As he approached the rim, he began to smell the smoke. The terrain and rocks under his feet were a color and texture foreign to his experience. Suddenly he was there, and his gaze fell deep into the crater toward the glow of fire in what the locals call, “The Mouth of Hell,” the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua. Wrestling with his sense of danger, it helped to recall inspecting the eerie confines of a witch doctor in Haiti and braving the murderous streets of Ciudad Juarez.
This could begin the fictional, fanciful tale of an unfulfilled adventurer. But it could be a true story with witnesses still alive that could authenticate the details.
A fabricated story widely published as true wouldn’t take long to unravel. That’s what happened in 2003 when Jason Blair lost his job with the New York Times over made-up stories. Perhaps worse, journalist Janet Cooke had to return a Pulitzer Prize for a story she fabricated. Late in 2014, the false Sabrina Erdely story in Rolling Stones magazine did great harm to the University of Virginia. In these cases people read the stories and knew they were not true, and made noise about it.
This idea forms one of the reasons you can believe the Bible. It is not a collection of philosophical musings or arbitrary morality. It is a narrative that contain specific details of places, times, and people while revealing truth about God and people. Wouldn’t it make sense that if God were to reveal truth via the written word, He would include historical, verifiable details about real people so it would be plausible? Indeed, at the times the various books of the New Testament were written, the people in the stories were still alive! The books were copied and distributed far and wide with no fear that someone in the story would show up and declare, “Hey, that didn’t happen!”
Paul makes that point himself, writing about all the people who witnessed the resurrected Christ, “He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now” (1Cor 15:6). He was using their experiences and living witness as proof of truth. Besides, why would Christians maintain a collective lie while enduring the withering persecution the early church faced?
The Bible is trustworthy. Sure, it has been misaligned, misused, and misunderstood. But its purpose remains to reveal that God invites you to trust the Jewish Messiah, sent to take away the sins of the world. That’s good news!
By the way, I’d be glad to recount the tales of my travels to Nicaragua, Haiti, and Juarez to anyone willing to listen (and I have witnesses)!