We have been talking these days about frequently asked questions regarding the Christian faith. Such questions as “Can I know for sure that I am going to heaven when I die?” and “Can I trust the Bible?” are thoughts which, if we are honest with ourselves, often burden us, either consciously or sub-consciously, because we are not sure we have the answers to those questions.
Last week we began to look at the whole question of the Bible. This week we continue with that discussion.
Down through the ages, people have discounted this book, saying that it is just a bunch of Jewish myths which, though they are nice stories and good for children’s lessons, have no bearing in reality or no basis in truth. Pastors and seminary professors for many years have attempted to dismiss the Bible as purely fiction – good fiction, they will say, but fiction nonetheless.
One preacher years ago began preaching that “theology” from his pulpit. Whenever he came to a portion of the Bible in his preaching which he felt was not true, his integrity would not allow him to gloss over the passage without telling his congregation that the story was false.
One day he visited with an elderly lady from his congregation who was in the hospital and facing surgery. He had quickly left his home for the visit, and had not brought his Bible with him. When he arrived at the side of the woman’s hospital bed, he noticed her Bible on the tray table in front of her, and asked her if he might use her Bible to read some (hopefully) comforting passages from Scripture with her as she faced this surgery.
She gave him permission and he picked up her Bible. As he thumbed through it, he noticed that page after page of the Scriptures were torn out. Portions of Scripture had been cut out of the pages like ads or coupons cut from a newspaper.
The pastor was surprised by this, and he asked the woman about it. He asked her if she had a decent Bible from which he could read to her. She told him that was the only Bible she owned. She said that since he had been her pastor and had been clarifying which portions of Scripture were true and which ones were false, she had determined to get rid of those which were false. The Bible he held in his hands was the result.
She was so glad for the clarification which he had given her. She now knew that there was very little inside those two covers which was “true.”
That preacher left that hospital room convicted of his own sinfulness in proclaiming as false what is and always has been divine truth. He realized that he had been misleading his congregation into thinking that there is no such thing as biblical truth.
But in reality, the Bible is the most truthful and consistent book ever written. Throughout history, as men and women have sought to disprove the claims of the Bible, they have come to acknowledge its truthfulness and accuracy in every way.
For many years, people thought that there was nothing outside of the Bible itself to substantiate its claims to truth. But in 1948, with the discovery of the Qumran scrolls, those claims were largely put to rest.
So what can we say about the Bible and its claims to be true and authoritative? I am indebted to Matthew Finlay from Bible.org for some of these thoughts.
First, throughout its pages, the Bible claims to be revelation of God. Over and over again throughout the Scriptures we read, “And God said…” If it is indeed the word of Good, shouldn’t we at the very least listen?
Second, the very fact that the claim of the Bible to be an authority in our life does not depend upon our ability to understand it. In fact, if God is God, I would hesitate to believe any book that claims to be His word if I could understand it all.
That leads to fact number three: the whole idea of divine truth cannot be compressed into the life of any human individual. If you think of God as being eternal (… and … He is!), then it makes sense that what He has to say to us would be somewhat outside our purview to understand completely, simply because my finite-ness cannot in actuality comprehend eternality.
Lastly, and this is the kicker, the authority of the Bible is unchanging as the ultimate source for moral conduct. The Bible is more than simply a collection of nice stories. It not only tells us what happened throughout the ages of history (and it is completely accurate in what it says about those events), but it also challenges us to a higher plane of moral conduct than the world will give us.
I have taken many courses in high school and college throughout my career. One of the scariest, and most difficult courses I ever attempted was a course called “Organic Chemistry.” I worked hard in that course, and passed it with a “C” grade.
But there is one thing you should know. Today, ask me any question you like about organic chemistry, and you will get a blank stare form me. I could not tell you one thing about it. Even though I worked hard to get that grade, I do not remember one thing about that subject.
But the Bible is not like that. It is a book that demands a response from those who read it. And how you and I respond is where the rubber meets the road!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.