"The Bible is like every other religious book. The Bible, the Koran -- they're basically the same," were the confident words of the young man who was trying desperately to impress me with his understanding of spiritual things.
Unfortunately, his assumption, though very wrong, is the same assumption that all too many make.
"Have you ever read the Bible?" I asked this young man.
His answer was exactly as I expected, "Well, no."
What about the Koran? Again, "No."
"How can you then claim that they are basically the same then?" I pressed him.
At this point, he changed the subject.
The truth of the matter is, the Bible is like no other book, either ancient or modern. No other book has undergone as close scrutiny by scholars as the Bible. For centuries, men have tried desperately to disprove it; every effort has failed.
Voltaire, a 16th century French Enlightenment writer, once boldly declared that the Bible would be a dead book in 100 years. In an ironic twist of fate, after his death, the very place from which he predicted the ignominious demise of the Christian Scripture began to print the very book Voltaire believed was headed for extinction.
One of the most common misconceptions people hold today is that the Bible was the creation of the Catholic Church in the late 4th century. The implication is, written this late after the "facts" is sufficient grounds for us to question the legitimacy of those facts.
The truth of the matter is that the church in two great counsels did not create the Holy Scripture; it simply recognized the books which already existed, had existed for centuries, as the authoritative word of God.
Space does not allow me to elaborate on the process, but this was not, as Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code" contends, a political grab for power that accepted certain books while rejecting others willy-nilly.
It was a careful investigation of those works, using stringent tests to compile the existent works into our current cannon. It is the Gnostic gospels so many are trying to "add" to the Bible today that are the false writings (late in time and written under pseudonyms).
Yet, many, without any consideration of historical facts, choose to accept the authority of writings proven bogus while rejecting the authority of writings proven accurate.
One has to wonder why people are willing to make such a foolish leap of faith. My belief is such behavior shows that those who make the assumption that we can accept the Gnostic writings, while rejecting the Gospels, speaks to the fact that these skeptics have more of a heart issue than a head issue.
They reject facts in favor of the fiction of their own minds because they want a reason to reject the claims of Scripture in their lives.
The facts are that we have more and older copies of the Bible than we have of any other ancient book. Yes, there are variations in some of these copies, but none of those variations affect any major doctrine of Scripture.
The executive director of an institute for textual criticism, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace writes, "The most remarkable thing to me is the tedium of looking at manuscript after manuscript after manuscript that just don't change ... Yes, there are differences, but they are so minor. My students spend about a third of their workload transcribing manuscripts -- and invariably they marvel at how little the manuscripts deviate."
Harvard Law professor Simon Greeley summed up the issue perfectly when he wrote, "You may choose at the end of your investigative process of the New Testament to say 'I choose not to believe it,' but you may not reserve the right to say 'because there is not enough evidence to believe it.'"
The evidence for the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible far outweighs any other ancient book ever written. Greeley is right. You may choose not to believe the evidence, but you cannot claim your choice is based upon evidence. To make such a claim is simply intellectually dishonest.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.