For the past week and half, I’ve been reflecting on the Theology on Tap that we did at Tavern on the Square in downtown Lansing. It was our first T.O.T. and we plan to do one on the 3rd Thursday of every month. We tackled the topic, “Views of Creation” in an attempt to break down some of the walls people have in associating a young earth as the only creation view “allowed” within Christianity. (This blog entry is not a reflection on that topic, nor do I want to start a war of comments in this area–>we’ll do that another time!) I spent the first few minutes discussing the book of Genesis, specifically from a hermeneutics standpoint (hermeneutics is just a fancy word for: how we interpret the Bible — we interpret everything we read, especially things written thousands of years ago like the Bible… hermeneutical questions are things like: Who wrote this? To whom did they write it? What message were they trying to get across to their audience? What were their intentions? When did they write it? What else was going on in that culture? etc…). It’s essential to ask these types of questions when approaching Genesis and specifically, the creation account, so we read Genesis 1-3 the way it was written, not the way we want it to read. But like I said, that is not what this blog entry is about.
This blog entry starts with a gentleman who interrupted my introduction on Genesis and the hermeneutics we must use to properly address it. While T.O.T. is designed for people to ask questions, this man’s questions kept on coming one after another in an attacking fashion, without leaving space for actually wanting an answer, and only firing off more questions when I attempted a response. The questions were centered on the Bible and how far-fetched it is to base our belief system off such a thing. This is what this entry is about.
God did not give us the Bible to prove His existence, and the Bible is not the reason that I believe in God. One question the man at T.O.T. brought up is that if someone walked into the library who had never read the Bible, picked it up off the shelf, and read it from cover to cover, what conclusion would they make? That it would not be a positive one. What I find ironic about that question is that a blog-friend of mine (who I ‘met’ through her blog) did this very thing in a blog called ThumpMe. Ivy is a self-professed non-believer and decided to read the Bible from cover to cover in 2010 and blog about it, which I found to be very insightful reading (she also blogged in 2011 on visiting churches and dive bars, definitely worth checking out!). The man at T.O.T. wasn’t interested in my answer to this question (which is maybe why I’m writing to you about it!) but I tried telling him the same thing I told Ivy: On an academic level, the Bible is not meant to be read from cover to cover (see my spiel on hermeneutics above) and I can almost guarantee that a reader will be quite confused when they try this, without knowledge of how to interpret what they are reading –this is one of the downsides of Martin Luther putting the Bible in the common language during the Reformation (what he did was definitely a great thing, but we need to understand that the Bible was always meant to be read with an education behind it and we should consider the implications of handing it out like candy and expecting people to not be confused when they try reading it: What is the difference between the Old and New Covenants? How does this change the application for me today of things I read in the Old Testament? Do I really need to greet everyone with a holy kiss like the New Testament says over and over to do? 🙂 etc etc etc etc — maybe I should do a post on hermeneutics soon, because I obviously can’t stop writing about it… not trying to… stay focused Noah!!….)
My point to the man at T.O.T., and to Ivy, and to many others is this: While I love the Bible, and believe it’s God’s Word, and without it as our foundation, what are we left with? (Imagine standing before God someday and saying, “God, you gave me this book, but I threw it out and just did what I came up with in my brain, I hope that’s ok with you” — not a spot I want to be in… rather I will say, “God the Bible is all you gave me and I based my life on it, even though every single verse didn’t always make sense to me, but I did it because I believe in YOU, and this is what you gave me”) My point is: I don’t believe in the Bible first, then come to my belief in God’s existence based on that. I think very few people do this. I believe the Bible because I first believed in God, and the Bible shows itself to be His story and corresponds with who God has shown himself to be outside of the Bible.
Whatever you think of the Bible, everyone must ask themselves basic questions:
- Why am I here?
- Do I have a purpose for being here?
- How did the stars get there? (and wow, are they majestic)
- That sun sure is nice, how did it get there?
- How is DNA so amazing?
- You mean a baby (me!) is born from one tiny sperm cell and one tiny egg cell coming together and my brain, eyes, ears, heart, etc. all form from this?
- How did fireflies get that neon-light-up butt?
- You mean our food grows out of dirt…from a seed… just like that?
- What happens when I die?
- Why do funerals feel so surreal?
- And wow, I’m getting old… maybe the things I’m living for aren’t all they are cracked up to be?
- Did I already ask if I have a purpose for being here? Is there a direction to these deep longings within my heart (that I don’t think my dog or cat has)?
These are the reasons I believe in a God who created me. I have my days when I too, like many people, want God to write my name in the clouds with a neon paintbrush and then I’ll really believe in Him, or I want him to solve all of my problems, but I know that is not how God typically works. And when I think about my above questions, why should He have to? Due to the fact that He already does a billion miracles a day means I don’t think He has to do a billion + 1 (my name in the sky) to finally validate himself as real in my mind. Most of us create reasons to not believe in Him (because of the implications this would have on us personally), rather than simply opening our eyes to what is already in front of us.
I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate questions to be asked about the Bible’s reliability and historicity, or that there aren’t legitimate answers to some of those questions (which are very helpful to those who are genuinely seeking answers), but I don’t think academic proofs of why the Bible is reliable are going to melt your heart to see that there is a God who created you and loves you, who you have sinned/rebelled against, and who you desperately need to rescue you from the effects of this sin. In fact, the Bible lets itself off the hook in this manner, reminding us that it is not needed for us to understand our need for God:
Romans 1:19-20 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Psalm 19:1-4 1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Or as Switchfoot says in their song “Stars”:
I’ve been thinking ’bout everyone, everyone you look so lonely.
But when I look at the stars,
when I look at the stars,
when I look at the stars I see someone else
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