September 20, 2010

I Believe the Bible is my Spiritual Guidebook

The last post was titled “I Believe in the Bible (Mostly)” and ended asking the question, “Can I still use the Bible though I believe there are some errors, or at least some significant potential for errors?” The answer is a resounding, "Yes" with a qualification.  I would not use the Bible as an absolute historical record.  I would not use the Bible as an accurate record of the conversations and dialogue of the Hebrews as they interacted with God and their neighbors.  I would not use the Bible as an accurate timeline for the development of mankind.  I would not use the Old Testaments as a list of specific laws required to become a follower of God and His son Jesus Christ. I would not use the New Testament Gospels as exact timelines of Jesus ministry.

The reason I would not use the Bible for these reasons is because I don’t believe the Bible was intended as a history or scientific book but rather a spiritual guidebook.  Whether the Flood happened or Abraham argued with God or Joseph had a conversation as recorded, word for word, with his brothers is not important to me in my growth as a Christian.

Whether the Four Gospels report the Resurrection of Jesus in exactly the same way (they do not) is not as important to me as the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and reappeared to his disciples and others. 

I use the Bible as a spiritual guide in the development of my relationship to God.  The Old Testament stories
speak more to God’s efforts to mold the Hebrews into His people.  It addresses the nature of God and the lengths to which He would go to shape a people in His image.  I believe that God, figuratively, had a decision to make initially concerning humans.  “Do I keep them ignorant of Right and Wrong and thus have people who adore and worship Me, or do I give them the knowledge of Right and Wrong and give them the choice to adore and worship Me?  The first option makes the humans more controllable and their worship meaningless while the second option means I will have to struggle with them but their worship will be more meaningful.”  I believe God chose the second option and the Old Testament is the story of God’s struggle to shape and mold an often stubborn and strong willed people with free will who could and often did chose their our ways and not God’s ways.  According to the account of Noah and the Ark, God because frustrated with the people and was determined to destroy them and start over with the only righteous man God could find, Noah. (Genesis 6:5-7) (As a side note, this sounds like a God that many Christians will be uncomfortable with. This is a God that has His plans thwarted by humans. If God is all seeing and all powerful and all everything else, how could He not see this coming and stop it? This whole question will be the subject of a post on the Will of God and how mankind's God given gift of free will is able to change God's short term will but not God's long term will.) Unfortunately, God found that mankind did not change.  We continued to go our own way more often than choosing to go God's way.

I use the New Testament as the story of God’s solution to mankind’s stubborn resistance to the efforts to make us His people.  In the Old Testament, God attempted to use regulations and punishments and sacrifices and strong willed prophets to mold His people but it did not work.  Mankind just was not able to conform to the rules nor did we want to do so.  We could not keep all the laws. We would not listen to the warnings of the prophets. We were in a continuous state of rebellion against the commands and will of God.  A different approach was needed.  And the New Testament is the laying out of the new approach God used to shape His people.  First, He opened up the family to all peoples, Jews and Gentiles. Secondly, He paid the price for our disobedience and gave us a new way to become His people.  That new way is the story and testament of Jesus Christ.  God recognized we are incapable of obeying His laws because of our free will and our natural sinfulness.  To make us “right”, holy, before God, a perfect sacrifice had to be made to wipe our sinful nature away.  That sacrifice was Jesus.  

I use the Bible to help me understand this new covenant between God and mankind.  I use the Bible to help me draw closer to Him much as a new puppy draws closer to it’s mother for warmth, food, safety and comfort. I use the Bible to help me live a life that is pleasing to God and shows I have faith in His Son. This verse from the second letter of Paul to young Timothy sums up what the Bible means to me. (This comes from  "The Living Bible, Paraphrased")

"The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God 
and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize 
what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps
 us do what is right.  It is God's way of making us well prepared
 at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone." 
(2nd Timothy 16-17 The Living Bible Paraphrased")

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