Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Bible – Part V

In Part IV of my discussion of the Bible, I discussed the dilemma we have with many of the supernatural events in it, especially the Old Testament. Let me give you two possible ways you can deal with this.

One way around this dilemma is that you can voluntarily suspend disbelief, as we all do when we go to see a movie. We know what’s happening on the screen is not real, but we allow ourselves to get so absorbed by the story that we react to it as if it were really happening. By suspending disbelief when we read the Bible, we are practicing trust in God, we exercise our faith that God could do it, we don’t get hung up on trivia, and we focus on the message, not the medium.

The other way around this dilemma is to not take some Bible stories literally, but to look at them as divinely inspired stories given by God to make a point. Jesus often used parables to illustrate points, so God may have done the same thing in the Old Testament to get the message across in a way that anybody could understand. By viewing some of these stories as illustrations or parables, we don’t worry about whether Adam had a belly button and how all those critters got on the ark. Instead, we focus on what God is telling us by way of the story, not on how some of these things could have happened. How they could have happened, or if they happened at all, is irrelevant in my opinion. Not taking these stories literally in no way diminishes their validity as God’s communication of vital truths to us (although I know some disagree with me on this).

The bottom line is that we have to focus on the message given to us by God through the Bible, not on the details of how a particular event could have occurred. For example, some people believe the walls of Jericho falling down was caused by an earthquake, thus dismissing the supernatural aspect of the event. It could have been an earthquake, but in this life, timing is everything. The timing of that earthquake (if it was one) is essential, showing God’s hand in it.

By the way, the reason I don’t think it was an earthquake is that in Joshua 6, it doesn’t say: “And the earth shook mightily and with a great roar, the walls of the city came down.” No, instead it says in Joshua 6:20b: “They raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat.” (NRSV). Before drawing erroneous conclusions of biblical events, take care to look at the evidence. If it had been an earthquake strong enough to bring down the walls, that mighty shaking of the earth would have been recorded.

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