Closing our series on the harmonization of the Old Testament law we take a look at a common objection by the critics. If the Bible isn’t relevant to us today, does that mean it isn’t the Word of God?
Throughout the past two entries in this series I’ve attempted to demonstrate the harmonization of the OT law to the NT law, and how major elements of the old are still relevant to us today. However, that brings up a troubling question. If there are aspects of the old law not meant for us, does that mean it isn’t the Word of God? This also bears another objection we will address in this post. If it isn’t clear what aspects of the law are applicable to us today then it couldn’t have been written by a God who cares for His children.
In reply to the first question, it’ll be helpful to note that the view of the Bible being the Word of God is not something that should be argued for. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that it’s a post-Biblical view. An ancient apostle or prophet who heard that phrase would not picture a book, but rather the transcendent or essential words and teachings of God. This is because the ancient world used oral transmission and rarely written words. The second is that even if it wasn’t the Word of God it could still be true in what it documents and would still require a decision from the reader to decern what is useful. So what needs to be argued first is that the Bible is true, logical and applicable. If we find these to be true of the Bible then it can be argued that it is the Word of God.
Critics who give objections under the banner of a “literal Word of God” are quite misguided. Also, another carry-over (the view of Biblical inspiration) from this misconception should be addressed. This is clarified here.
In regards to the objection of relevancy we should note the unreasonable assumption behind it. Those who argue this argue for an omniscient Bible. A book relevant to all cultures spanning throughout all time. The most glaring problems with this are:
1. This Bible would include too little information and be so vague as to be of no use to anyone.
2. If this Bible did include every detail of every culture since the beginning of time it would contain too much information to fully grasp. It wouldn’t be something one can take to church every Sunday. The irony with this is then the critic would still complain that the Bible is too difficult.
That last point brings us to our response to the objection of Biblical clarity. God calls us to be disciples once we have put our faith in Him. What is interesting is that the Bible was written to an ancient audience that, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, was an agonistic collectivist society based on honor and shame. With this is mind most cultures have an easier time understanding the Bible than the western reader. Over 95% of people who have ever lived have functioned in a collectivist society so it can be argued that the Bible was indeed written for the largest audience.
Another point we can add is that critics who use this objection are yet to give an example of a verse or passage that offers a serious problem with clarity. What I’ve seen are minor problems at best, nothing that can’t be clarified with a little study. In this regard, we are justified to place the burden of proof on the critic.
So what about God’s desire for all to come to salvation? If God wanted all to come wouldn’t He have made it easier to understand? It can be argued that the essential message of the Bible is very clear (i.e. John 3:16) and widely agreed upon. Issues like the application of the OT law are not necessary to understand in order to be saved Apologist J.P. Holding actually wrote an E-book titled “The Direct Application of the New Testament” that gives a quick synopsis of the teachings of the NT for anyone interested.
A final point that has been made by some critics is that God, as a teacher, should give us the answers to our questions. Again, this inserts a modern notion of God’s role as a teacher. Ancient education consisted of a good deal of memorization (i.e. memorizing the entire book of Psalms) and exercises that encouraged the student to find the answer themselves.
For an example of these exercises, contrary to the popular objection, it isn’t us who asks questions, but rather it is God who asks us. He rarely gives a direct answer as it’s often an answer we don’t expect. This is either a question (i.e. the Socratic Method) or an idea that encourages us to think and discern.
Jesus’ teachings also function this way in that He never gave straight answers to anyone other than His disciples. He gave His audience parables that encouraged them to work things out themselves. He also gave them material to memorize. So as Christ expected His audience to work with minimal guidance He expects the same of us today.
But why didn’t the disciples receive this type of teaching? The answer is simple: they had a far more demanding calling. The disciples were to broker Jesus’ covenant, so His answers weren’t to teach per se but to prepare. They were given more because more would be required. It’s the same with us, God gives us what is needed for the calling of each individual. He may reveal more to a teacher than an evangelist or healer because of what is required of them.
In summary, if these objections were answered we’d have bigger problems than what we do now (if we have any at all). It’s a testimony to the perfect way God has set things. A way that calls us to seek the lost and to dwell in and depend on fellowship with those who care to guide us and help us discover the answers to our questions. If the critic wants an omniscient Bible that discourages this in favor for a passive “here it is” book of answers I should be ashamed if I have no concern over such a proposition.