I'm Max. I first appeared in a series of three books written by David Clemens entitled Steps To Maturity. My job is to help illustrate the Biblical concepts about which Dr. Clemens talks in those books. “Ask Max” is a new addition to our web site. The purpose of this page is to provide Biblical answers to some of the hard questions being asked today. I want you to feel free to send me the question(s) you may be asking and with which you may be struggling. Using the Bible, of course, and also some of the material to be found in Steps to Maturity, I'll try to answer the questions for you.
Simply click "SUBMIT QUESTION" to submit your question, and yours truly, will take it from there.
Don't worry, if you submit your name, it won't be listed. If necessary, I’ll change the question a little bit so no one will know who submitted it. Please also understand that not all submitted questions will necessarily appear on this page, although I’ll do my best. The whole team here at DCBTM, Inc. and I surely hope to hear from you.
Because of the absolutely fundamental nature and obvious significance of this first question in the "Max Says" feature of the DCBTM, Inc. website, we have chosen to answer it in considerable detail…
CAN I EVER REALLY BE SURE THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD?
Often people bring the Bible to the bar of human reason and then reject it because God's thoughts do not coincide with their own. God's Word speaks humankind's personal sin and need for a Savior. It identifies Jesus Christ as the ONLY Savior and Way to God. It sets forth a high and holy standard of living required by God. All this flies in the face of human thinking and opinion. It is not well received. Indeed, as a result, no other book in the entire world has been attacked so bitterly and so persistently as the Word of God.
The human heart holds a curious prejudice against the Bible. Scientists' statements are seldom questioned; the records of historians like Josephus (Jewish historian of first century and considered an authority on Hebrew history) or Herodotus (an ancient Greek historian, known as the Father of History) are taken at face value. But if their remarks happen to contradict the Bible, so much the worse for the Bible. This prejudice is all the more remarkable when we remember that human opinions vary greatly, often change, and are frequently based on incomplete knowledge. And so the question persists, "Can one ever really be sure the Bible is the Word of God?" Is there any objective evidence indicating that it is?
While the truthfulness of God's Word cannot be proved by mere argument; nevertheless, there are valid evidences for the Bible's inspiration and authenticity. Taken separately none of these evidences proves the Bible to be God's Word, a Book like no other; however, collectively they build an impressive case for its trustworthiness.
Biblical Christianity is not built upon absurd reasoning or subjective religious experience; rather it is rooted in verifiable, historical fact. Faith is believing what upon excellent testimony appears to be true. The Bible is the Word of God. Consider these seven reasons for accepting it as such.
THE BIBLE CLAIMS TO BE THE WORD OF GOD
It is significant that the Bible itself claims to be the Word of God, for then when an individual says that the Bible is the Word of God, he is not claiming more than the Bible claims for itself. More than 3000 times, in both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible says it is the Word of God.
THE BIBLE CANNOT BE DESTROYED
The Bible is unique because of its age. Rarely are books known or reprinted 25 years after their original publication. Indeed, approximately eighty percent of all books published are forgotten after the first year; only one half of one percent are in demand seven years after publication. However, parts of the Old Testament were written over 2500 years ago, and the New Testament, over 1900 years ago. How do you explain that?
Throughout history the Bible's enemies have been aggressively hostile. Unbelievers have been attacking the Bible for 1800 years, and yet it stands today solid as a rock. It's circulation increases; it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at outlawing and destroying the Bible; they die and the Book lives on!
The treat of opposition to the Bible can be traced from early times to the present. Today opposition comes from sources such as Communism, present-day thinkers who demand that Biblical absolutes and standards be thrown out, and critics who claim the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. How long could a school textbook survive such a concerted attack to undermine its credibility, to destroy it? Nevertheless, the Bible remains the world's best selling book year after year. Millions of copies are published and sold annually. Throughout the entire 20th Century the Bible outsold it's nearest competitor by 1 billion, 200 million books! Incredible, no other book was even close. At least part of the Bible has been translated into over 2197 of the 2796 languages of the world. How do you explain that?
One additional note, the eighteenth century French philosopher Voltaire dared to predict the Bible would be a forgotten book found only in museums by the nineteenth century. Ironically, however, within 25 years of Voltaire's death, the Geneva Bible Society was using his home and his printing presses to public the Word of God. The Bible cannot be destroyed. Doesn't this suggest it deserves our special attention? But there is more.
THE BIBLE IS A UNIFIED WHOLE
One basic unifying theme runs throughout the Bible---Jesus Christ. The Old Testament looked forward to His coming; the Gospels record His birth and life; the rest of the New Testament explains the significance of His life, death, resurrection, and return.
The Bible's unity is also illustrated by its single moral standard. For example, adultery was condemned by Moses in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:14) as well as by Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-32).
The Bible's unity becomes even more impressive when we consider it was written by nearly 40 different men of varied backgrounds (including shepherds, fishermen, prophets, kinds, soldiers, scholars, professional men, and common laborers) representing thirteen countries andthree continents. David and Solomon were kings, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were priests, Moses and Amos were shepherds, Paul was a theologian, Matthew was a tax collector, and Peter and John were fishermen. Collectively they wrote over a period of 1600 years and utilized at least three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). That such a culturally, geographically, educationally diversified group over a period of 1600 years could maintain the same theme and moral standard with no contradiction while dealing with many controversial subjects (morals, ethics, child training, family roles, etc.) can be explained only in terms of God---the true Author of the Bible.
THE BIBLE IS CONTINUALLY VERIFIED BY ARCHAEOLOGY
Archaeology has proved the accuracy of many of the Bible's historical statements. Consider the case of Belshazzar in Daniel 5. The Bible's claim that Belshazzar was the king killed that fateful night---when God's hand wrote on the wall and Babylon was captured by the Medes and Persians---was long considered an error. Secular history recorded Nabonidus as the last king of Babylon, never mentioning Belshazzar. But in 1853 the Biblical account was verified. Archeologists discovered a cylinder, which showed there were actually two kings of Babylon, a father and a son. Belshazzar had been made co-ruler by his father Nabonidus. On the night of the invasion, Nabonidus was at this oasis retreat in Arabia; Belshazzar was captured and killed.
Additionally, the fact that father and son reigned as co-regents helps to explain Daniel 5:7 and 29 where Daniel was made "third ruler" in the kingdom.
Famed Jewish archaeologist Nelson Glueck in his book, Rivers in the Desert, observes that no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted the Bible.
THE BIBLE IS SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE
The Bible, though not a textbook on science, is nonetheless accurate in its scientific detail. For example, in Isaiah 40:22 the Bible refers to the earth as being a circle or, literally, a sphere (see also Proverbs 8:27). In Luke 17:34-36 Jesus implied the earth was not flat when He noted that at His return some people would be sleeping (nighttime), some would be grinding grain (early morning), and some would be working in the field (daytime). This could be possible only in the earth were round. Yet as late as 1492 Columbus was advised against seeking new sailing routes lest he fall from the edge of the earth.
Leviticus 17:11-14 states, "The life of the flesh is in the blood." Today we know that blood is essential and indispensable to the body. Yet in 1799 doctors followed the accepted medical practices of the times and used leeches to bleed George Washington in an attempt to cure a virus. He died. The Bible had contained the correct information all the time!
The Bible contains scores of now-known scientific facts written long before men recognized them in nature.
THE BIBLE SUCCESSFULLY PREDICTS THE FUTURE
The Bible's hundreds of predictions concerning places, people, and events are so detailed and definite no individual could have guessed or even anticipated how they would happen. Some predictions have even been fulfilled by men who were ignorant of them (e.g., Isaiah 44:28-45:4; compare Psalm 22:16 with Luke 23:33). While many still await fulfillment, each prediction that has been fulfilled has come true exactly as the Bible said it would. Modern-day "prophets" cannot make such a claim; they are often mistaken.
For examples of fulfilled Bible prophesy, look at the facts surrounding the life of Christ. More than 300 prophecies concerning this one event were made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. 29 specific detailed predictions involving the events of the 24 hours surrounding Jesus' death all came true to the letter. Note the following predictions with their corresponding fulfillments: Bethlehem would be Christ's birthplace (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6); He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9; Matthew 26:47-50); thirty pieces of silver would be involved (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-15); no bones in His body would be broken at the crucifixion (Psalm 22:17; John 19:33-36; Psalm 22:16); He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:9-10; Acts 2:27-31) Each prediction came true to the smallest detail! How do you explain that except in terms of God?
THE BIBLE INFLUENCES THE WORLD AS NO OTHER BOOK
The Bible has inspired some of the world's greatest art, literature, music, and architecture. Consider Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper," Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Handel's "Messiah," and Michelangelo's St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.
The Bible also had profound influence on law. The laws upon which the United States was founded can be traced back through the English Common Law, the Magna Carta, and the Twelve Tables of Rome to the Mosaic Law as set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
True social reform has always followed proper understanding and genuine acceptance of Biblical principles. Pagan practices such as cannibalism and human sacrifices cannot and do not coexist with Biblical standards. High regard for women and their role as individuals find their origins in the Bible (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:25-33). The Bible has also provided inspiration for such humanitarian efforts as the founding of schools, hospitals, and orphanages.
The Bible's greatest influence, however, has been upon the world's spiritual life. Only the Bible points out man's sinfulness and sets before him God's standards of purity and holiness. Only the Bible reveals how men can be changed by Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Only the Bible provides meaning and direction for life.
In light of the evidence, we must conclude the Bible is something special. The "specialness" demands our careful attention and consideration. To ignore the Book with such an incredible record is utter foolishness! When it says the only way to know God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6), we had best believe it. When it says all things work together for good (to make us like Jesus Christ) for them that love God (Romans 8:28-29), we ought to take it at face value. Because it says we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8), we should evaluate our living patterns accordingly.
The Bible is the most remarkable book in the work, truly the living Word of God. It deserves our earnest, lifelong consideration and application!
Many people are surprised to learn that God has a personal blueprint for the life of every one of His children. The Bible says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). This suggests that before each of us who know Christ as Savior, is a divinely prepared pathway strewn with good works made ready for our hands. Along the way prepared for us will be all the people that He expects us to impact, all the work He expects us to accomplish, and all the discipline/training necessary to fit us for that work. Along that path lies what He Who knows the end from the beginning, has concluded is best for us.
There is no doubt about it, God has a plan for each believer's life. The Bible quotes God as saying in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans that I have for you...plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." See also Ephesians 5:17; Philippians 2:13; John 15:16.
GENERAL WILL AND SPECIFIC WILL - It is important to differentiate between God's general will and His specific will.
God's general will, among other things, includes:
How, where, when, and with whom this general will is carried out is God's specific will for us. But how is the "how, where, when, and with whom" determined? Or is it a "hit or miss" situation---pure guesswork? Or, can God's specific will be known in detail?
According to Ephesians 2:10 in the Bible, there is a specific will for each individual believer. However before revealing His plans to each person, God asks that certain "prerequisites" be met.
Prerequisites for Knowing God's Specific Will
Skillfulness in the use of God's Word
The individual who is able to discern God's will is skillful in the use of His Word. Obviously, God's general will---His plan, purpose, and standard for the believer's life and lifestyle---is found on the pages of His Word. In light of such verses as Psalms 119:105, 130 and Joshua 1:8, it seems logical to conclude that His specific will may be found there as well. For the believer, searching God's Word should be a daily discipline, opportunity, and responsibility. Through His Word God instructs, comforts, encourages, challenges, and directs, and so finding God's will need not be a frenzied, traumatic experience. Rather it should be the natural outworking of daily communication with Him. Thus, the individual who willingly takes time and knows how to allow God to speak through His Word will know His will.
Prerequisites to finding God's will are the personal preparations to be made by an individual. Indicators of God's will are the signposts by which God shows and confirms His will to the individual who has, by meeting the prerequisites, a prepared and qualified heart.
Indicators of God's Specific Will
[For an expanded consideration of these suggestions see "God Encountered," Volume One of Steps To Maturity, a three volume in depth Bible study course by Dr. David Clemens.]
Although one may not be able to understand and interpret a passage as thoroughly as a theologian, God must be trusted to honor a diligent and honest effort before Him. This is giving God every opportunity to activate our thinking with His thoughts as to details concerning His specific will for us, as it relates to the problem and/or question with which we struggle.
In today's frenetically paced world, God has a specific plan for our lives. Finding that plan through the utilization of God's Word is not always easy nor is such a use of God's Word intended to be a shortcut gimmick. Its success or failure hinges upon a basic honesty before God, a daily, continual exposure of oneself to God through His Word.
Differentiate between God's general and specific will. Work through the prerequisites and the indicators.
Review the following indicators. What do they suggest?
Remember that God must be allowed time to work and to give confirming evidence to the person waiting before Him.
This suggested method is simply a means of giving God opportunity to direct our lives and decisions through His Word. The Spirit of God can use the written Word of God to guide us into an understanding of His general and specific will as He impresses our mind with thoughts generated by what we read in the Scriptures. Why not give Him an opportunity to do so?
God knows, He loves, He cares
Nothing this truth can dim,
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him
[The answer to the question, "How can I know God's will?" was adapted from "What Should I Do?", lesson 18 of "God Encountered", Volume one of Steps to Maturity, a three-volume in-depth Bible study course by Dr. David Clemens.]
The Bible teaches that God created man (and woman) with the ability to choose and to make decisions. He was given this ability because God wanted companionship with someone who would choose to respond to Him (Gen. 1:26, 27; 3:6-13). Without the power of choice, mankind would be a mere machine. By giving man and woman the capacity to choose, God risked the possibility that they would make a wrong choice. When man chose to disobey God's one restrictive command, he sinned (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-6; Rom. 5:12). Adam and Eve lost their innocence by choosing to disobey God.
God's holiness demands that He judge and punish man's disobedience. As a result, Adam was subjected to physical and spiritual death, and the earth was cursed. The earth is now subject to natural calamities (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20-23).
Creation was made subject to vanity, that is, "without value, or usefulness, or profit" (Rom. 8:20). Things were thrown sufficiently out of joint that each project seemed to end in failure and accomplish little which could be considered good in the ultimate sense. Creation was subjected to corruption (Rom. 8:21). The processes of decay, disintegration, dissolution, and death were begun and have taken their toll through the centuries. The creation now groans in despair, crying for deliverance (Rom. 8:22, 23). From a human point of view, God, in anger or disgust, could have abandoned or destroyed man. Instead, He promised (Gen. 3:15) and sent (John 3:16) a Savior.
God's love and patience are long suffering (2 Pet. 3:9). He continues to allow men and women to choose to reject His plan of salvation through Christ (John 3:16; 3:36; 1:12; Rom. 5:8). Because God allows us the right of choice we can make choices not only in the area of eternal destiny, but in other matters as well. Unfortunately, however, our choices (because they are not His choices) often result in personal harm or in harm to others. God allows these choices - even wrong ones - because He is longsuffering. He is permitting man and women time to make the supreme choice of Himself (John 3:36; 2 Pet. 3:9). However, God's patience will not last forever. He warned His people before the Flood of His waning patience (Gen. 6:3) and Peter notes that God's patience, as in the Flood time, will once again cease (2 Pet. 3:4-16).
Today the question frequently asked is, "Why would a good God permit suffering, war, famine, and man's inhumanity to man?" Often the argument runs this way:
"A world which is obviously full of evil and suffering…could not be attributed to an omnipotent, holy God. If God were omnipotent and yet allows evil to develop and continue, then He is not good. If God desires to rid the world of evil, but is unable to do so, then He is not omnipotent. In either case, He cannot be an omnipotent, all-righteous God, so the objection goes, and therefore the God of the Bible does not exist."
The Christian should be prepared to answer these questions. To answer, keep in mind the four key words - choice, sin, holiness, and patience. All the evil in the world today - in the final analysis - is the result of sin, man's wrong choice. God's holiness had to judge sin, but He did not, indeed could not, originate it (Jas. 1:13-15). One day, however, God will permit evil no more. The curse and the effects of sin will forever be removed (Rev. 22:3-4; Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13). When that day finally comes, those who have not chosen Christ as Savior will have no further chance to do so. Their doom will be eternally sealed.
Presently, God waits patiently, giving all an opportunity to make the right choice. Because we all have friends and family members who have as yet not decided for Christ, we ought to thank Him for His patience and get busy discharging our responsibility in His program and plan (instead of resenting God for allowing evil to continue and feeling sorry for ourselves).
A study of pain and suffering in the Bible reveals that it all can be explained in terms of:
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
September 11, 2001 is a date that now sadly joins December 7, 1941 (the day of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan which plunged America into World War II) as a "day that will live in infamy."
We now know that on that fateful morning at the start of the work day, at least 19 Muslim extremists hijacked four U.S. commercial jetliners and plunged them into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. These crashes reduced these fixtures of New York City's skyline to rubble. Hijackers then crashed a third jet into the Pentagon near Washington D.C. A fourth hijacked plane, also diverted toward Washington, after a struggle between hijackers and determined passengers, crashed in Western Pennsylvania. The death toll, including those killed in the four hijacked aircraft currently stands at almost 7000, far outdistancing the 2400 killed nearly 60 years in the Pearl Harbor attack. This attack is the worst attack on civilians in U.S. history.
In light of such catastrophic events, the question often asked is, "Why?" If God exists (and according to the Bible He does - Genesis 1:1), and if He is sovereign and in control of all things (and according to the Bible He is - Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 115:3; 103:19), why does He allow such events as these to take place? WHY?
This was a question that troubled the old Hebrew prophet Habakkuk, who lived and worked in the final days of the nation of Judah. This was just before the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar first invaded and took prisoners of war, including Daniel, to Babylon where they would languish for 70 years. Habakkuk lived to see increasing evil in Judah, apparently unpunished by God (Habakkuk 1:2-2:1). He couldn't understand the ways and workings of God. We hear him cry out to God, "How long?" (Habakkuk 1:2-11). In anguish, he also asks "WHY?" repeatedly (1:3,12-2:1).
Ah, the ways and workings of God, who can understand them? Indeed, from time to time we all struggle with and wonder at them. From the cross, even Jesus Christ cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). We as humans are always asking "Why?" It has always been so.
God Himself informs us why we struggle with and wonder at His ways and workings. That old Hebrew gentleman Isaiah, the prophet, quotes God as saying, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). Because God's ways are beyond us, we ask "Why?" in our pain, confusion, and anguish.
I think of several Bible characters
When Habakkuk agonizingly asked "Why?", God simply responded by saying, "Habakkuk, you have got to trust Me." In the best known and most frequently quoted verse from the whole book of Habakkuk, God said, "the righteous will live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
To John the Baptizer, who was unjustly imprisoned and would soon die, Jesus Christ in essence said the same thing---"TRUST ME!" Jesus said this when John was questioning His methods and the way He was doing things (Luke 7:18-23). John thought Jesus, as the announced Messiah, should be leading a rebellion against the hated Roman Empire, whose Legions were presently occupying Israel. Instead, Jesus was preoccupied with "healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching the Gospel" (Luke 7:21-22). When John expressed his confusion and inability to understand, Jesus simply said, in effect, "trust Me, and happy is the man who does so" (Luke 7:23).
Dr. Billy Graham, speaking eloquently at the Day of Prayer and Remembrance service in Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral, honoring the memory of those who died in the terrorist attack of September 11, reminded America of this essential need to trust God when what He permits breaks the heart and is almost impossible to understand. It is at this precise moment that our faith and trust in the God Who is "too wise to make a mistake and too deep to explain Himself" must assert itself.
Why does God do what He does? Why does His allow what He does? I don't know. His ways and workings are beyond me. But I do know that He is good (Psalm 100:5), in complete control (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:35), does what pleases Him (Psalm 115:3), has a plan that is for our well-being, not our calamity (Jeremiah 29:11), loves us (John 3:16; 13:1b; Romans 5:18), and promises to take care of us (Isaiah 41:10). It is this God of the Bible Who invites us to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). What He said to John the Baptizer, He says to us today---"Trust Me," and "happy is he who is not offended by Me" (Luke 7:23). The Psalmist was right when He wrote (interestingly, in the central verse of the entire Bible), "It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust (put confidence) in man; it is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9).
Events like the horrendous atrocities that took place on September 11, in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Central Pennsylvania defy human explanation and leave us with all kinds of questions, especially the haunting "WHY?" questions. It is precisely at times like this we must do as God instructs---we must trust Him.
It was the Apostle Paul who said, "Oh, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For from Him and through him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:33, 36). The Psalmist added, "O Lord of hosts, how blessed (or happy) is the man who trusts (relies on, leans on, has confidence) in Thee!" (Psalm 84:12).
That's it! Paul rested his case there. Indeed, if we could only see the WHO behind the scene (the One Who is love (1 John 4:8), the One Who is good (Nahum 1:7; 1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 106:1; 107:1), the One Who, for reasons perhaps known only to Him, permitted and did not prevent the sad and tragic events of September 11). If we could only see Him, we would stop asking WHY?
All other sounds are muffled when we dare to claim and trust His unfailing goodness, His undying love, His absolute sovereignty, and His total control of all things. Even the deafening sound of four crashing airliners.