Do you know why you believe the Bible?
Why I Believe the Bible
by Dr. Ken Riggs
“Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
Over the years, this phrase from 1 Peter 3:15 has almost become a passion for me. To rephrase it simply, be ready to tell people why you believe what you believe.
One of my college professors, who taught a secular subject at a secular college, taught this lesson by example. A rather large man, he lectured to his Saturday morning class each week while sitting cross-legged on the desk. One Saturday, he announced that his subject for the next class would be “Why I am a Christian and believe the Bible is true.” He went on to tell the class he would not force anyone to come and hear such a lecture.
Quite frankly, I was surprised to hear this on a secular campus, and I thought few would attend the lecture. To my surprise, not a single student was absent. As he began, the professor gave us two reasons for his lecture. If he failed to speak on the subject, he was afraid many students in the class would never hear the gospel. Second, he wanted believers in the class to know clearly why we believed what we believed in order to communicate our beliefs to others. Although this took place in the early 1970s, I have never forgotten that day.
Since that time, I have striven to state clearly to others why I believe what I believe, particularly as it relates to the Bible. I have always believed the Bible but I haven’t always been able to explain why. Today, I believe the Bible more than ever, and I know why I believe it.
Influence on Society
As a society, we have seen and experienced the influence of the Bible—in the words of U.S. Presidents, civilization itself, America as a nation, and in education. Space does not permit a lengthy listing of examples, but I hope the following will suffice.
“It is impossible to govern the world the world without the Bible” (George Washington).
“The Bible makes the best people in the world” (Thomas Jefferson).
“But for this book, we could not know right from wrong. I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man” (Abraham Lincoln).
“No educated man can afford to be ignorant of the Bible” (Theodore Roosevelt).
“The whole of the inspirations of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ. To read the Bible is a necessity of life” (Herbert Hoover).
More recent Presidents could be cited along with world leaders, military generals, scientists, and historians who have also expressed their belief in the Bible as the Word of God.
Much of our present day calendar and its holidays stem from the Bible. Literature, art, and music often find origin in the Bible. When you consider the great art in many museums—such as DaVinci’s The Last Supper—or listen to Handel’s Messiah, it is unmistakable that the Bible has had a profound impact upon civilization.
America as a Nation
Belief in the Bible led to the discovery of the New World. “In the name of the most Holy Trinity who inspired me with the idea and afterwards made it perfectly clear to me that I could go to the Indies from Spain by traveling the ocean” (Christopher Columbus, 1492). It was this same belief that led the Pilgrims to seek religious freedom in this country. Today, many of the 50 states still refer to the Bible in their constitutions. With a rare exception, elected officials continue to place their right hands on the Bible and vow to obey the Constitution of the United States as they begin their terms in office.
The Bible had a profound influence on American education in many areas. In 1647, Massachusetts passed The Old Deluder Satan Act. This law stated that any community with more than 50 families had to establish a school for the purpose of teaching children to read so they could read the Bible “...ere that old deluder Satan...” captivate their minds. The colonists were so intent on education that they imposed a fine on communities that refused to comply.
In 1780, the Sunday School Movement began under the leadership of Robert Raikes, Christian newspaper editor from Gloucester, England. At the time, child labor was popular, and many children worked six days a week in local factories. The only day they did not work was Sunday.
Mr. Raikes hired a lady named Mrs. Meredith, and together they began schooling children each Sunday in her kitchen. The simple curriculum consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion, and the children studied these subjects for six to eight hours each Sunday. Not everyone was pleased with the idea, and Raikes was labeled a heretic for doing such a thing on Sunday, but his idea began to spread. John and Charles Wesley were captivated by the idea, and when they came to preach in America they established similar schools that came to be known as Sunday Schools.
Formal education had long been reserved for the rich and wealthy, but Raikes sought to educate the poor. It soon became obvious that his idea could work and led to more widespread education for the poor. Schools became known as “pauper” schools, a name later changed to public schools. Today, what started in Mrs. Meredith’s small kitchen has come to be known as public education.
Many present day universities also trace their beginnings to the Bible. Schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia were started for the express purpose of training young men for ministry.
Hospitals and Medicine
Take a drive through your community, and you will notice quickly that many hospitals are religious in nature. The very emblem of medicine is a serpent wrapped around a pole. Read Numbers 21:8, 9 to learn the story of that icon. The fields of medicine and psychology have long acknowledged the importance and power of prayer and faith in the healing process.
Indestructibility Under Stress
The Bible has always been under attack, yet it has never been defeated. It stands in spite of political, religious, and philosophical persecution.
Political and Religious Persecution
More than one political leader has tried to rid the world of the Bible. Consider Roman Emperor Diocletian. In A.D. 303, he sought to destroy all existing Bibles by burning them. He posted a sign reading, “Extinct is the Bible.” Diocletian has been dead for nearly 1,800 years, but the Word of God continues. Countless others have tried to destroy the Bible as well, to no avail.
Even religious leaders have sought to get rid of the Bible, condemning those who believed it as heretics and radicals. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale opposed such religious tyranny and fought to translate the Bible into the language of the common man. Both men risked their lives for the Bible. Both were persecuted publicly for their faith, an attempt to discredit their beliefs and discourage others from believing the Bible. Ironically, their work stands to this day, and their actions inspired generations of men and women to stand strong on their belief in God’s Word.
Philosophers through the ages have sought to discredit the Bible. Joseph Stalin wanted to eradicate the influence of the Bible in his homeland of Russia. He sought to drive it out by destroying both the book and believers, yet the Russian church remains alive and well. Thomas Paine boasted he had gone through the Bible with a knife like a farmer cuts down weeds in the field. He predicted the time would come when not a single copy of the Bible would remain, yet today the Bible remains the most influential book in print, sold on the shelves of most bookstores.
In a 1965 TIME magazine article, popular skeptic Thomas Altizer posed the question, “Is God dead?” His arrogant questions planted seeds of doubt in a generation of young minds, but obviously, he was wrong, and his philosophy is seldom mentioned today. In contrast, the Bible continues to thrive. Politically, religiously, and philosophically, the Bible continues to face attacks, yet it continues.
Instruction and Inspiration
Your attitude determines what you believe about the Bible. If you are indifferent, you will not be convinced completely of its truth. Many are ignorant about the Bible. Some are ignorant because they do not know any better. Others are ignorant by choice. Yet those who are open to teaching and instruction will come to appreciate its truth.
The Bible gives us inspiration and instruction in two areas: belief and behavior. What you believe determines how you behave, and how you behave demonstrates to others what you believe. What you believe—or don’t believe—about the Bible determines what you believe about all other areas of life and is reflected in your behavior. If you doubt this, check yourself on creation or evolution, humanity and sin, values and morality. What you believe about these biblical subjects deeply affects your behavior.
How does the Bible inspire you? The Bible can lift your spirit in times of discouragement, raise your morale in difficulty, bring you encouragement in times of doubt, and comfort you when you face death. Believe me, I have experienced each of these, and the Bible has never let me down!
But what if I’m wrong? What if the Bible is not true—no Heaven, no Hell, no God, or eternal life? For nearly 20 years, I have taught classes at Nashville State Community College. I never announce to my classes that I am a believer or a minister of the gospel, but they quickly get the idea.
On many occasions, students ask what I believe about morality, faith, and the Bible. One particular student proudly claimed to be an atheist during the first class of the semester, and he was determined that I would not change his mind. For an entire semester he sat close to the front, was very polite, participated in discussions, and was a good student.
Near the end of the semester, I called him aside after class and told him the two of us had something in common. He was shocked. “What do we have in common? You believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible, and I don’t.”
I responded quickly, “Notice what you just said. You said you believe there is no God, no Jesus, no Heaven, no Hell, or eternal life. What we hold in common is faith. Any time you say you believe, you express faith. It simply boils down to what you choose to believe. By faith, I believe in God. By faith, you don’t, yet we both believe.” Having gained his attention, I continued. “Suppose I’m wrong and you’re right. Suppose when I die, I learn everything I believed wasn’t true. Will it hurt me to have believed it anyway? On the other hand, if you die and discover that I was right and you were wrong. You’ve got a big problem, but it will be too late to do anything about it.”
My student replied soberly, “You’ve got a good point. You’ve almost convinced me there is a God, but I’m not ready to say for sure yet.”
He left, and I haven’t seen him since. I hope he got my point.
I hope you get my point too. While I can’t prove the truth of God and the Bible in a scientific way, what I’ve observed about its influence certainly gives me comfort and assurance. The Bible has stood the test of time, and it has never let me down. Recently, I preached the funeral of a dear friend. In the message I told listeners, “I’ve never met a Christian who regretted his faith when it came time to die.”
I’ve settled the question in my mind. I believe the Bible is the only authoritative and inspired Word of God. As a pastor friend of mine once said, “I still don’t understand some things in the Bible, but what I do understand keeps me so busy I just don’t have time to worry about the rest!”
About the Writer: Dr. Ken Riggs has been an ordained Free Will Baptist minister and educator since 1963. He recently published the book, They Call Me Doc, available on www.amazon.com.