This week my post is going to consist of a response to a long comment by reader Treisee to my ‘The Presuppositions of the “Deserted Island Scenario”’ post. I encourage Treisee, or anyone else, to add more comments at the end of the post which I will try and answer promptly.
What happens if we have no bibles? Are we going to be able to know God, or have salvation? We have such a heavy emphasis on ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ concepts, interpreting scripture with scripture and all that, that do we ever stop to think about being bibleless? That one day we may never be able to feast upon the authenticated word of God, the bible?
There are different kinds of revelation we have been given. First, there is what most theologians call common grace which is revelation that everyone, whether believer or unbeliever, has been shown. One of the famous passages which teach this concept is Romans 1:18-22:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
So, everyone has seen God’s attributes. He is known by everyone. Is that enough to save a person from eternal damnation? In the same epistle Paul answers that question with a “no”:
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
I am a strong believer that if any person at any time in history wanted to hear the way of salvation God would provide it to them (I wrote a post a few weeks ago on that: What About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?). Interpreting “line upon line and precept upon precept” is for believers who are trying to learn God’s word not for unbelievers.
The unbeliever needs the gospel which God will provide. He may provide it through one of us or directly through scripture (I have known people who were saved by reading the Bible). No matter how a person is saved it is God who is behind it.
One day I may be without a Bible, or “bibleless,” but I know that that is only temporary. As the Apostle Peter said “the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Was not the bible we know, authenticated by the very men and ideals that have been studied over and over again as to attempt to verify their authenticity but seem to miss the point that they were just men who were meant to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, just like every believer is meant to be today in this age of Grace, or was it that those men carried a special super grace that made the collection of inspired writings they chose as super special? What makes their choices more inspired than someone’s choices of today? Or am I expected to believe that Gods power and inspiration has some kind of leak in it like a hole in a drink bottle filled with water?
I believe that there were men that God used to write down God’s special revelation to all of us. I hold to what is called the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (link here). I believe that Article IX speaks to some of your question:
We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
We deny that the finitude or falseness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.
In addition I would like to add a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy:
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’
17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
I added bold font to the text of verse 20 so no one would miss it. Under the Mosaic Law if a prophet, a prophet is someone who speaks for God, spoke a word in God’s name that he wasn’t commanded to he was to be put to death. How were the Jews supposed to know if someone spoke a falsehood in God’s name? They knew because they had the Mosaic Law in writing and they could compare it to what the prophet said. To the ancient Hebrews inerrancy was a matter of life and death.
What about those people in jails their whole life, in deep dark prisons, hidden away from humanity. Those who live and die never having seen or heard the words of God due to the circumstances of their life and nation they live in, never having seen the authenticated words of God on paper? Are they condemed because they didnt have access to a bible or even a fragment? Surely the God that appeared to Abraham and Jacob, didn’t sit down with them in bible reading 101 as a way of authenticating his words to them, no it seems that he spoke to them in an entirely different way, but the same way he speaks to us in this very era of time we live in, surely God can speak to these people in such a way as to lead them to Christ, salvation and holy living, even in the midst of their darkness and depravity.
Once again I would refer you to my post “What About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?”
How can we even begin to have the arrogance that leads us to think we can tie down the things of God and sift through the writings of the bible and declare doctrine. The bits of this and that amongst the words of the bible that cause us to have new rules to live by in our believers walk and journey.
I believe that God has made clear to us that He wants to be understood by us and that we are to study what revelation we have.
16 “Come near to Me, hear this:
I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
From the time that it was, I was there.
And now the Lord God and His Spirit
Have sent Me.”
How did God speak to the Jews? Through scripture of course!
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
If we “rightly divide the word of truth” we are not declaring some doctrine that God has never given us. What we are doing instead is figuring out the revelation that has been given us by God.
It isn’t arrogance that leads us to think that we can “tie down” the things of God. Only if we do so in an arrogant way can it be called arrogance. We can tie down God’s truth because God, and therefore truth, never changes.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Moses himself had an incredible relationship with God, despite that fact he had no written words to confirm he was on the right track. Is not his God and our God, the God of the bible, the one and the same?
That is all very true. It was Moses that God used to write the first five books of the Bible (the Torah). The time had come for God’s revelation to be permanently recorded and Moses was the man God used to start the process. If God chooses to reveal Himself in that way I certainly have no problem with it.
Have we not become like the Pharisees who lived by the dead letter of the law Jesus spoke about and turned away from the spirit of the law and grace? Have we gone and followed in the very footsteps of the Israelites and have taken on a new idol, the authenticated word of God we know as the bible? Have we not just gone and put God into a box just like the Pharisees and Sadducees did, and maybe not recognising the works of God as a result, and not being able to accept the fullness of Jesus just like they did when he walked with them?
I have complete faith in mankind to mess up just about anything if given a chance. However I also have complete faith in God to be faithful and true in all of His dealings with us. Without a doubt some Christians have used scripture in ways that it was never intended to. Even that being the case we cannot say that since some people have misused the Bible we can just ignore it. God has revealed and we are expected to learn and understand. If you aren’t sure of your understanding then pray to God about it:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
I am in no way trying to present any argument that we should devalue our bibles and the study of the written word of God, as they are tools that help us to know and understand God and his plans and works, but I have been finding that I am coming to a point of advocating a bit of perspective that might help us being prepared to relate to God, with God, and about God without our bibles.
Think of it… if persecution really comes like it is meant to, do you seriously think that those persecuting believers are going to let us have our precious bibles or even a fragment of it?
I don’t think they will.
God has a plan for each of us and He will give each of us what we need to fulfill that plan. The evil men who would persecute us will certainly try to deny us any and all truth. But don’t leave God out of this. No one can stop God or His plan.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
I hope that answers all of your questions. Please leave more comments if I was unclear.
UPDATE: I have found a resource that touches on some of the issues Treisee mentioned. Tony Garland of the Spirit & Truth web site answers three questions in his post Q184 : Miscellaneous Questions of Faith:
- Why does it feel like God hides himself today?
- Why did Jewish teachers reject Jesus as Messiah, yet the apostles saw Him as fulfilling Jewish expectations for Messiah?
- Is it OK [for believers] to ask questions of God?
I encourage you to check it out.