I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a good friend who had come home from Bible college. During the conversation, he told me that he was having difficulty with Bible contradictions and that these questions shook his faith and confidence in the Scriptures. Growing up in the same church, we had heard the same expository sermons in our high school youth group meetings from our youth pastor and on the Lord’s Day each Sunday from our pastor. We had gone through the same systematic theology Sunday school classes in our youth group and had been on many of the same mission trips in high school. Still, he ended up leaving not just the local church but the faith entirely, while I went on to Bible college, seminary, and a life of service in the ministry.
Wrestling With and Believing the Bible
Questions about Bible contradictions are not an “out there” theoretical discussion. After almost twenty-two years of ministry, I’ve seen many people like my friend leave the faith. There is now even a whole movement committed to this “deconstruction” of the Christian faith. And yet, it is important to say that there are good answers to supposed Bible contradictions. It also must be said that it is okay to wrestle with what biblical text means. But there are good ways of doing this and bad ways. Enter Dr. William Mounce, past member of the ESV Translation Committee, author of the best-selling Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. His latest work, Why Should I Trust the Bible? Answers To Real Questions and Doubts People Have About the Bible, helpfully deals with the question of supposed Bible contradictions.
That is not the only question he takes up. In chapter one, he helpfully deals with who Jesus is and what He came to do. Chapters three and four take the issue of supposed contradictions. In chapters five and six, he discusses the canon, how we got it, and why it matters. In chapters seven through nine, Mounce dives into textual criticism, explaining what it is and why it is important, and deals with many objections. In chapters ten and eleven, the author helpfully discusses translation theory and deals with objections. In chapters twelve and thirteen, Mounce spells out the character of God and the importance of the Old Testament. Then he concludes by explaining why he believes in the Bible.
A Helpful and Engaging Book on the Reliability of Scripture
As I read this book, I was impressed that Mounce didn’t take the approach of writing as a Bible scholar and the author of a highly respected basic Bible grammar. Instead, he aims to come alongside the average layperson and writes at their level. Mounce, a former pastor, understands the issues at the academic level and that of the average layperson in the pew. He helpfully writes not only pastorally but personally, having struggled with the doctrine of Scripture and arrived at the conclusions and convictions he has because of his years of study of Scripture.
In the preface on page xii, he states, “We can no longer assume that people trust their Bibles and believe what it says about itself.” A cursory look at most surveys from the American Bible Society, Lifeway Research, and Ligonier’s State of Theology is sufficient to prove this. What we do with our Bibles, whether we daily read them or put them on our bookshelves to collect dust, is a matter of what we believe about the Bible itself. And this is where Mounce is so helpful. He not only knows the arguments against the Bible but deals with those objections head-on with Scripture. As he says, “I always start with the Bible’s claims for itself” (268). When we do that, we will come not to a place of superiority over the Word but with a belief in the Bible to understand what it means and why it matters. Mounce goes on to state:
If there truly are contradictions, or clear evidence that the gospel writers were not interested in history, or if I knew we had the wrong books of the Bible, or if the copies of copies of the manuscripts of the Bible were hopelessly corrupt, then I would certainly question the reliability of the Bible. But none of these arguments are convincing and most are relatively easy to refute. At the end of the day, I believe that the Bible. (268)
Whether a high school, college, or seminary student, a layperson, or someone in ministry, Mounce’s Why Should I Trust the Bible? is a great help. Real people like my friend I mentioned at the opening of this review have real questions, and those questions, when not properly addressed, are causing many young people and others to leave the Christian faith. Having myself studied the topics he discusses in great detail, in Bible college and seminary, and now in ministry for two decades, I can attest to the usefulness of Mounce’s work at just this point: he addresses those real questions. As Christians, we can open and read our Bibles with great confidence that it is reliable, trustworthy, binding, and for every area and phase of life. We can trust the Word of God because Scripture reveals His character and the person and work of Christ. And for those who have questions about the Bible, for those who want to go deeper into its reliability, read Why Should I Trust the Bible?
Dave Jenkins (MDiv, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the executive editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He is also the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What to Do About It (House to House Press, 2021). You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, or read more of his writing at Servants of Grace.