God’s Word, A Lamp

Aladdins_lampWhen I was younger, I memorized a simple verse of Scripture. Later, singer / songwriter Amy Grant based a praise song on that same verse, Psalm 119:105. In fact, the lyrics of the chorus were a direct quote:

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.

It’s a simply truth, but is that the same as simplistic? Is looking at the Bible as the lamp showing me where I should walk, a way of “treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are”?

Is trusting the Bible, trusting what it says, simplistic?

Honestly, I think it’s just the opposite. When I’m faced with a difficult issue, something clearly beyond my realm of expertise, I don’t try to tackle it anyway.

When my friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I didn’t dig in and research how to do brain surgery. I didn’t read up on how to administer chemotherapy or how to give radiation (she had both).

When I flew to Guatemala as a short term missionary, I didn’t study before hand how to pilot a plane. I didn’t ask to inspect the engine or study the flight plan and weather maps.

Brain surgery and flying planes are complex activities, far beyond my knowledge and proficiency. Consequently, I happily turn them over to those who have studied and gained experience—the brain surgeon, the lab techs, the pilots, the mechanics. I would be foolish to take those complex undertakings into my hands.

Am I, therefore, being simplistic?

I guess the question really is, is trusting someone who knows more than you, simplistic? Are we, in fact, supposed to rely only and always on our own abilities to figure things out?

To me that question is a bit scary because I think some people might say, yes, we are to figure it out on our own; it’s the responsible thing to do. We get second opinions, we research, we get the best surgeon we can, we pay attention to FAA reports and only fly with the most reliable airlines. We do our homework.

But in the end, don’t we trust that the surgeon we choose, the pilot sitting in the cockpit of the plane we’re on, will do their jobs?

At some point even things here on earth, having to do with our temporal lives, depend on us trusting someone else. How much more so should we trust when it comes to spiritual issues? I mean, talk about complex!

And yet, with spiritual issues, there’s a growing belief that the things of God are mysterious and complex and incomprehensible, and really can only be known if we look inside to our own reason and consciences. In other words, if we figure out things on our own.

In fact, part of this approach is that the way we figure things out might not be the way other people figure them out, and that’s OK. After all, we have different cultures, different geographic locations, so surely we won’t all have a common spiritual experience.

Lost in this is the simple truth that God’s word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Lost is the fact that God’s word is tried, that it is sure, that it has been given to us from the omniscient Spirit of God.

For some, tackling complex spiritual issues with our own finite mind is wiser than trusting in the infallible, imperishable, undefiled word of God that will not fade away. The idea seems to be, the spiritual issues are so big we can’t rely on a simple truth from Scripture.

Sure, God’s word is a lamp, the thinking seems to be, but so is general revelation, and by following our conscience and reason we can arrive at the truth.

Except, what happens when our conscience and reason lead us to believe something different from what the Bible says? Do we decide that the Bible is too simplistic? That the clear, repeated truth statements can’t really mean what they say? That they don’t address the complexities we see and therefore can’t be trusted?

Or, is it possible that the Author whose understanding is inscrutable, in fact, weighed the complexities and determined that His truth statements covered all the bases. That, in reality, the wise thing when faced with matters we can’t resolve, is to trust that God knows what’s right and therefore has given us the lamp of His word.

Published in: on May 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. I go with “In God We Trust.”


  2. I vowed to stop commenting on these blogs because I’m ashamed of my comments, but I think I can offer myself as an example of what you’re criticizing. (I’m probably going to have to quit reading blogs altogether.)

    Am I, therefore, being simplistic?

    No. The Bible is complicated enough that two Biblical literalists could argue about its nuances endlessly, without any need for non-literalist or non-exclusivist viewpoints.

    And yet, with spiritual issues, there’s a growing belief that the things of God are mysterious and complex and incomprehensible, and really can only be known if we look inside to our own reason and consciences.

    “Things of God” is a weird phrase that I’ve heard before on occassion. The phrase itself seem to imply either that God has component parts that can be analyzed objectively, or else that God posseses some things but not other things, and we should only be concerned with the things that God posseses. I think the phrase may reveal our disagreement at some deep level, because I don’t think that God can be analyzed, and I believe that all “things” equally belong to God.

    Therefore, I don’t think we can know God by “looking inside our own reason and consciences.” I’m not a fan of the whole “Inner Light” school of mysticism. If we’re going to find God at all, we’d better look outside of ourselves.

    I’m reading Miracles by C.S. Lewis, where he describes reason as an eye, or as a window that we look through to see a garden. Point is, we use reason all the time, even when we’re not aware of doing so. Biblical literalism is a reasoned position. Your reasoning leads you to believe that you had better trust the Bible to the exclusion of philosophical investigation, or whatever it is you’re condemning.

    The Bible is external to us, but I don’t feel that it’s far enough external. I can’t affirm the slogan, “God said it, and I believe it, and that settles it.” Sticking only to the Bible makes life feel empty. I want everyday life itself to be connected to ultimate truth and meaning, not filtered through one text, whether or not that text may be a broad “meta-narrative.”

    I believe the Bible because I am a Christian, and I believe that God is able to preserve a text to guide believers. I probably don’t understand my reasons for being a Christian — maybe the real reason is simply that I grew up in the religion (I hope not). I like to say that my reason for being a Christian is that I am keenly aware of my own inadequacy and I believe that I need a Savior. Therefore, the Bible is not directly part of my (conscious) reason for being a Christian, only indirectly in so far as it showed me the truth.

    I do not want to be be a Christian only because I believe the Bible. In my opinion, that would be to put my faith in the Bible rather than in Christ. I also do not believe that the Bible is of one essence with God. Evangelicals sometimes speak of the Bible in Trinitarian terms, as if having faith in the Bible is having faith in God. But if that were so, it would be impossible for the Bible not to be God. That parallels the relationship between God the Son and God the Father far too closely for comfort — especially since Jesus Christ is the eternal Word.

    So, I can’t get around the problem of essentially equating the Bible with Jesus Christ in a near one-to-one correspondence, if we are to accept complete literalism. (Or maybe literalism is not the problem. Maybe it’s okay to take the Bible literally — even completely literally — as long as we are careful not to give it too much reverence.)

    I hope I’m not being too blasphemous, but of course only God knows whether or not I am.


  3. Bainespal, sorry it’s taken me so look to respond. I want to look at each part of what you said here.

    I’m ashamed of my comments

    I don’t understand why. You’re an intelligent, articulate individual asking thoughtful questions or making reasoned observations. I don’t think there’s any shame in that.

    The Bible is complicated

    And yet it’s not. That’s why it is such a remarkable book. Children can understand its central tenet and basic truths, and theologians can dig deeply all of their lives without coming to an end of all that Scripture has to say.

    I agree that all things belong to God. I don’t think God can be analyzed any more than any other person. We know God not because we analyze Him but because we relate to Him. Of course, part of our knowing Him comes from what He’s revealed about Himself in the Bible.

    I used the phrase “things of God” as part of a characterization of what some people believe who think God too mysterious to comprehend, or perhaps even to know. That’s not how I view Him, though I get that He’s transcendent.

    Because He is so Beyond and Above, we must rely on His revelation of Himself or we could not know Him. So, in that regard, we do have to look outside ourselves.

    And yes, we use reason, but reason based on something, not our own wishful thinking. We don’t say, I wish God would favor Americans, so I’m going to find evidence to show that He does. That uses reason–but it’s not based on something true or verifiable. It’s a manufactured presupposition.

    or whatever it is you’re condemning.

    I wasn’t aware I was condemning something. I thought I was advocating for trusting God. I suppose to trust God a person does have to stop trusting other things, so perhaps I am condemning trusting our own ideas over and above God’s, But condemning wasn’t my intent. Pointing to God’s superior reliability was.

    Sticking only to the Bible makes life feel empty.

    And we know how accurate our feelings are. 😉

    Seriously, though, “sticking only to the Bible” does what you say you want: it shows us how to connect life to ultimate meaning and truth.

    I do not want to be be a Christian only because I believe the Bible.

    I don’t know how that works since we know about God through His revelation. You want to know God but you don’t what to know Him though what He’s said about Himself? That would seem to throw things back to the “inner light” or conscience or reasoning.

    The Bible is not of one essence with God, but God’s Holy Spirit gave it as His revelation just as surely as God spoke to Adam in the Garden. It isn’t God but it reveals God. I think people who truly believe the Bible don’t reverence the Bible as if it were God. The Bible itself makes no such claims for itself. In fact, Scripture points to Jesus Christ. It is a revealer of the truth, a tutor to bring us to God, the sword of the Spirit. But it is most certainly not God. But as I said, anyone who truly believes the Bible knows this and would never consider making an idol of His word.

    I don’t think it’s blasphemous to say you think some people have misused the Bible. But I don’t think trusting that God said what He meant within its pages is misusing the Bible (not saying you think so either).



    • Thanks.

      Maybe I’m just crabby because life is disappointing, and I feel like taking it out on the Bible. 🙂 But even if the Bible is a simple as you say, life is very confusing and troubling, and the Bible isn’t a magic answer to life’s confusion.

      I don’t know how that works since we know about God through His revelation. You want to know God but you don’t what to know Him though what He’s said about Himself?

      I want to know and experience the truth of God. We say that the Bible is how we experience God, how he communicates with us. But the saints and heroes in the Bible had a very different deal. They experienced truth more directly and fully.

      I think people who truly believe the Bible don’t reverence the Bible as if it were God.

      Ever since I realized that both the Bible and Jesus Christ share the title of “the Word of God,” I’ve always felt a rivalry between Christ and the Bible. This is reinforced when pastors rave with dramatic exaggeration about how holy the Bible is, how we must trust it completely, how the Bible itself should be the foundation for our worldview and for all morality. I always felt as if that were chipping away from God’s place as the ultimate authority and the ultimate foundation.


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