God said it I believe it. That settles it. God said it implies the Bible…I believe it implies that you believe and live out everything in the Bible, the "that settles it!" part is like - "I'm done discussing this. Goodbye. Dismissed. Case closed. I have just decided that all further communication on this subject has been terminated so it won't do you any good to try to change my mind."
So let’s break it down. God said it implies the Bible let’s talk about the Bible. The Bible is made a library a book of books. The first five books are written down by Moses and others hundreds of years after things happened. It is written over hundreds of years by many people. Much of it is not chronological, it skips around. It is full of poetry, parables, proverbs or wise sayings and symbolism.
The Bible as we know took centuries to be put together 1672 for the church of England.
It was the 400’s for general agreement.
The person credited with dividing the Bible into chapters is Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207-1228. While Langton’s isn’t the only organizational scheme that was devised, it is his chapter breakdown that has survived.
How sure can we be that the Bible has come through its multiple translations intact? The Hebrew Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Jesus spoke in Aramaic (a language about which we have insufficient information, to say the least) and the Christian Testament was written in Greek. The entire Bible was then translated into Latin, then into old English, then into the dozens of contemporary English translations we have available today (e.g., King James Version, New International Version, New Revised Standard Version, etc.).
The Bible was never intended to be a biology, archeology or geology textbook; we know this because our notions of science were not part of the worldview of the cultures that wrote the Bible. Four corners of the earth. in Numbers 15:38. In Ezekiel 7:2 it is translated “four corners” and again in Isaiah 11:12 “four corners.” Job 37:3 and 38:13 as “ends.” Does the God said it I believe that settles it work here?
Genesis 1 has the characteristics of a Hebrew poem. Is it literal 144 hours of creation our does it proclaim the goodness of creator God and his creation.
Do we follow the Law? Honor the Sabbath? An eye for an eye?
According to the Bible in Leviticus we are law breakers, mixed threads, hair cut , beard cut, women wearing men’s clothing. All of that is said to be an abomination to the Lord. God said it I believe it that settles it. Oh yeah, we all should be wearing robes.
We pick a choose.
If we’re reading a parable we should read it as a parable. When we read that Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers” (Luke 10:30), we miss the point if we start asking what the man’s name was or try to get a description of the robbers or wonder if they left fingerprints. It’s parable, not a newspaper report. Read it like a parable.
Likewise if something is a hyperbole or an exaggeration we need to read it like a hyperbole. Again, Jesus doesn’t want us to pluck out our eyes or chop off our hands.
If something is a simile, read it like a simile. If something is a metaphor, read it like a metaphor and so on.
Some parts of the Bible aren’t meant to be interpreted literally, and we miss the point if we try to read them that way.
Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye but pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) But He wasn’t only addressing people who really have two-by-fours protruding from below their foreheads. That’s a pretty small group of people. Rather, He was talking to all of us who have a tendency to put other people down when instead we should be paying attention to our own relationships with God.
But of course we all know that. As I said, it’s a matter of common sense.
-- OIL ON YOUR HEAD
For example, in Matthew 6:17-18 Jesus said, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The point Jesus was making, of course, was that we shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves when we fast. We shouldn’t show off how religious we are. So instead of going around all unkempt and disheveled when we fast, we should dress nicely. Look our best, so no one will notice or even suspect that we’re depriving bodies to strengthen our spiritual lives.
However, what if someone never puts oil on his head except when he’s fasting? What if he only puts oil on his head to draw attention to the fact that he’s fasting? “Good morning Tom. I see your hair’s kinda slick and shinny today. You must be fasting.” Even though that person would be following Jesus’ instructions to a “t,” he would be doing exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught.
But that doesn’t mean that what Jesus taught doesn’t apply to us today. The part about putting oil on our heads, that changes with the fashions. That may not apply to us directly. The principle, however, is that we shouldn’t show off our piety. And that principle applies to us today as much as it ever applied to anyone. The principle is timeless.
Lets look at another example. Colossians 3:22 says Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything … 150 years ago some people tried to apply this verse directly to life in the United States. Before the Civil War there were those who used this and a few other verses to try to prove that slavery was God’s will. After all, if slavery were abolished no one would be able to obey this biblical mandate.
The Bible doesn’t endorse slavery, it simply recognizes it as a cultural reality of that time. Paul was speaking to a particular historical situation when he said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters.” But you and I are not slaves. We don’t own slaves. We live in a different historical situation. So those words don’t apply directly to us.
-- SILENT WOMEN
Let’s look at another example. This one is a little more controversial, but even the controversy will teach us something valuable.
In I Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul writes, As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Because of these and a few similar verses some Christians say it’s wrong for women to be pastors – or elders or deacons for that matter. And we can see why. The plain sense of these verses says women shouldn’t speak in church. It’s hard to imagine a pastor who stays silent in church – though some people might like to try.
However, are these verses like the one we just read about slavery? Do they apply to that historical situation but not to us today? After all, they were written to a male dominated society. They were written at a time when women weren’t allowed to be educated or hold positions of civic leadership or in many cases even to own property. In fact, women were basically seen as property themselves.
We live in a different situation today. Women are free to take out loans and start their own companies and vote and even run for public office. Should they still be silenced in the church?
It speaks to the Bible simply as an authoritative rulebook, a manual, a set of mandates or commandments. There are many problems with that viewpoint.
What would happen if we regarded the entire book of Proverbs as commandments meant to be fulfilled literally by God’s people today? We would have to beat stupid people and children (10:13; 14:3; 18:6; 26:3), we must subject lazy people to forced labor (12:24), we must own many oxen if we want to have food to eat (14:4); we must cast lots in order to resolve disputes (18:8); and my favorite, we must commit suicide by slicing our throats if our appetites are too large (23:2). In other scriptures, we would have to gouge our eye or cut off our hand if it causes us to sin (Matthew 5:30).
The spirit versus the letter
writing in real places,
at real times,
choosing to include some material,
choosing to leave out other material,
all because they had stories to tell.
In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the Word is
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth Jesus.
John 14:9 Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. The words of Jesus are words from God because he is God. Jesus doesn’t say kill your enemies he says love them, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, feed the hungry, don’t judge. He ignore the Sabbath laws by healing, harvesting grain and eating it. He turns the world upside down. He doesn’t say anything about homosexuality but has quite of bit to say about divorce. He talks a great deal about money and how to use it. He gets in our business by saying if you think it your doing it. He defeats evil through his resurrection and promised eternal life. He readily forgives, touches the untouchables and interacts with those on the edge of society. He embraces children, parties and wants you to live an abundant life.
Why did God say this? That sort of thing.
The better question is: Why did people find it important to tell this story?
Followed by What was it that moved them to record these words?
Followed by What was happening in the world at that time?
And then What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God is at that time?
And then What’s the story that’s unfolding here and why did these people think it was the story worth telling?
To believe that the Bible is both a library of books and also more than just a library books takes faith. You have to believe that there’s something else going on in these pages, something just below the surface, something that unites all those writers writing over all those years and then all those people making all of those decisions about which of the things those writers wrote belong in the particular arrangement of writings we call the Bible.
These truths about this library and how we got it help us understand what the Bible is and how (not) to talk about it.
They had experiences. They told stories. They did their best to share those stories and put language to those experiences.
When you approach the Bible, then, you have to start with what you do have, what you do know about it, what it actually is.
The Bible is not an argument, it is a record of human experience. The point is not to prove that it’s the word of God or it’s inspired or it’s whatever-is-the-current-word-people-are-using, the point is to enter in to its stories with such intention and vitality that you find what it is that inspired people to write these books.
There are lots of passages that are quite mysterious, words in the original language we don’t have adequate modern equivalents for, stories that involve practices and rituals we don’t have any context for
The Bible is not God it is not to be worshipped. It is a source of abiding spiritual wisdom inspired by God but given us by fallible human beings, to be used in our own growing relationship with the Holy. The Bible is not God, nor is it a substitute for God. For all that is valuable in the Bible, it has limits that impact our ability - and anyone else's ability - to understand it fully, and it requires certain strategies if we would mine it for its deepest gifts