Why Should I Trust the Bible?
WHY SHOULD I TRUST THE BIBLE? By A. Trevor Sutton. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016. 230 pages. $11.99
In his second book published by CPH this year, Trevor Sutton asks the ever-popular question, “Why should I trust the Bible?” Sutton doesn’t beat around the bush or establish multiple lines of argumentation that intersect in one great “Aha” moment at the end of the book. The answer is provided immediately in Chapter 1. You can trust the Bible because of Jesus.
Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). He is the “body of evidence” (the title of the first chapter) substantiating the Bible’s authoritative role in the church. Jesus is the content of these writings which are able to make us “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).
The first chapter of this book could have been published independently and still have been worthy of the book’s title and $11.99 price tag. It is easily the most valuable part of this book because it answers the titular question truthfully and faithfully. Jesus is the reason you can trust the Bible. Any other answer than Jesus would have fallen short of the mark, and this is precisely why all other “holy books” cannot be trusted as the Bible can…they don’t have Jesus as He has revealed Himself in His life, death, and resurrection. Thankfully, the first chapter of this book can be downloaded for free; though I’m confident Trevor Sutton and CPH would appreciate it if you actually purchased the entire book from here.
The remaining chapters of the book seek to defend the Bible from the common fallacious accusations that are leveled against it in an attempt to get people far and wide to dismiss its authority—and ultimately its message and content: Jesus. These chapters cover topics such as manuscript transmission and varying translations. These chapters counter accusations that the Bible is mythic and misogynistic. Each chapter is a welcome dose of common sense. If someone is going to dismiss everything the Bible says on the basis that “there are no eyewitnesses left” then they also need to dismiss the existence of Joan of Arc, George Washington, and the military prowess of Genghis Khan. If someone is going to dismiss the Bible because it is supposedly racist, then consistency demands that they also dismiss the Encyclopedia Britannica, which at one time praised the work of the Ku Klux Klan.
Why Should I Trust the Bible? is an entry level text geared toward laity. Its breadth is greater than its depth. Consequently, if you are an expert in a certain area, you might quibble with the short treatment given to the issue of Bible translation, varying interpretations, or the way Sutton handles the seemingly contradictory accounts found in the synoptic gospels.
While the breadth is greater than the depth, there is plenty of depth to be found, especially in the excursuses which are placed at the end of each chapter. For example, the excursus found at the end of Chapter 3 tackles the textual issues surrounding the Gettysburg Address. I found this to be valuable in showing readers that the same questions that are asked of the Bible’s textual transmission are also asked of historical documents, even ones as historically ‘recent’ as the Gettysburg Address.
One shortfall about this book is that it never asks or answers the question, “What is the Bible?” The Bible used by Roman Catholics has more books than the Bible used by Lutherans or Protestants. So, can we trust Tobit or 1 Maccabees which appear in one Bible but not another? The Jehovah’s Witness that comes to your door to proselytize…he also has a “Bible,” (TNWT) and yet you won’t find that “Bible” anywhere among the fifty-four versions you can choose from on the dropdown bar at www.biblegateway.com. A paragraph or chapter about what the Bible is would have been helpful. Such questions concerning Tobit or TNWT would have fit right in to this book as the answer to their trustworthiness is also centered on Jesus.
Shortfall aside, Sutton does a good job of giving a quick overview of the many attacks the Bible endures at the hands of believers, skeptics, and unbelievers. He provides convincing and well-reasoned refutations against such attacks without losing sight of the eternal truth that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the reason why you can trust the Bible. He does all this without getting lost in academic terminology or heady philosophical debates. Pastors would do well to have a copy of this book on hand to give to the parishioner who is struggling with some basic questions about the veracity of Scripture, and why it holds a place of authority among orthodox Christians.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.