I’m Stuck: Knowing The Bible Is True


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I know I sound like a broken record. The thing is, there is so much “fake news” when it comes to Christianity, it seems important to keep saying the same thing in as many different ways as possible. So I’m camped on an important theme: the Bible is true.

In fact, it is so true, it is reliable for life and godliness. In other words, it speaks to our eternal destiny and it speaks to the way we live our lives in the here and now. Kind of important, both those things.

Once again I’ve encountered the idea that the Bible is not in any way helpful because anyone can make it say anything.

That’s partially true, as so much fake news is. Yes, anyone can make the Bible say anything if they distort what it is actually saying. I’ve made that case myself. People can say the Bible proves there is no God because there are a couple places in Scripture that say it just like that: there is no God. Problem is, the first part of the verse says, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1 and also Psalm 53:1). In numerous places throughout the Old Testament, the phrase appears in a different context, all similar to one another. Here’s the idea from 2 Chronicles 6:14: “O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no god like You in heaven or on earth . . .” (emphasis mine).

The first point to remember when looking at the Bible is that context matters. Lifting a verse or part of a verse from its context can actually shatter the meaning, not reveal it.

The second thing to remember is that the historical details about the text also matter. Who wrote the passage? Yes, God did, but He used humans and they wrote from their own personality and sometimes for their own purpose. So David wrote some of his Psalms as laments, others as praise. The Law of Moses—the first five books of the Bible—preserve the history of the Jewish people and God’s involvement with them. Paul’s letters were to encourage or correct people or churches.

Not only is the writer important but so is the audience and the circumstance that occasioned the writing. The laws that God gave to the Hebrews as they wander in the wilderness for forty years, are not ones God expects the Church to obey. Yes, we actually can learn some important things from reading about God’s interaction with His chosen people, but God in no way intends for the Church today to sacrifice lambs and celebrate the feasts He instituted for Israel.

The third thing to remember is that “the plain things are the main things.” That quote which I’ve heard Alistair Begg say more than once, helps sort out some of the stuff that can be confusing and controversial from the stuff that is essential. After all, the Bible is God’s revelation. He’s not hiding. He made Himself known because He wants to be known.

Another thing to remember is that the Bible does not contradict itself. If it appears to, then we simply aren’t understanding things clearly. Most of the time, we try to oversimplify by taking a particular verse and making it the cornerstone of some doctrine. In fact, there might be other people who have selected a different verse that seems contrary, and they make that the cornerstone of a conflicting doctrine. Most likely, however, both “cornerstones” are true. We are just not understanding how they fit together. Or one group or the other might be misunderstanding the verse they have made ultra important.

I’ll give an example, and I realize I may be stepping on some toes here. In advance, I apologize. Some churches, my own included, take a position that the “ecstatic gifts”—speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy, and such—were only for the first church people. They base this idea on 1 Corinthians 13 that talks about tongues and prophecy being done away with or ceasing. Toward the end of the chapter it states, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (vv9-10). They reason that the Bible is the “perfect” since it is complete and will not be added to. Hence, in their way of thinking, the perfect has come.

The problem with that idea is that the chapter—which was never intended to be part of a discussion about what has or hasn’t ceased; it’s a clarification of what God’s love is—goes on to say that when the perfect comes “I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t know God or the things of God or even this world the way He knows Me. Not yet. That’s still future.

But that’s a little beside the point. The plain things in Scripture dealing with these “ecstatic gifts” is that they are to fall under the orderly governance set down by Paul in the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians, that they are not to be considered as more important than other gifts, and more. In other words, there are extensive passages about spiritual gifts, where as there is one part of one chapter that would see to contradict all those other verses—but only if you understand “perfect” to mean “Bible.”

Even something like this that separates churches that believe in speaking in tongues from ones that don’t, actually does not separate believers from one another. It’s not an essential. It’s not of the same foundational nature as, Jesus is Lord. Or Jesus is both God and man. Or Jesus died for our sins.

All this to say, the Bible is true. Only people who misuse it or add to it or delete portions of it, will come up with strange and contradictory ideas from those that are the essentials of Christianity—things that the first disciples believed.

Example: Joseph Smith, whose followers sadly suffered much persecution and were chased out of more than one place, added many things to his cult, not the least of which was that marriage had to be polygamous—though today the Mormons have generally stepped away from that particular position. The fact remains that to be a Mormon requires a person to take positions that are not consistent with the Christian essentials.

The basic truth is this: someone outside looking in may not be able to distinguish true Christians from pretend Christians who rely on fake spiritual news, or may not be able to distinguish what the Bible actually says versus what some people claim it says. That’s likely because they have not read the Bible, and if they have, they have done so without understanding the principles of interpretation that apply to all written communication.

Published in: on June 7, 2019 at 5:41 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. Excellent! Yes, it’s so dangerous to take one or two verses out of context and make a whole doctrine out of it.
    (I had never thought about the fact that the words “there is no god” ARE in the Bible. Great example – I will remember that for future discussions involving context. 😉 )

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    • I knew about the ones that said, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” I wanted the reference, so I did a word search in a Bible app. I was blown away by the number of other places that use those words.

      It really does give a clear picture of what people who want to chop up the Bible can “prove.” Reminds me of Satan using the Bible against Jesus when he was tempting Him. Happens today, too.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      Becky

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  2. A humorous pair of quotes is “Judas went and hanged himself…” and “Go ye and do likewise.”

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    • Hahah! Yes, I’ve heard that one too—usually used to illustrate why we should have a plan in place to read Scripture, not just flip through the Bible and take whatever our finger falls on as God’s word for us. It’s a good illustration! Thanks for reminding me.

      Becky

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  3. Hi Rebecca. Good article. I was wondering what your response would be to those atheist who bring up the issue that God “approves” of slavery as presented in Exodus 21? I believe I know how I would respond, but wanted to know your thoughts on that issue. Thanks.

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    • Hey, Rick, thanks for stopping by. Good to hear from you.

      Actually I’ve encountered that slavery question more than once, both here and in the atheist/theist Facebook group to which I belong.

      It’s hard to answer in these types of forums because the answer involves context—what the practices where in those days and what “slavery” meant to the people of that time. Bottom line: they did not look at slavery through the lens of the Euro/American slavery of Africans for business and profit.

      First, Jewish “slaves” were actually indentured servants that could buy their freedom or by law, become free after an established period of time. These were people who were in debt and this was the way they could cancel their debt. But for other people, enslaved by conquering nations, they were enslaved in a way that allowed Joseph to become the administrator of Potipher’s estate, to become the second in power to Pharaoh. It allowed Daniel and his friends to hold key positions in government. “Slavery” in that circumstance was basically the alternative of execution. They had no Guantanamo Bay where they imprisoned the enemy. They either died or were taken to become a part of the conquering society.

      The atheists always come back, “But why didn’t God pass a law and just say it was wrong?” It’s a good question. I see it as the same reason He lead Moses to give laws about divorce, though He clearly, more than once, said He hated divorce. He allowed it because of the hardness of the human heart. I suspect that’s the same reason He allowed “slavery.”

      So I’m curious. How would you answer the question?

      Becky

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      • Pretty much as you’ve laid it out. I know that it wasn’t the equivalent to what we commonly think of as slaves. As a matter of fact, like in the KJV, I think it uses the word “servant” instead of slave. But in the end, it was due to indentured people, who owed a debt to the person they couldn’t pay back. So, instead of throwing them into debtor’s prison, they work it off, essentially. In that way, it would be somewhat analogous to you can’t pay for the meal at a restaurant after you’ve eaten it, so they force you to do some work like wash the dishes to pay for what you’ve eaten. IOW, slavery back then was not that the “master’ owned the slave and saw them as property, but as humans equal to themselves that were paying off a debt.

        That’s how I always understood it, but in Exodus 21:2, it says: “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.”

        That would appear to indicate at least four things. 1, That not all slaves in those times owed someone money, they did buy and sell people.

        2. That it had nothing to do with an “inferior race” in that it was Hebrews buying Hebrews. So there was no racial component to it.

        3. There is no indication here that the person being put up to be a slave didn’t do it from there own free will. In that case, it would only be “forced” due to owing someone money as indicated above, or because the person couldn’t make a living in any other fashion. So they were not forced, in most cases, to be a slave (though I would have to look into the history here to know the exact circumstances).

        4. The person who “purchased them” only did so for 7 years. So there was not a view that the person was buying them, but buying the time they would work for them in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat. In essence, it wasn’t much different than it is today when we sign a work contract to get a job. The employer has a certain amount of control over an employee’s work, but only for the time they are employed. But that is also a form of indentured work.

        What also lends support to the above point is that a woman who was sold, was sold into marriage, as becomes clear later in that chapter.. That was common of all marriages back then. So the selling of a male wasn’t seen in the same manner as the African slave trade. The fact that ministers in the South would use verses like these and Paul’s words in the NT, doesn’t change what it really was talking about, and that they had faulty exegesis, not that it was right. It would be the equivalent of someone going to bomb a building, killing lots of people, then blaming it on an atheist program which promoted his actions. Thus, that position is immoral, would be faulty logic.

        The atheist I heard say this, would quickly dismiss such a statement, considering all slavery morally repugnant (and anyone that disagrees with him gets hung up on), but he did have an interesting point that I need to study a bit more before I decide how best to interpret it.

        It says in Exodus 2:4-6: If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

        Previous verses deal with what happens when he is single and married before becoming a slave. But the atheist’s point here was that this gave owners of slaves a loophole to the 7 year release program. In that, if he had a single slave, he could give him a wife, and he could have children with her. But, they would be his master’s, not his. So, if he loved them, he would be forced to become a lifelong slave of the master.

        Of course, this would happen to only a small part of slaves. I don’t know whether a slave buyer in that case would only want to buy single men as slaves, it order to keep them forever. But I would liken it to giving an employee something they greatly treasured, but they knew they would have to give it back upon leaving the company. That ensures the employee wouldn’t be as likely to go looking for other jobs so readily.

        But I’m still formulating a logical response to this objection. As you say, it isn’t clear why God didn’t come right out and say this was a real negative. But I think in the way it was back then, that God would have deprived many people a way of living that they would otherwise starve. So like you suggest, due to not wanting to restrict our free will and due to sin hardening hearts, he allowed some things.

        Now, being that God is God, and he could force us to all live by his laws, yes, He could do that. But then we wouldn’t be doing it from a place of love, but fear. God allows some things in order to not pervert our free will and deny us the opportunity to love Him back. That’s pretty much all I’ve got on that one, so far.

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        • All good points, Rick. I’d say about the verses you quoted, there’s nothing there to indicate the woman who became the wife of a servant wasn’t one of those captured in battle. Those, i think, “belonged” to the master, as the servant girl did to Naaman the leper. What happened to her when she grew up? Clearly she didn’t hate her master and they didn’t treat her as a nothing, a nobody. They listened to her and made a life-changing decision based on what she said.

          So, whatever problematical passages we come upon concerning the issue, one thing we can be certain of: slavery then was not what we know slavery to be from the way it was in Europe/America in th 19th C. Nobody was at war with the particular African people groups that were victimized by slavers—black and white. That was cruelty and evil and kidnapping. The Bible has some harsh things to say about kidnappers. I’ve thought of Joseph’s brothers. According to the Law that God would give later, they were guilty and should have died. But then, David committed adultery and he should have died as well. When the Hebrews first received the Law they seemed determined to obey, but how quickly they started letting things slide.

          We are cut from the same clothe, so I guess our rejection of God’s standards should be no surprise. Not the Law. His grace has freed us from the Law of sin and of death. We are under grace now, not under Law. So all the specifics about slavery in the Old Testament actually have no bearing on our society. We are to be governed by the law of love for God and then for our neighbors. Jesus then stretches this to loving our enemies and forgiving our debtors. So, there simply is no place for any kind of slavery, even the Old Testament kind.

          But what strikes me from the Law, even about slavery, is that it was kinder and more merciful than what nations around them were doing. Think of the suppression and abuse the Midianites inflicted upon Israel in the time of Gideon. They destroyed their crops, essentially starving them out. That’s just one example. History records how violent and cruel Assyria was, and we know that the Egyptians enslaved the entire Hebrew population, to the point that they mandated the male babies being exposed—presumably until they died of starvation or were ripped apart by wild animals (today we just medically kill them!)

          Thanks for the dialogue on this, Rick. Always pushes me to think, and I appreciate that.

          Becky

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