Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How believable is the Bible?

Plausibility is often cited as a hitch against taking the Scriptures at face value.  The Bible is just not believable and its facts are not verifiable.  Without begging the whole question of how much in life IS plausible, believable, and verifiable, we tend to impose upon the Scriptures a stricter standard than we set for most other things we judge as truth.  But some claims of Scripture do seem to stand out in the minds of some.

Creation, ex nihilo, in 6 days of labor and 1 resting day to appreciate all that was made, is typical fodder for those who question Scripture.  How can this be?  Strangely, alternative explanations that claim science are just as impossible to verify and just as implausible.  Evolution strains not so much under the weight of Scripture's alternative history but under the burden of so many things that must be assumed in order to accept it.  The whole theory is not one theory but many best guesses placed under the overall umbrella of evolution -- from the big bang to the little sparks that eventually gave birth to the way things are (supposedly).  But the problem here is not so much conflicting facts as it is where you are willing to place the question marks.  No explanation satisfies nor does any explanation make it past the believability test without some things that must be taken simply by faith.  It is less a matter of one plausible truth for one implausible as it is whether or not you are willing to trust the question marks to God or to the varying degrees of science and scientists who have judged one true and one not.

Another is the history of Scripture itself.  How believable is that history?  For my early ministry there were several great questions that the critics loved to place before the timeline of the Bible and its list of names and dates and places.  What about those Hittites?  What about that guy named Pontius Pilate?  There are many of those old questions answered not so much by Scripture as by archeology.  Sifting the record of history deposited in the ground has proven a witness in favor of Scripture and its history more than against it.

Another is the ages of the patriarchs.  How is it that some purportedly live to 900 years plus and then the lifetimes diminish until David can say seventy or eighty in the Psalms?
  • Adam – 930
  • Seth – 912
  • Enosh – 905
  • Jared – 962
  • Methuselah – 969
  • Noah – 950
  • Shem – 600
  • Eber – 464
  • Abraham – 175
  • Moses – 120
  • David – 70
I have heard Christians bend over backwards to explain these -- from years that were measured in different spans than modernity to the fact that the number of years is symbolic and not accurate.  And then there are the challenges from the skeptical outsiders who insist that the Scriptures cannot be taken at face value -- it is just not believable that people lived so long and we have better medicine now than they did and still we have nothing to compare so it must be false.  I think you can finish the arguments.  Yet the fact is that the easiest way to deal with the implausibility is to trust the Word of the Lord and let the witness of the Scriptures stand.

It is worth noting that the longer ages come prior to the flood and that after the flood ages decline rather rapidly until we find in David a lifespan similar to what we consider normal today.  It is also worth nothing that in Scripture death is not natural in the sense that we were created to die but death is itself a consequence of disobedience (if you eat of the tree you will surely die).  They died spiritual immediately but the physical reign of death was slow and painful.  It turned out that the rules of the Garden were not imposed upon man to constrain him but to protect him.  Imagine that!  St. Paul certainly picks this up in assigning death as the just and fair wages of sin.  Death has passed to all because of sin.  There is no escape of death and death does not correspond to wickedness (the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper -- at least in this mortal life).

The truth is that we do not have a clue why some lived to such ancient ages and why, with all our medical technology and wisdom of health we have only marginally increased the ordinary span of life.  So, where do you place the question mark?  Some insist that the Scriptures are simply not plausible, believable, and, therefore, true.  I prefer to place the question marks with our own limited knowledge and understanding of God and His mysterious ways and simply to let the record of the Scriptures stand.  God certainly does not need me to defend Him or explain Him and His truth can well withstand the questions and doubts of skeptics.  Rather than try to explain this away, our best apologetic is to stand with Scripture.  God has promised to be merciful and to be faithful but He has never promised to be comprehensible.  For that matter, who wants a God you can completely understand and what kind of faith risks nothing in trust of what your mind cannot comprehend or your experience prove? 

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