I’m starting a new occasional series called Can We Talk? The plan is to address questions that we often times don’t want to bring up because of the reaction we expect. This is a place to discuss those important (and probably some unimportant) issues that ruffle people’s feathers. Our first topic? The Bible.
May I ask you some honest questions about the Bible?
Would you be willing to actually entertain these questions, not just give an automatic rebuttal because you fear one question might lead to an undoing of a whole belief system?
I already know I’m supposed to accept some things on faith.
I already know His ways are not our ways.
I already know one day for us could be like a thousand years for Him.
Sometimes it seems that if a person is allowed to voice their observations about inconsistencies, bizzare-ities or just straight-up contradictions in the Bible, people feel threatened by it, as if the questions are a leaking contagion of unbelief that can spread with the faintest breathing of a question. It’s airborne, you know.
But can we admit that some of the stuff in the Bible is just plain weird?
For example, why would God send a plague of snakes to bite the Israelites, whom He had just brought out of Egypt, and the remedy? Look at a bronze snake on a stick. Does that not seem like He is asking them to make and worship an idol? But when they make a bronze calf of their own, He gets mightily mad and people get smote.
If that one’s not your cup of tea, how about the commandment against murder? I realize that you could argue what type of offense could equal murder (first degree, premeditated, etc.) but it seems to me that war is murder on a huge scale. God sends the Israelites to war lots of times, and the Bible is very matter of fact about how hard the Israelites won. Sometimes they won war huge.
“That’s all Old Testament stuff,” you object. “Nobody gets that stuff. Just focus on the New Testament.”
Is that fair?
I think it’s pretty typical of Christians. We focus on the Jesus stuff and ignore the messy, inconsistent and confusing stuff that comes before. Ignoring the entire first half of the Bible only gives part of the picture. (We also forget that Jesus was Jewish, but that’s something for another day.)
Please allow me to mention a concept that might make sense of the Old Testament if you’ve ever been tempted to pitch it in favor of a slimmed down, easy to pack, New-Testament-only Bible. I don’t know if it is a cop out or a perfect explanation.
Don’t let it give you the heebie jeebies, folks. It doesn’t bite.
Is it intellectually tenable that God would reveal Himself in ways a society could comprehend, woo them by speaking their language and then, when they’ve acclimatized to the existence of God, reveal a little more about Himself, something that is a little different than what they’re used to? It’s not a bait and switch. It’s more like not revealing everything about yourself on a first date.
I’m sure some people would push this past the traditional cannon of the Bible and say that if it is allowed that progressive revelation is a possibility, that opens up future revelation, in that Christ is not the end game. Could someone else claim on this premise to be the next revelation of God? Probably, and some probably have (would Mormanism possibly fit this category?). Does that mean the principle is faulty? I don’t think so…but I’m still trying to figure out all the implications.
I’m not questioning Jesus’ death and resurrection, sacrifice and redemption of humankind, but I don’t think it automatically diminishes the Bible’s potency if some of it is metaphorical. Maybe we can agree that the Bible might not have to be taken literally in order to be just as valid, the principles just as important, the person of Christ just as redemptive.
What do you think? Do you think much about the Bible? Do you accept it as being completely literal? Do you pay much attention to the Old Testament?