The tourist industry of Central Florida caters to aspiring young adults looking for career opportunities in everything from hotel and restaurant management to leadership roles in the theme park industry. As a recent graduate from Florida State University, Trevor fit in well as a metrosexual graphic artist with his penchant for shopping, gourmet foods, and condo living.
His concept of reality oozed with a relativism that could be traced to favorite professors at the university. He enjoyed the anticipation that tomorrow he might think differently about a lot of things. The possibilities of change excited his artistic temperament.
Because traditional values hung as fading clouds over the urban landscape, Trevor’s opinion of religion fell into the category of philosophical speculation. Currently the novel ideas of Scientology intrigued him. After all, several movie stars were singing its praises.
“How do you know that the book you’re reading is anything more than a collection of ancient writings?” he asked, pointing to the Bible. “I’ve heard that it’s filled with contradictions, and it certainly isn’t relevant to life in the twenty-first century. I don’t know why you Christians keep referring to it as though it has some sort of authority. I’m not impressed, and I don’t think anybody else is either.”
Trevor’s reaction to the Bible has become the common response of the postmodern culture. Like Trevor, postmoderns know very little about the Bible; yet they are convinced that it holds no meaning for them. In their opinion the Bible should be left on the shelf in some museum to be studied by antiquarians.
The fact of the matter is, however, that millions of people living on every continent still hold the Bible in high esteem. This includes people with doctoral degrees in every conceivable field as well as common people in every walk of life. Acceptance of the Bible has transcended social barriers of race, economic status, age, and gender.
Those who respond positively claim that the Bible remains relevant because it’s not a book about technology or culture (which change with time), but a book dealing with the human soul (which has not changed since the inception of time). What’s more, thousands of contemporary testimonies proclaim how this Book has led to deep personal transformation. All of this suggests that in spite of the negative criticism of some, the Bible is indeed relevant today—a significant book for our times.
Why is the Bible, a combination of Jewish and Christian writings collected before the end of the first century A.D., still a topic of conversation? Actually, it is the most copied, published, translated, and revered book in the history of the world. President Herbert Hoover even said, “The whole of the inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the Prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life.”1 So to what can we attribute its enduring popularity?
Many have discovered that the Bible is a book like no other. Yes, it has a front and back cover, spine, and pages like any other book; yet it claims that God is its ultimate author. Other religions, of course, make the claim of having writings from their gods, but none can match the worldwide impact of the Bible. The Bible has roots that go further back than any other religious document, except for the Hindu Vedas, and it has spawned the most prominent religion in the world—Christianity. (Islam is second, and Hinduism is third.)
Any attempt to understand human history and the thoughts that have shaped our world must include a study of the Bible, the most significant literary document ever written. What does it say, and to what can we attribute its incredible influence?
Unfortunately, our contemporary culture demonstrates an appalling ignorance of the Bible, and that includes many professing Christians. Maybe you’ve picked up this book because you have unanswered questions.
If so, I’ve written this book for you. Many legitimate questions concerning the nature and content of the Bible are asked by those who have little knowledge of its content or who are skeptical of its value. My purpose, therefore, is to answer those questions and to probe those curiosities honestly and forthrightly. I’m not suggesting that the material in these pages is sufficient to a full understanding of the Bible, for nothing can supplant the reading of the Bible itself. Rather, it’s my hope that this book will serve as an enticement to read the Book, resulting in a greater appreciation for the Bible and what it says.
Many other books have been written from a Christian perspective in defense of the Bible as Holy Scripture. But here I ask the hard questions and attempt to answer them as if we were having a personal discussion. I walk through the issues—not merely assuming a point that has to be proved. After all, if there is such a thing as truth, it ought to withstand any scrutiny. And if indeed the Bible is “the Truth,” as it claims, our sincere questions and close examination can only validate its claim.
So let’s begin. We’re embarking on a journey that takes us back more than three thousand years and travels through many cultures and geographical destinations. It’s a fascinating story of how one book developed by laying claim to being the voice of God in the world. But let’s start at the end of our tale. Our first question spans the world over the ages: What impact has the Bible had on people and culture throughout history—and even today?