Sunday I preached what might have been my favorite sermon in my DOUBT ABOUT series. In the sermon I grouped our doubts about the Bible into scholarly type of doubts, experiential doubts, and doubts which arise from misuse. One part of the sermon was when I talked about the different types of doubt people have as to whether or not the Bible is authoritative and reliable; I grouped these loosely as “scholarly doubts” for lack of a better phrase. I have included a couple of these in today’s blog.
Another scholarly type of doubt people often have about the Bible is that it is divine in origin. In other words, folks might believe we really have the texts and we can understand the texts but they do not believe God had anything to do with it. It is more, in their eyes, about myth, stories, and culture.
There is not a whole lot a person can do to counter that, but let me try for a second. If God was real (and he is, but for point of argument let’s start with that), and if God revealed himself to human beings over time and space and geography, and if people were literate and could write down what they had encountered, what would we expect to have? Would we not expect the literature that was derived from that experience to look something like the Bible looks? What we have is what one would expect.
We do not believe the Bible was written by God himself. What we believe is that human beings like me and you have recorded what God revealed and did and said. That is why the Bible is more like a witness than it is a history. It records the ups and downs of human beings in relationship with God.
Okay, there is one more kind of scholarly doubt issue that can be lumped in here. That is the phenomena of other so-called “holy books.” We saw this acted out before us earlier this year when a moron burned a Koran in Florida. This caused such a reaction in the Muslim world that innocent people were killed.
But people have doubts about the Bible because, they say, what makes the Bible more important than the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, or even The Iliad?
Well, there is one obvious difference. In all the other major sacred texts what I find is that the claim of being from God or being divine is usually transmuted in one encounter. The Bhagavad Gita, as I understand it, is encounter between Krishna and Pandava just before a battle takes place. The Koran, of course, is the writings which Muhammad said were given to him by Allah. Almost the same thing can be said of the Book of Mormon which was invented by Joseph Smith.
While I respect these different faith traditions and readily want them to have the freedom to practice their faith, there is a radical difference in their claim to authenticity and the one of the Bible. These individuals represent portals, perhaps bottlenecks of the information. Muhammad, Krishna, and Smith might be thought of as filters for who can know what. Compare that with the Bible. The Bible is messy, splayed out over thousands of years, cultures, languages, and types of people. When a person reads the Bible, one of the first things an inquiring eye will find is that much of the material in the text is clearly ‘unfiltered.’ The other “holy books” are dictatorial while the Bible is egalitarian. The Scriptures have many human authors all encountering the same God. For my taste, the messy account of God and human beings in the Bible is far more reliable than other cleaned up and neat, or filtered accounts.