Book Review: Is the Bible True…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Is the Bible True . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

Meet Nick. Nick grew up going to church, believed the Bible, and was generally a pretty good kid.

Then he went to college and met Dr. Peterson, his Religious Studies professor, a critical scholar of the New Testament who rocked his confidence in what he (Nick) had been taught about the Scriptures.

Is the Bible reliable? How can we really know that what we have today is really what was originally written? What do we do with all the variances in the manuscripts that exist?

Is the Bible true… really?

These are the questions that Nick was left facing. And they’re the same ones faced by all Christians today, especially those heading off to college where their faith will be severely tested. Without good answers to these questions—and many others—their faith will not stand.

That’s what inspired Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett to write Is the Bible True . . . Really? In this book, the first in their Coffee House Chronicles series, the authors seek to equip and encourage readers as they follow Nick on his quest for the answers to the questions surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

By late January of his freshman year, Nick was a professing agnostic who put a lot of stock in the ideas popularized by the Zeitgeist movie that’s been making the rounds on YouTube for the last couple years and in books by Dan Brown and Bart Erhman.

So convinced is he that he decides to write a twenty-one page paper entitled The Plagiarism of the Bible: How the Bible Stole from Pagan Mythology. Hoping to get his teacher’s input, he instead meets Jamal Washington, Dr. Peterson’s new teaching assistant, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (and former college football star). As he begins a friendship with Jamal, he finds his new-found agnosticism shattered as Jamal details the real facts surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

So what does Nick (and readers along with him) learn?

  1. There is no evidence that the authors of the Bible stole ideas from pagan mythology; in fact, no academic work has ever been published on the subject.
  2. The canon of Scripture is far older than the Council of Hippo (AD 391); the Old Testament canon was closed more than a century before the birth of Christ and the Fragment of Muratori (dated to the early-to-mid second century) contains twenty-three of our twenty-seven New Testament books.
  3. We can be reasonably certain that we can reproduce the text of the original writings of the Bible due to the sheer volume of manuscripts and fragments available to us (currently there are over 5600 Greek fragments and thousands more in Latin). Commentary on the variances within the manuscripts typically ignores this fact.
  4. Arguments against the reliability of the Bible tend to come from an anti-supernaturalistic presupposition. That is, there’s already an assumption that miracles can’t happen (which leads to more problems than it solves).
  5. The historical accuracy of books such as Luke and Acts shows their author to be a “first rank historian.”
  6. The internal and external evidence supports the testimony of the Bible.
  7. The Apostles had nothing to gain by making up the story of Jesus; the idea that they knowingly maintained a fabrication in the face of persecution and death is ludicrous (especially given that those involved in Watergate could barely last a couple of weeks).
  8. The so-called other gospels (such as The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene) are too recent to have been written by eyewitnesses and offer contradictory testimony.

The evidence for the reliability of Scripture is weighty and compelling, so much so, that it’s amazing that we would continue to try to question it (even from the perspective of being a historically accurate document). And as solid as the evidence is, it’s McDowell and Sterrett’s approach to presenting it that is perhaps what makes Is the Bible True . . . Really? compelling.

By placing it in the context of a story, readers can engage with the evidence, and also with fairly relatable characters. I’ve met a number of young people who aren’t that different from Nick. And I’ve met (and heard stories of) a number of professors not all that different from Dr. Peterson. In fact, I remember talking with a friend of ours who was facing a lot of these same questions from her Religious Studies professors a couple years back. (Oh, that I had had a copy of these books back then…)

It’s essential that Christians know what they believe and why they believe it. When Nick goes through his season of doubt, he calls his youth pastor seeking guidance. Instead, he’s told simply to believe “by faith.” Now, don’t get me wrong, believing by faith is essential, but our faith must be informed.

“We believe by faith” is too often used as an excuse for not taking the time to think deeply and offer good answers to the (often) legitimate questions that we face. Today, we are confronted a culture that is increasingly hostile to the truth of the Bible, and if our faith—and the faith of our college-aged siblings, friends and children—is to stand, we must be prepared to answer.

Is the Bible True . . . Really? will help readers to do exactly that. If you’re a youth leader, a college student, a parent or just someone looking for the answers to the questions surrounding the Bible, you need to get a copy of this book.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publishers

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