Over the last decade, questions concerning the Bible, the historicity of Jesus, and the establishment of doctrines have grown in popularity. They are not new questions, but rather the same questions asked by skeptical scholars for years, now re-packaged for a popular-level audience.
While some credit must go to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, additional credit goes to Bart Ehrman, professor of Religious Studies at UNC. With his mass-market books—including Misquoting Jesus, Forged, and God’s Problem—Ehrman brings these doubts about Christianity to a popular level.
In Truth Matters, authors Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw seek to provide answers to these doubts. Writing for college students who might be reading Ehrman or hearing similar arguments from their college professor, the authors desire to show that a reasoned faith is possible. Engaging with the skeptics’ questions, they prove the historicity of the Bible, the logic of the faith, and the fallacies of the opponents, in order for readers to place renewed confidence in the claims of Christianity.
This short book is divided into seven chapters, each dealing with a specific argument or question presented by skeptics. While I say skeptics (plural), the authors are clear that they are specifically targeting Bart Ehrman’s writings. They present reasons for his popularity, highlight his personal journey from fundamentalism to agnosticism, and engage with his main challenges to Christianity.
These challenges—concerning the development of the canon, theodicy1, and inerrancy of Scripture—are presented by Ehrman and others as unsolvable, without any room for disagreement or rebuttal. Kostenberger and company use each chapter to provide the rebuttal to these challenges.
Rather than staying on defense, however, the authors also look to expose the weaknesses in Ehrman’s arguments. They highlight unstated presuppositions, show how Ehrman makes incorrect historical assumptions, and even how some apparent faults are really strengths to the claims of Christianity. An example of a weakness-turned-strength: the vast array of New Testament manuscripts2) means the Bible is “the best-attested book of ancient origin” (p. 112).
The book concludes by encouraging young readers, saying that reasoned confidence can be placed in the truth claims of Christianity. There was an empty tomb, it was recorded by eyewitnesses, and we have those documents to this day. As the authors conclude, they
provide one final word of encouragement:
You can step out onto the public square with much more than your copy of the New Testament and your baptism certificate. We’re here to equip you with the finer points of thoughtful rebuttal and reason on a topic of key biblical importance. (160)
This quote above highlights the flawed approach some Christians have towards defending their faith. These people will believe what they believe, no matter what anyone else says nor what evidence is presented. They hold to a form of blind faith, failing to heed the command from Peter:
Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
Unfortunately, this view can be past on to younger or newer believers. They are not given a reason or proof for their beliefs, only “for the Bible tells me so.” And when students head to college or the workforce, and they encounter these challenges from Ehrman and others, they are completely unprepared to engage. We are setting students up for failure if the first time they here these questions is from skeptics, instead of their pastor or parents.
This is why I find this book to be so important. Kostenberger and Bock are excellent scholars, and they write an immensely readable defense of the faith. Moreover, they turn the tides on Ehrman and others, raising challenges and questions of their own reasoning and presuppositions.
I think this book does a fine job of providing a robust defense of the claims of Christianity, and instilling confidence in younger believers. It dives into some of the controversies, but not too far to overwhelm readers. For those looking to engage further into these issues, a companion book, Truth in a Culture of Doubt, is due out in September.
In Truth Matters, the authors provide a much-needed guide to the popular challenges to Christianity. Through this book, they show that the Christian faith is historical and true, and is something of worth in which to place your confidence. This book is a tool which I will readily hand out to any high school or college student wrestling with these doubts. It will also help me shape youth group lessons, as I seek to prepare students for these issues before they graduate.
- Title: Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World
- Authors: Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw
- Publisher: B&H Books (2014)
- Format: Hardcover
- My Rating: 4/5