How do we know what’s True?
More than ever it’s an important question.
Fake news, conflicting viewpoints, how do we know what to believe?
On one level if the confusion over truth were just confined to the political realm, one option would be to block the media noise, wait for the next election cycle, and hope things will get better.
But we can’t do that in all of life. Our daily lives, how we interact with those we love, our eternal future—Truth in these areas doesn’t change with the political climate.
Hi, I’m Yvon Prehn and Welcome to Bible 805!
Unlike the political noise, in spiritual realities, truth matters! And in our podcast today we’ll explore how we can find Truth.
The Bible says, “God put eternity in our hearts” and in part, I think that means we can’t help but think spiritual thoughts, so we ask questions like this:
- Where do we go for peace and meaning?
- Is there forgiveness or hope for me?
- Is there a God and what is he like?
- What happens after we die?
Most people today believe they will live forever, but the real question is–
“In which neighborhood?”
There is a current TV program about the afterlife called the “Good Place” and the premise of a “Good Place” also assumes a “Bad Place.” It’s supposed to be a funny TV show, but the question of our eternal destiny is one of the most serious questions of life.
And so with all these questions…..
Where do we go for true answers?
I propose that we can find true answers in the Christian Bible.
Why I believe that and want you to have confidence in it also is what I want to share with you in this podcast. This podcast is the start of a series, History & Truth, How we got the Christian Bible, where we will explore this issue in detail.
I’m not a professional theologian or an expert in philosophy or apologetics. I describe myself as a writer and teacher for Jesus and I’d like to share what I’ve studied and presented to the many Sunday School and church classes I’ve taught. I’m doing this podcast in response to those who’ve asked me to put together something like this, also for my friends who don’t go to church and who I’d like to share my faith with, and finally for any of you who are searching for spiritual answers.
Here is my story of finding answers to my spiritual question:
I grew up in the church, was involved in the church all my life…..but I got to a place where I questioned:
Is it really true? How do I know all that I’ve been taught about God isn’t just a party line? How do I know what I believe is any better than any other religion?
This happened shortly after I graduated from college and perhaps it was because I loved studying and research, but when I questioned my faith, the way I decided to answer it was to get a master’s degree in History, majoring on the history of the church.
I also decided to do that at a secular university because again, I didn’t want the “Christian” answers to my questions.
I thought, if I can find out what has been determined to be true in the Christian faith through the centuries, I might have a more solid foundation for my faith.
The Christian faith is supposed to be based on historical realities—I’d heard that, but I didn’t know if it was true. I wanted to find out. After graduate school in history, I attended seminary and since then I’ve spent years reading the Bible through and in additional personal study.
After all this study and years of teaching—my hopes were not disappointed! On the basis of my studies I’m excited to share the solid, historical, true foundation we have for the Christian faith, which I find many Christians don’t understand and those outside the church have no idea is there. What you’ll discover is fascinating and if you listen closely and with an open heart, it may change your life.
So, to conclude this intro, this podcast today and tall the ones coming up aren’t professional, theological sermons…..but if you’d like to share a journey on how we got our Bible and why we can trust it from a fellow pilgrim follower of Jesus, with maybe a slightly different approach than what you’ve heard from other teachers, let’s get started!
Overview of this Bible 805, this Podcast series
First we’ll talk about what is TRUTH.
I’ll then share how history can help us decide.
Then we’ll look at the history of how the Bible was put together and how it is the foundation for the podcast, because I believe the Bible is a true representation of what it teaches us about life, God, now and forever.
After we set this foundation….the podcast will take a couple of paths:
One: I’ll encourage you to join me in reading through the Bible in Chronological order. I do this every year, but you can start at any time.
We’ll go through the Bible in the coming year in that series of podcasts, but I’ll also put topical studies here and there in the podcast that I pray will help you apply what’s in the Bible because the most important thing about the Christian life is that though it is founded on true history and facts, you need to make it part of your life because it isn’t just a theory to agree to.
It’s about an eternal relationship with Jesus. It’s about coming to him for forgiveness and salvation and then learning how to live and grow as his disciple.
It is a relationship that far too important to be founded on a lie, so let’s get into our topic today…..
What is truth?
First we’ll talk about what Truth isn’t.
First: Truth is not opinion, or whatever we want it to be
This is a very popular view today.
You have your truth, I have mine.
But that idea violates the logic of the law of non-contradiction which is that two contradictory things can’t both be true.
Either you are listening to this podcast or you aren’t.
In religion, all religions can’t be true because their teachings contradict each other.
For example, different religions have differing views of Jesus
- All religions agree he existed
- To the Muslims he was a prophet, but not God
- The Mormons use many of the same terms, but they don’t have the same meanings as the Biblical Jesus.
- Hindus, Buddhists, and many people a good man, a good teacher, but no different than many others who have come before or after.
- However what Jesus said about himself is in direct contradiction to all other views about him where he said:
- John 14:6, I am the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me. He was saying that the only true way to know God and have our sins forgiven and an eternal relationship with God is through Jesus.
- Those are strong words, but this is not the only place Jesus made statements like that. Throughout the record of his life found in the Bible, he continuously affirmed that he was God, not just a nice man. He demonstrated that by forgiving sins, healing, raising the dead, teaching with authority and emphasizing He and He alone was the only way to God.
Not all these views of Jesus can be true because they are mutually exclusive.
At this time, we aren’t going to argue about which one is the correct view, but it’s important to understand that many people with the best of intentions have very different views about who Jesus is. To say they are all the religions are the same doesn’t respect any of the various religions, because if you say that, you haven’t honestly studied the various religions. What we need to respectfully find out is which one is true and what that truth is founded on. As we continue to lay the foundation for that exploration as we look at what truth is not…..
Second: Something is not true if it is internally consistent
This is very important when you evaluate a religious system. A religious system may be consistent internally as you study it, but the foundation that it’s built on may not true and that should cause you to question the entire system.
I realize that sounded confusing, but one of the best examples of how this works is what happens when we watch a science fiction movie.
All the worlds created by science fiction are internally consistent, but that doesn’t mean the sci-fi movie world itself is true because the world created is based on fantasy, not fact.
For example, we know that “the Force” is a creation of George Lucas and that Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk are the creations of Stan Lee’s imagination. However, within a particular movie they are in they are consistent with the worldview of the movie and they act with supernatural powers and the laws of the movie world to govern their actions. We don’t question whether the Iron Man can really fly or that Thor’s hammer has incredible power in the action of the movie.
However, if we try to take that worldview outside the movie, we’ll have problems because that world view no matter how much sense it made in the movie, doesn’t correspond to reality in the real world—Thor isn’t going to show up to help with his hammer and the Iron Man won’t fly to our rescue.
It’s like that with religious systems—A religious system might make sense internally—the stories within it may be consistent with the belief system on which it is founded. But if that belief system is not based on reality in the physical, historical world, if it’s based on fables and legends – it makes about as much sense to trust it for eternal salvation as it would to “Trust the Force.”
This idea is very important to remember when we get to the podcast where I’ll show you how the Christian religion is unique in the documents that form the foundation for our belief system.
But for now, just remember that simply because something is internally consistent, doesn’t mean it’s true.
If truth is not based on opinion or because it is internally consistent, what is truth?
Truth is what Corresponds to Reality
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Truth in this way: “[Truth is] the body of real things, events, and facts; the property of being in accord with fact or reality”
Norm Geisler, the Christian apologist adds: Falsehood, . . .does not correspond. . .. The intent behind the statement is irrelevant. If it lacks proper correspondence [with reality], it is false.”
So how do we know if what the Bible says corresponds to reality?
History is one option, one way for knowing if something is true
Others have chosen Philosophy or mathematics or various disciplines, for me, it’s history and that’s why I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned with you from that study.
I’ve chosen history because I think it’s obviously foundational—It makes sense to me that for any religion to be true theologically, it should also have a true historical basis.
Every religion requires that believers accept more than facts and have faith. There is always a final “leap of faith” and a submission of our will to God involved. People saw Jesus in the flesh, saw his miracles, saw him die and live again and still did not believe he was the Savior of the world, so I know that anything I teach you will not automatically cause you to believe or trust the Christian faith.
However, it seems to only make sense that. . . . . .
The historical facts of any religion should be true; they should correspond to reality.
You don’t want to base your eternal destiny on stories, no matter how well-meaning, or fascinating, or who told them without a factual basis.
You can’t go from a foundation of fanciful tales to ultimate spiritual truth.
The Christian faith claims that it is Historical & Evidential
That means, Christian believe it is founded on true history based on true evidence.
In that vein, that’s why I named this podcast Bible 805—because 805 is a real area code, in a real place.
And I believe the messages in the Bible are just as real and tangible as where I
Tiny note: the picture on the podcast image is a palm tree in my front yard—a real palm tree in a real place. Every time you look at the podcast image, I wanted a reminder that what we are talking about, as far as I am able, will be based on reality, on true spiritual truth.
If the Bible is based on true history, let’s now talk about some of the historically real places and events in the Bible.
Now I need to walk my talk and this is where it gets fun.
Examples like the ones that follow will be in many podcasts, but here are a couple of examples to start that illustrate how the Bible is full of historical statements that can be verified outside the Bible, in secular history, when it says things like this:
In the New Testament:
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world” Luke 2:1.
And back to the Old Testament where it says:
“In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them” Kings 18:13.
If the Christian faith is truly historical and evidential, we’d expect these events to correspond to historical fact–verified outside of the Bible.
And they do!
Every school kid knows Caesar Augustus lived 63 BC to 14 AD, no doubts about his life when and where he existed. Many historical documents and archeological evidence supports his history that have nothing to do with Christianity or the Bible. This passage is also what starts the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus.
The OT passage is a little more elusive. Not as many people heard about Sennacherib’s (an Assyrian, and I’ll share lots more history when we get to our Old Testament overview), but we have some extraordinary historical verification of this passage in what’s called Sennacherib’s Prism (a big, clay, hexagonal column covered with tiny cuniform writing) on which are written Sennacherib’s Annals, the retelling of his victories.
According to the large number of records we’ve found, he really liked talking about himself and in spite of the passage of almost 3,000 years, we’ve discovered three clay prisms inscribed with the same text: the Taylor Prism is in the British Museum, the Oriental Institute Prism in the Oriental Institute of Chicago, and the Jerusalem Prism is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (approx. 689 BC). Here is what one passage says:
He [Sennacherib] says this of Hezekiah: “As for the king of Judah, Hezekiah, who had not submitted to my authority, I besieged and captured forty-six of his fortified cities, along with many smaller towns, taken in battle with my battering rams . . . As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem.
Here is a pagan king writing almost 3,000 years ago, who says basically the same thing at the same time and the same place as this passage in the Bible.
These are not isolated examples.
It’s as if the Biblical writers went out of their way to document the historical setting of what they wrote
Luke in his gospel and the book of Acts continuously lists who was ruling at the time, where things happened, the exact titles for leaders that historians and archaeologists have confirmed and continue to confirm.
Isaiah and other prophets clearly stated when they were preaching based on who was king at the time and what was going on in surrounding countries. These names and places they list again and again can be confirmed outside the Biblical record in secular history and archaeology.
This is one reason why it is important to read the Bible books of history AT THE SAME TIME you are reading the prophets, it takes them out of the realm of wierd old guys ranting and raving about who knows what, to what they were: God’s spokesmen speaking to specific events in history…….but we’ll get to that more when we go through the Bible.
The relationship of events and people in the Bible that can be verified in documents, archeology, and history OUTSIDE the Biblical record are what I call historical markers, that testify to the Bible’s reliability as a HISTORICAL Document.
Just because religious documents such as the Bible have these, is a long way from saying it is a divine document, but it does make it one that is historically trustworthy.
It may seem obvious that your faith should have a true, verifiable, historical foundation, BUT this characteristic of Christianity is totally unique in the religions of the world. That is not a put-down of other religions or an arrogant statement, but it’s incredibly important to understand.
I’ll give you specific examples of the truth of what I just said in the podcast Why the Christian Bible is Unique Among all other Scriptures–you don’t want to miss that! BUT moving along……
Though important, we can’t make too much out of historical verification
We must acknowledge that just because you can trust the historical veracity of the Bible doesn’t mean you automatically will trust the God of the Bible.
But it’s a good foundation. I believe an essential foundation.
In the next podcast we’ll look at how historians evaluate the truth of documents.
This is important, because we need to know when documents were written and how we got them. If we don’t, how do we know things like “prophecy” wasn’t written after the fact or that it was recopied so many times we don’t know what it first said.
All that is coming in the next podcast.
But for now. . . . .
Please check out the show notes and other materials at www.bible805.com
Until next time, I’m Yvon Prehn, your fellow pilgrim, writer and teacher for Jesus.
I’d like to close with this benediction:
May you know the invitation of God, to move
-from confusion to clarity
-from wandering to rest
-from loneliness to knowing you are loved
-from turmoil to peace
From wherever you are on your spiritual journey to a growing knowledge of your God and his Word. Amen