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Can I really trust the Bible? Paperback – July 8, 2014
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About the Author
Barry Cooper is an author and speaker. He s the Director of Product Development at Christianity Explored Ministries.
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Some would criticize Cooper’s approach to relying on one’s experience to really learn if the Bible can be trusted. However, Can I Trust the Bible? is not a book that depends only on experiences to determine one’s personal faith journey. Rather, Cooper also provides tangible arguments to ground his claims for the validity of scripture. An argument that stood out from the book was how he connects the Old Testament with the New Testament. He mentions that the word testament is really another word for covenant and that the two testaments are two halves of the same story. His biblical approach to theology is important because he grounds his basis for scriptures validity in facts, while displaying how this fact can enhance one’s experience with the Bible. Admiring the poetic and detailed nature of God, who carefully weaved redemption throughout humanities history, one can see He planned it from the start. As a result, this combination of fact and experience leaves readers in awe of the Bible and more in love with God. His planned story of redemption can be seen on each page.
Cooper continues to argue for the validity of scripture by encouraging people to make sure they worship the God of the Bible than the book itself. Simply he writes, “God makes himself known through Jesus, who is revealed in the Bible.” Here he is distinguishing between the Word and the word. This is not just a semantic of grammar. No, he is advocating that one must remember that the word of God (the Bible) points us to the Word of God (Jesus Christ), and there is a huge difference. Failure to see this nuance can cause one to worship a book more than a risen Savior. Now these two “words” are not in competition with another. Rather, they compliment each other as it’s Jesus alone who is worthy of worship and the Bible tells one how. Similar to the time of Christ, Cooper writes,
“That’s why he lambasts the Bible scholars of his day: they spend their lives studying the Scriptures, but they won’t allow the Scriptures to lead them to the person the Scriptures speak of. They want the word, but they do not want the Word.”
Remember both the word and the Word compliment another, but scripture is always submissive to Christ without contradiction because it points to Jesus who is the hope on which the Bible is founded on. Therefore, the Bible (the word) can be trusted by trusting Christ who is the Word. Failure to trust in Christ, which the Bible gives record of will cause anyone to doubt the Bible’s overall validity because He too has to be experienced.
As one reads the books in the Questions Christians Ask series it’s important to remember they are written for Christians. This is important to remember with Can I Trust the Bible? because a skeptic would find fault with Cooper’s reasoning. They would call it circular logic, which the book does contain. However, Cooper prepares for such a criticism by saying, “it’s impossible for any of us to avoid this kind of circularity in our arguments.” In other words, each of us holds a set of biases about what we believe, even if we admit it or not. If Cooper is correct in his presupposition about our biases then it stands to reason that not only does circular logic exist, but the only way to see past our biases is to try new things. The Bible then would be no different and would leave people to their own experiences of faith to determine if they are going to trust scripture or continue to reason their way out of taking a leap of faith.
It was important that Cooper wrote Can I Trust the Bible? very well because this is the foundation book in the Questions Christians Ask series. After all, since every other book in this series uses the Bible as the foundation for its worldview then it would be critical that we can trust the Bible. Otherwise, every other book in this series is invalidated. Despite this large task, Cooper got Can I Trust the Bible? right. He wrote a book that is rooted in fact, yet dynamic enough for anyone, Christian or not, to desire to simply trust the truths scripture makes. He did this by including some basic apologetics and historical facts, while encouraging each person to experience the Bible’s truthfulness for their own life. Therefore, one can ask, “Can I trust the Bible?” Factually the answer is yes, but the point Cooper makes is really, “Are you willing to trust the Bible in your own experience?” That’s a question and an answer that is up to each person. As parents tell kids when they want them to try new food, “Why don’t you ‘taste and see.’” Spiritually when you do, this book suggests you will know and experience that “The Lord is good.” It’s now up to you.
(I received this book through the Cross Focused Review program in exchange for an honest review of the book.)
One thing I really like about the book is how the author is conscious of nonbelievers and young believers in the faith that would be reading his book. For instance, I appreciate Cooper explaining what verses are and the history of the Bible being divided into chapters and verses. There are helpful small excursuses throughout the book answering questions such as “What’s inside the Bible?” and “Aren’t some of the stories from Jesus’ life just legends and later additions?”
I also think that Cooper does a great job packing this small book with many illustrations that are helpful in supporting his explanation. For instance, in explaining why he begins with the question of what does the Bible claims about itself he gives the illustration of two individuals on vacation talking about the identity of someone they just saw and how it would not make be rational if these two individuals only engage in speculation but never bother to ask the person at all. Likewise it would also be unwise to speculate on what is the characteristic and identity of the Bible if we never look at the Bible’s own claim of itself. In considering the remarkable unity in the flow of redemptive history, Cooper gave this short illustration: “What if multiple authors had each written a single page of this little book you’re holding? What if each author wrote in different genres, in different centuries and in different countries, with no ‘master plan’ for them to consult? What is the likelihood that it would make any sense at all?” (38). Concerning multiple Bible versions, Cooper also made this point: “Jus because there are 15 different English translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, it doesn’t mean we can’t know what Dante meant” (56). Another good one: “The person who never wants the Bible to be hard is like the person who goes to the gym and never want to sweat” (74).
In reviewing this book I must also state my bias as someone who subscribe to Presuppositional apologetics. I am somewhat weary of works by naïve evidentialists who does not give much room for God’s Word to be self-evidencing and who up share evidences without conscious consideration of one’s philosophy of evidence. I was glad that this is not one of those works. I was surprised to see the author in several instances quote from John Frame (a plus!). In particular I was impressed with how Cooper dealt with the objection that an argument for the Bible as God’s Word is circular: Cooper would ask a question that would reveal the interlocutor’s own circular authority and Cooper also noted the nature of any ultimate authority would begin with itself or otherwise if it appeal to another authority, than that new authority is the ultimate authority. It is good to see a book of this size be conscious of the issue of ultimate authority!
In terms of constructive criticism, I wished Cooper could have gone through more Messianic prophecies that was fulfilled in Scripture. Cooper did mention Isaiah 53 and Micah 5:2. But I think Cooper accomplished a lot in 81 pages.
I highly recommend this book.
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.
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This little booklet on the trustworthiness of the Bible is a rich resource devoted toward helping people stand squarely...Read more