Know Why You Believe
After 2,000 years, no question is going to bring Christianity crashing.”
With cryptic statements like this my husband, Paul, found his niche in university settings talking to students about Christianity.
Paul fearfully approached the designated “Greek” house at the University of Kansas for a 6 p.m. dinner where he would give a fifteen-minute introductory talk followed by questions from the men. As a new staff member with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, he was terrified. His fears were magnified because it was a scholarship hall—really brainy students. Further, it was a Jewish scholarship hall! He later described his prayer that day as he walked to the door of the fraternity house:
Lord, you know I always stub my toe when I try to explain Christian basics clearly to people with questions. Why must I begin in a residence reserved for the smartest students? They’ll tear me apart limb from limb. I’ll not live the night out!
To Paul’s amazement, one young man had his life turned around that night by the “new” thought that God offered him a new life and the power to live it. That young man decided to become a Christian.
Encouraged by the good response of this one man, Paul continued. He traveled from campus to campus, leading dorm and fraternity sessions and tirelessly spending hours talking one-on-one with students. From hundreds of campuses on five continents he sought to capture the attention of the bored, the intellectual, the athletic. He used clipped questions to jog the thinking and help the listeners examine their present worldviews, ranging from scientific determinism to rabid existentialism. He sprinkled in a few “sure-fire jokes” and other good humor. He’d say, “You exercised blind faith if you ate in a restaurant today.” “Believing something doesn’t make it true; refusing to believe it doesn’t make it false.” “Many people who say they don’t believe the Bible have actually never read it.”
In twenty-five years of lecturing Paul found that regardless of the group there were twelve commonly asked questions. “They are predictable,” he said. “If we think through the answers to the common questions we hear, we’ll know the answers to the right ones. Right answers to the wrong questions aren’t of much help!” From his own study of the Bible and research of biblical scholars, he framed his answers. That’s how Know Why You Believe was born.
The message of this newly edited book is entirely Paul’s. I have added some new illustrations from the specialized fields of archaeology and science. In each area I have followed the capsulized biblical basics that are Paul’s intentional focus. Two scholars and dialecticians from the staff of Willow Creek Community Church, Judson Poling and Brad Mitchell, have provided me with indispensible help in preparing this edition. I am indebted to both for their wisdom.
It has been twenty-four years since the day when the dread news came of my husband’s death in an automobile accident. I am awed that God has continued using these answers. Paul would probably shake his head soberly and say, “This is God’s work; the light comes from him.” The Bible is stalwart and trustworthy in the light of any challenge. As Paul said, no one will think up a question that will bring Christianity crashing even after two thousand years. The many stories I continue to hear of God’s using these words affirm the extraordinary impact of God’s truth that we all seek.
Just recently I gave a copy of this book to a searching young Sikh woman. After she and her husband had visited me several times in my living room she told me, “This book answered all my questions.” She became a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ—additionally, a sterling wife and mother. Amazing grace.
Mt. Prospect, Illinois
Marie Little, “Introduction: How This Book Began,” in Know Why You Believe (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2009).