By Keysha Drexel
As millions of Christians around the world prepare to observe Easter next weekend, a Homewood author is hoping those gathered to celebrate a Risen Christ on March 31 know that the events we’ve learned about in Sunday school really happened.
And the reason we know those events actually happened, says Richard E. Simmons III in his new book, “Reliable Truth: The Validity of the Bible in an Age of Skepticism,” is because the Bible is more than a powerful piece of ancient literature–it is a factual account of actual events.
“I truly believe there is very compelling evidence to demonstrate that the Bible is historically accurate,” he said.
To come to that conclusion, Simmons spent 30 years gathering evidence after questioning whether the Bible had been altered over time and how we know it is a divine book.
“I never had a real crisis of faith, but in college and after college, I was troubled by the fact that I was told to believe in the Bible but I was never really told why,” he said.
To answer that question, Simmons read everything he could find on the validity of the Bible. His new book reflects the wide scope of sources that his research encompassed. The book includes the thoughts of everyone from archaeologists and scientists to writers and rock stars.
For example, in chapter seven, an excerpt from an interview with Bono, the singer from the rock band U2, on why he is a Christian can be found on the same page as C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on accepting Jesus as the Son of God.
“Faith has got to have a strong foundation, otherwise it is blind faith,” he said. “And over and over again, my research kept showing me that the Bible is a divine book and it is accurate.”
Simmons said one of his favorite parts of his new book is the chapter that deals with the relationship between science and the Bible.
“There’s a myth that science and religion are at war, but in reality, the trend we’re seeing now is that science is actually pointing toward the existence of God, especially in the field of cosmology,” he said. “So many people, unless their lives intersect directly through their work with science, they don’t know what’s going on with science and how it, too, is validating that the Bible is accurate.”
And if we accept that the Bible is historically accurate, Simmons said, we must therefore accept that Jesus is who he said he is and that he died on the cross and rose on the third day.
“The Christian faith depends on the Resurrection. Without it we have nothing,” Simmons wrote in the book. “Christianity stands or falls with Christ’s Resurrection. Disprove it and you’ve disposed of Christianity.”
In the book, Simmons gives account after account of people who have set out to disprove the Resurrection only to find it to be undeniable.
We know more about Jesus’ burial, Simmons said, than that of any other person in all of ancient history. Simmons said we know who took him down from the cross and took him to his tomb. We know where the tomb was, who owned it and that it was empty on Easter morning.
“It’s a silent, immutable rock of evidence as we go through our analysis. From Easter Sunday on, there was this empty tomb,” Simmons writes.
And that empty tomb, Simmons said, symbolizes what the Resurrection means for Christians.
“Mankind’s greatest fear is death, and the Resurrection offers us hope against death,” he said. “We cannot live without hope, and that is the whole message of Easter, of the Resurrection.”
The power of hope is something Simmons said he has seen firsthand through his work as the founder and executive director of the Center for Executive Leadership, a Homewood-based nonprofit ministry that focuses on evangelism and discipleship of men. Simmons works with businessmen to help them develop their faith through formal Bible studies, teaching and counseling. He also oversees a group of professional and personal counselors at the center.
“I’ve seen so many people who don’t have hope and who are lost in despair and moral confusion because they don’t have an anchor or a moral compass to guide them. God’s word gives us that anchor. The hope and certainty we get from the Resurrection lifts us out of that despair and confusion,” he said.
Simmons said his research on the validity of the Bible has helped him in his work at the center.
“Sometimes it is very difficult for some of the men to accept this message of hope, so giving them this evidence so they can believe intellectually is very important,” he said.
But most of the time, Simmons said, it is usually not the historical or scientific evidence on the validity of the Bible that brings the men he works with around to a life of faith.
“One thing I’ve come to realize is that you can have a mountain of all kinds of evidence to convince the intellect, but ultimately, it comes down to a surrender of the heart,” he said.
While conducting his research into the validity of the Bible, Simmons said, he didn’t set out to write “Reliable Truth” but rather to answer his own questions.
“Then I couldn’t help but share the things I was learning, and that led to me giving a series of talks on the validity of the Bible at Saint Peter’s (Anglican) Church (in Mountain Brook),” he said.
Several people suggested Simmons compile the research he talked about in the presentations at the church into a book.
“What I found when I was doing my own research is that a lot of these books are written from a very scholarly perspective, and they can be rather dry and difficult to read,” he said. “So, I wanted to write something that was well-researched but at the same time easy to read.”
First released in December, “Reliable Truth” is in its second printing and is being sold at amazon.com, 256 Books-A-Million locations and several local retailers.