Köstenberger, Andreas J., Darrell L. Bock, and Josh D. Chatraw. Truth in a Culture of Doubt. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2014. 194 pp. $19.99
Over the past 15 years, Bart Ehrman has become the public face of popular cultural skepticism of evangelical Christianity in general and the reliability of the Bible specifically. A countless number of former and current college students on campuses around the country have been, and are continually, wooed by his writings and debates into the abyss of doubt in relation to anything orthodox or historical in regard the Christian faith.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, Darrell L. Bock, and Josh D. Chatraw seek to address this reality with their recent work, Truth in a Culture of Doubt. Although the title suggests a work that deals with the concept of truth and doubt in a general way, it fails to convey the thrust and specific intent of the book—which is to directly deal with Ehrman’s claims regarding Christianity and Scripture. The authors specifically selected Ehrman to address because, in their own words, he is the “best known, public-square spokesperson for skepticism and the Christian faith” (xii).
There are a host of works that are available in response to Ehrman, however, this work is unique as it provides a summary of Ehrman’s claims across the spectrum of disciplines and provides an “accessible” (ix) response to them.
This accessibility aspect of the book is one of its greatest strengths. Sandwiched between the Introduction and Conclusion are five chapters that address broad categories of claims by Ehrman, and then offer responses to each. The categories addressed in the chapters are “Is God Immoral Because He Allows Suffering?”, “Is the Bible Full of Irresolvable Contradictions?”, “Are the Biblical Manuscripts Corrupt?”, “Were There Many Christianities?”, and “Are Many New Testament Documents Forged?”.
Each chapter is broken down by the specific claims Ehrman makes related to the category, with a concise, accessible, but sufficient, answer to each claim. Furthermore, the book’s accessibility is increased at the end of the book when the authors provide a glossary that restates each claim and a one paragraph summary response.
The book is a worthwhile and excellent read in its entirety, but this format allows for the work to also serve as a quick reference, as specific questions and answers can quickly be located and read, negating the necessity to read the entire book or chapter.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
No doubt, this book is more useful to some pastors than others. However, it is difficult to imagine a pastoral context in the United States where Truth in a Culture of Doubt would not be a must have resource for the pastor’s library.
While it may be true that the questions addressed in this book are more common in an urban/city context where universities and younger demographics are more prevalent, the reality is that rural congregations are far from immune from these issues.
Any church member who watches CNN or the History Channel is going to be exposed to these issues and questions, and more so when their son or daughter takes a religion class at the university level and comes home on Christmas and Summer break asking these questions.
Pastors must be prepared and equipped to answer these valid questions when our members come to us with them. Additionally, we must be prepared with a reasonable and responsible answer when non-Christians raise these questions as they consider the truthfulness of the claims of the Christian faith. To not be prepared is a dereliction of pastoral responsibility.
For some contexts, this work will not be technical enough. For those, there are other excellent resources (see Köstenberger and Michael J. Kruger’s The Heresy of Orthodoxy and Kruger’s The Question of Canon along with Canon Revisited).
However, for most, this work serves to faithfully introduce and equip the pastor (as a resource for him and one to be given out) to be prepared for questions coming from a culture with an increasing posture of doubt regarding truth claims of the Christian faith.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Truth in a Culture of Doubt is an essential resource for every pastor to have in equipping them to have reasonable and responsible answers to increasing questions of skepticism regarding historic Christian teachings regarding faith and Scripture.