Monday, January 24, 2011

Top Ten Cheers for the Bible

I read a blog post at Lady Atheist entitled, "Top Ten Grievances Against The Bible." You can read it here. I would like to respond point by point to that post with my, "Top Ten Cheers for the Bible." Here I go:1. The Bible has stood the test of time as the authority for God's people because it is remarkably accurate historically and has displayed an amazing unanimity between its authors. The transmission of the Old Testament text by the Masorites and the New Testament text by early copyists is a testament to the divine guidance of this holy book. No other ancient documents can boast such amazing success in its transmission. The copyist errors, and there are many, amount to nothing significant. 99% of them are spelling or word omission/misplacement. The Dead Sea Scrolls were a wonderful testimony to the faithful transmission of the Old Testament.

2. The Bible is remarkably consistent with itself. From cover to cover there is one message, God wants to redeem the world and the Bible displays his plan to do so. When I hear people speak of its inconsistencies and contradictions I find that they either have not studied the texts or they are projecting a bias against the text. In other words, they prefer to see contradiction rather than finding the natural harmonization. The two creation stories are only written with a different perspective in mind without being in conflict at all. the four gospels and the two genealogies of Jesus are not in conflict once you see why they were written and who the audience is that the writer is addressing.

3. The Bible's presentation of God is majestic and awe inspiring. He is worthy of worship, respect and adoration. It is wonderful to have such a God to worship and admire, because as humans we need and want such a God. A great God lifts humanity up in greatness. Sure, He's tough and at times wrathful. But, the same degree to which God hates sin and judges those who are unrepentant, he is amazingly loving, kind and forgiving. In the atonement of Christ we find both the fullness of God's wrath toward sin and his love for mankind. Both are startling.

Sure, we don't want to be on the side of His wrath. It's awful. But, we do want to partake of the amazing graciousness and kindness of God found in Christ's sacrificial death. There is nothing comparable to the love of God in Christ. Nothing!

I find that people who despise the Biblical God by citing certain texts that show his, so called "brutality," are only declaring a distorted picture of Him, because they do not see the composite picture of God that the whole Bible presents.

4. The Bible presents miracles that amazed the most skeptical people and substantiated the claims of Christ. I don't buy the argument that people in Biblical times were so steeped in superstition that we cannot trust their claims to have seen real miracles. Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke, was a physician and had a scientific mind. Just read his introduction! Of all the disciples Thomas was a hold out and doubted that Jesus was resurrected, but Jesus came to him and convinced him with evidence (I can identify with Thomas). According to Paul, 500 people claimed to have seen the risen Christ. People who were widely known to have been dead, such as Lazarus in John 11, were raised from the dead. The writers of these events, contrary to the claim that they were "superstitious," went out of there way to show that these miraculous events were substantiated by "eyewitness" observation. This is impirical evidence which is scientific, not superstitious.

Why don't we see these kind of miracles today? The best answer is that they happened at a time when it was important to establish the claims of Christ and the Apostles. Once the Bible was completed miracles disappeared. I call it a, "phasing out." The early church fathers did not claim miracles and they didn't seem to have a problem that they stopped. That's just history!

So, why weren't the miracles and resurrection of Jesus corroborated outside of the Bible? You don't find much in the secular historical record and that is a fact, as well. There might have been a lot of literature written about Jesus and the activities of the Apostles in secular writings, but they were lost to us. When Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans in 70AD all literature in the city was destroyed along with the buildings. It's a theory, but I think it's reasonable to think that a lot of "secular" literature about early Christianity went up in smoke with Jerusalem.

5. The Bible is a reliable revelation of God's will for mankind. People malign the Bible as a divinely inspired book. After all, wasn't it written by men who wrote with different motivations, ideas, and from different perspectives? So, how can it be a book from God? I simply see that God used these differences to communicate what he wanted. People wrote from their perspective, in their language, within their cultures, and with their own intentions as they understood God. However, all that they wrote was all superintended by God so that what they wrote was God's word. God's normal modus operandi in the Bible is to work though people. Why is this so unbelievable? We are not robots, but free agents who are used by God. Also, those who want to reject the Bible as a revelation of God will often speak of people in Biblical times as superstitious, psychotic, or schizophrenic to account for miracles, dreams, and voices from God. But, that is purely an argument from silence.

6. The Bible is not contradicted by science, but substantiated by science! I'm not saying it's a science book, it's not intended to provide all knowledge of all things. It's a book intended to communicate God's will, period! However, as an example, Archeologists have successfully used the Bible to find ancient cities buried under thousands of years of dirt; cities that were once thought to be mythological.

It is often pointed out that the Bible reinforces unscientific ideas, such as the Bible referring to the sun rising and setting, rather than accurately communicating that the earth revolves around the sun. True, but the Bible is often written in phenomenological language, so it speaks of nature as humans experience it; not as it is scientifically. Nothing wrong with that, we still speak and write this way in our "scientific" times.

What about evolution? The Bible speaks of man as a creation by fiat, not evolution. As a matter of fact we don't know any more about the origin of man by evolutionary process than we do about the creation by fiat - scientifically, that is! Both the evolutionist and the creationist have to take the origin of man by faith. While the scientific method has displayed the possibility of evolution within species, it has not proven the origin of man by evolution.

7. In Jesus the Bible provides a solution to the problem that we humans have always agonized over. It's in all the great literature of ancient and modern history. Because of the short life we live, the suffering we experience, and calamitous world we live in, we naturally crave a hero to rescue us from this misery. The Bible displays Jesus as a dying and rising savior who rescues us from our plight. But, it's been well established that there were a number of ancient hero gods much like Jesus of the Bible, such as Mithra. but, to me, this does not destroy my faith by proving that Jesus was a copy or just another mythical hero. On the contrary. First of all, if there is a Satan, and I believe there is, wouldn't it be reasonable to think that he would counterfeit Jesus with other similar identities? Satan is not going to try to thwart Christianity with something totally opposite, but he's smart, so he uses counterfeit tactics. Also, it might be just as reasonable to understand these saviors previous to Jesus as simply foreshadows of the real thing to come, Jesus. Furthermore, these other characters were not historical figures, as was Jesus, who is rooted in history. And furthermore, the whole Bible, from cover to cover, ties itself to Jesus the Messiah and his heroic sacrifice for mankind on the cross. There isn't any story comparable in history. In other words, I am saying that all others are either counterfeits or foreshadows of the reality in Jesus.

8. The Bible gives hope of redemption to the worst offenders. The Bible records the conversion to Christianity of a Jewish Rabbi in training, who at one time was helping to execute Christians. Then, the Bible contains more New Testament books written by this man for the good of the Church than any other person. His name was Paul. Contrary to the growing popular belief that Paul never believed in a historical Jesus, Paul met Jesus and spoke more about his historical crucifixion than any other New Testament writer! Read Paul's letters for yourself, folks. Don't suck down the disinformation being spread around the internet about Paul. It's irresponsible.

Also, in Paul's books to the Romans and Galatians we have a tour de force presentation of the great doctrine of grace, of which we would know precious little without his exposition of this doctrine in these books.

This is the kind of God that I like, a God that would forgive a repentant murderer of Christians and then make him the greatest defender and proponent of Christianity in the New Testament. Paul has become the premiere example of salvation by grace to billions of Christians. The God of the Bible loves to take worthless, degenerate, obnoxious, prideful, morally ugly people, and then bring them to a repentance that changes both them and the world around them.

9. The Bible contains perhaps the most beloved book by Christians, the Gospel of John. It is so loved because of it's clear message of Christ's nature as God and his atoning death for us on the cross. This book smashes to pieces the popular liberal orientation that Jesus was just a great moral teacher, or an apocalyptic prophet, or the messiah who came to be the king of the Jews. The Gospel of John presents Jesus as God Himself breaking in to this sin sick world to lay down his life for mankind. John's Gospel is indeed, "The Good News!"

10. The Bible provides a needed moral compass for humanity. The 10 commandments were not just for Christians or Jews, but all humanity. Without the 10 commandments and the absolute moral standards communicated in the Bible we would be living in a sea of anarchy driven by what ever conflicting standards people choose to live by. The Bible's ethics, despite what atheists claim, is the basis for our modern jurisprudence.

In the last several years atheists against Christianity have been loudly charging that the God of the Bible is a brutal and capricious ogre. It seems to have become part of the Atheist's Gospel. It is claimed that He orders the executions of men, women and children, sanctions child sacrifice, and is blood thirsty. I almost have to keep from laughing when I hear of these charges, because these charges are caricatures of God, like one of those twisted cartoon sketches comedic artists draw of us at the fair. All of our features are distorted to make us look exaggerated. That's what is being done with God in this case.

God never sanctioned or condoned child sacrifice. The story of Jephtha supposedly sacrificing his daughter, recorded in Judges, is misunderstood. God explicitly commanded His people not to practice such sacrifices. In context there are other explanations of what happened. As for the "blood thisty" charge against God, I think it's misunderstood. It's not the blood itself that is important, but that the blood represents life. Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for us, not his blood. Christians were never told to drink blood. The drinking of the blood of Jesus was symbolic and never to be taken literally. I guess one has to appreciate figurative language to understand this. As for the killing of the men, women and children in the book of Joshua, it was in fact commanded by God. How's that for not beating around the bush? But, just to put things in perspective let me add two things: 1) God was purging evil from the land to make way for God's people who were to be holy. They were to be a light of holiness and goodness and well being to the nations around them. Once in the land they were called upon by God to care for those around them by taking in and helping the "strangers" in the land, not killing all of them off but welcoming them. 2) The greater truth in this story is that every one of us ought to be condemned and snuffed out just like the Amalakites. The only reason God hasn't plowed all of us under is that he is gracious and long suffering with us. We ought to be glad we have any kind of peace, love and happiness in our lives, for by his standards we don't deserve it. We can either be angry at God for doing such a "brutal thing," or we can stand in awe of his justice and be amazed that he is so gracious with us to provide a path of acceptance and forgiveness.

I can go on and on with each of these top 10 cheers for the Bible, but I would rather answer questions or handle criticisms if you have any.

6 comments: said...

Joe, this is an outstanding summary of great truths about the Bible. Thanks for sharing these powerful and encouraging thought!

Roch said...

Wow, Great commentary Joe.

ex-minister1 said...

How did cultures for centuries such as Japan survive without the bible and the 10 commandments?
How did God break nearly every commandment and still be a righteous God?

Joe Staub said...

Hi ex-minister,

I actually have a theory about morality found outside of the Bible. We know that the 10 commandments in various formats preceded the Bible and that cultures outside of the near east practiced similar law codes. The Bible codified these laws as the 10 commandments and then expounded them in later portions of Scripture. But, as an ex-minister you know what Romans 2 says. The law of God is written on the hearts of all men and women. Therefore, in all cultures there would be some semblance of law that is similar to what is in the Bible, because in fact it comes from God. All truth is God's truth, even if it's not in the Bible. But, what we have in the Bible is a written absolute standard of right and wrong declared to have been given by God himself. Because of this it stands without question.

As for God breaking his own laws? I don't know what you are talking about. Please enlighten me. But, for now, let me be so bold as to read your mind regarding one of the laws that he has presumably broken; murder. I presume your claim would be that God kills people, or has them killed, so he is a murderer. Would we say that a judge who condemns a criminal to capital punishment is committing murder? No, because he is merely executing the law. Why can't we see God's actions of wrath upon man in the same way?

Anonymous said...

To Joe & Ex-Minister,
Either you get it or you don't.
There is no such thing as an "ex" minister. You never got it--you never "ministered" anyone. Joe gets it. He has patiently tried to explain it to you, in love, as a true Christian. If your question is sincere, you'll open your heart to his words. If not, you'll remain closed and in your darkness. If you truly seek the Light (as so many Japanese and others have and do), He will come to you. It's not about earthly "survival"--it's about everlasting life, eternity. Surely you've heard, "If I'm wrong (about Christ) and you're right (antiChrist), I lose nothing. But if you're wrong and I'm right--get it? Think about this--all of us "simple" Christians out here are sincerely praying for you.

Anonymous said...

What was the name of the poor soldier whose wife was screwed by King David?