Occasionally people ask my opinion on various issues. One that recently crossed my desk has relevance for all pastors and church leaders. Since we live in an era of secular challenges to faith and increasing doubt, we must be prepared to answer questions.
The question was posed by a high school student who had talked about God and the Bible with a friend.The friend brought up points about some supposed contradictions in the Bible and the legitimacy of some stories.
All this left him in a conflicted state: “Part of me is thinking about what he said as being true, but the other part of me wants to stand strong in my faith as I have grown up in a Christian household. I want to disregard my friend’s skepticism but must admit it troubles me. Could you pray for my friend and me, and also give me advice on what to do?”
Does such an inquiry sound familiar? If not, wait. Someone in your church is likely to pose this kind of question. I suggest you answer honestly and openly.
Below is a slightly-edited version of my reply to this student:
There is a short list of supposed contradictions in the Scriptures. Most are easily explained and are not contradictions at all. A few are more difficult but I assure you there are answers…you and your friend just need to hear what those answers are.
Since you didn’t specify what contradictions your friend referred to, I can’t be specific. However, there are people much smarter than I who believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and there are people smarter than I who reject it.
The Bible claims that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). It seems that most who reject that claim do so not because of intellectual doubt, but because of moral doubt. They don’t want to believe the Bible is God’s Word because—if it is true—they would need to humble themselves and repent of the sin in their life.
One of the reasons I believe the Bible to be God’s Word is that I have seen it dramatically change lives. It does what it says it will do.
I have a friend, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, who was living a totally secular, materialistic life on the East Coast. But the emptiness of his own life and the chaos in the world troubled him so much he began to investigate various world religions.
Late one night, when activity in the emergency room slowed, he picked up a Bible in the hospital waiting room and began to read about Jesus. The Word of God burned deep into the soul of this brilliant doctor and for days he continued to read and study the Bible.
A few months later Matthew gave his life to Christ, quit his practice, simplified his life and began a dynamic writing and preaching ministry. He and his Godly family will testify to the power of God’s Word to transform lives in a positive way.
The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The best way to increase your confidence in the Bible is to read it and study it. People read books about the Bible but what is most needed is simply reading the Bible itself. It rings true!
Billy Graham said his ministry took on a new anointing when he opened the Bible and basically said, “Lord, I can’t explain or understand everything in this book, but I accept it as your Word by faith and I will preach it as true.” From that time on, he witnessed God’s Word taking root in people’s lives and transforming them in a positive way.
If you feel you need to study some apologetic writings about the Bible, I’d suggest you’d begin with Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Faith. Or you may want to read a Christian classic, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
In the meantime, I will pray for you and your friend. Please remember some of the most ardent followers of Christ went through a period of questioning, including John the Baptist and Thomas. There’s an old saying, “He who never doubted, never thought.”
If you’re questioning, you’re in good company, as long as you care enough to study and discover God’s truth. I’m confident you will do that.
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At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.www