Every time I think about why I’m a Christian, the fundamental answer at the bottom of all the other ones is that I’m a Christian because of stories. Because when the world whispers “chaos”Christianity speaks of a narrative, both for all of history and for my day. Because God gets my English-major storyteller’s heart, because he made it and made it to look like his own. So when I look at the world through God-changed eyes, I see a story, with a plot arc and conflict and characters, and it’s a story about God and it’s a story of love and victory.
This story comes in two forms: the textual and the actual. The textual is the arc laid out for us in Scripture, of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation. The actual is the history that we live, and track by calendars and clocks, and watch unfolding through news reports. One way we know we can trust God’s story is that these two forms of the story match. They affirm each other. This principle is the subject of libraries’ worth of discussion, and miles too deep to cover here, but we can look in a selective, close-up way at a few reasons to trust God’s story.
As Christians, we trust the Bible because we trust the character of God. However, as responsible students, we trust the Bible for the same reasons we would trust other history books. For example, we have far more original manuscripts or manuscript parts of the New Testament than of any other piece of literature from around the same period. This is important mainly because it shows us that what our New Testament says today is the same as what the copies hand-written almost 2000 years ago said. The story hasn’t changed. From this step, the next question is whether the people writing the original manuscripts were telling the truth about what happened. We can tell this through at least three trains of thought: the internal logic of the people writing the accounts, how soon after the events the accounts were written, and whether non-Christian historians of the time tell the same stories.
By the internal logic of the writers, I mean reasons we can believe they are trustworthy by the same kind of standards we would use to trust the people around us. For example, we tend to trust people humble enough to admit embarrassing things about themselves, and acknowledge when they make mistakes. The apostles who wrote the gospels admit that they did not always understand Jesus, that they fell asleep on him in his greatest crisis after he had asked them to stay awake and pray, and that they doubted his resurrection. Hardly a glowing recommendation for their own agenda. So maybe they weren’t trying to give a glowing recommendation. Maybe they were just telling things as they happened. In addition, we trust people who invest themselves. Who are in it through the hardest times and for the longest haul. The boss who puts in the latest hours and does the dirtiest work earns our loyalty. The apostles spread accounts of Jesus across hundreds of miles without cars or airplanes or even high-tech hiking boots , and then stuck with their stories through criticism, persecution, prison, and death. That kind of commitment earns my trust.
For the dates of the books in comparison with the time of the events, we can argue backward from the book of Acts. We conclude that Acts was written, at the latest, around the early 60s AD, mostly because of what it does not mention. Luke, the writer of Acts talks about both Jerusalem and Rome, but does not mention the war between them or the world-changing fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Similarly, he talks about the activity of Paul, Peter, and James, but stops before their deaths (which are all recorded by other historians to be in the 60s). We can conclude then that Acts was written about AD 60, and that the gospels (specifically Luke, since Luke starts Acts by referring to the previous account) were written before then, putting them well within the lifespan of eyewitnesses who would have influenced and corroborated their accounts.
Other historians of the time also encourage us to trust the accounts in the New Testament. At least twelve ancient historians (including Jewish writers, Roman historians, government record-keepers, etc.), mention the death of Jesus, happening as the Bible records it. Others mention how he fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah, his resurrection, how his followers suddenly began preaching, and additional details about his life. Writers who made a living and a reputation by telling history tell us about Jesus, the same as the apostles who lost their lives to tell the same story. Individually, there is reason to trust either of those categories of people. But together? They leave me with nothing to say.
Compared with the Bible, no other religious text meets these criteria. The Qur’an, for example (because it’s the only one I’m sufficiently familiar with) gets its credibility from the claim to be the literal words of God; it never pretends to be a historical record. It tells stories, like about Abraham and Moses and others, but mainly ones that were already ancient, not ones that happened a few decades prior. Never do the accounts include placement details, like the New Testament’s way of saying “when so and so was governor of this province, these events happened in this city,” and so affirmation from writers of the same time is irrelevant. The Hadith, or the accounts of the life of the prophet Mohammed, do little better in terms of corroboration, and have little narrative logic. In other words, there is little relationship between spiritual story and textbook story, and thus little reason to believe that my story fits into God’s.
But when I look at the Bible, I can see God’s story. And it’s the best story I know.
Obviously, these notes are just a beginning. You could write books on these subjects, and many people have. In writing this, I looked at an essay by Gary Habermas titled “Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable” in an anthology called Why I Am A Christian and a chapter called “The Top Ten Reasons We Know the New Testament Writers Told the Truth” in Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (a great and very readable intro to apologetics), in addition to the Qur’an and the Bible. Have a look at all of the above. Compare them with one another. I hope you find the same story I do, and I hope it’s a story that transforms the way you see all of history and the way you see your right-now life.
Because our God is the best storyteller there is. Pull up a chair and listen in.
Krysitiana Kosobucki, Student in Impact Christian Fellowship at IUPUI