Thursday, February 7, 2008

Consider the source

A little boy said to his father one day, “If I had been Columbus I would not have taken all that trouble to discover America.”

“Why, what would you have done?” asked the father.

“Oh,” replied the little boy, “I would just have gone to the map and found it.”

This illustration comes from today’s reading in God is Enough. The author says that this little boy didn’t understand that maps are only pictures of known places. America does not exist because it is on a map; it is on the map because it is known to exist.

From this illustration, the author says that the Bible is like a map. It states what is already true and known. For instance, where it is written that God loves us, this is a fact and it would not be in the Bible if was not known as a fact.

I can hear the objections. People say things like, “I don’t believe the Bible because there are so many interpretations. How can I know what is true?” or “The Bible is full of mistakes” or “It is an old book that has nothing to do with life today” or “I don’t know that God loves me is true, or that anything else in the Bible is true.” To these, a telephone book is a book of facts (at least mostly), but the Bible is not.

Advice says: Do not believe anything you hear and only half of what you read. In a world full of such skepticism, how is it possible to consider the Bible as factual and then believe it? In my view, the reliability begins with the Author. Men may have penned the words, but many verses affirm that their thoughts were not their own.

David, who penned most of the Psalms, says in 2 Samuel 23:2, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue.

How can this happen? 1 Peter 1:20-21 say, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

God’s Spirit somehow motivated them to write what God wanted to say. While Christians today know Scripture is complete and they cannot add to it, we also know how the Spirit can motivate us to say and do things. We have a relationship with Him and are responsive to Him. He doesn’t speak audibly, yet we hear Him just as if He did.

There is good reason for Scripture though. Lest I “hear” incorrectly or my selfishness corrupts what I think I hear, God gave the Bible as a checkpoint. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As I read it, I can verify what the Holy Spirit is saying.

One of my commentaries offers further thoughts. It says biblical inspiration is not mechanical dictation, or automatic writing, or any process which involved the suspending of the action of the human writer’s mind. These concepts are found in other writing, like the Talmud, but not in the Bible. God gave His Word without physical or psychological force, and in the process actually heightened the freedom, spontaneity and creativeness of those who wrote what He put on their hearts to write.

However, this did not mean God’s word to them was distorted in the process. God didn’t need to look for a writer who would be best for His purpose and then coerce him to write. Instead, He prepared the people who wrote and when it came time for the task, they spontaneously did as He desired.

Inspiration applies to the original text. Through the years, it is possible that some errors or corruption crept in as the words have been translated. Knowing that the original documents were inspired by God makes vital the task of meticulous textual evaluation. We no longer have the originals, but hundreds of copies made with care can be compared and copyist errors eliminated, thus ascertaining the words of the original text.

Biblical inspiration is not the same as the inspiration of great literature. It is not about the literary quality of the Bible (even though the Bible is literature), but its character. It is God’s revelation to us put in writing. (From the New Bible Dictionary)

Because God is behind the writing, I am able to believe it is true. Yet as I said yesterday, I cannot do that by myself. He has to help me. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 puts it like this, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

As the Spirit knows all there is to know about God, He also wakes me up to understand the things revealed in the Bible about Him.

One last question: besides the claim of inspiration by God, how do I know that what I read about Him is true? Simple. Dozens of authors over thousands of years all came up with the same story about God. With the way everyone fights over everything, including religion, there is no way any of them could have made up this book.

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