After a Crossroads membership class, I had a friend ask to meet with me about some concerns he was having. In a nutshell, he had some doubts about the historicity of some parts of the Bible, like Jonah and the early parts of Genesis. Because of these doubts, he was questioning his entire view of the Bible. After all, if parts of it weren’t true, how could any of the rest of it hold water either? Connecting the dots, this caused him to doubt his faith as a Christian.
Lack of belief that Jonah was actually eaten by a fish leads to lack of faith that God loves me, came to rescue me from my sins, has a mission on earth for me, and has prepared a place in heaven for me…Why does this happen?
I think it happens because we don’t do a good job of being honest about what the Bible actually is. Being brought up in church, I remember as a child believing that God literally wrote the Bible. That he got out a typewriter, wrote all of the pages, sealed it up, and dropped it out of the sky. This irony is, this is still the approach that most conservative evangelical churches take when talking about the Bible.
Is the Bible the authoritative word of God? Yes. Did God type it with a typewriter and drop it out of the sky? No. Have conservative evangelical churches been honest about what the Bible actually is? No. And this is why doubts about Jonah and a fish lead someone to doubt if Jesus truly resurrected and truly is our Savior.
We won’t be honest because we are afraid people will call us heretics. So we come up with a company line about what the Bible is, tell people to swallow it whole, ignore and skip over the confusing parts, and meanwhile people like my friend are leaving their faith altogether because it just doesn’t add up for them.
This bothers me. I think we as Bible-believing Jesus-followers can do a better job of being honest with what the Bible actually is, while at the same time maintaining it as God’s inspired Word, just as our predecessors the ancient Hebrews did. In doing so, people can be drawn to the story of the Bible and most importantly its climax, that Jesus came to save sinners by dying on a cross for them. While understanding the rest of the Bible as the rich history of God’s people that it is, written to specific contextual people for specific contextual purposes, full of authoritative eternal principles for us to follow today.
Do I believe Jonah was swallowed by an actual fish? I do.
Did the thief who got saved on the cross believe this?
Do I think it matters if you do or not?
Do I think you can pick and choose the parts of the Bible you like and dismiss the parts you don’t? No.
Can you believe that the story of Jonah was intentionally written as historical fiction to communicate specific eternal truths to God’s people?
Be thinking about these things and feel free to comment below. More to come soon…