What does the Bible have to say to 21st Century people? Isn’t it out of date? Can I trust it? And in any case, why insist that the Bible has to be the basis for our discussions. Surely when you get a room full of people then you’ll have a lot of experience, a lot of perspectives, a lot of expertise.
I want to suggest three brief responses to these questions
Is the Bible out of date?
Over the past few weeks at our Sunday Night Church we’ve been looking at a letter written by Peter, one of the 12 disciples. We find it towards the end of the Bible. Peter wrote the letter to people who had been exiled from their homeland and scattered across the Roman Empire and particularly in what is modern day Turkey. He writes about how to live when you are strangers without a settled home. He writes to migrants and refugees. He talks about how to live in relation to a government that you did not choose and maybe do not like or agree with. He also writes about how to relate to your boss even when he is harsh and cruel and pays you poorly if at all. He deals with how to face abuse, ridicule and even the threat of violence when you stand up for what you believe in. He also talks about how to survive the struggles of a marriage that may be far from ideal. Does any of this sound familiar?
The Bible is relevant because it is God’s Word. Another New Testament writer, Paul says that it is “God breathed” or inspired. The Bible is relevant because God is relevant. God is eternal and knows everything, past present and future. God is sovereign. He is in control of history. God is love. He cares about you and your day to day life. Because God is the ultimate author of the Bible, Paul goes on to say that it is useful for knowing how to live good lives (1 Timothy 3:16)
Can I trust the Bible?
This will be one of the key questions we tackle in our first session on November 8th. There are three parts to the trust question. First of all, we want to know that the book we read is telling the truth about the world around us. Is it consistent with what we know about history, science, medicine, psychology etc. Now, remember at this point that it does not intent to be a technical, scientific text book. However, many scientists, doctors, counsellors etc. have put the bible to the test and found that they can rely on it to tell the truth about the world and about us. Historians and archaeologists have checked the Biblical account against other contemporary reports and archaeological finds. Again, they have found it to be reliable. This is because the Bible writers were either eye witnesses or based their work on eye witness accounts. For example, Luke (the author of the book we’ll be looking at first) carefully compiled an account from eye witnesses. His Gospel was written within the life time of those eyewitnesses meaning that it could be verified and validated.
If you would like to check these claims out for yourself then we would be happy to recommend some relevant books to you.
Secondly, we want to trust the Bible to be consistent and coherent. We don’t want a book that will contradict itself. You may have heard people suggest that there are inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. Now, to be fair, you would expect some differences In a book written over many years by many different authors. However, I am going to make a big claim here that when you read the bible carefully, whilst you may find differences of emphasis and perspective, you will into find any genuine contradictions. That’s a big claim to make. So one of the reason we give people the opportunity to ask questions and debate at Engage is so that where you think there might be a contradiction, you can stop and challenge us so that you don’t just have to take our word for it.
Thirdly, we want to be sure that the bible we have today is the book that was written by those eye-witnesses and that it has not been changed deliberately or accidently during copying and translation. The good news is that we have access to many ancient manuscripts and so we can go back and check our modern ~English translations against ancient Greek and Hebrew. When we do, we find again that the translations we have today accurately reproduce the originals. That is not to claim that a translator or copyist never makes a mistake but because we have those old manuscripts and because there are many people working on Bible translation, we can always check different versions against each other to make sure we are working with a reliable text.
Why base our discussion on the Bible
This comes back to the point Paul made that the bible is useful for life. In fact, Paul say that the Bible is useful for teaching, rebuking and correcting. This means that Paul is claiming a special authority for the Bible. In fact, as a church we say that we want to not only study the bible but also to obey it.
That might sound a bit prescriptive. But in fact, all of us at some point have to decide that there is a final authority to which we will submit.
Some people submit to the authority of tradition. They live on the rules and sayings of parents and grandparents.
Some people submit to peer pressure. They accept the dominant world view around them whether that’s an immediate friendship group or what the media says.
Some people trust in the word of experts, scientists, psychologists, politicians.
Some people decide that they alone are the final authority. This is the approach of postmodernism. I have to follow my own mind. I can only ever offer my own perspective.
The problem is that we can’t really rely on these things, parents, scientists, politicians all prove fallible in then end.
So if we are going to submit to any authority as final, then what better than a book that has stood the test of time and proved a trustworthy foundation for life by many millions of people throughout history and around the World?
At Engage, you will have the opportunity to challenge, question and test all these claims for yourself. Engage will run every Sunday from the 18th November at 5pm.