Having recently had a lengthy discussion with a Roman Catholic, I was quite surprised to see how much she discards a large part of the Bible as pure fantasy. Genesis, according to her is just a story given for the primitive mind that she believes did not understand science and therefore would not be able to understand evolution; the Darwinian process of human’s evolving to what we are today. She fails to understand that God created humanity, ‘in His likeness’. Genesis 1:26. Is God’s likeness that of a primitive species of microbe, which grew in a swamp and eventually transformed into a fish, a lizard and then larger creatures and eventually to humans? That is what evolutionists believe. If the book of Genesis is fantasy, then why did God include creation in the 4thCommandment?
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work, you nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the se and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day, therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Genesis 20:9-11.
The Ten Commandments were not written by Moses, they were written by the finger of God. Exodus 32:16. The written tablets confirmed Genesis 2:2-3. When Moses came down from the mountain and found the people committing sinful acts he was angry. He threw the tablets containing the Ten Commandments on the ground, breaking them to pieces. Exodus 32:19. God then had to write the Ten Commandments again on a tablet of stone for the people. Deuteronomy 5:22. Were the Commandments only for the Israelite’s or for all people of God? The very fact they were written upon stone shows their permanence. The Commandments are also a transcript of the character of God.
Adam and Eve
If Adam and Eve were not created by God’s hand, then the Patriarch’s, Prophets and Apostles have perpetuated a fable throughout the Bible and all the references to Adam in scripture should be removed. These are:
Deuteronomy 32:8; Joshua 3:16, 19:33; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Job 31:33; Ezekiel 3:9; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 15:45; 1 Timothy 2:13 & 14;Jude 1:14
Difficult Passages of Scripture
There are many things in the Bible, which are hard to understand but with an enquiring mind and the Holy Spirit, many of these difficult passages have, over time been interpreted and brought to our understanding. Through each century, God has revealed His mysteries to chosen individuals or groups. What is logical to the mind of God may be illogical to the human mind. Can we ever fathom the mind of the God who created us? No, but He does give us the necessary information to know Him and that is why He gave us the Bible which testifies about Jesus. It was collaboration between humanity and God. From creation until now He has revealed himself to us and those with whom He spoke directly were instructed to write it down for future generations. Then Jesus came to fulfil the law and show us God in human form.
Why do we read the Bible?
We read the Bible to get to know the God who loves us and to learn from the stories and experiences of others. By reading we also discover the truth about God, Jesus and our heavenly home.
The Bible is not just an instruction manual, it contains many kinds of literature, including: Poetry, narratives and romantic prose. Where passages of instruction exist, these may contain figurative or symbolic language, therefore we have to compare scripture with scripture and look at the context and setting of the passage we are trying to understand. At first glance we may not understand a passage because it may have to be read symbolically rather than take it literally. It is only through diligent Bible study and prayer that we can receive the answers to our questions. It also contains many ethical and moral issues relevant to the author’s day, much of which is still relevant today but there are some issues the writer put down on paper that he was not aware of how relevant it would become in our day.
There are many questions for example, how do we view the pages of history about our origins; what about prophecy that has been fulfilled and still has to be fulfilled; what relevance is there to my life and how I should live it. We can read of God's many promises that are still relevant for us to give us hope, peace and confidence. When reading the instructions in the Bible for our lives, it is not always black and white; there are many grey areas.
For Example, Jesus said:
"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matthew 5:29, 30).
That clearly is an instruction, but we have to ask ourselves, "Did Jesus mean it to be taken literally?" No of course not. Temptation comes when we look upon something that we would like to have. We see through our eyes. Were the disciples immune to the same temptations as us. If so, there are no records of any one of them putting their eyes out! Origen, one of the early church fathers, who lived around 186 A.D, did take this passage literally, but instead of his eyes, he emasculated himself. Do we really believe that it's God's will that His followers maim themselves in pursuit of righteousness? Or was Jesus speaking in a "hyperbole," which is a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, for example: ‘I could sleep for a year’, or ‘this book weighs a ton’. Some people today—both Christians and non-Christians—place faith and reason in opposition to one another. This should never be done. We should never have blind faith that defies reason. Isaiah 1:18 declares, “Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord." Unless we reason as we read, we will fail to understand what we're reading. We need to engage the Word with our intellect and God will give the understanding.
We must consider the context in which a particular verse or passage occurs. Context is so important that we cannot even pronounce certain words with certainty unless we know the context.
We have to ask ourselves, what is the point of the passage? By asking this question can save us from a lot of misunderstandings. When Joshua asked for the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12, 13), he simply wanted more so he could pursue his enemies. He did not ask for, nor did God give him, an explanation of celestial mechanics. For us to draw conclusions about the movements of the sun and our earth based on that text would be a misuse.
How do we reconcile the "turn the other cheek", which Jesus told us to do, with the Old Testament "an eye for an eye." To understand what He meant by "turning the other cheek" requires that we know how it compares with the other items on the list: giving your coat as well as your cloak and going the extra mile. When studied in the correct logical context these passages have no contradiction.
Cultural and historical context
In fact, if we study the cultural and historical context of "turn the other cheek," we discover that all three behaviours were considered insults that the occupying Roman soldiers perpetrated against the Jews.
Some critics of the Bible love to point out what they see as "contradictions." For example, although Jesus clearly said, "Do not resist an evil person," several Roman centurions appear in the New Testament, and not once did Jesus or any of the disciples tell them to change their employment. The Roman army was brutal, yet Paul declared they were God’s servants in restraining and punishing evil (Romans 13:1-4).
It appears that Jesus did not intend for His followers to ignore rapacious and lethal force; rather, He meant that we should not retaliate against insults or attempt to get even. Protecting ourselves and other innocent people from injury and death is not at issue. Indulging our lust to make others hurt as much as we do or to salvage injured pride is.
Clearly, God wants us to use our reason in understanding His Word. But we can reason ourselves into mistakes.So, as a safeguard, we should always pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our reason as we study, to help us see God's perspective. We should read large passages and broad themes as well as the small details. This will give us a broader textual perspective. It's also wise to share our interpretations with others in order to get their point of view. Not everything that makes sense to me makes sense to others. And Peter reminds us:
"no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20).
None of us has a monopoly on reason. We also know that there is safety in seeking counsel from more than one person (Proverbs 11:14). Before we do something like picking up a poisonous snake to validate our faith or injuring ourselves physically, we should consider whether others find our reasoning compelling.
It will also help our understanding if we can look at some difficult passages or words in Greek or Hebrew, as some do not always translate exactly as the translators of the Bible into English wanted them to. For example: the Hebrew word ‘ruach’ translated in some passages as ‘spirit’, actually means ‘breath’.
Should we question God or not?
God gave his character and His image to His human creation. He also gave us freedom to question Him and to learn from Him. He is not unapproachable and we do not have to go through other humans to ask Him questions. (That does not mean we cannot ask other learned Christian’s their views on difficult passages of Scripture – or search the many writings of others who have researched topics we are trying to make sense of).
God wants us to question Him that is why we have the Bible. He wants us to ‘reason’ with Him. He loves our discussions and our grappling’s to understand Him and the more we dig into His Word, the more we learn. If we do not search for an answer to our questions and just accept the word of others, then we will only see God through their eyes. Ministers, Pastors, Priests may be ordained by churches, but they do not have the monopoly of understanding about God. We can see this in the many Christian denominations we have today – all with some different understanding of God’s Word.
If we therefore discard large sections of the Bible to suit our own church doctrine or understanding, then we throw the baby out with the bath water.
Learning about God through the Bible, which is His divine Word is an exciting journey of discovery, which will bring us great rewards of understanding. We must remember that Christianity is not a static religion; it is like a winding, flowing river that leads to eternity. We can either row the boat and enjoy the journey or tie ourselves to the bank and stay with cherished beliefs that have never been proven by the Word. Each one of us has the choice to get close up and personal to our heavenly Father. He is waiting for you to call on Him and you can be one hundred percent sure, He will answer your searching questions. Ralph Jackson 2019