Sunday, October 7, 2007

Review: The Ever-Loving Truth

Rating: must read

Today we frequently hear accusations that Christians have a blind faith, that they believe the Bible uncritically, and that they don’t know how to think – or at least they don’t do it. When you are asked why you believe the Bible, you can support these accusations, or you can fight them.

So why do you trust the Bible? Because you were raised that way? Bad answer. Because it works? That answer’s only slightly better. How about this:

The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses to supernatural events that occurred in accordance with specific prophecies demonstrating that the Bible is divine in origin. (Here I am paraphrasing the book from memory, which is important to say for later.)

That’s the answer recommended and explained in The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham. This book was written as both a diagnosis of and prescription for what ails the West and the Church – especially in the US. His goal is “changing the manner in which we as Christ’s followers respond to modern trends within our culture” (5).

The work contains three sections. The first “examines cultural attitudes toward Christianity” (5). He addresses the attack on truth (“Rare is the person who believes that there are facts that correspond with reality and that those facts are true for all people in all places and at all times” p13) and answers a number of mistaken ideas about truth. He then examines popular images of Christians and the reaction to the name of Jesus in the public square.

The second part “draws a line in the sand, noting essentials where Christians must be in agreement if they are to keep their Christianity intact” (5). Here he covers the necessity of evangelism and the universal duty that Christ followers have to it. In the process he gives some helpful tips on how to do this in a post-Christian culture. He also discusses the necessity and inevitability of sharing in the suffering of Christ as we stand for Him.

The third part “elaborates on two crucial issues in contemporary Christianity – belief in the Bible and the trend toward belief in an unbiblical Jesus – and how to respond to each of them” (5). In chapter 8, “Why Believe the Bible?,” which is worth the purchase price of the book on its own, Baucham lays out the excellent answer I paraphrased above. It is, in sentence form, a great thumbnail answer. It is also an excellent outline, and he uses it to flesh out the evidence for the reliability of the Bible, a feat we should all be able to reproduce.

There is something about his little summary that is just very memorable. I do not memorize well, but I memorized his one-sentence overview of the evidence quite quickly and with almost no effort. After a few readings of the chapter, I think most people could do the same and could expound on the details of the evidence as well.

Chapter 9 looks at who Jesus really was and is. He examines what are traditionally held to be the key elements of the gospel (the kerygma) – both explaining and, where necessary, defending them.

Finally, the last two chapters address how Christians should engage their culture – both what needs to be done and the manner in which it must be done. He calls us to put some sweat into learning what needs to learned and to take the truth of Jesus Christ into various parts of our culture, and he reminds us that this has to be done in humility and holiness.

The Ever-Loving Truth is not an apologetics text per se. It is a call to action that, if answered, will require consuming texts in apologetics as well as theology, philosophy, and science. It will also require us to reach higher and work harder than many American Christians are generally inclined. That is precisely the problem, and this is fanny-kick in the right direction.

You may also be interested in The Resurrection: A story no one would make up.

Also, Voddie has an article on his blog called "Why I choose to believe the Bible" that briefly addresses some of the information mentioned above.

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