In 2014, Florida father Paul Rubeo got a troubling voicemail from his son’s fifth-grade teacher:
“I noticed that he has a book — a religious book,” the teacher said. “He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”
That book was the Bible. Paul’s son, Giovanni, told his dad that the teacher saw him reading his Bible during a free reading time and ordered the boy to put it on her desk.
Paul contacted the school, and after discussions with lawyers, school administrators eventually relented, apologizing for the teacher’s actions and formally updating school policy to affirm that students can read Bibles during open reading times. But Giovanni isn’t the first young person to experience hostility toward the Bible at school. Nor will he be the last. Even when reading Scripture isn’t outright banned, it is not uncommon for the Bible to be ridiculed by teachers and other students.
As parents, how can we help our children remain confident in the Bible? We need to explain to them the reasons why we know the Bible is accurate, reliable and relevant. And we need to prepare them to respond to the questions and uninformed criticisms they may encounter.
Author and speaker Eric Metaxas has written several books on the impact of the Christian faith and the Bible throughout history. In his book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), he engages in a Q&A with a skeptic. Here, he responds to common objections that students may hear concerning the Bible.
Q: Isn’t the Bible just one of many great religious books? Can’t they all be true?
A: Not according to the Bible itself. The Bible says that it alone is the sacred Word of God. That claim is either true or untrue. Other religious texts do have some wisdom to impart, but on the question of truth, you do ultimately have to choose between the Bible and the others. Logic demands it.
God himself says you have to choose. He emphatically says that we can’t have it both ways. He doesn’t force us to pick Him, but He does force us to choose between Him and others. Those are His conditions.
Q: The Bible claims to be God’s only written revelation. Why should that claim be taken seriously?
A: There are very good scientific reasons for choosing the Bible. Despite popular opinion, when you read through the Bible, there is nothing that contradicts scientific fact, as there is in other religious texts.
Skeptics point to certain scientific theories, such as age of the earth or evolution. “Are we supposed to believe God really created Adam out of the “dust of the ground’?” they might ask. But evolution or the earth’s age is never mentioned in the Bible. However long it took or how it happened, none of it happened without God’s direction.
We also can’t fixate on unknowable details. What if the description of Adam’s creation is somewhat poetic? What if the passage means that God created humans not literally out of dust but out of the elements available on earth, and then God breathed life into this body? The point is, there’s nothing in the Creation account that’s obviously off base, as there is in almost every pagan story of human origin.
The God of the Bible created an ordered universe we can study and understand. He is the God of mathematics and science, or He’s not God at all. Don’t believe the science versus-faith shtick. It’s just not true.
Q: The Bible is so old. No one has original copies. Couldn’t they have been changed over time?
A: There is so much historical evidence for the Scriptures being the same today as they were when first written that, in comparison, all the works of ancient Greece and Rome are on very shaky ground. And that’s saying something because historians never go around saying the ancient Greeks didn’t say what we think they said. In the case of the New Testament, we have more copies and earlier copies than we do of anything Aristotle or Plato wrote.
The evidence for the continuity of the Old Testament manuscripts is similarly solid and fascinating.
Q: How do we know the Bible’s historical references are accurate and not just legends or folktales?
A: Every time you turn around, there seems to be a new archaeological confirmation of what the Bible tells us. For example, about 20 years ago a reference to the House of David was found on a 3,000-year-old stele column discovered in the Middle East. Before that, historians thought that perhaps the Davidic kingdom was just a legend. Then out of the sands of Palestine, we find an ancient reference that provides hard evidence.
And this trend toward archaeological corroboration of the Bible has been going on for hundreds of years.
Q: Is the Bible really supposed to be taken literally?
A: Only the parts that are meant to be taken literally. Of the many kinds of writing in the Bible, some are literal, while others are metaphorical. But isn’t that true of most writing? When the poet William Blake wrote “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,” he didn’t expect anyone to picture a flaming tiger sprinting through the jungle and smelling of burnt fur, did he? He didn’t mean it literally. And in the Bible, when Jesus said, “I am the door,” He didn’t mean He was made of wood or that He swung on hinges. When He told parables, He was using metaphors.
But when we read about Moses or King David, these are accounts of historical events. They were written that way, and they’ve been read that way for centuries. Most important, Jesus read them that way.
Sometimes, Bible accounts may feel more like metaphorical stories. Some point to Noah and Jonah and even Adam as stories that fall into that category. But, again, Jesus spoke as if they did exist, as if they did accomplish the things the Bible records about them. It’s hard to fathom how Jesus, who is God, could have made a mistake or been deliberately misleading.
Q: Isn’t it true that people wrote the Bible, not God?
A: No. To be accurate, people who were inspired by God wrote the Bible. In other words, God is behind every word, and He inspired every word. But He didn’t dictate every word.
The Bible was written by about 40 different people over the course of 1,500 years, but taken as a whole, it comes from one point of view. That, in and of itself, is stunning. All 66 books fit together. There are themes that begin in Genesis, weave throughout the Bible and are finally resolved in Revelation, as if a single author had been working on it.
And, of course, He was.