The more I study the scriptures, the more acutely aware I become of their authenticity; that is they are what they claim to be. They are, in fact, a revelation of The Creator– of Himself and His eternal Will for the created. The longer I live on this planet, the more evidence I see, in archaeological discoveries, in modern scientific agreement with the ancient texts, in the obvious design of the universe and in the historic fulfillment of Biblical prophecies, that this book we call the Bible is from God.
As I stand before this mountain of evidence that this book I hold in my hand is the communication of a Supreme Being, I’m stricken with the Book’s simplicity. (I can read and understand the actual words of God.) I’m amazed at its brevity. (I can read it through many times in a lifetime.) But, most of all, I’m taken with its relevance. It held the secret to hygiene and health for the ancient nomadic nation of Israel. Many of those “secrets” have been medically substantiated only in recent decades and yet, have practical significance in modern societies. The Bible holds the keys to ancient and, until recently, unknown civilizations; civilizations buried for centuries by the debris of history. But as long as archaeologists keep digging, they will keep finding relics from biblical civilizations. The Bible is relevant to their work. That’s because the Bible is authentic and, frankly, any case against its authenticity is getting harder and harder to argue.
Why is it, then, that intelligent professing Christians, in the twenty-first century, while accepting the fact that the Bible is from God, fail to view it as a conclusive moral compass? So often, when asked, we freely confess that we believe in Jehovah God. We are confident that the Bible is His revealed will. We confess that Jesus is His Son. But when it comes to the daily decisions we’re called on to make, we find little relevance in its pages.
A Christian man walks away from his wife and enters an adulterous relationship with a married coworker. This coworker has already committed adultery with three other men during the course of her ten year marriage, literally devastating the little lives of her innocent children. His families (both his physical family and his family in the Lord) are begging him to stop and think. But he proceeds in this sinful relationship. What is he thinking? Is he blind to the history of this woman and is he naïve enough to think he will be her last conquest? Most of all, is his claim to believe in the Bible one hundred percent theoretical and zero percent practical?
An alcoholic enters a rehab program, endures excruciating withdrawal symptoms and dutifully follows the program. He is released to a new and exciting world of fresh opportunities. He finds a job, becomes faithful in the local congregation, and stays clean for seven months, until a friend pressures him to attend a sports event where alcohol will flow freely and all his old friends will congregate. He makes a deliberate decision to go. What is he thinking? Has he mentally blocked out the high priced lessons of his personal history? And what about the Biblical admonition to “abstain from the appearance of [this] evil” which can so easily consume him (I Thess. 5:22)? Is his faith practical when it counts?
A modern society founded on biblical moral principles, has grown to about three million people, a large number of which could still tell you that the primary reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the sin of homosexuality. Medical science in this society has made it possible for average people to look at video footage taken from the inside of a woman’s womb and see the viability of preborn life. Geneticists in this society have proven that all genetic information has been assigned to the preborn baby at the time of conception. It has been determined that babies feel pain in the twentieth week of development.1 But major corporations in this society are spending thousands of dollars to celebrate and promote homosexuality and abortion; to protect the rights of those who participate and even sometimes to censure those who object. Abortion remains legal in this society and homosexual unions are recognized as marriages in highly populated areas of this country. Respected pollsters tell us that sixty percent of people in this country believe that the Bible is “totally accurate in all of its teachings”.2 Where are those people of faith? Is faith relevant in this society?
When faith becomes irrelevant to the daily decision making process, I suggest that it is no longer faith. If there is a “disconnect” between the observation of Biblical history and its application in modern times, the “disconnect” zaps the relevance from any claimed adherence to scriptures. We know the truth, but we are not people of faith.
My kids did not enjoy math. They both have great memories and thus, in their early years they could spit out the theory or equation that solved the problem every time. But it was those “word problems” that they especially loathed, because you had to think about how the equation (the truth given) applied to a particular situation in the real world. Not only did you have to figure out exactly where to plug in the equation (the truth given), you had to remember that superfluous information was often given; information that was not relevant to the solution. This was information that you just had to ignore to get to the bottom line answer. And at the end you had to remember to identify exactly how the truth affected the outcome of the situation (i.e.…you had to know not only the number that was the answer, but “was it that many unneeded cookies or that many extra students who had no cookie?”). That’s a lot to deal with: a truth that is applicable somewhere, extra information or circumstances to try and throw you off, and only one right answer that must be properly identified. That’s why they hated word problems. They were often long and arduous and required some cognitive skills. But isn’t it true that it’s the word problems that gives math relevance in our society? I don’t need to know it if it’s not going to affect real life situations.
And that’s how it is with God’s Word. I can know that the scriptures tell me to flee fornication (I Cor. 6:18), but until I can plug that truth into decisions about entertainment choices and dating behavior, it is really not very useful. Until I plug that truth into a situation and find the answer to a dilemma, I only know the formula. I don’t yet have a practical faith. I can know that the Proverbs writer wrote “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise(Prov.20:1),” but until I am able to recognize that deception when it presents itself in a modern commercial or invitation, I only know. I am not wise or faithful.
As a Christian, I am familiar with Genesis 19 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I know that homosexuality is called vile affection in Romans 1:26. I understand that murder is the taking of innocent human life and is condemned in scripture. “But the political process is much more complicated than all of that…..You can’t just plug the Bible into modern America.” Why not? If the Bible contains absolute truth, then its formulas are not only acceptable, but necessary in solving the real life situations of any society in any generation. Jesus, Himself, reached back into the early Old Testament writings and plugged scriptures into His moment of temptation in Matthew four. Faith is eliminating the superfluous psychobabble inserted into troubling modern scenarios. It’s plugging the Word into the problem solving process. It’s wisely seeing how the Word affects the final outcome. You cannot oversimplify truth and the necessity of its application in problem-solving. Faith is putting the Scriptures into the “word problems”.
(This article first appeared in THINK magazine, Focus Press, Brentwood, TN)
1 “Pain of the Unborn,” www.NRLC.org, September 15,2004.
2 “Religious Beliefs Remain Consistent, but Subgroups Are Quite Different,” www.Barna.org March 19,2004.