Forgive me for pausing for so long on Psalm 119 posts about Psalm 119. I had to stop working for a time on recording for Beth, but that will be coming soon.
Much has been happening in travel, health, preparing for another academic year, and just looking after “my people”. My personal goal is to dive deeper into the study of the Word of God.
Right now I’m in the books of the prophets. Because of so much going on, I am limiting myself to the small books. You know, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk (you read from me on this one), Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. For small books, they pack a punch.
Recently, the Word of God has come under fire concerning its reliability. “Yes, but how can we trust the scriptures to be real?” was the question. In other words, all that the Bible says is suspect because of
a) the fact that God used humans to put pen to paper,
b) the unreliability of the written Word being degraded down through the ages (multiple transmissions, human error, etc.), and
c) the suspicion that truth is unknowable in general; that all truth is relative to the perceiver, his culture and personal belief system.
I have studied apologetics and I could begin knocking out point after point, but intellectual prowess will not win the battle of unbelief. That does not mean that these questions are not answerable. They are. See Further Resources to hear from those who have dedicated significant portions of their lives to researching these matters fully.
But the Bible has its own internal consistency, such that I can only stand back and say, “Try it!” And I think that is where the issue ultimately rests.
A seeker will want to know the truth and will press into whatever options there are available. It really does matter what you intend to find. It is a matter of heart condition.
If I search the scriptures with a kind of fondness for my own sin, then I will find what satisfies me, whether that is anger and disbelief as my sin is exposed within its pages, or the skewing of scripture to make it say what it doesn’t say (to either excuse my sin or to discount the scriptures entirely leaving me free to sin).
This is true for any literary work. I can read Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech in the same way. If I’m a racist, I could poke holes in it. If I’m a King advocate, then I will adore it indiscriminately.
If I really want to “hear” Dr. King, however, I’ll read with an open mind and will weigh out his words according to the mind and heart of the man who wrote them. What was his intent? What was the condition into which he spoke? What moved him to write? How much of what he said is true still, in my own heart and practice and in that of those around me today?
The Bible is there for us to read in the same sense that we read any literary work. Of course, there is more at stake. I can dismiss Aldous Huxely, William James, or Aristotle. But there is one thing we sense about the Bible: the stakes are such that life and death hang on the decision to take it in or throw it out.
Why is that? Because the Bible makes certain claims about who is speaking. The Bible claims that the Creator of all living and non-living things of this universe is reaching out to us. Indeed, has sealed it by coming in flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible claims authorship of someone outside of our fallible humanity. He calls Himself the Judge of all the living and the dead. That is one strong claim!
Therefore, we have to look at it a bit differently than “mere human writing”. We have to judge:
“Does this collection of writings have the feel of authenticity that matches its claim?”
“Does it know things that are beyond human understanding?”
“Moreover, does it stay true to the understanding of human nature better and more consistently than anything written by a human?”
In other words, does this book SOUND like its claim MIGHT could be true? Or am I dogmatic that it couldn’t possibly be true? The answer to that, according to the text, is a matter of my personal life and death, and of life after death as well. That’s heavy.
A mission to the message
There is a mission to the message, too. The mission is love, relationship, forgiveness of a debt we know down deep we cannot pay, and eternal life. That mission reaches out through the pages of the Word and through the Person of Christ into our very intimate, deeply private personal lives. There is no reader whose personal private “stones” are not unturned by the words of Scripture. The mission and the message hits paydirt inside of us, if we’re honest.
Like it or leave it, the Bible is like no other book. The worship of God is unlike any other religious system, because it is about relationship, not ritual. It is personal, having to do with the meeting of His Person and ours. Maybe that is why it taps so many deep emotions.
At least it taps those emotions for those who actually “take up and read” the Word of God. For those who leave it lying in the dusty shelves of home or public library (or in its all-ready available format online), it doesn’t mean much at all. Life goes on, and we are left untouched by the messages of love and comfort, warning and direction, hope and promise. And some like it that way.
As for me and my house
As for me, I don’t haggle over how many humans wrote the words. The words are so real, so authentic to real human existence that even if it is found to be false (which it never will be), I will have never wasted a single day of my life in living according to its tenets.
At the very LEAST level of belief, I can say that whoever wrote it (if it was not God, which it is) is the best writer of human psychology that has ever written in all history. It is timeless for any age group, any culture, any race, any gender, any age, any ability. Its counsel is wiser than the wisest of psychological study. Shakespeare had to borrow from it to get his “truisms”.
I believe its words because I have never in my lifetime found Him faithless to His promises. That cannot be said for truly human writers, even good ones.
Trust is an invitation not a bludgeon
This post is not meant to convince anyone. As I said, convincing is between that person and his God. This post, though, is a call…a challenge… to take up the Bible and read it. Don’t be an armchair universalist, pagan, athiest, or practicing believer. Be a person of action! Know thy Bible.
In Malachi, God tells His own people (not athiests, but God’s own) that they have robbed him by not trusting him with their material wealth. This is not the “church” here. It is not a matter of making a public-figure-preacher-and-his-church wealthy. It was a matter of “putting your trust where your mouth is”.
God is saying, “You say that you believe, but you are not willing to give me the firstfruits of the blessings I have given you.” God put out a challenge:
“‘Test me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing until it overflows.'” (Malachi 3:10).
This is important to understand. God is not “just” speaking about the giving of the standard 1/10th of material wealth to the Temple. God is talking about trusting God at His Word.
Can you ever learn what truth is if you don’t read it when its offered?
Can you ever know comfort if you never read it?
Can you ever discern where you’re going off target with God or where you’re doing well but just needing encouragement, if you never read God’s words to you?
Can you ever know forgiveness that Christ offers if you’ve never read that it is even offered? How can you know the character of God if you’ve never read His Words?
Much can be discerned about the character of a person by their words. See the love that oozes from the challenge: “...see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing until it overflows.” God is not talking about mere material wealth. God wants us to trust him with all that this means. The overflowing of blessing is from God’s riches of love and joy and abundant LIFE poured out on those who just try Him. God says (and pardon my paraphrase), “See if I am true, don’t just mouth your own ideas about me.” Moreover, much can be discerned about a person by their actions and God has acted.
In fact, those wee little books in the space between Israel’s history and the appearance of Christ are stakes in the ground that GOD ACTS.
There is a limit to God’s mercy (see prior posts on this topic) but there is never a limit to the merciful character of God! I look backward at history and I see God has been true to His Word. I look at my life now and testify that God is true to His Word in my life right now. I have these and God’s promises to testify that I believe He will continue to be true to His Word.
But that’s just me. How about you?
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is breathed out by God and is effective for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17
© July 2019 by https://www.ReadPsalm119.com
These two resources will get you started in understanding the issues, answers that are available, and encouragement for those believers who get asked the same questions and are unprepared to answer. The bibliographies in James Choi’s PDF presentation include more resources to investigate and Clete Hux’s website has plenty of articles such that you will find objections pretty well covered right there. This is for your extended learning. Enjoy! Go with God.
“Evidence for The Historicity of the Bible“, a PDF presentation by James Choi, faculty at Yale’s School of Management, http://faculty.som.yale.edu/jameschoi/historicity_of_bible.pdf
Apologetics Research Center‘s articles on the authority of the Bible by “objection categories”, by Clete Hux, at https://arcapologetics.org/objection-category/attacks-on-authority-of-bible/