After thousands of years our old adversary, the hater of our Creator, the despiser of our destiny, the sinister subverter of our souls, the traducer of the truth, the defeated demon himself continues his mission to steal, kill and destroy. Death consummates the vast hatred he holds for humanity. He deftly misrepresents reality with a single question to usher this indignity and horror into the tapestry of our existence. Sin seems so natural, pleasurable, reasonable and acceptable, but pays ghastly wages. The “dust of death dulls our senses” (Remedy Drive lyric), the current normalcy of the cycle dimming its malevolence.
He continues his deadly subterfuge, the one that pulled the supporting Jenga tile out of God’s framework. Tailored to our curiosity and arrogance, the question continues to derail trust. Those famous three words “Has God said?” insinuate and undermine. The One Who created the universe with a word, the same One Who chatted with Adam as a friend is now suspect. His character and intention become questionable. Confusion yields to uncertainty and self-assertion replaces trust like baby ducks following their mother.
It’s the same question today. Believers answer emphatically “Yes God said!”. But honestly there is much we do not understand. For skeptics the varying interpretations of different passages by God-followers cause distrust of the Scriptures themselves. The inability to reconcile violent historic accounts to our sense of morality has given pause to both sincere seekers and skeptics alike. For some no longer able to accept the validity of such a confusing narrative, God becomes an entity Who must be retooled to be followed . This is a dangerous game, one played by influential intellectual pastors. Their honest doubts and cultural tolerance ingratiate them with their audiences while they subtly (or not) malign and revise revelation, redefining God to fit their world view, making “another Gospel” an attractive rational option.
I sympathize with such a response to a God Who did not address slavery in the ten commandments, Who encouraged violence in the Old Testament, and Who recorded nonsensical (to us) rules for His people that Jesus replaced. It is easy to conclude that the written word is merely human narrative interpreting the nation Israel and their struggles – easy and simplistic. Current enlightenment condescends to past ‘unsophisticated’ ignorance in many fields. However here one must ignore much contradictory evidence to accept this assessment. Historical and geographical accuracy of the scriptures has been validated by relatively recent archaeological discoveries. There are hundreds of fulfilled prophecies, some obscure and ostensibly irrelevant – even preposterous at the time they were given. Yet they materialized in the history of Israel and the life of Christ. Speaking of Whom, He Himself referred to the Old Testament as the words of God on many occasions. “The Spirit speaking through David”, “..the Scriptures speak of Me”, “You err because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God”. He referred to popularly discounted stories such as the creation of Adam and Eve, Cain killing Abel, God’s ideas for marriage, the flood of Noah’s day, Lot’s wife, Jonah and the fish, the manna in the wilderness and He quoted from the Psalms, prophets and the law. He even asserted that scripture cannot be broken. How many times does He say “Have you not read….”? Ten percent of His recorded words were quoting old testament verses. Jesus is the more palatable version of God that Bible cynics rally to, yet He Himself exalted the written revelation: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Mt 4:4 We should hesitate to dismiss what He esteems lest we too fall into error – fatal error!
Yes, God also ‘speaks’ through nature revealing His raw eternal power (Romans 1) and ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’ (Ps 19:1), revealing His unfathomable intelligence. Then there is the conscience, perhaps a vestige of His image in a fallen humanity, but also shaped by one’s particular culture – not to be trusted as absolute truth. He did not leave us to speculate about His intentions through incomplete glimpses, but moved people of different generations to reveal His heart. He did not channel His authors, but inspired their thoughts, leaving their personalities and styles intact, adding a layer of complexity to Biblical understanding.The messages were tailored for their audience’s culture, lifestyle and understanding of God. The idioms, analogies and humor escape a literal reading by someone from a different culture let alone another epoch. Some nuances are lost without study, but the overarching themes of God’s plan and personhood are unmistakable. Divine authorship is irrefutable. Errors are for the most part grammatical or incidental, in no way diminishing the overall message. No other written work has been more scrutinized or more validated on a literary scale than the Bible.
Unfortunately, people have consistently misread and misapplied the Scriptures, using them as a hammer for their own moral preferences rather than a mirror for their own moral failings . Many Scriptures have been lifted out of their historical context and affixed incorrectly to church life, politics, or personal morality. There are also some horrifying stories in the Book that make us wonder what to make of them. Why doesn’t an omnipotent God just lay it out in sterile clinical precision? I submit that His power becomes secondary to His love as He tells His story, stooping to adapt Himself to His audience, speaking in a language they can understand both culturally and humanly. So He tells peoples’ stories, He relates history – from both earthly and heavenly perspectives in Kings and Chronicles. Very instructive! He writes poems, songs, laws, love sonnets. He injects allegory, types and shadows, uses brilliant narrative timing, imagery, symbolism, hyperbole, simile, metaphor, and prophecy. Since man was included to cooperate with God on this venture it is no surprise that there are transcription errors and some corruption over such a vast amount of time. What is surprising is the incredible integrity of such a large body of work written over 1600 years by about forty authors with such a unity of theme. We see the fingerprints of both God and man. To me, this is a beautiful picture of the passionate humility of a God Who will stop at nothing to persuade His enemies to become His friends and partner with Him to bring forth His kingdom.
Doubts? Probably. Questions? For sure. I must decide if I am prepared to trust a contemporary skeptic asking the first question in the Bible over a Man who left a place of glory to suffer, die and rise again to persuade us of God’s integrity. He said “Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like those intelligent people who build their houses upon rock…” Jesus, after watching multitudes become offended at Him asked the disciples then as He asks us now “Will you too go away?” Like Peter, my answer is “Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”