Welcome back to another installment in the Testing God series. If you're new here, I challenged myself to write a series of posts, which will be published in installments on successive Sundays, about testing #God. The series will follow this general outline:
- Belief that God exists
- The study of God where God exists
- Alignment with God's purpose
- Checking for results
We are currently on the study of God where God exists. Previous posts in the series can be found at these links:
- Is God 'Testable'?
- How the Hall of Faith Encourages Us to Test God
- How I Came to Faith in Christ
- Studying God Where He Is and Has Been
This post and the next few that follow fall within the purview of that last post, which was intended to be an overview of the subject. I'll now delve into some specifics about each of the different places God can be found and why it's important to study Him in those places. The first of these will be the Bible. So, without further ado ....
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Since we're discussing the Judeo-Christian God, it's important to approach this topic with a careful study of the religious texts written from the perspective of that tradition. That is not to say that one can't find evidence of God in any other religious text, but one will find a more exhaustive treatment of God, His nature, and His plan for creation in the Bible than in any other text. There are several reasons for this.
First and foremost, the #Bible is a story about God. That doesn't mean it doesn't contain information about other subjects, but every subject upon which it touches is done so as it relates to God. God is its primary subject and its primary character.
Secondly, God is its author. Of course, the first objection to this point by those who want to challenge the thesis could be, "But it was written by a bunch of men." That is true. However, those men wrote the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
That may seem like a strange proclamation, but it's necessary to arrive at that conclusion if were going to take the Bible seriously at all. The story is an incredible story and contains some truly incredible content. In order to take that content--much of which is absurd by human standards--seriously, there must be some explanation other than the wild imaginations of mere mortals, for if that is all it is, then it can be nothing but fiction. But I implore you to consider that is much more than fiction, and if I'm right, then it behooves us all to consider that the force or power behind the penmanship of its authors is something much more divine. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
This word "God-breathed" in its original language (Greek) is theopneustos. "God-breathed" is its literal translation. Note the root word, "theo," which means God followed by "pneustos," a form of the word "pneuma," which literally means breath. Classic theologians interpret that to mean that God Himself breathed the words and expressions into the text's human authors without violating their own wills. That would be a remarkable feat, if true, and one that only a divine being could accomplish.
A third reason it is important to study the Bible, with regard to testing Him, is this: If you don't know what the standard is, or what the expectations are, you can't test them. Plain and simple. If you want to test the integrity of a wall, for instance, it would do you well to first understand the standard constitution of a wall. Otherwise, how would you know if the wall lives up that standard? Since the Bible is the most exhaustive treatment of our creator available to us mere mortals for the purpose of understanding who He is, what He has done, where He has been, and what He expects of us, it must be an intrinsic source of material information concerning what it is we should be testing Him on.
Overview of the Bible
Having laid out the reason we should study the Bible to learn about God and why we should test Him, let's now move to an overview of the Bible. What is it exactly?
It's an incredible source of material. The human tendency is to see it as one book, which it is. In its wholeness, it is complete as a story on its own. It is the story of God. However, it consists of 66 wholly-unto-themselves books divided into two sections--an Old Testament and a New Testament. There are 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. These books were authored by no less than 40 authors over the course of 1,400 years. Thirty-five of those authors we can identify as historic people who lived at a specific place and time. These facts alone make the Bible the most unique work of literature in history.
The Bible's authors range from kings to shepherds. Some were wealthy and some were dirt poor. Most were men, but at least one could have been written by a woman because we do not know who its author was. In fact, several books of the Bible, and some chapters in the book of Psalms were authored by unknowns. Some of the Psalmic authors were written by several descendants of one of the Bible's characters, so it is probable that more than 40 human authors were involved.
Each of the books in the Bible have their own story arcs, unique set of characters, plot, theme, and literary value. Yet, whatever central human character is featured in each book, God is still the central character throughout.
The forms of #literature employed in Bible are as diverse as its authorship. You'll find history, drama, poetry, song lyrics, legislative codes, proverbs, other types of wisdom literature, stories, fables, epistles (letters), prayers, prophecies, parables, biographies, apocalyptic literature, genealogies, lamentations, sermons, speeches, proclamations, epic tales, treatises, heroic literature, and chronicles of war. I may be leaving a few out.
Some books of the Bible fall into more than one literary category. For instance, Romans is both a theological treatise and an epistle. Several of the Psalms are poetry as well as prophecy.
It's important to understand the type of literature you are reading in the Bible because depending on what type of literature it might be, the method for interpreting will be different. For instance, a prophecy should be read with intent to understand on two levels: 1) It's future value as predictive literature; and 2) it's spiritual value as an oracle or message of divine origin intended to convey an important message to its intended recipients. Poetry, however, is simply a form of literature that seeks to heap praise upon a certain object--mostly God--and share the heartfelt sentiments of its author, which are sometimes an outpouring of sadness, anger, repentance, joy, gladness, or some other human emotion.
What the Bible Has to Say To Us
There is a human tendency to read the Bible through modern eyes. Some of the expressions are a bit strange to us because the original audience for many of the early books was primitive people without the benefit of modern science and technology. That does not mean they were stupid. Far from it. In fact, they were as much Homo sapiens (rational man) as we are. The difference is, their knowledge of creation was not extensive because they had not yet discovered the scientific method, advanced mathematics, complex language rules, and so forth. Even the people of New Testament times, though more advanced than pre-flood humans, were still not as advanced in their knowledge and understanding of creation as we are.
This is important to remember because we don't get far into the storyline before things seems strange. For instance, in the first chapter of Genesis, God created night and day on the first day but didn't see fit to create the sun and the moon until the fourth. Some people have read that far and dismissed it for disagreeing with modern science, but the original audience would not have had the benefit of modern science. So the thing we must remember is that it was not intended to be a science lesson. It was simply intended to be a way for its author (Moses) to convey to a very primitive tribe how everything they see came to be in language and terms that they could understand.
The amazing thing about the Bible is that it tells us everything we need to know about the most important things. You won't find science lessons, tutorials on analytical calculus, origami, YouTube videos that highlight silly human antics, instructions for assembling a bed frame, or anything else that doesn't directly relate to the subject matter at hand. What you will find is something in which many people of our era simply have no interest, but if they had an interest and challenged themselves to seek an understanding of it, they would find it to be far more valuable than any of the things it does not cover. And there is the amazing mystery of the Bible.
In a nutshell, here is what you'll find:
- An in-depth study into the character and nature of God; in short, you'll learn who God is;
- Who we (the human race) are in relation to God;
- How we got here, and why we are here;
- How the world got into its current state of disorder;
- How we (again, the human race) ended up in such a state of cognitive and spiritual disarray;
- God's plan for getting His creation, including we mortals, back to its original pristine state in which it was created;
- Why, and how, we must align ourselves with that plan, or suffer the consequences if we don't;
- What happens when we obey the Master, and when we don't;
- How the story ends.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible contains the very heart of God poured out for the human race to examine. It doesn't tell us everything there is to know about its subject, but it tells us what we need to know to draw the proper conclusions about the most important things.
One more thing before I close: The Bible is not material to be excavated like some archaeological dig. It is much more than that. The man who thumbs through looking for facts to either discard or hold dear is no different than the man who seeks to obtain a date from the girl next door by digging a hole in her front yard. If you want to impress the beautiful thing that has your eye, you've got to knock on the door, tell her you are interested, and give her a reason to be interested in you. In other words, if you want to get to know her, you've got to spend time with her, listen to her talk, observe her in social situations, and learn who she is from the inside out. The same goes for God. If you want to know Him, and you can't test Him until you do, you have to explore his heart, learn what makes Him tick, discover His greatest concerns, and "get inside Him" so to speak. The Bible helps us do that.
This is a tall order for any book. For God's book, it's especially tall because in order to have access to much of the information that would pull all of this together in the first place, you'd have to climb into the mind of God. In order to understand it well enough to communicate to a race of beings as silly and obtuse as we are, you'd have to be God. And that's why there are only two conclusions you can draw about the Bible: Either it's the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God, a love letter from the Creator to His creation, or it's a collection of wild human imaginations and completely insane fiction. There is no middle ground. Its Author didn't leave us any.
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