Almost sixteen years ago U.S. News & World Report reported that nearly six in 10 Americans believe the world will come to an end or be destroyed, and a third of those think it would happen within a few decades. The same survey also showed that 44% believe in a final Battle of Armageddon. A similar poll taken three years later showed that 66% of Americans believe Jesus Christ will return (in most other countries these percentages are smaller).
If Jesus Christ were to return now, what would it mean to the average citizen of the world? If the Judge of all mankind called for an accounting (II Cor. 5:10), where would you stand? In all recorded history only one society has repented as a group when God warned of impending troubles. That was the ancient city of Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire, which repented of the warning of Jonah (Matt. 12:41).
If nations don’t mend their ways, what should individuals do? In other words, what should you do with the information you read on this website? If the Bible is indeed the inspired instruction of the Creator of the universe to His created beings, what should you do?
The message is clear: No matter what others may do, you have the power and responsibility to take personal action and seek God. The Bible is a reliable guide to human conduct. It is God’s Word to a spiritually bankrupt humanity. It is our Maker’s instruction book, telling us how we should live.
The Scriptures have been available for millennia. People have heard the Word of God from its pages and from the prophets. They have heard God’s exhortation to repent and obey. But, no matter who has brought the message, no matter the medium, the results have always been the same. Only a small minority have responded.
When Jesus Christ spoke the gospel powerfully to His own people, they rejected it. He pointed out to them a shameful fact. Even though they had God’s Word, they refused to believe and act on it, so God turned to others. “But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many leapers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:25-27).
Christ noted a sad fact evident throughout history: Although many have had opportunity to learn of God’s truth, only a relative handful have responded and allowed that understanding to change their lives (Matt. 22:14).
What is different about those who respond compared with those who do not? It is usually several things. One is a conviction that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. Another is the exercise of free will. God has allowed us the right of free choice and doesn’t force us to do things His way. Some people use their free will to respond positively when God calls; others reject this calling. The choice is always ours.
But there is another factor that figures heavily in how we react to the Word of God. On this website, there are articles that prove that God exists and that the Bible is true and therefore a reliable guide to human behavior. But to some people such as agnostics and atheists it is not enough to satisfy them. If it were, no one on earth would be an atheist or an agnostic. Every rational person would exercise his free will to at least believe, if not obey. However, the Scriptures remind us that even the demons know God exists, but simply choose to disobey Him (James 2:19).
It is God’s purpose to give us a choice as to whether we will exercise a measure of faith. As American statesman and orator Daniel Webster noted, the Bible is a book of faith. If we had evidence sufficient to refute every skeptic’s misgivings, we would have no need for faith. This is not the way God has chosen to work. Everyone from Adam to the present has been called upon to live by faith. And what is faith? “Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us to realities we do not (yet) see” (Heb. 11:1) Concerning faith, the apostle Paul tells us that Abraham “praised God in the full assurance that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). God wants us to have this same trust in him.
While some insist on hard scientific evidence before they will believe, others fall into the other philosophical ditch. They are not interested in a God who meets them through scriptural revelation; rather, they desire a God who meets them where they are in their own personal view of the world. Some have termed this a quest for a designer God or boutique religion.
Baby-boomers, those born between the end of World War II and about 1964 have grown up in a post-sixties culture that emphasizes choice, knowing and understanding one’s self, the importance of personal autonomy, and fulfilling one’s potential, all contributing to a highly subjective approach to religion. They tend to steer away from structured religion. They are less apt to belong to an organized church, and they are less likely to regard the Bible as objective truth. They are not sure where to turn for answers to religious questions.
Unsure of what truth is or whether it even exists, such people tend to look for a church that meets their personal preference rather than a place where objective biblical truth is to be found. It is more important for them to feel comfortable with their church or congregation than to participate in a church whose teachings and practices are firmly anchored in the Bible’s teachings. Experience in their formative and young-adult years has contributed to a feeling of alienations from societal institutions including religious institutions.
Parents of baby-boomers gained most of their view of the world through reading; boomers were largely educated through the use of images on the television screen. In a print culture, priority was given to the objective, to the rational use of the mind, which encouraged religious discourse with logically ordered content. Doctrinal debate and theological reflection flourished under these conditions. But in an image culture the subjective takes precedence over the objective. The result? Recent generations have taken a different philosophical attitude toward God, churches, religious experience and the Bible. Whether the Bible is true apparently isn’t that important to them, and the people of today.
This view is held by some professionals as well. “There is no lack of scholars, among them historians, theologians, and archaeologists who have come to the conclusion that fundamentally it is of secondary importance whether the facts reported in the Bible are correct or not” (Wemer Keller, The Bible as History).
But it does matter. Biblical archaeologists George Ernest Wright expressed the opinion that “in Biblical belief everything depends on whether the main events actually took place” (Keller, p. 434). If the main events of the Bible didn’t take place, then how can we believe anything it says?
The life stories of the Old Testament patriarchs are the foundation upon which the historical record of the Bible is based. If the God who claims to have inspired the Bible gave us a collection of myths and legends, then how could we have confidence in anything He says?
According to the New Testament, the patriarchs and prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures were real people. Consider Abraham as an example. He is listed in the ancestry of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1). In a discussion with the Pharisees, Christ alluded to Abraham as a real historical figure (John 8:56-58). If Christ were mistaken, then He was nothing but a man and a rather uninformed one at that. In this case, He could not be our Savior, and our faith would be in vain. So the accuracy of the Bible does matter!
Belief in the historicity of Abraham requires a measure of faith because no one has produced a signature in Abraham’s own handwriting. Yet the evidence of his existence is there.
By comparison consider the example of a major secular figure. No one has produced a written document bearing the signature of Alexander the Great, although Alexander’s influence on his time is widely acknowledged. He “changed the entire map and culture and language of the world, even the customs and dress of its people” (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 77).
Yet the earliest surviving written volume about the life of Alexander was written some 400 years after his death. The earliest known biographer of Alexander was the Greek historian Arrian, born about A.D. 96. We have no contemporary of Alexander’s who can attest to his deeds. Yet most do not question the words of a man who lived four centuries later and described Alexander’s influence on the world.
Ancient biblical documents that were composed four centuries after his existence describe Abraham and his world. The very customs of the world of Abraham and Sarah as described in Genesis chapters 15-16 are attested to the tables found at Nuzi, near the city of Asshur in Assyria. The documents “pertain to matters such as inheritance and property rights, slavery, adoption, and the like” (Merrill, pp. 38-39).
Some scholars once claimed that the unusual events described in these two chapters of Genesis, such as the episode of Abraham fathering a child by his wife’s handmaiden, Hagar, were fabricated. The same scholars had to back down when the Nuzi tablets demonstrated that such practices were commonplace in the culture of that time when a woman was infertile.
If Abraham were not a historical figure, millions of Jews and Arabs who claim to be of his lineage hold to mythical traditions and spurious accounts of millennia of history. Christ said Abraham would rise in the resurrection (Matt. 8:11). To deny the historical reality of Abraham is to deny Jesus Christ’s words as well as records and traditions going back thousands of years.
In the end, the issue comes down to a matter of faith. Do we believe the Bible is truly God’s Word? Do we believe God?
In spite of mountains of evidence that can be amassed in favor of the truthfulness of the Bible, having believing faith comes through developing a personal relationship with God. Doubt and disbelief are not insurmountable hurdles. Even some people who encountered our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh stumbled at time. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” pleaded a man who struggled with his faith (Mark 9:24). Jesus was sympathetic and helped the troubled man and healed his son (vs. 25-27).
God is understanding in His approach to struggling humanity: “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). God will help people who diligently seek Him.
One way of seeking God is through careful study of the Bible. A continuing investigation of Scripture will promote the faith you need (Rom. 10:17). If you engage in an earnest study of the Bible, you will find that your faith will grow. You will be amazed at what the Scriptures proclaim. As you learn basic truths, you will want to study more and more. You will find that the Scriptures contain the answers to the colossal problems that confront mankind. This in itself will build your faith in God. You will have confidence that He is fulfilling His plan in the world as well as in your personal life.
If you would like to know more about what the Bible says, you should enroll today in our Mini-Correspondence Course and our new series, Traditional Christian Doctrines. From these courses the word of God comes alive. You will understand the relevance of The Bible and You!