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Friday, August 29, 2014

"Truth Matters" (Andreas KÖstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw)

TITLE: Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World
AUTHOR: Andreas KÖstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing, 2014, (208 pages).

What happens to their faith when churchgoing kids go to college? How do they respond to the vicious attacks, skepticism of Christianity, and the challenges of secularism? Will they fight or flee? Will they faith be weakened? Not necessarily, as long as one knows the truth. For if we know the truth, when we know what we believe, we can go forth boldly without fear. Authors and Professors Andreas KÖstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw have come together not only to help readers and college bound students to defend the faith, they also believe that people like Bart Ehrman are dead wrong in their attacks on the Bible. They point out the four ways why such skeptics and atheists are so effective in casting doubts on Christianity.
  1. They speak in "our language" using stories and captivating narratives to win our hearts
  2. They know the audience had not "contemplated these ideas before" and uses skepticism to instill doubts
  3. They entertain and affirm a climate of "disbelief" through the popular tolerance philosophy; such as every one is entitled to their own opinion or there is no superior faith
  4. They argue that faith and reason are at opposite poles of life.
With these four basic observations, the authors systematically walk the readers through the flow of skepticism and line of questioning people like Ehrman would normally use. Six questions frame the main body of the book. The first question appeals to the intellect through the question: "Is God There? Does God Care?" Such a skepticism is common among most professors in colleges. The authors remind readers that it is a norm rather than an exception to have professors questioning the faith of Christians. The common objections move from a deistic position (Does God Care?) toward atheism (Is God Dare?). Fashioned to speak in the way our heart desires, the questions may seem most reasonable but they need to be challenged too, for the questions are in no way a conclusive proof that the skeptics are right. They tackle the problem of pain, evil, and suffering head on by pointing out the place of mystery. At the root of it all is human rebellion that many do not want to accept. 

The second question attacks the origin of the Bible: "Who picked these books, and where'd they come from?" is a way to question the canon and how the Bible came into its present form. The usual arguments against the Bible is that it is humanly put together; it is randomly selected; it is subjective; it is biased against other books like the Apocrypha or the gnostic gospels. Such skepticism appeals to the faculty of reason, pitting the stories of human intervention against the claims of divine origin. By casting doubt on the authenticity of the canon, skeptics want to pull the carpet under the Christian's defense. Point by point, the authors show the way for readers to understand the contexts of the Bible formation, the reliability of the authors; and the miraculous consistency of the texts that can only be explained by divine intervention.

The third question is about the attack on the integrity of the Bible. Claiming multiple instances of inner contradictions, skeptics point out various differences and claim that the contradictions found within the Bible nullify its integrity. The authors then question the skeptic, making a distinction between "difference" and "contradiction." They address the nature of different perspectives and invite readers to consider another word: "Diversity." Just because some texts are different does not mean they contradict. For all descriptions and historical narrative require some selective storytelling. Using several test cases, the authors argue that there is harmonization going on. There are timelines and "legitimate diversity" that helps us see the richness of biblical material.

The fourth question is about the reliability of the copies. Skeptics often attack Christians of errors in the copies since the originals no longer existed.  The authors make a case for the intense checks and balances the biblical writers had taken to ensure the best possible quality and standard of the copies. It is also true of many other ancient texts which are often without originals. Plus, the Bible is the "best-attested book of ancient origin." Even the science of "textual criticism" is taken seriously by many Bible students. Instead of simply dismissing something without the originals, "textual criticism" is able to draw pretty good conclusions with regards to the reliability of the copies in spite of the absence of the originals.

The fifth question attacks the credibility of the Bible by accusing the institutional powers that backed the canon. Like the Da Vinci Code, Ehrman often attacks the authorities that conspire to make the Bible in its present form. He tries to argue that these powers dumb down the other books like the gnostic gospels. The authors respond by showing how the New Testament is authoritative in itself, and that it is the Bible rather than the human institutions that shaped the Church and Christianity. It is not world domination with the use of the Bible. It is God revealing Himself to the world.

The sixth question deals with the most vicious attacks of them all: questioning the Resurrection. If there is any one way to destroy Christianity, it is to simply prove that there was no resurrection of Jesus. The authors give their responses to the various theories: hallucination; fabrication; natural;  and others.

These questions take on an increased level of importance. Once we know where skeptics come from, we do not need to be caught off-guard or have our faith shaken unnecessarily. In fact, once we know the truth of the Bible, the reliability, the integrity, the dependability, the fact of the Resurrection, we will be emboldened to trust God and His Eternal Word. We do not need to fear the mysteries or unknown. Neither do we need to fear the arrows of skepticism or the darts of doubt. The epilogue reminds us once again that the best defense is actually to know the Bible itself. That is perhaps the most poignant advice readers need to know. Truth matters indeed and because it matters, we need to feed ourselves more with truth rather than anything else.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of B&H Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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