Evidence and the Amazing Contortionists

How do we know what the Bible means? Is extra-biblical information required to correctly understand or does the Bible stand on its own?

Certainly we could agree that context can be helpful. Certainly we can look at the natural world and see how it fits with Biblical principles. But that’s the subtle difference. Are we matching the Bible to other evidences or other evidences to the Bible?

Here’s an example. An atheist recently told me that ALL evidence has rejected a universal flood since the 1700s. But the Bible clearly teaches that the whole earth was covered in water. Which do I conform to? Evidence from scientists or evidence from the creator of science? Yet there are those Christians who would take science and say “You are King. I will now conform scripture to your likeness.” They then describe the flood as seeming like a worldwide event from the author’s limited perspective. It doesn’t matter that the Genesis passage describes in great detail that the highest mountain tops of the whole earth were covered in 15 cubits of water. That’s … maybe … a metaphor?

Here’s another example, but one with which I tread lightly. When Jesus walked on water, one must understand the scientific concept of gravity in order for the action to be miraculous. God is demonstrating, in part, that He is the master of science and can bend it to his will. With changing water into fine old wine He demonstrates His ability to rapidly age a substance when needed in order to produce its finest quality. I do not bring up these two examples to say “Who needs science?” because God loves science. He set things in order and that order is where science comes from. But He also is sometimes in the habit of manipulating things outside the natural course. This is something to keep in mind.

It is also encouraging to look at archeology and see the Biblical account justified. Or look at a natural truth and see it in scripture ahead of its time. Such as elusions to a spherical Earth in the Psalms or reference to the Hittites.

But maybe this is simply a matter of “disputable issues.” Like food offered to idols or holding the Lord’s day in higher esteem than other days. Only this isn’t one of those areas scripture simply doesn’t touch on. These are integral parts of the Bible message. These are also clearly articulated and detailed parts.

What it boils down to is that all of scripture can be explained away. It’s just a matter of necessity. If you need to change it for social reasons such as to accommodate homosexuality or updated gender roles, then you can do that. It’s been done for you already. If you need to accommodate current scientific “consensus” then helpful reinterpretations have been made there for you as well. All you have to do is search the net.

There are scriptural contortionists aplenty. Choose the one that makes you more comfortable with God’s word … or else treat it as just that, God’s word, and listen to what it has to say.

The latter is a challenge. It’s hard work. But rewarding in the end because God’s unadulterated message is always rewarding. And in the end, its not as hard as trying to alter it. Don’t end up with a serious bunch of Christians playing Twister like their life depended on it. You’ll just end up in a knot of human confusion.

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This land is my land

Went to Williamsburg recently and they had a good video depicting the first melting pot in the new world. Africans, American Indians, Europeans.

But how does that fit into current PC culture that depict America as racist pigs hating minorities? Isn’t it the way of white people to destroy, run rough shod, and take advantage of other people groups? Sure it is! But it only seems more pronounced because there are more white people around.

If there are ten people from one group and one of them slaps you, and if there are twenty people in another group and two of them slap you then yeah, the larger group seems more ominous and threatening, but a slap is a slap.

Taking advantage of others is a universal human deficit, believe it or not. Africans wiped out fellow African tribes and sold them into slavery. Native Americans warred with other native American tribes and … gasp … stole their land. Not to mention brutally murdering them.

So in the midst of all this, Europeans come in and some of them start doing the same thing. Surprise, surprise.

Fast forward to present where what you’re supposed to think is that “White” people (no longer considered of European descent) are devils who took over America unjustly, enslaving Africans out of pure meanness and bullying Indians for their land and only giving them a bunch of beads. When in actuality they just joined a party of depravation already in progress. They also happened to be bigger and stronger technologically. Unfair advantage? I don’t think so. Although there are those who propose such things as not reading to your kids because not every kid can be read to. So I suppose the Europeans could have strapped on loin cloths and thrown away their armor and guns.

If you are an evolutionist then you believe in survival of the fittest. End of story. If you are a Christian like me then you understand that the whole world lies in wickedness and instead of scoffing at that through memes, you seek to reach individual lives with the truth, with God’s mercy and moral standards, not judging which group of sinful people is worse than another but seeking out all for Christ.

Days, Times, Ages, and Eternity: the creation daze

There is what I would call a craze in Christendom today concerning the reinterpretation of the first chapters of Genesis. I have friends caught up in it. I have heard things like “A literal interpretation of Genesis is killing our testimony as Christians” or “If creation was accomplished in six literal days then God is being deceptive in the geological records.” The essence of most is that the biblical record needs to be updated according to present scientific understanding. There are some, however, who are truly seeking to understand the truth of what the Bible is saying. For whatever the reasons behind them, these reworkings and re-editings vary in degree but even the most mundane fail to admire the simplicity of those chapters. That enrages me somehow. I find myself wanting to become a guardian of major Biblical truths, indignant when I hear of it being muddied.

In my mind it all starts with Yom, because that’s the Hebrew word for DAY which CAN be interpreted as an indefinite period of time. Why, it could mean a whole age even! There is Biblical precedence for such stretching of Yom out of a 24 hr period. But is there precedence in the first chapters of Genesis?

When I first heard about all this reinterpretation I thought “Oh! Maybe I had this creation thing all wrong! Maybe there was nothing but light and dark for a whole age. Maybe there was nothing but animals for a whole age, etc. Maybe that would get those pesky evolutionists off my back about my absurd belief in a literal six day creation.”

That brings up an aside. Because as a friend who believes in an old Earth made by God said recently, no matter how much you try to find common ground, the non Christian scientist is going to reject any sort of Creator God. Oh they will accept every step you take toward their worldview, but they will never be satisfied until they’ve pulled you fully on their foundation or crushed you under it.

But back to business.

Actually, in all honesty it was very difficult for me to accept the possibility that six literal days is wrong. It just didn’t seem right. But I can’t base my beliefs on what seems or feels right or what I’ve been taught by others.

But then I remembered the phrase “evening and morning.” Wait, evening and morning were the first …age? Maybe we misinterpreted that phrase as well. Maybe it just generally means a complete cycle or time frame or something. So I looked it up. It turns out the Hebrew word for evening means … drum roll please … the time of day when night comes. And the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “morning” means the time of day when morning comes. Every time they are used that is their meaning. Interesting. But too simple. So lets convolute it a bit. Let’s say that even though evening and morning are everywhere else translated as evening and morning, HERE they mean beginning and ending of an age. Or if that doesn’t work for you let’s say its all metaphorical. It’s just a flowery way to say that an age has past. Sort of a simplification of language for puny human minds to comprehend. Or let’s jumble it up further and just read over that part real fast, trying not to think about it too hard, and say that it all means “evolution is real, so stop trying to deny it” so long as you read between the lines just right. But let’s not call it evolution, per se. Let’s give it a Christian spin and call it fine-tuning creation. Because that makes sense, right? He speaks and the big bang happens, then he slowly sculpts the world over the course of millions of years.

Wow! We’ve done it! We’ve just turned the Bible on its head to mostly match current secular scientific consensus! Congratulations to us.

But wouldn’t it be more Biblically sound to simply believe the Bible the way it was written by God’s inspired hand? Hmm. That takes the fun out of it, by which I mean it takes the human achievement and skill out of it. Hmm. That’s not a bad thing, is it? We don’t, after all, want to exchange the glory of God for the intelligence of man do we?

But this is all beside the point. For me, interpreting the Bible as literally as possibly is super important. Because every time I explain away the text with logical reasons why It can’t mean what it says I dig away at a little bit of the glory of God and wisdom of God and I pour in my own ideas, trying to make the two mesh.

Well being a Christian is not about meshing any more than it is about conforming. Rather, its about us being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, changing our way of thinking to His according to His word.

I could take any portion of scripture and decide to change the meaning of the words. I could decide any portion is not literal. I could match the words of the Bible to whatever view I like. That might be hard. That might be convoluted. But I could do it. The question is whether it’s the Biblically astute thing to do or not.

You might say “Benjamin, is any of this important in light of eternity?” To which I would reply “What do you think the Bible is if not the eternal words of truth?” The two go hand in hand.

The question I want to end with is “Could God have done things the way it is literally written in Genesis?” If so, “Is there sufficient internal scriptural evidence to reinterpret that?” if not, give the reinterpretive dance a rest.