I remember a conversation I had with someone I had been studying the Bible with and they said to me, “I don’t know what to make of the Bible.” Before they had started reading it, they assumed the Bible was a book of legends – amazing stories intended to communicate spiritual truths. But as they began to read, they realized that the Bible contained too much detail and first-hand witness to read it as a fable. It seemed like a collection of letters, speeches and historical accounts. The problem they had was that it also spoke of things they found too remarkable to be true. And so they were at a loss to know how to read the Bible. I think a lot of people have drawn similar conclusions.
In Lifeway Research’s recent study, they found that 44% of people agreed with the statement, “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.” People assume that the Bible is teaching some important things. It has some “helpful” stories. But they assume there’s no need to accept it as actually true. The Bible itself declares that it’s the truthfulness of the Scriptures that gives confidence to believers. As Proverbs 30:5 says, Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. We can trust in God’s Word because it’s reliable, it’s trustworthy. Jesus prayed in John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. He understood that the Bible is not just true, but is itself truth, that is, the standard by which truthfulness is measured. The Bible really is true.
Another finding in Lifeway’s study was the fact that 51% of people agreed with the statement, “The Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses.” They think that the Bible is a great book but just want the freedom to interpret it whatever they want. But the Bible isn’t just a source of classic stories to give a framework to your own ideas. If God is trying to communicate to us through the Bible and we interpret it whatever way we want, we’ll end up ignoring what He’s actually trying to say. Deuteronomy 4:2 warns against adding or subtracting anything from the Bible:
You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
Some have gone to extreme measures to subtract the parts of the Bible they disagree with. The Lord of the Rings actor Ian McKellen for instance has famously claimed to rip Leviticus 18, which forbids homosexuality, out of the Bible whenever he finds one in a hotel room. But it is far more common for people to ‘just interpret differently’ the parts they find offensive. To be sure, not everything in Scripture is easy to understand, and there are times when interpretations differ, but to disobey God’s Word is to disobey God himself, and so we don’t have the freedom to freely interpret Scripture to support our beliefs or justify our lifestyle.
My friend didn’t know what to make of the Bible because of unbelief. It wasn’t a problem with the Bible. Others claim to believe everything the Bible teaches, but they never make time to read it. Ultimately our response to God’s Word mirrors our response to God Himself.
May we rest in the truth that God has given us and seek the strength and wisdom that only His Word can provide.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple - Psalm 19:7
In awe of Him,