How do we know God's Word can be trusted—and how do we lovingly respond to those who doubt its claims? Jonathan Youssef and Dr. Michael Kruger, author and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, unpack the trustworthiness of Scripture—and why you don't need a PhD to defend your faith.
This interview is condensed and excerpted from episode 108 of Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef. Listen today on your favorite podcast platform or online.
"You don't always have to have an answer."
Jonathan: Let's take it to the hard facts of our faith. What are the origins of the Christian Scriptures that we hold to?
Michael Kruger: Once you start asking questions about where the Bible came from, [a natural question arises]: Why do we even have a Bible at all? Does it make sense that God would reveal Himself in written words? Some people think this sounds silly. I mean, do we really think God wrote a book?
When we start thinking about God bringing revelation to people, several things are clear. First, we believe that God wants to communicate with His people because He's a personal God. Second, if you're going to relate to somebody, communication is the [primary] way you relate. Third, if you're going to verbally interact with people, you've got to pick a language and a medium by which they can have access to that revelation. Fourth, you want that verbal revelation to have some sort of permanence for future generations so God doesn't have to keep saying things over and over again. Moreover, you want that verbal revelation to be public, where people can see it, read it, have access to it, and confirm that it actually did happen.
When you consider all that, the medium that makes the most sense in the ancient world is the written word. And once you realize that, the next question is: What's the most compelling version out there? Let's look at the options on the table. Ironically, you don't have many. If you're doing a religious comparison, you have Christianity and the Bible, maybe Islam and the Quran, and some variants like Hinduism and the Bhagavad Gita and other holy books, but none of those holy books seem to be doing what the Christian books claim to be doing. They may have religious wisdom and guidance, but very few religions out there claim to have distinct, divine revelation.
Jonathan: These days we're seeing church leaders and Bible teachers drawing a hard line between the Old and New Testaments, and then you have an outside culture that is constantly [casting doubt upon God's Word]. How do we navigate this attack coming from both inside and outside the church?
Michael Kruger: Some of the bigger crises in the church have been internal—heretics, false thinkers, people who claim to be Christians but undermine the faith. One way this is being done today is what you hinted at—cutting off the Old Testament. That may sound all good and well except for one little fact, which is that Jesus loved the Old Testament. He believed it was true, He believed it was inspired, and beyond that—here's the bigger problem people don't think about—if Jesus is Yahweh, then He wrote the Old Testament. It's actually His words. You can't say, "Well, I want Jesus and not the Old Testament," because that's not an option. . . . In fact, in order for us to be saved, the Old Testament has to be true. […] If we can help [people] step back and see the big picture of Scripture, they'll realize the Bible really does cohere together like no other book. How does a book get formed over thousands of years with 40 different authors and still have that kind of unity? The only compelling answer is that it's written by an ultimate Author— namely, God Himself. . . . [and] once you realize that the whole Bible is about Jesus, suddenly that opens up all kinds of doors.
Jonathan: We're seeing this deconstruction movement that is becoming more prolific in society—big-name Christian authors, teachers, pastors, and musicians who are walking away from the faith. How do we respond to those who hear these stories and say, "This validates my arguments"?
Michael Kruger: It's troubling for believers to watch this happen. However, I don't know that we're seeing a higher number of deconversions than we normally would. I think there's an issue of access to these stories like never before due to social media. I also find it interesting when people who are looking for ways to reject the faith talk about people who are leaving it. What about the people who join it? There are thousands if not millions of people every year who convert to Christianity out of other religions, yet they don't seem to think those are persuasive. So why aren't you persuaded by those people? It seems to me that's because you've already determined what you should believe.
Jonathan: How do we help empower people to not feel intimidated by questions but to be willing to step in and have the conversation?
Michael Kruger: There is this sense that unless you have a PhD in New Testament theology that you just aren't qualified to participate, and I find that to be really unfortunate. You don't always have to have an answer and you don't always have to know how to respond to the objection. The thing that makes the Christian worldview compelling is not that I have all the answers but that the Person I'm trusting in actually has access to all the answers. […] [Another more important thing we need to consider is] how do I communicate graciously, kindly, and in a winsome way to a very hostile world? That is where we have a lot of work to do. Here's a tip I give people when you're talking to someone about [a difficult moral topic]: Change the nature of the debate. Rather than talking to your friend about whether a specific choice is right or wrong, ask them, "How do you know anything is right or wrong, good or bad?" Once you reframe the question, a couple of things are going to happen: (1) Your question will take the heat out of the conversation. (2) It will make them ask bigger questions about ethics and morality. It's not so much whether something is right or wrong, but, rather, how do you know anything is right or wrong? I think that's the better strategy for us, and I think that is going to produce a lot more fruit.