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Light of the Word: Is the Bible True?

Have you ever paused to consider why - or if - you believe the Bible? Susan Lim shares her own answers.


Light of the Word: Is the Bible True?

By Susan C. Lim


Darkness covered most of my childhood—the kind of darkness that leaves you scared and disoriented. Abuse, loneliness, and neglect were familiar companions, and I often cried myself to sleep. One night when I was twelve years old, I was drowning in tears, when out of nowhere a strange peace entered into the room. A transcendent love unlike anything I’d even known wrapped around my soul. This feeling was more than a feeling. It was pure love. It was pure light. And I knew somehow at that moment that God was real.

My parents were Buddhists so my childhood understanding of God was tethered to their faith. We went to a temple on weekends. The monk was warm and inviting, and he kindly answered all of my questions about life and spirituality. He even taught me some chants and rituals. But the more I learned about the Buddhist ways, I was certain that the God whom I had experienced was way bigger than anything that the monk described.

Despite this incredible experience of love and light, my day-to-day changed little. As I got older, I searched for acceptance in all the wrong places and found myself in more trouble and heartbreak than imaginable. Then one day, a friend invited me to join her high school youth group at a Presbyterian church. I disobeyed my parents and attended secretly, disregarding the ominous warning that the Christian “spirits,” as my mom termed it, would bring back luck to our Buddhist family. Little did I know then that the Christian “Spirit”—the Holy Spirit—would do more than any of us could have imagined.

I look back to that fateful night and the decades since, and I can mark two distinct moments when the Holy Spirit forever changed my course. The first was the moment of salvation. This was when the Holy Spirit opened my spiritual eyes and heart to wholeheartedly accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Fifteen years later, the Holy Spirit led me to a second pivotal moment where I wholeheartedly accepted the entire Bible as the very words of the living God.

I spent over fifteen years as a Christian quoting, memorizing, studying, and teaching Scripture. At one point, I even wrote out the entire Bible by hand. But deep in my heart was an unbelief that festered without my knowing, and my unbeknownst secret came to light one random morning in 2007.

I was reading the Bible when the Holy Spirit stirred my soul and made me pause from the familiar verses. The Spirit convicted me of my unbelief in such a gentle but firm manner by whispering into my spirit: “You don’t believe what you’re reading.”

I remember saying out loud in response, “You’re right … these words sound nice, but I don’t believe that they’re from you. How can they? Written by men on parchment, handed down from generation to generation. And some of the stories in here … I just can’t.”

These words, this confession tumbled out, and I hadn’t even realized that they had taken residence in my soul.

Prior to this point, I failed to love or truly believe in the entire Bible. There were certain parts—such as the Gospels and the Psalms—that seemed more believable. But there were many (many) parts I did not believe or understand. I felt spiritually anemic, hoping that the next day would be better if I tried harder. I felt like I was groping in the darkness and lost in my faith. But learning about the history of the Bible was like light dawning after a long and confusing season.

I taught American History for two decades, and I see how not knowing the past easily leads to present-day confusion.

The same is true of knowing the history of the Bible. Knowing how God wove his Word through the ages serves as a light in our faith journey and rekindles our commitment to learning and living out the Scriptures.

Finally it dawned on me that God wanted me to ask questions about Scripture. These questions did not offend or unsettle him. He invited and aroused these questions so I would know his Word better. So I would know him better.


Adapted from Light of the Word: How Knowing the History of the Bible Illuminates our Faith by Susan C. Lim. ©2023 by Susan C. Lim. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press.

Susan Lim is a former professor who spent over 20 years teaching in higher education.  She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in history (B.A. from UC Berkeley and M.A. and PhD from UCLA) and spent several decades researching the Puritans and colonial religion in North America at large. But she is now venturing into new territory by researching the history of the Bible. She is the author of Light of the Word: How Knowing the History of the Bible Illuminates our Faith. Still a historian at heart, she desires to devote her second career to studying the making and revelation of Scripture. She is passionate about God, family, friends, good food, and napping.


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