The Bible is central to the Christian religion. The Church accepts the Bible’s claim that it is the Word of God. The Church has recognized the Bible as its canon through the millennia, signifying that it is the authoritative guide for its beliefs and practices.
Some people in modern culture have a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that Christians would hold their views and actions to the legitimacy of the Scriptures since these are unusual assertions about just a group of ancient texts.
Many people today have a hard time imagining how the Bible could be God’s Word, and here are some of the most typical objections you could hear.
“There are several inconsistencies and ambiguities.”
If you don’t know the Bible well, it’s not difficult to persuade someone that it contains inconsistencies. Others note that whereas Matthew sets the scene for the “Sermon on the Mount” on a mountain (Matthew 5:1), Luke says Christ spoke on a “level place” (Luke 6:17). Can we trust the accounts in 2 Chronicles 13 and 1 Kings 15? Who came first, people (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) or the rest of creation (Genesis 2:4b-25)? These are just a few examples of the more that unbelievers may bring.
The Gospels are more than just historical accounts; they also reveal the theological implications of actual occurrences to their original first-century readers. This is why Matthew sets Jesus’ preaching atop a mountain, a reference that his initial audience of Jewish Christians would easily understand. Specifically, Luke, written largely for Hellenistic Christians, would not quickly pick up on the connection between Jesus lecturing on a mountain about the law and God gave Moses the laws on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24).
Both creation stories tell us who made everything, but neither specifies how he did it. Both use metaphorical language to explain creation rather than giving us a literal account of the process. Questions about God’s handiwork can be directed at the scientific community.
As has been shown, when people claim to find “contradictions” in the Bible, they typically misread the genre and intent of a particular text or judge the Bible by the wrong criteria.
“There is a lot of bloodshed, murder, discrimination, and tyranny in it that Christians use to rationalize more of the same.”
The Bible does include examples of hate, murder, attempted genocide, and other forms of injustice. Ultimately, the Bible reveals the uncompromising reality about fallen humans.
Naturally, while making this claim about the Bible, readers don’t have these examples of human brutality and unfairness in mind, but rather the numerous accounts in which God brings violence on humanity, either personally or via the action of his followers.
Consider the accounts of the Great Flood (Genesis 6-9), the Red Sea Carnage (Exodus 14-15), and the Conquest (Joshua 1-12). Even if it’s hard for us to wrap our 21st-century Western heads around, they are stories about justice, about wrongdoers being punished as they deserve to be. Because the Canaanites’ evil had reached “its full measure,” God sent the Flood to punish violent people (Gen. 6:11–12); he sealed the Red Sea to prevent Egyptian armies from killing Israelites; and he sent Joshua to destroy the city of Jericho (Gen. 15:16).
That ability to be “turned off” by such tales is a privilege reserved for those with fairly quiet lives. The Bible is clear that those who choose to ignore God and cause harm to others will be held accountable for their actions. That’s also the lesson taught about the afterlife in the New Testament.
The Bible’s depiction of God as violent is integral to his war on evil. This conflict also evolves throughout time. Although the conflict has always been going on, with Jesus’ arrival, the focus shifts to the spiritual forces and authorities, and it is through his death on the cross that he “triumphs” over them (Col. 2:15).
“Its portrayals of the natural world and natural histories conflict with scientific understanding.”
The Bible’s depictions of the natural world and its history are consistent with modern scientific understanding. For one thing, theologians of the past have assured us that God has provided us with two books to show who he is: the book of nature and the Bible. There will never be any real disagreement between these texts, but our misreading of one or both of them might give that impression. The words of Pope John Paul II, “Science can purify our religion; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes,” are especially relevant here.
The primary biblical narrative of the creation of the universe and humanity (Genesis 1-2) uses metaphorical language to explain these events, which should be evident to all reading and has been apparent to most throughout the years.
Origen and Augustine, two early Christians, acknowledged the need for the sun, moon, and stars to create a believable 24-hour day. Therefore, the days in Genesis 1 cannot be literal, as the sun does not appear until the fourth day. The metaphor of God breathing on dust to create the first man in Genesis 2:7 employs figurative language. Does God, after all, breathe air?
Genesis 1-2 is deeply concerned with the question of who created everything—God!—but it is not at all concerned with how he produced everything. Nature, God’s other book, provides the answer we seek. Moreover, scientific methods have revealed that natural history is best seen as a gradual unfolding of cosmic and biological development culminating in the emergence of humans. There is no danger here for the teachings of the Bible.
“Even within the Christian community, there is much disagreement over its meaning; hence, its validity is of little consequence.”
Christians have varied interpretations of the Bible’s teachings on various topics. We need only take a drive down any given street to notice that there isn’t just one, but many diverse Christian teachings being preached, what with a Baptist Church on one corner, a Lutheran Church on the next, a Catholic Church, a Presbyterian Church, and so forth.
There are many points of Christian disagreement, including how to read Genesis 1-2, the relationship between God’s authority and human accountability, the nature of baptism, the timing of communion, the manifestation of the Spirit’s talents, the second coming of Christ, and many others. Others may wonder what the point of Christianity is if Christians can’t even agree with what it says in the Bible.
However, this interpretation ignores an important nuance. Even though Christians tend to disagree on several peripheral issues (some, sadly, elevate in importance), virtually all Christians can agree on what matters most. We need clarification on what exactly these issues are. Consider looking at the Apostles’ Creed if you’re curious about the core beliefs held in common by all Christians.
Numerous Christian denominations, including Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic, and others, affirm the Apostles’ Creed. In addition, Christians agree on the central doctrine that God created us, that we are sinners in need of a savior, and that the savior is Jesus Christ, God’s son, who suffered on the cross and was resurrected from the dead.
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