Monday, September 19, 2011
If the Bible isn’t Historically Accurate, It can’t Support the Faith!
She was completing a Masters of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary (UTS), a very liberal and biblically dismissive institution. I was concerned and asked, “Do you find that your studies are undermining your faith in Scripture?” She assured me that it wasn’t, and that her experience at UTS had even deepened her faith.
Although I knew that this was possible – I profitably read books challenging the Christian faith – I remained somewhat skeptical of her claim. Immersing oneself in UTS on a full-time basis was not the same thing as reading a heretic. It’s like comparing taking a warm shower to being thrown into a boiling cauldron. Yes, God could protect her even in the cauldron, but wouldn’t it be an act of great presumption, putting God to the test, to jump in and depend upon Him to rescue her?
“I’ve even grown by studying the ‘Documentary Hypothesis (DH).’” Although I tried not to show it, I recoiled in horror. The DH denies that Moses had anything at all to do with authoring the five books of Moses. Instead, these books had been clumsily pieced together by various editors over a long period of time beginning hundreds of years later. Although largely repudiated, the DH still holds sway in many universities and seminaries.
“I don’t think that it’s important whether or not Moses wrote the Torah or even if it is historically accurate. I still believe that it’s inspired by God and communicates the spiritual lessons that are essential to the faith,” she assured me. She in the cauldron but didn’t seem to realize it.
This student isn’t alone in her embrace of “higher” criticism. Many Christians with an advanced degree have taken a bite into this apple of compromise. They attempt to hold to their Christian faith while combining it with the fruits of “scholarship.” But can they faithfully serve their two masters? Can we continue to embrace the Biblical faith as we surrender its historical assertions? Perhaps for a while! However, this type of leaven will eventually leaven the entire loaf (Galatians 5:9). Here’s why:
1. MOSAIC AUTHORSHIP: If we agree with the DH that Moses didn’t write the Torah, we are opposing the many assertions of Mosaic authorship found throughout the entire Bible. We’re even opposing the statements of Jesus! How can we continue to believe that Scripture is fully inspired if it’s consistently wrong about Mosaic authorship?
2. INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE: If the historical assertions of the Bible aren’t inspired, we have undermined any reason to believe that any of it is inspired. Therefore, very little of the Bible can be trusted. The genealogies can’t be trusted. The fact that Jesus was in the lineage of Adam and David can’t be trusted. The historical assertions about the Patriarchs and the promises that God had made to them can’t be trusted. The assertions that Israel was in Egypt and that God redeemed them can’t be trusted. What then can be trusted?
3. THEOLOGY: The theological teachings can’t be trusted either! Theology rests upon the foundation of historical events. The theology of the Cross depends upon the history of the Cross and what Christ achieved through His death. Likewise, the history of Genesis is also essential. The theology of marriage rests on the history of what God had accomplished historically, bringing Adam and Eve together as one (Genesis 2:24). Jesus explained that divorce is forbidden because of what God historical matrimonial accomplishments. (Matthew 19:4-6).
Similarly, Peter argues that because God had historically destroyed the world through Noah’s flood, it proved that the promised future destruction wasn’t just a matter of empty threats (2 Peter 2:4-9; 3:5-7). If the flood hadn’t been an historical fact, Peter’s proof that the Lord would judge would be invalidated. Someone could easily have retorted, “Well, since Noah’s flood was merely allegorical, God’s future judgment is also merely a matter of allegory.”
In fact, the New Testament consistently regards the Old Testament accounts as historical. There isn’t even one instance where the New Testament contradicts the Old Testament’s historical claims
4. APOLOGETICS: If the history of the Bible is in question, so too are the reasons to believe the Bible (apologetics). If the miracles of the Bible are simply allegory and not historical bedrock, then their power to affirm the Bible is undermined. If historically, God had made certain prophecies or promises, then our faith can’t be supported by prophecy fulfillment. Furthermore, if the Biblical accounts aren’t historical then the Bible can’t be defended by archeological finds or any form of scholarship.
We also believe in the Bible because of the theological/historical agreement among the parts. There is a harmony among the Bible’s teachings, and this points strongly to its inspiration. For instance, we read that historically, God made everything “very good,” but humankind screwed it all up, bringing sin and death. Then Christ came as the “second Adam” to rectify the mess and restore the world. In contrast, “Christian” evolutionists claim that the early Genesis accounts are not historical in order to neutralize those teachings which don’t agree with evolution. However, this leaves them with a Bible that doesn’t fit together harmoniously: It was a bloody dog-eat-dog survival-of-the-fittest from the start. Therefore, there could be no Fall and no introduction of death with Adam’s sin. Nor could there be any restoration to a pristine creation.
5. CONFIDENCE: If the Bible’s history can’t be trusted, then there is little basis for confidence and assurance. If we can’t believe what the Bible says about history, then how can we believe what it says about theology?
6. THE ENTIRE CHRISTIAN LIFE: After revising the Bible as they do, “Christian” evolutionists then insist that we have to remain humble and somewhat tentative about our interpretation of the Bible. (If only they were equally humble about the theory of evolution!) However, if we cannot be certain about the interpretation of the Bible then we cannot be certain about faith and obedience. We cannot know when to exhort and when to encourage, when to correct and when to comfort. We are then left in confusion about the entire Christian life.
To question the historicity of the Bible is to question the entire message of the Bible and to undermine any basis for the Christian faith. Bad theology is like a computer virus. As one small bit of information can destroy a computer, one theological virus, such as the denial of the Bible’s history, can undermine our entire faith. A little leaven can leaven the entire loaf.
The UTS student was confident that she could add this little bit of leaven to the loaf of her faith without any negative consequences. She fails to see the costs of the compromise she has made. Atheist and evolutionist, Daniel Dennett, wrote about the power of the idea of evolution. According to him, it is an acid that will corrode everything that touches it. Karl Giberson wrote about how this acid eroded away his fundamentalism:
• Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science….[Darwin’s] acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred. (Saving Darwin, 9-10)
The acid of the DH and the other equally acidic ideas that this lovely student will encounter at UTS will corrode her faith. Clearly, it has already! I can only pray that she will begin to see the damage.