I’m listening to Francis Schaeffer’s book The God Who is There, which I’m really enjoying. In the book, he gives one particular illustration about the truth of the Bible which I wanted to share, because it encapsulates my own experience as I was first reading the Bible, and explains what started me on the road that eventually led to me becoming a Christian.

In addressing how we don’t arrive at faith in the God of the Bible solely by reason, but not also without reason, Schaeffer has the reader imagine finding a bunch of fragments of the pages of a book – perhaps the top inch of each page of a whole book, or something similar. If we had the top inch of each page, what we could read wouldn’t be enough for us to understand the whole story of the book, or even really to make sense of it – but it would be enough to give us some idea of what the book was about, and tell us something of the characters, etc. This, Schaeffer argues, is like what we can see and know about ourselves from looking at ourselves and the world we live in – we know a great deal, but we don’t understand the whole story, the whole picture, and can’t fully make sense of life.

Now, imagine having that set of page fragments, and then finding the remaining portion of all of the pages from the book somewhere, perhaps in the attic. By taking the newly discovered set of page fragments and placing them together with the pages you already have, you would be able to complete the book. It would be easy to tell that the remaining portions match the fragments, because taken together they complete the story. And once the story is completed, you could read the whole story and finally make sense of the whole book.

This, Schaeffer argues, is what happens when we read God’s revelation in the Bible – it completes the missing portion of the story that we can see partly when we examine ourselves and the world around us. We had parts of the story before from what we could observe looking at ourselves, at life, and the world around us, but now the Bible fills in the rest of the missing details and we can see the whole story, the whole glorious picture – how we are made in the image of God, how we fell, how the world is therefore corrupted and broken yet we still bear God’s image. It explains how and why there is a real right and wrong, and how we, by virtue of sinning against God, deserve his wrath. But then God sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to live a perfect life and die on the cross for us to bear the punishment we deserved, so that through faith in him we might have the righteousness of God. This restores us into relationship with God himself, the one who created all things.

Schaeffer’s analogy here provides the best description I’ve heard of my own experience as I first read the Bible. There was a great deal in the Bible I didn’t understand at first, and a great deal I didn’t like or even hated – but at the same time I knew it was true, because it explained who I am and how I got that way, and why the world is the way it is, a way that nothing else I had ever read could. The Bible told of reality, of truth. It filled in the missing pieces of the story. I already knew part of the story, some of each page, as it were, and the Bible clearly completed describing reality in a way that had been left incomplete by the fragments I had. That is, once I had the Bible, I knew it perfectly matched with the pieces I already understood and completed the story.

Once I recognized the truth of the Bible and how it truly explained reality, it was only a matter of time until I came to understand who Jesus was and what he did. And once I knew that and came to recognize the seriousness of my own sin, the truth of the Bible meant I could trust Jesus to deal with my sin and bring me back into right relationship with God.

Thus, ultimately, my journey to Christ began with recognizing that the Bible is true, and truly explains who I am, what the world is, and why it is the way it is.