Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Bible is not Fundamentally the Word of Man but of God

The Bible is an un-natural and un-human book. This is because it doesn’t reflect the types of things that we humans would write. The Bible also makes a seemingly outlandish claim about itself - It cannot be properly understood without the assistance of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-16)! Let me try to illustrate this fact. An atheistic website provided a good example of this failure to understand the Bible:

·        From Genesis to Revelation prominent individuals abound. But are they really worthy of respect and admiration? Was their behavior such that you would want to awaken your children on Sunday morning to read about their exploits?

In many respects, not! The article confidently proceeds to line up all the misdeeds about these “prominent individuals” to prove that the Bible lacks virtuous role models and therefore its morality is seriously deficient and unworthy as a moral guide, let alone a divine revelation. For instance, the atheist writes that Abraham:

·        Told his wife to lie, debauched Hagar, his maidservant, sent his maidservant and her child into the wilderness, lied, and married his half-sister.

Although this is all true, it fails to prove that the Bible is unworthy of serious consideration. This atheistic interpretation confuses description with prescription – the description of Abraham’s life with a moral prescription for us. It fails to understand that Abraham’s life and the lives of the other Patriarchs were never intended to be models for moral behavior. Admittedly, they had done dastardly things.

The atheistic author even misses the real dirt about Abraham — that he pimped his wife Sarah on several occasions! However, this author misses far more — the grace of God for sinners like us! The article concludes, “Anyone approaching the Bible for goodness, decency, role models, and morality, enters at his own peril.” This, of course, is true! However, humankind fails to grasp that Christ is the actual role model and not the wretches He stoops to save.

Even the life of Israel’s greatest king, David, is also blemished by serious moral failures – polygamy, adultery, murder, and cover-up. However, even orthodox Jews will not face what is so clearly spelled out in Scripture. When I was explaining the mercy of God to King David, an orthodox Jew cut me off:

·        You don’t understand! The Talmud explains that David was entirely righteous in killing the evil husband Uriah and marrying his wife Bathsheba.

However, this Talmudic interpretation is totally at odds with the biblical account. It reveals that God was angry with David over these sins. Although He forgave David, He also punished Him severely for them:

·        Then David said to Nathan [the prophet who confronted David about his sins], "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." (2 Samuel 12:13-14)

This isn’t an honest interpretive mistake. The Talmud, and orthodox Judaism, consistently rationalizes the very apparent sins of the their Patriarchs and heroes. Why? They are unwilling to see what is plainly written! Why? We humans want a religion – a belief system – that we can humanly understand. We cannot understand a religion where the founders of our faith acted in an embarrassing, undignified way. We want to feel that we are on the winning team characterized by elite and honorable people, not liars and pimps.

Throughout, in the Bible, the warts of God’s people are clearly evidenced. None of Israel’s kings get a clean bill of health. They were all seriously blemished. It makes us wonder how the writers of the Bible were able to get away with these disclosures with their lives. It also makes us wonder what had impelled them to write so honestly about their kings and also about the failures of Israel. Even more surprisingly, we have to wonder what had impelled Israel to canonize such derogatory writings.

Even more startling, are the denunciations of Israel by the Prophets of Israel! Often, they didn’t get away with these denunciations with their lives. However, despite the fact that they were hated – the light is always painful – their writings were nevertheless accepted as the Word of God. Why? I think that there is only one way to understand this phenomenon – It was undeniable that these Prophets spoke the Word of God, however offensive that it might have been!

There are so many counter-human aspects of Scripture. While the Koran assures the Muslim that he is the greatest, the Bible assures Israel that they are the least:

·        Do not say to yourself, "The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember this and never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the desert. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord. (Deut. 9:4-7)

Moses never stroked Israel’s self-esteem, as anyone trying to gain a following would do. Instead, he repeatedly told Israel that they would fail to follow their God and that they would be consumed (Deut. 32:5-33). Despite these despairing messages, Israel received these insults as the Word of God. Why? They must have been convinced that these were God’s words!

This pattern – it’s all about God and His mercy and not about our worthiness - is maintained throughout the entire Bible. Jesus’ disciples were never complemented by their Master. Instead, the only two whose faith was praised were both of the detested Gentiles. Meanwhile, the disciples portrayed themselves as bumbling idiots. Why? If they wanted to influence others in favor of their Christ-centered faith, why would they portray themselves in such a negative way? Who would want to follow such ignoramuses! Evidently, for them, there was something more important than looking good – the truth of God!

We humans like to exalt our forefathers and, by doing so, we exalt ourselves. The Talmud and the religions of the world are all too human in this regard. As a new Christian, this too was my tendency. I was deeply disturbed to read about the blemishes of Abraham and David. These seemed to detract from my new-found religion. However, as God continued to reveal to me my own unworthiness along with His forgiveness, I learned to delight in the incredible love and patience He demonstrated to His Old Testament “saints.” But my eyes had to first be opened!

This is perhaps one of the great ironies — the more the skeptic battles against the Faith, the more he inevitably demonstrates its veracity. Scripture can only be truly understood through the inner working of the Spirit!

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