Friday, June 08, 2007

"Why does the Bible need so much clarification?"

Here is another email from another user that is finding the joy of exploring.
My husband has recommended your site to me as of late. I have just began reading on your website and found the section entitled "Is the Bible Perfect" particularly interesting.

I have been a Christian for about 12 years now and before that grew up in a house with an awareness of God. I have recently been discovering that I have some nagging questions in the back of my mind about the Bible and about God and his character/actions. Until recently, the past 2 years or so, I would define myself as one who tried to think as little as possible...it seemed to work for me. If you have no opinion you can never be wrong, right. Well, that's how I learned to survive through my teen years anyway. If I found a reasonable explantion for something I went with it and "preached/believed it as truth."

I've come to a point in my life where I am no longer satisfied with what I've been taught simply because it's what I've been taught. I really want to know what I believe and why I believe it. I've come to the realization that the "convictions" I have formed as a Christian were mainly formed because it was "the right decision" or the ones that sounded good. But I really didn't put a lot of thought into forming them. I realized that I have not done much investigating at all of the Bible and I have been calling myself a good Christian for so many years. I don't know how I've come to believe half of the things that I do. I'm in no way saying that everything I've come to believe is wrong...but I do think that not being willing to investigate if what you believe, i.e. investigating if it's coming from a credible source is wrong.

It's really creating some problems for me right now. At the church I currently attend I am pretty well known...mainly because my parents are well known in the church. My friends have always looked up to me as "spiritual" and a good disciple of Jesus. Recently I've been "trying to test the waters" with a couple of friends and asking them why they believe in God. You may be surprised, or maybe not, but many people don't react well to this question. Most of the responses I get are, "Why DON'T you believe in God?" Now what kind of logic is that? And another reason they give me is that they "feel its the truth, and that their life is better now than before they became a Christian." That presents two problems for me. The Bible that they hold so dear tells them that the heart is deceitful above all things...so should their feelings prove the validity of the Bible and God? And, secondly isn't it possible to live a good life without being a Christian? When one becomes a Christian they do make choices to stop doing things that harm themselves and others...and the lack of doing things does make the situation better. But I believe someone who is not a Christian can make these same "healthy" decisions in their life and the outcomes would be the same.

My husband and I are going through some tough times right now and I'm at risk of losing some friends because of the questions I have about God. I'm facing some really tough times ahead...questioning might leave me alone...but I have to do it. Ignorance is no longer bliss for me...some days I really wish it was still, but it's not.

Anyway, this brings me to the point of my letter...sorry, it took me so long to get here. I'm beginning to study out what I believe and why. I've been trying to take a closer look at the bible and all religions. I so many questions about why the bible seems to contradict itself, why God seems to have changed so drastically from the Old Testament to the New and I have a hard time with the claim that only Christians have it right and are going to heaven.

So, needless to say your section "Is the Bible Perfect" jumped out to me and I wanted to comment on a particular paragraph. It is the paragraph about 1 Kings 4:26 and 2 Chronicles 9:25. I found the discrepancy interesting. I looked the scriptures up in my bible, the NIV, and saw that 1 Kings 4:26 said "four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses...", not the "fourty thousand" you quoted. I thought that was odd so I went back to your site and clicked on the link for the scripture you provided. The link brought me to the New American Standard Bible translation. I then proceded to look up the scripture in every translation I could and noticed that The KJV and many others all said fourty, but the NIV said four as did the New International version. Wow!

I have to admit reading this paragraph on your site and the chart toward the bottom of the page have addressed some of the questions I've been having lately. I have to admit I've been one who never really questioned the Bible much or it's consistancy. I have just regurgitated the same rationalizations passed down to me on to others. The bible says that it was inspired by God and its still living and active and that nothing should be added or taken away...what about changed? I am just at the beginning of my journey to find out what the hell I believe...I feel like I don't know anything at times. But, I'm am determined to question and I believe I will have stronger convictions than ever about what I believe...and it may not be what I've been taught for so long...and that's scary to say.

I guess what I'm trying to say/ask is why does the Bible need so much clarification? Why do so many things need to be interpreted or justified? Just because it does doesn't prove to me that the Bible isn't valid...I guess I'm saying is that it just stinks. It would be nice to have a book that just spells everything out clearly. And if one translation says four and another says fourty...you are right in asking, "Who has the right version?" I'm now asking myself. I've got a lot of studying to do.

Yes, indeed, why does the Bible need so much clarification? Why must there be an army of apologists, continuously explaining away the problems? Why should a book written by God have so many problems?

Since one version of the Bible says "four" where another says "forty", which is correct? If one version had said the horses were strong but another said they were mighty, that would just be a difference in translation. But here we have differences in content. Different manuscripts say different things. And nobody can be sure which is correct, or if both are wrong. And if we cannot be sure which is right, how can we be sure any is a reliable copy of words written by God?

11 comments:

LorMar said...

"Recently I've been "trying to test the waters" with a couple of friends and asking them why they believe in God. You may be surprised, or maybe not, but many people don't react well to this question. Most of the responses I get are, "Why DON'T you believe in God?" Now what kind of logic is that?"

I think we have to be careful when interpreting and judging the answers of others. I can see where those people are coming from but I can also understand and respect that their "answer" (Why DON'T you believe in God?) may not be the satisfying answer for you. Overall, I think that exploration is beneficial. I mean, why should we believe in God or any religion at all? To go even further, why should we believe and trust the Bible? Personally, I would have more respect for a believer who honestly looked at the questions and explored them deeply than believers who simply do as they are told.

Anonymous said...

If someone came up and asked me why I believed in God, I doubt I would be able to answer them there and then either. It doesn't mean I don't have an answer, it means there are so many reasons I need to write a book, to explain it all. So for someone who has read the Bible, and is still asking that question, responding with the "Why don't you believe.." question might better give the responder a point of reference to work from.

Honey

Anonymous said...

I know why the Bible needs so much explanation.

Proverbs 25:2
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter...

Treasures are often hidden for their preservation.

Likewise this concealment preserves the integrity of the Bible.

Though the fundamental truth has always been simple -

LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART...AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

Honey

M said...

Honey,

I am sorry, but I don't agree with you. How does concealing meaning help "preserve the integrity of the bible?" Especially since we are called as Christians to:

2 Timothy 4:2 "Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season: correct, rebuke and encourage..."

and

Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and TEACHING them to obey everything I have comanded you."

We are supposed to teach the Word; bring it to "all nations." How are we supposed to teach others from a book that has contradictions and so many different meanings? Even within Christian churches, it's hard to find a group all teaching the same things. We spend half our time interpreting the word and there are so many possible meanings that nothing appears concrete. The Bible is supposed to be the "one right way," but there doesn't even appear to be "one right interpretation."

I don't know about you, but if my biology teacher gave me a text book that in one chapter told me one thing and three chapters later told me another and I were to be tested on it...I wouldn't feel very secure. On top of that if you add eternal punishment as the consequence of "misinterpreting" the facts, would you feel comfortable with the text book? And, would you feel comfortable sharing "your notes" from the textbook with someone else knowing that if your interpretation of the text is wrong...they are going to suffer too.

I have studied the bible with many people in my time as a Christian and I have seen many interpretations of the same scripture. Nothing seems to be black and white and that makes the Bible a challenging book to teach. And my uneasiness comes when the "wrong interpretation" leads to enternal punishment.

I wish the "fundamental truth": "LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART...AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" was all I had to do and was enough to get me to Heaven, the problem is that I keep reading and the Bible calls me to do a lot more than that.

LorMar said...

Hi M,

Would you please elaborate on the comment below:

"And my uneasiness comes when the "wrong interpretation" leads to enternal punishment."

I was wondering if you were basing the comment above on a specific scripture regarding wrong interpretations and eternal punishment or an issue commonly disagreed upon by various denominations.

M said...

lormar,

Thanks for asking. I was not basing this comment on any particular scripture. Most scriptures I have found have to deal with interpreting tongues or that fact that the Bible claims in 2 Peter not to have come about by prophets own interpretation. I meant that the Bible claims to be the one right way to live...the manual if you will for living a life pleasing to God, but the manual is a little confusing and contradictory at times.

My uneasiness is that I'm finding more and more contradictions in the Bible and things I don't agree with that are taught in Christianity that I haven't ever given much thought to before. I've "taught" many people the Bible before without a ton of investigation...it's just what I was taught you do as Christian. My uneasiness is that standards seem to be different within the same religion. Some who claim to be Christians read their bible, but never go to church and think they are going to heaven. Are they?Some believe it is ok hurt others if you mean well and are justified because they are doing if for Jesus. Some believe that baptism is essential to being saved and some think it is optional. Who is right? And if baptism is essential, but you were raised to believe that it was optional this misinterpretation leads to a big consquence. Unfortunately we don't have hind-sight in these matters.

I guess my point by this comment is that if there is such a great consequence (hell: eternal punishment) I wish the Bible were a little more clear in exactly how to live a life pleasing to the Lord.

Our good intentions aren't going to get us to heaven. Look at the Pharisees, they thought they were doing everything right by following the scriptures to a T, but they missed the boat. I think we're taught a lot in Christianity that the Pharisees were these terrible people, maybe so, but I think that there are a lot of Pharisees today in Christianity.

I hope that made sense. I'm not really sure why I decided to try and write a response so late at night. I think I may have gotten off on a tangent. Let me know if this makes sense. If not, I'll try to clarify.

Anonymous said...

Hi m :). I am very glad that you have joined us in the blog comments.

With regard to the scriptures, we are frequently the source of our own confusion, and if we begin to take on board the confusion of others, we may soon find ourselves sinking under the encumbering weight.

When we find ourselves in this position it needs to be our instinctual response to cry out to the Lord as Peter did "Lord, save me!"

31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

We are here to help.

I am in the process (slow as it is) of setting up a website that deals with some specific ALLEGED Biblical contradictions, and will provide the link when it becomes available. We must be humble enough to realise that what may appear, or be claimed as a contradiction, may in fact be a deficiency in our understanding of the word.

In the meantime if you are interested, I would like to offer to examine with you, the Biblical issue you consider to be the most insurmountable, and most detrimental to your faith at this point in time.

I would encourage you to keep your eyes on Christ – He is the Truth. There are many verses in the Bible from which we can take encouragement when we find ourselves overwhelmed with confusion. The main one I would like to encourage you with is Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." My personal experience has been that my time of confusion was in fact a time of great growth. Having the opportunity to step through various beliefs can in the future provide us with the knowledge, grounding and confidence we need to later address these issues with the voice of experience.

Once you gain a deeper understanding of God's word, you will be more able to readily understand and appreciate why He has presented His word to us in the way that He has.

Honey

Noogatiger said...

Brilliant Honey, just Brilliant.

I get it now.
If the Bible made sense, it wouldn't be from God. He made it contradictory, wrong on science, wrong on morals, wrong on math, wrong on cosmology, wrong on prophecy, just so that logical thinking people would not believe so easily. God know he doesn't want everyone to believe in him for God's sake.

Just those who don't ask questions.

Anonymous said...

The Bible does make sense - and its author, brilliant. That which is essential for our salvation is made simple, and none can deny this truth. On the other hand you would expect the creator of the universe with all it's complexity, when He authored a book, to also impart within its pages a similar level of complexity. If it were all simple, how could it be acknowledged as being from God? It is its complexity that bears evidence to its Divine authorship.

You say it is wrong on so many things, and yet so many of the great men of science held it in such high esteem.

On its morals Einstein said:

...let us not forget that knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind...What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living. — From Goldman, p. 88.

and Thomas Jefferson:

"The Bible makes the best people in the world."


On its philosophy Sir Isaac Newton said:

“We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”

And I have shown previously, quotes regarding the Bible from other founding fathers of science. It is a pity that you still choose to ignore what these very great intellectuals thought regarding the Bible and its contents, assuming instead that you are more discerning than they, and your words more notable.

No Christian is following his faith effectively if he doesn't ask questions, as the Bible clearly instructs us to "Test everything". The mistake you make is assuming that God doesn't have the answers - He does.

Honey

Noogatiger said...

Actually Honey your statement should read.

Every Christian who is following his faith should ask questions, but then he should swallow, hook line and sinker any answer, no matter how circular, implausible, circumspect, or obfuscated it may be, in order to keep the faith.

If the Bible were “the truth”, Honey, why does truth have to be accepted on faith?
Do you accept all truth on faith alone?
Why don’t you accept the Koran on faith alone?
Why don’t you accept evolution on faith alone?
Why don’t you accept the big bang on faith alone?

Why can’t you accept those truths on faith alone Honey?

You believe the Bible is true, based only upon your faith. Fine, but quit trying to convince others that it is in fact the truth, if all you have is your faith.

This book is way to full of errors to ever be considered as coming from a perfect God of any kind. No matter how many prominent credentialed men believed in it.

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]

Anonymous said...

I believe the Bible because of the truth I see within it's pages. Clearly it is a truth you wish to deny, as you won't take my word that it is there, nor the word of those of great science and learning. I don't need to look to the Bible to see man's wickedness - it is all round me, I fight against it every day, and it is not a wickedness the Bible has induced. Anyone who can't see the reality, needs to leave the comfort of their artificially sterile existence for a short time.

If Mr Paine doesn't like the way the Bible presents the truth about the law of Love, then perhaps he would be happier living according to the laws of the jungle, from which I imagine he believes we came, although even that option may be eliminated if we continue on our present course of destruction that threatens to annihilate both jungle and beast.

The Bible offers me the solution to man's wickedness, that is
1. acknowledging it exists
2. Christ's demonstration of love to guide me to a better way.

Honey