Responding to Challenges
“… always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15
While most interactions during Bring Your Bible to School Day should be positive, it’s possible that when you express your beliefs about the Bible, you could be verbally challenged—and maybe even encounter angry reactions. If that happens, it’s important to remember an important guiding principles—that we should reflect the spirit of Christ in our interactions with others. The goal of this event is to demonstrate Christ’s love and respectfully communicate a Biblical perspective, not to engage in debates and confrontations. So even if someone becomes angry with you or is rude, it’s important to remain respectful and loving—while at the same time, remaining confident and bold in communicating your perspective and standing firm on your First Amendment right to share it. Below are tips for responding to some of the most common challenges that you might encounter:
Challenge: How do you know what the Bible says is really from God? Didn’t a bunch of people just like you and me write it? Why would you put your faith in that?
You know, that’s an important question. Thank you for asking it. Yes, human beings physically wrote the words of the Bible—but those words did not come from their own mental abilities or imaginations. The Bible itself addresses this question directly, explaining that the Scriptures were inspired God, but physically written by men. In other words, God worked through people like you and me to write down the history of humanity, how God created the world and the good news about salvation through Jesus Christ. Verses like 2 Peter 1:21 explain that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Timothy 3:16 also describes biblical inspiration, saying that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” In short, men were divinely directed by God when writing the books of the Bible—but God chose to work through individual people with unique personalities, jobs and life stories to communicate his message about the story of humanity and the earth.
Note: Watch this powerful video that summarizes these facts and explains the impact of the Bible worldwide.
Just because God chose to use human beings—inspiring them with His thoughts and ideas—to compile the Bible, does not mean that the Bible can’t be trusted. In fact, there is plenty of strong evidence of its reliability and accuracy. Just to mention one of these evidences: Even though the Bible was written over approximately a 1,500-year time span by about 40 different authors—amazingly all of those authors are consistent in their communications about our sinful nature and our need for God’s grace through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the Bible contains hundreds, even thousands, of prophecies that have been fulfilled, including detailed descriptions of events that would later happen to the Jewish people and surrounding nations, as well as prophecies about the life and death of Christ. This cannot be said of any other religious book claiming to contain truth from God.
As far as responding to questions about why people choose to put their faith in what the Bible says, Dr. Gary Burge, a Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, had these thoughts to share in an interview featured in Christianity Today:
“What does it mean to say the Bible is ‘true’? Partly, it means the Bible is factual. It successfully and accurately records historical events. But truth goes beyond accuracy. Something can be true factually, but have no real significance. I could tell you how many buttons are on the shirt I’m wearing right now, but who cares? The Bible has real significance. When I say the Bible is true, I’m saying it explains life in a way that is beyond question. The Bible says something profound about human experience.”
Ultimately, we all face the question of whether we believe there is a God—and whether He communicated a personal message to us in the Bible. You can invite your friends to consider the evidence for themselves.
Challenge: Aren’t there are a lot of inaccuracies in the Bible?—I mean, it’s been translated so many times that it has to be full of contradictions.
First, you can thank the person for sharing their thoughts with you and explain that, at first glance, certain sections of the Bible can appear contradictory, but further research usually resolves apparent contradictions. You can also mention that:
It’s important to understand the context of the passage both in light of other Scripture verses, as well as in the time and history in which it was written. Remember that difficulties in Scripture “can result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances, and do not necessarily involve an error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background. As historical and archaeological study proceed, new light is being shed on difficult portions of Scripture and many ‘errors’ have disappeared with the new understanding. We need a wait-and-see attitude on some problems,” explains an online article from the Josh McDowell Ministry.
We should also use a standard of fairness and objectivity when examining any written document. In other words, just because it is the Bible, doesn’t mean it should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.
It also might help to ask the person if there is a specific contradiction or inaccuracy they have in mind. Then, it’s important not to be defensive about the apparent contradiction the person mentions. While some may just be trying to argue, others may have genuine questions or confusion. If you don’t know the answer, then it’s alright to respectfully explain that you’d like more time to look into that question for yourself and then get back to them with your thoughts on it. This is also a good opportunity to strengthen your own understanding and trust in the Bible! Check with a parent, church leader or youth pastor you respect for help in researching the question. You can also review articles like this one–Is the Bible Reliable?–to get started with your research.
It’s also worth noting that the Bible has the highest accuracy of translation standards and historical documentation of any literature from ancient times. There are thousands of well-preserved New Testament documents and copies, for example—far more documentation than exists for any other ancient literature. As a result, researchers have pointed out that if the manuscripts that comprise the New Testament were rejected, then other ancient literature, such as Plato’s writings or Homer’s The Iliad would also have to be rejected—since they have far less documentation than the New Testament. Likewise, the Old Testament has been more accurately preserved than any other ancient literature of equal age.
For more information, read How Do I Respond to Bible Critics?
Challenge: Ok, well maybe I believe in Jesus and what the New Testament says, but I’m just not sure the Old Testament is reliable or relevant to today’s culture.
It’s difficult to fully grasp the New Testament’s reliability, without understanding the Old Testament’s direct connection to it. For instance, the Old Testament has more than 300 prophecies that point directly to the details of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This is truly phenomenal—and points to God’s inspiration of the Scriptures, especially considering that the Old Testament was written several hundred years before Christ’s birth.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them, “said Jesus in Matthew 5:17
Also, Luke 24:27 tells us that Jesus explained Old Testament prophecies about himself to the disciples: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
We also have historical documentation of the high standards used by scribes who recorded Old Testament documents. They meticulously compared new copies with original copies. If lines of paragraphs, letters or word counts did not match up or errors were found, the new copy was destroyed and the whole process begun again.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that had remained hidden in caves near the city of Jerusalem for about 2,000 years—also provide strong evidence of the Old Testament’s accuracy. The scrolls contain fragments or complete copies from every Old Testament book except Esther and provide proof of the consistency between current translations of the Old Testament and those that existed thousands of years ago. For more information, review How Did We Get the Bible?
Challenge: You don’t have the right to do this—you can’t talk about religion in a public school.
Thank the individual or school official for sharing their concerns with you and assure them that you really do want to communicate your viewpoint in the most peaceful and respectful way possible. Politely remind them that the U.S. Constitution and rulings from the Supreme Court have backed your right as a student to communicate your viewpoint before and after class in a way that doesn’t create a substantial disruption. You can explain that you are engaging in private, voluntary speech as a student and that your communication is not part of a school-organized or government-endorsed program. This is a voluntary, student-led initiative. As a result, you and others participating in the event have a First Amendment right to engage in free speech conversations—even if those conversations and communications happen to reflect your personal, faith-based perspective. For more information, read our dos and don’ts tips for students. For more questions about your legal rights, contact the Alliance Defending Freedom or call 1-800-Tell-ADF. You can also visit the Know Your Rights section of this Web site for more detailed information.