Will strengthen your personal faith by demonstrating the reliability of both the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ. Provides clear, concise, evangelistic tools to help you share that faith with others.
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About the Author
Nathan Busenitz (PhD, The Master's Seminary) is assistant professor of theology at the Master's Seminary. He previously served on the pastoral staff of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is the author of numerous books and a regular contributor to the blog Preacher & Preaching.
John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where he has served since 1969. He is known around the world for his verse-by-verse expository preaching and his pulpit ministry via his daily radio program, Grace to You. He has also written or edited nearly four hundred books and study guides. MacArthur is chancellor emeritus of the Master’s Seminary and Master’s University. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children.
Read an Excerpt
A REASONABLE FAITH
The Christian Faith Is Unseen, but It Is Not Blind
Truth is Christianity's most enduring asset.
CARL F. H. HENRY
Faith, no matter how sincere, is only a fantasy if it is based on bad information.
Consider the misguided ventures of Juan Ponce de León, a sixteenth-century Spanish explorer. Ponce de León was appointed governor of Puerto Rico (then called Boriquien) in 1509. Having been a crew member on the second voyage of Christopher Columbus, he had decided to stay in the New World when Columbus returned to Spain. While serving as governor, Ponce de León began hearing rumors about an alleged "fountain of youth," a spring that reversed the effects of aging and gave eternal life. His imagination was immediately captivated, and he became determined to find the magical source of immortality.
On March 3, 1513, Ponce de León set out from Puerto Rico with several ships to locate the island of Bimini, where the fountain of youth was supposedly situated. He was convinced that the island existed, and he planned on doing everything in his power to find it. But, although he did discover Florida, he never found the legendary Bimini or its life-giving spring. His search ended in 1521 when he was fatally wounded during one of his exploits.
Despite good intentions and repeated attempts, this treasure-hunter was doomed to fail from the outset because he was chasing something that didn't exist. He believed that it existed, but his faith was ultimately disappointed because it was based on faulty data. The unverifiable reports he had received about the fountain of youth were false, meaning that Ponce de León was trusting in sources that had given him bad information. Though his faith was surely sincere, it was ultimately worthless because it was founded on error.
Ponce de León's negative example can be contrasted with one of his contemporaries, another Spanish explorer named Hernán Cortés. While Ponce de León was searching for the mythical fountain, Cortés was learning about a city so magnificent, it too sounded legendary. But there was something different about the information Cortés received. Unlike Ponce de León, Cortés had good reason to believe that the city actually existed. He had received specific details about the city's king, Montezuma. He had also been met by one of the city's ambassadors, Teudile. He had even been given precious stones and featherware from the city as a token of Montezuma's goodwill. Although he had not yet visited the city, Cortés found the evidence for its existence impossible to ignore.
The name of the city was Tenochtitlán; it was the capital of the Aztec Empire and one of the largest cities in the world at that time. The city was known as "the Venice of the New World," and Cortés and his men thought they were dreaming when they finally saw it for the first time (on November 8, 1519). But Cortés was not dreaming. His quest for Tenochtitlán had not been in vain, because it had been based on credible information. His faith in the city's existence was not founded on legends or myth; it was founded on trustworthy evidence. His faith was vindicated because his sources were reliable.
So how do the exploits of Juan Ponce de León and Hernán Cortés compare? Both men were Spanish explorers and conquerors. Both made expeditions for the purpose of discovery in the New World. Both believed that what they were searching for truly existed. Both had faith in their respective pursuits. But only one of the two men was right about what he believed. Only Cortés believed in something that actually corresponded to reality.
IS CHRISTIANITY BASED ON GOOD INFORMATION?
When it comes to contemporary religious beliefs, people exercise faith in many different belief systems. Certainly every religion can boast of ardent followers — morally good people, humanly speaking, who strongly believe that their respective religion is correct. Like Ponce de León they spend their lives pursuing what they believe to be true. But unless their faith is based on an accurate source of information (a correct authority), they are pursuing nothing more than a fantasy.
In this book, we will survey the case for the reliability of the twofold authority on which Christianity rests — namely, the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 1:1–2). In order to do this we will go to the Bible itself, which is "the word of Christ" (Colossians 3:16), to see what reasons it gives for why we should accept its claims about God, about itself, and about Jesus. Rather than starting with philosophy, history, science, or even human reason, it is only right that an examination and defense of biblical Christianity begin with the Bible. The renowned evangelist D. L. Moody reportedly noted, "There's no better book with which to defend the Bible than the Bible itself." He was absolutely right. As we will see in the upcoming pages, Scripture not only invites scrutiny, it also consistently demonstrates itself to be a trustworthy source of information.
Once we have developed each reason from Scripture, we can then show how extra-biblical evidence corresponds with, and thereby attests to, what the Bible claims. To be clear, this external evidence does not establish the truthfulness of the Christian faith. If Christianity is true, it is because there really is a God, and He has revealed Himself to us through His Son and in His Word. Nonetheless, external evidence does corroborate the claims of Christianity. Because the God of the Bible is also the God of creation, time, and truth (cf. Psalm 19:1–6; Acts 17:26–28; John 17:17), the facts of science, history, and logic will necessarily correspond to what the Bible reveals. Such evidence therefore provides wonderful confirmation for believers, because it bears witness to both the reliability of Scripture and the authenticity of Jesus Christ.
The empirical, forensic, and philosophical evidence that backs up Christianity sets it apart from other worldviews and belief systems. In the words of Christian author Morris Inch, "There is a case to be made for Christianity. It passes the philosophic criteria with highest honors; it focuses on the incomparable figure of Jesus; it draws credibility from accumulative evidence; and it satisfies the conditions of trust. We need not, and ought not, settle for less." In fact, the Christian faith is unique in the amount of evidence that supports it. As Christian apologist and scientist Henry Morris observes:
The entire subject of evidences is almost exclusively the domain of Christian evidences. Other religions depend on subjective experience and blind faith, tradition and opinion. Christianity stands or falls upon the objective reality of gigantic supernatural events in history and the evidences therefore. This fact in itself is an evidence of its truth.
Other scholars agree, noting that "only Christianity stakes its claim to truthfulness on historical events open to critical investigation." Irwin H. Linton, in his book A Lawyer Examines the Bible, contends that the evidence for Christianity confirms it to be true beyond any reasonable doubt. After all, it "rests on definite, historical facts and events" that, due to the overwhelming evidence that supports them, must "be regarded as proved under the strictest rules of evidence used in the highest American and English courts."
But what about other religious beliefs? How do they fare? Like Christianity, they too have "authorities" on which they base their beliefs. For the Muslim, authority is found in the Qur'an, the Hadith (Muslim traditions), and the Sunnah (customs of Muslim life). For the Hindu, the authority is the Scruti (the revealed canon, which includes the Bhagavad Gita) and the Smitri (semi-canonical literature). Buddhist teachings center on "four basic truths" and the "eightfold path." Atheists too are people of faith. Though they cannot disprove that God exists, they choose to believe it nonetheless. For them, the naturalistic theories of evolution or the musings of contemporary philosophers are often appealed to as sources of authority. But what happens when these supposed authorities are put to the test?
Christian apologists John Ankerberg and John Weldon give us the answer: "Other religions ... can also be tested by examining their claims and looking critically at the facts — but again, one finds that they are invalidated by such a procedure." In fact, "no genuinely historical or objective evidence exists for the foundational claims of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or any other world religion [besides Christianity]." Author Robert Morey concurs, noting that "the faith of the non-Christian is externally and internally groundless." On the other hand, "there is more than enough evidence on every hand from every department of human experience and knowledge to demonstrate that Christianity is true."
Though a thorough examination of other religions is outside the scope of this book, we will consider them briefly at the end of Section 2 (in considering pantheistic and polytheistic religions) and also in Section 3 (where we will specifically address the Qur'an). Many excellent books have been written that compare Christianity with other religions. Our purpose here is to show that Christianity does not shy away from critical investigation and that its twofold authority stands when put to the test.
EVIDENCE MADE CERTAIN
As we will see in the upcoming pages, there are many excellent reasons to believe in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. These reasons and the corresponding pieces of evidence that confirm them do much to bolster the confidence of Christians in the veracity of their faith. They also serve as powerful tools in witnessing to non-Christians.
Nonetheless, it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately makes the truth of Christianity certain in the hearts of believers (1 Corinthians 2:12–13). He gives us absolute confidence in both God's Word and God's Son, assuring us of our salvation and our heavenly hope (Romans 8:14–17). As Josh McDowell and Don Stewart explain, "To those outside the Christian faith, Christianity can be shown to rest on strong evidence and have a high degree of probability for its truth claims. But when a person becomes a Christian, the 'assurance' or 'certainty' becomes a reality. Christianity from a 'morally certain' standpoint becomes as undeniable as one's own existence." For Christians, then, the reasons surveyed in this book only confirm what they already know to be true.
By the same token, it is the Holy Spirit who finally convinces the nonChristian of his need for a Savior (cf. John 16:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Evidence alone is not enough; only God can bring spiritual life where there was no life (Ephesians 2:1–10). To be sure, the case for Christianity is a substantial one. But without the Holy Spirit's power, the most that the evidence can do is win a debate. True belief is only possible through the Spirit's working.
If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, I trust you will be strengthened and encouraged by the reasons given in this book — to know that, although our faith is unseen (Hebrews 11:1), it is not blind. And if you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, my prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit would open your eyes to see the truth as you honestly consider the case presented here. I sincerely hope that, by His grace, God will use the reasons included in this book to draw you to Himself.
WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY ALL ABOUT?
Before we survey the many evidences for Christianity, we must first take a brief look at what it teaches. After all, what are we defending? What is the message that all of the reasons support?
The essence of the Christian message is called the gospel, which means "good news." It is the message of how men and women can have peace with God. The gospel explains how we can be forgiven of sin and how we can have eternal life in heaven. It tells us about God's righteous expectations, man's hopeless condition, Jesus' perfect sacrifice, and our necessary response.
God's Righteous Expectations
The Bible begins by telling us that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe (Genesis 1:1; Acts 17:24–27). He is therefore the rightful ruler of all things (1 Timothy 6:15), meaning that He alone deserves the heartfelt worship and obedience of every person (Exodus 20:3). In fact, the reason God created human beings was so they would lovingly serve Him and bring Him glory as the caretakers of this earth (Genesis 1:28; Isaiah 43:7), and so that as a result they might find perfect fulfillment and joy in their loving fellowship with Him (cf. Revelation 21:2–3; 22:3–4).
The Scriptures go on to teach that God is completely righteous and holy (Deuteronomy 32:4). Both His character and His Word are absolutely perfect (Psalm 19:7–11). As the just Judge of the universe, He knows and evaluates the thoughts and actions of every person (Psalm 139:1–4; Proverbs 15:3). Each man and woman will one day stand before Him to give an account for how he or she lived (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
Man's Hopeless Condition
The universe was originally created perfect, until Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) directly disobeyed their Creator (Genesis 1:1–3:6). Their disobedience or "sin" introduced evil, suffering, and death into the world (Genesis 3:7–19). It also permanently stained the moral fiber of mankind, not only for Adam and Eve but also for their descendants (Romans 5:12). As a result, every person who has ever lived (with the exception of Jesus Christ) is a sinner — both by nature and by choice (Romans 3:23). Because no one perfectly worships God or follows His commands (Mark 12:30; James 2:10), we are all sinners who deserve to be punished.
The Bible teaches that the consequence for our sin is twofold: physical death in this life and spiritual death in the next (Romans 6:23). Spiritual death is described in Scripture as eternal separation from God in a place called hell (Revelation 20:11–15). The Bible also explains that, like convicted criminals on death row, there is nothing we can do in our own efforts to erase our guilt (Romans 3:10–18). Though we might consider ourselves to be "good" people, God's standard is perfection — and there are no perfect people. We all therefore stand hopelessly condemned before the divine Judge, God Himself.
Jesus' Perfect Sacrifice
Thankfully, in His infinite mercy and love, God has offered us a pardon for our sin. He knew that we could not save ourselves, so He sent us His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Jesus, who as God took on human flesh (John 1:1, 14), was born in Israel some two thousand years ago. He lived a perfect life and then paid the penalty for sin by dying on a cross (Philippians 2:8; 1 Peter 3:18). He did not deserve to die because He never sinned. Yet He chose to die so that He could take the place of those He came to save. He endured the penalty that they rightfully deserved, meaning that He was their substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 4:9–10).
Jesus was buried after the Roman soldiers confirmed that He was dead. But, miraculously, He didn't stay in the tomb. Three days later He conquered death and rose from the grave, demonstrating that His sacrifice had satisfied God's justice (Romans 1:4). He then ascended into heaven, where He remains to this day (Acts 1:9–11).
As the Savior of the world, Jesus offers forgiveness from sin and salvation to all those who place their faith in Him (John 6:40; Romans 5:8–10). The Bible makes it clear that He is the only way to be made right with God (John 14:6). Pardon for sin comes by no other means. Acts 4:12 clearly says, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Jesus Christ alone is God's solution for our sin.
Our Necessary Response
Since salvation is found only in Christ, it cannot be found in our own righteous efforts (Ephesians 2:8–10). It is based on His work, not ours. The Bible is very clear that there is nothing we can do to earn God's saving grace (Titus 3:5–7). Nonetheless, Jesus' free offer of salvation demands a response on our part.
Recognizing that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior, we must cry out to God for mercy and wholly embrace in faith the pardon He has provided for us through His Son (cf. Luke 18:13–14; Acts 16:30–31). We must believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be (see Section 5 of this book) and trust in His death as the payment for our sin (John 11:25–26; Colossians 2:13–14). As Romans 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Reasons We Believe"
Copyright © 2008 Nathan Busenitz.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by John MacArthur,
Section 1: A Reasonable Faith,
The Christian Faith Is Unseen, but It Is Not Blind,
Section 2: Reasons We Believe in God,
He Exists and We Can Know Him,
We Believe in God:,
1 Because He Has Revealed Himself to Us,
2 Because the Existence of Our Universe Points to a Creator,
3 Because the Order and Design of Life Point to a Designer,
4 Because the Continuation of the Universe Points to a Sustainer,
5 Because the Human Sense of Morality Points to a Lawgiver,
6 Because Eternity Is Written on the Hearts of People,
7 Because Life Without God Is Ultimately Meaningless,
8 Because the Flow of Human History Conforms to a Divine Plan,
9 Because Miraculous Events Confirm the Supernatural,
10 Because Other Belief Systems Are Inadequate Alternatives,
Section 3: Reasons We Believe in the Bible (Part 1),
The Bible Is the Word of God,
We Believe the Bible Is the Word of God:,
1 Because the Holy Spirit Confirms It to Be the Word of God,
2 Because It Explains Life in a Way That Corresponds to Reality,
3 Because It Has Been Tested and Found Trustworthy,
4 Because It Has Been Validated by Hundreds of Fulfilled Prophecies,
5 Because It Is Marked by a Clear and Consistent Message,
6 Because It Is Unsurpassed in Its Moral Ethic and Social Impact,
7 Because It Possesses an Inexhaustible and Supernatural Richness,
8 Because It Changes the Lives of People through the Power of the Spirit,
9 Because It Stands Alone among Books That Claim to Come from God,
10 Because Jesus Affirmed the Bible as the Word of God,
Section 4: Reasons We Believe in the Bible (Part 2),
The New Testament Gospels Are Historically Reliable,
We Believe the New Testament Gospels Are Reliable:,
1 Because They Are Consistent with Previous Revelation from God,
2 Because They Were Written by Those Close to the Events of Jesus' Life,
3 Because They Were Intended to Be Historical,
4 Because They Contain Details That Can Be Tested and Verified,
5 Because the Early Christian Community Would Have Demanded an Accurate Record,
6 Because Their Picture of Jesus Is Consistent within the Four Gospels,
7 Because Their Picture of Jesus Is Consistent with the Rest of the New Testament,
8 Because the Main Points of Jesus' Life Are Found in Non-biblical Sources,
9 Because They Are Superior to Other Supposed Gospels,
10 Because They Have Been Faithfully Preserved Throughout Church History,
Section 5: Reasons We Believe in Jesus (Part 1),
He Is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the World,
We Believe in Jesus Christ:,
1 Because We, as Christians, Have Come to Know Him,
2 Because His Coming Met the Biblical Requirements,
3 Because the Old Testament Predicted the Nature of His Life and Death,
4 Because He Was Visibly Authenticated by God the Father,
5 Because He Exhibited Divine Authority,
6 Because He Lived a Life of Sinless Perfection,
7 Because of the Testimony of His Friends and Followers,
8 Because of the Testimony of Non-Christian Sources,
9 Because of the Church He Promised to Build,
10 Because He Died and Rose Again According to the Scriptures,
Section 6: Reasons We Believe in Jesus (Part 2),
He Died and Rose Again,
We Believe in the Resurrection:,
1 Because Jesus' Resurrection Is Implied in the Old Testament,
2 Because Jesus Predicted That He Would Rise Again,
3 Because He Really Died,
4 Because His Tomb Was Empty,
5 Because He Appeared to Many after His Resurrection,
6 Because His Resurrection Radically Changed the Lives of His Followers,
7 Because of the Testimony of Non-Followers (Including His Enemies),
8 Because Alternative Explanations Are Inadequate,
9 Because the Existence of the Church Cannot Otherwise Be Explained,
10 Because Christians Encounter the Resurrected Christ When They Come to Faith in Him,
What People are Saying About This
"A wholesome, faith-affirming volume. It will appeal to Christians who recognize many of the convictions they hold regarding the Christian faith, but who have not seen this many reasons all organized carefully under one cover."
Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Liberty University
"Comprehensive and concise, qualities one rarely finds in the same volume. The book maintains a remarkable focus on Scripture itself. It shows how Christians can make use of traditional evidences and arguments within the Bible's own framework of thought."
John M. Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary
"One of the most helpful apologetic guides to appear in a long time. Hugely helpful and highly recommended!"
Ron Rhodes, President, Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries
"We live in a day when authors prostitute their scholarship to become rich on sensationalist books about so-called 'lost Christianities' and 'lost Scriptures.' Nate Busenitz's sane and sound treatment of Christian evidences comes as a breath of fresh air."
William Varner, Professor of Biblical Studies, The Master's College; author of The Messiah: Revealed, Rejected, Received