it is likely eleven disciples could overwhelm trained Roman soliders and Temple guards, four times their number?
Additionally, the length of time between the original writings and the earliest copies in our possession is another test historians apply. A couple generations is a very short time period between original writings and copies. Comparing this same time lapse to other ancient documents and you find the New Testament writings (copies) are much closer to the originals, increasing the propability of authenticity. Curious how nobody disputes the Iliad but so many denigrate the New Testament.
Keep in mind tremendously compelling facts about the Bible: it is the all time best seller, and more people in more places for greater periods of time have tried to destroy it with fire or false claims and misrepresentations. Interesting as well, it was written by about 44 authors over the course of about 1500 years and it is actually 66 books that are internally consistent and complementary. Now how did that happen?
As to vast conspiracies foisting the Deity of Christ on an unsuspecting world, for such a conspiracy to hold, thousands of people would have had to preserve a lie even in the face of agonizing death, not only in the first century but throughout the centuries to follow. Are you aware of the fact that more people have been martyred for Christ than any other cause? Certainly you’d agree it is at least astounding so many people would die for something they knew to be a falsehood.
Finally, the more science inquires, the more the Bible holds up. Time after time archeological discoveries confirm the text. EX: secular scholars used to dismiss the Bible for mentioning Hittites, until Hittite culture was confirmed through discovery of artifacts.
And on it goes. Long before science confirmed these things the Bible described them: *
>the hydrologic cycle
>the fact ‘life’ is carried in the blood (nutrients/oxygen)
>the earth is a sphere
>the connection between hygiene and disease prevention
>the importance of nutrition
>the expanding universe
And then you have prophecy. More than 300 prophesies about Christ in the Old Testament were specifically and completely fulfilled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. For any student of statistics and probability out there, the odds of this happening by chance are impossible.
There are also numerous other prophesies, and all have come true to the letter. Dr. Peter Stoner did very interesting studies on these subjects, confirmed by his colleagues as academically sound.
Look at these figures as well:
“Over a quarter of all the verses in the Bible contain a prediction about the future. Altogether, 737 separate forecasts are made, from some only mentioned once, to others mentioned hundreds of times. Of these, 594 (over 80%) have already come true. Since those that have not, are all concerned with the end of the world, which obviously has not happened yet, the Bible has actually achieved 100% accuracy.”
Source: (excellent resources and discussions of prophecy and probability)
One other point. It is safe to say the Bible has had the most influence throughout history in the area of moral authority. Scholars agree western civilization was built upon the precepts of justice originating in the Ten Commandments and much of the Levitical law. For wisdom in concentrated form capable to crossing all cultural lines, the Book of Proverbs is incomparable. Noteworty as well: Mohammed drew most of his early education and insight from Christian and Jewish scholars.
Those of us who are called by His name do not believe out of ignorance or blind faith. We believe because someone told us the good news of God’s love and we responded by looking into it. We sought Him, and he answered us. One way he answers us is through his written word.
How have I communicated with Him you ask?
How does one describe the still small voice of God speaking to your heart, renewing your mind, healing your body, restoring your soul? I have asked him for help many times and he has always helped me. I have prayed for healing and been healed. I have prayed for the salvation of others and have seen them saved. The majesty of nature and the awesome reality of infinite galaxies testify to His power and wonder. Most especially, the power of his Word to change lives communicates more than any human argument.
I have prayed for forgiveness, and been lovingly forgiven, the greatest gift.
For some no evidence will ever be enough, no miracle persuasive, no healing or assurance satisfactory, for “broad is the way that leads to destruction and many go thereby, but narrow is the way that leads to salvation, and few find it,” says the Master.