By: James Simpson
DC Independent Examiner
David Limbaugh is a lawyer, nationally syndicated columnist and best-selling author of six books. He is also a born-again Christian. In his latest book, Jesus On Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Bible, Limbaugh brings the Bible alive, and shows how relevant – indeed critical – it is for our daily living.
Limbaugh wrote this book to describe his journey from skeptic to believer – a journey he completed over 20 years ago. While he goes out of his way to emphasize he is “no expert” on the Bible, Limbaugh provides a fresh perspective from someone who, like many of us, struggled with Biblical concepts before taking the final plunge. For anyone with questions about any aspect of Christianity, this book provides a treasure trove of insights.
For example, he uses the Israelites’ experience in the desert to explain how God expects us to surrender our wills and depend on His word. In their desert experience, the Israelites were provided just enough manna from Heaven to get them through each day. God provided it in this manner to teach them dependence upon him. When they defied Him and used more than their daily share, or sought manna on the Sabbath against God’s instruction, their food “bred worms and stank” or they found none at all.
“These were transcendent messages,” Limbaugh instructs, “just as applicable to us today as to the Israelites in the wilderness. Just as they were to be dependent upon God each day for their physical sustenance, Christians today are to lean on Him daily for their spiritual nourishment… Our spiritual manna must be sought daily… When we fail to stay in the Word or fail to pray or exercise other spiritual disciplines, we inevitably backslide because we are living in a fallen world and are subject to enormous temptations. God actively desires that we have an intimate relationship with Him. He does not want us to rely on our own power, but to humble ourselves before Him and seek the strength of His spirit to empower us for daily living.”
Simpson: This book, I think, fills a pressing need for those who struggle with some Christian concepts. It’s a great idea. You say you are “no expert” but when did you come to Christ?
Limbaugh: It happened gradually so there was no sharp turning point but it was over twenty years ago.
Simpson: God promises the “in-dwelling Holy Spirit” to Christians. When you converted, did you feel this happen?
Limbaugh: No, I had no magical feeling like some people talk about. But I take the Bible at face value and at its word. I do feel that it has made me more discerning and given me insights I wouldn’t have otherwise. After becoming a believer, I began to see my sinfulness with greater clarity. When I expressed concern about this to one of my spiritual mentors at the time, he reassured me, saying that the Holy Spirit illuminates our sinfulness for us and that I should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, by this. It is ironic that the indwelling Holy Spirit, which empowers believers to overcome their struggles with sin on a daily basis, also makes them more aware of their true condition. But as it turns out, that clarity of self-perception and the humility it triggers are essential for spiritual growth. My mentor was not suggesting that I should be proud that I was now recognizing my sinful condition, but he was saying that my sensitivity to it was a strong sign that the Holy Spirit had begun to work on me. We should be more concerned, he said, about a believer who gets puffed up with pride and thinks he has wholly eradicated sin from his life.
Da Vinci Code
Hollywood is notorious for spinning yarns into historical reality. Every time I see the words “based on a true story” rolling by in the credits, it usually turns out to be a total fabrication of a real person’s life, or a wild improvisation of some oft-repeated wives tale.
Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” was one of these. Limbaugh describes how the book and later the movie mischaracterized the Bible as being founded on “myths and legends.” One of Brown’s characters for example, says that “almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” Especially, Brown promotes the idea that the Biblical Gospels were the result of a 250 year struggle between competing versions, many of which did not treat Christ as a deity.
Simpson: You talk about “Da Vinci Code” in your book, and how it has distorted the truth of the Bible for many people.
Limbaugh: Brown and people like him who promote that narrative are dead wrong in claiming there were competing Gospel accounts. For example, they imply that Jesus was considered a mortal prophet by his early followers, not divine. Jesus, they say, was only defined as the Son of God following the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Da Vinci Code claimed that there were some 80 competing gospels and the New Testament that emerged just represented the victors in that struggle – not even the best versions. The Da Vinci Code spread doubts about the New Testament’s authenticity. I saw this in evidence even among friends and acquaintances.
But the evidence shows otherwise. Christ’s divinity was settled very early by his apostles and disciples. The Gospel accounts make that very clear. This is corroborated by secular accounts. As governor of Bithynia, what is now part of Turkey, Pliny the Younger (AD 61-113) wrote to Roman Emperor Trajan about how Christians held pre-dawn worship services for Christ, treating him as a god. Christian disagreements were over more mundane issues such as circumcision or the eating of sacrificial meat. None disputed that Christ was God’s Son, who fulfilled Old Testament prophesies, died on the Cross for our sins and was resurrected from the dead. Christ’s divinity was firmly established from the beginning. Christianity’s critics are the ones making the myths.
For those who suggest that we can’t rely on the Bible on these issues, we must understand that the Bible and it’s writer’s are remarkably reliable. The gospels were actually written between 50-60 and 90 AD. Since Jesus was alive for about the first 33 years AD, that means they were written between 20 and 60 years after his death, which is a remarkably short period of time. In addition, we have more manuscript copies of the New Testament (and the Old Testament) than we do for any other ancient writing, and it’s not even close. For most ancient manuscripts that we routinely accept as reliable, there are an average of ten to twenty copies. Homer’s Iliad is the exception, but it’s 1,800 copies pale in comparison to the 25,000 copies of the New Testament and about half that for the Old Testament. These large number of copies is what facilitates examination by textual critics, who are able to compare and cross-reference to determine what the original source document contained. As it turns out, few serious scholars, conservative or critical, doubt that the Bible has come down to us as it was originally written. The minor “variants” that have occurred from transmission errors do not affect the substance of the text and certainly no point of Christian doctrine. So we know that the text is reliable. How about the writers? There were nine writers who were either eye witnesses or close associates of eye witnesses. They stressed that they were committed to historical accuracy. See the very first four verses of Luke’s gospel. More importantly, they were all transformed from doubters to ardent believers and proclaimers of the gospel once they’d seen the risen Christ. They would have never subjected themselves to persecution and martyrdom on something they knew to be a lie. The variations and diversity among the gospel accounts adds to, rather than detracts from, their credibility. Also, if they have been manufacturing a clean, neat conspiracy, they wouldn’t have included embarrassing facts about themselves, such as Peter’s cowardly denying Jesus three times, or the apostles’ pettiness in vying to be the greatest in the kingdom.
Simpson What to you is the most compelling evidence science offers of God’s existence?
Limbaugh Science does not disprove the hand of God. It affirms it. Consider the marvel of DNA and the irreducible complexity of the cell. Consider the fine-tuning of the universe to permit life, such as the properties of water, the size of protons versus electrons, the earth’s distance from the sun – if off just slightly, life would not exist. Consider the Big Bang. The universe had a beginning. No one disputes that but the skeptics can’t explain how it happened. There had to have been a creative force. Modern scientific discoveries point toward intelligent design, not away from it. Life’s incredible complexity greatly undermines Darwinism. There is no credible fossil evidence of transitional forms leading to Man. In fact, the fossil record affirmatively points to the opposite conclusion. Darwinists can’t explain the so-called Cambrian explosion, sometimes referred to as biology’s big bang, in which almost all the major groups of animals that we know to exist began to appear in the fossil record abruptly and fully formed in strata from the Cambrian period (around 500-600 million years ago).
Simpson I read somewhere that Darwin believed in God, and saw his hand in everything he observed.
Limbaugh: Maybe, I don’t know. But the Darwinian notion of macro-evolution, in my view, is not reconcilable with biblical Christianity, which teaches, unequivocally, that God created man in His image and that He created each species. I believe Darwinism, at least how it has come to be expanded and accepted, is one of the biggest hoaxes perpetrated on mankind.
Simpson What about the archaeological record?
Limbaugh Archaeology had nothing to do with my conversion, but there is extensive archaeological evidence to support the Bible. The words of Sir William Ramsey, the famed 19th century archaeologist of Asia Minor are particularly convincing. Critical scholars of the time believed Luke’s book of Acts was not a reliable historical document and was written much later than asserted by defenders of the Bible. Ramsey started out in that camp but through his research and experience ended up believing that Luke’s history in the book of Acts was “unsurpassed” in its accuracy.
In the book Limbaugh offers innumerable other examples of archaeological evidence. For example, we now know that Jesus’ trial was held in Jerusalem’s Roman military headquarters, the Tower of Antonia. Archaeologists may also have discovered the bones of Caiaphas, the Jerusalem high priest who oversaw Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The Gospel of John identifies the Well of Jacob, the Pool of Bethesda with five porches, and the Pool of Siloam. All these places have since been identified.
Simpson: What about pain and suffering? That is a stumbling block for many people.
Limbaugh: It used to be a major stumbling block for me. People ask “Why would an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God allow all this evil and suffering to go on in the world?” Ironically, for me, the pervasiveness of evil we see in the world is actually reaffirming of the Bible’s authenticity, because it so accurately describes the state of the human condition. I also believe that if we had evolved from primitive life forms we would have no sense of morality. Making these moral judgments about God, which is what we do when we question why He would allow evil, is self-defeating, because we couldn’t make them without an external moral reference and that reference must be God Himself. But still, why would God have created us, only to allow us to suffer? Well, think about it: He could have created us as automatons who followed him slavishly, but that would have been pointless. Instead He created us in His image and for the purpose of having a loving relationship with Him. For us to be capable of love, He had to give us free will. Free will introduces the possibility of evil, sin, and suffering. People can choose to follow him or not. The ultimate answer is the cross. Jesus was not always incarnate but had to become incarnate. God sent his own son to live as a human and suffer indescribably on the cross as a human. He suffered for us and with us and will remain in human form for eternity so that we can share his company for eternity. As the late evangelist John Stott said, some imagine God to be sitting on a celestial deck chair, indifferent to our sin. But to the contrary, He sent His only Son to suffer with us and for us, and He continues to do so today. This is the God of the Cross. This is Jesus Christ.
Simpson: Good answer. What about Original sin? Do you believe in it?
Limbaugh: Sure, I take inspired Scripture at its word, but ultimately it really doesn’t matter because we all do and will sin. We can wonder “what if?” Adam had not sinned. Adam would have sinned no matter what because it is in man’s nature.
Simpson: Even little children?
Limbaugh: Sure. We all express our sinful nature from the day we are born. As “innocent” as they are, their sinfulness is noticeable early on.
Simpson: A Christian friend observed to me that you have to teach kids how to behave well. You don’t have to teach them how to be bad. They do that stuff automatically. You don’t have to teach Johnny, for example, to pull his sister’s hair. You do have to teach him not to.
Simpson: You say in the book that Christianity is “under fierce attack” today. Why do you think that is?
Limbaugh: Because the Bible is true. It provides an unwavering and clear moral standard. Many people today do not want a moral standard. So much of mankind is in rebellion against God – the God of the Bible.
Simpson: What is the most important thing you would like readers to know about your book?
Limbaugh: I took great pains to write this book respectfully toward unbelievers. I used to be one. I do not mock, ridicule, or judge them. I encourage them, humbly, to take a serious look at the Bible with an open mind and open heart. Don’t base your final decision concerning it on what others have told you about it. Study it yourself and also study the overwhelming evidence for Christianity’s truth claims that I’ve laid out in Jesus on Trial. I think you might be very surprised. I also wrote the book for believers, both new Christians who can use a jump-start on Christian doctrine, which I have included in at least two chapters, and mature believers, who from time to time need their faith reaffirmed. This book, which points to Scripture and the evidence demonstrating it is the authentic Word of God, will, I believe, help reaffirm their faith.
Simpson: Thank you for your time, David.