Smug Skepticism

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Contrary to the view of some, the Bible is not some out-dated, antiquated collection of silly rules and ignorant stories.

Let us look at Hebrews 1:1-2, and then think a little about this, because if you’re a bit of an agnostic or an atheist, you’re going to have some major issues with what I’m about to say. So this is more for the good of fellow believers who have to answer these kind of questions, and then maybe by the Spirit’s mercy, for those of you who aren’t believers, maybe the Lord will work. Hebrews 1:1-2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.”

There are two ways to look at the Bible. The most popular being, “This is the road map to life.” Have you heard this? In fact, if you’ve ever made the drive up I-45 towards Dallas, you may have seen the big billboard that says, “Can’t find your way? Check My book – God.” It’s the road map to life. Now in some ways, I want to affirm that view. Because there are things in here that help me understand what I should or should not do at a given crossroads, but it’s not a detailed map. If I’m wondering, “Should I marry Kathryn Barrett?” that’s not in there, or at least I still haven’t come across it in all my reading. “Where should I go to college?” This book isn’t going to help you choose between in state, out of state, community, private, etc… Now there are actually maps in there, but it’s not like, “Here you are. Go left.” That’s actually Judah and Israel, the divided kingdom. So this is not a road map to life.

From Genesis to Revelation, this book is God’s selfdisclosure of Himself in reconciling all things to Himself in Christ. More simply, this book from Genesis to Revelation is about Jesus. So when we look at David and Goliath, David and Goliath is not some children’s story about you overcoming your difficulties. It is not about you “facing your giants” or what the number of smooth stones represent. It is a historic moment that is meant to be a shadow of God saving His people in Christ from sin and death. When we look at Noah and his ark, it is a historic moment. It’s also a shadow that there would be salvation from the wrath of God. As we watch Moses lead people out of slavery and into the Promised Land, Colossians says it’s a shadow of what Jesus would do for us. He would lead us out of slavery to sin and into the Promised land. On and on we could go.

So the Bible is not a road map to life, although there are aspects of how we live our lives that are found in the Scriptures. Rather it is a book about God reconciling everything back to Himself in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

So if you’re a bit of a skeptic, then here should be your issue. You should be saying right now, “You’re doing the same thing that any self-proclaimed religious prophets have done. Because the Bible was written by men. And since the Bible was written by men, how is it different from the ancient animal temple guys who came out and said, ‘Thus sayeth the monkey/cow/snake’? How is it any different?” It’s very different on several fronts. Please let me try to briefly cover some of them. Let me give you what is indisputable when it comes to the Bible, and then we can get into what is disputable.

There are 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and a bit of Aramaic. It was written on three continents: Africa, Asia and a bit of Europe. It was written over a time period of over a thousand years. The authors include kings, peasants, prophets, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, etc. Books cover history, sermons, letters, hymns, and a love song. There are geographical surveys, architectural specifications, travel diaries, family trees, and numerous legal documents. It covers hundreds of controversial subjects with unbelievable unity, from different cultures, across a thousand year period of time, in different languages. It is a spectacular book with one theme, one point, and one direction.

A couple of other things. It runs contrary to the desires of most men and women. It wants to say, “This is where joy is found,” despite the fact that men and women historically, across all cultures have said, “No, I can find joy and life over here.” So if you want to build a religion, you usually do that by telling people what they want to hear. So at the ancient pagan animal temples, it’s, “If you give certain offerings to the monkey/cow/snake, then your crops won’t fail. If you give certain offerings to the temple, then your pigs won’t die.” But the Bible is a lot different than that. If you ask cultures, “Men, what do you think about sex,” the response is, “Yes please.” But the Bible is going to say, “Sex is good, beautiful and God-created, and here are the confines in which you should participate in this gift to you for your greatest joy and God’s greatest glory.”

So God begins to outline how He created things to work, and it runs contrary to our rebellious nature. So He’s not trying to win friends and influence people.

The second thing that is unbelievable in the Bible is there are only four guys in Scripture who would pass background checks to watch kids: Jesus and the boys in the fiery furnace. Everyone else is pretty questionable. No one else passes the background check. King David would be like, “I can play my harp and put them to sleep.” Yeah, but you slept with somebody who was not your wife, and then you killed her husband. Moses could say, “I led millions of people out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land.” And you murdered a guy with your bare hands. I’m sorry, you can’t watch our kids or be trusted in the nursery.

The Bible is filled with shady characters. And this goes back to the point that the book is about the mercy and beauty of God in Christ and not you and me. Because almost all the men and women in Scripture are these abject failures who God uses mightily. Why? Because the point is Him, not you. So for those of you who like the other end of the spectrum where you loathe yourself, that’s just as much idolatry as loving yourself. Both are saying, “I have no need of the cross of Christ.” Both are wrong.

So what happens today with many people when you get into this dialogue about the Bible is one of two things. People tend to try to paint the Bible as some kind of old-school, fundamental, weak, 1950’s, “Leave It to Beaver” kind of, out of date, Reebok high tops with Zubaz pants, and a fanny pack kind of feel. If you dress like that, I’m sorry. You need to find someone to help you. This is what’s painted though. If you give any weight to the Bible, then you’re not with the times. Now there are going to be a couple of issues I have with this.

Our society would call me very arrogant for saying that I believe the Word of God is the measure of how life should function, but others are not arrogant for believing that their own brain is the standard? And then on top of that, you have to believe that you think this culture at this time is the apex of human existence. Now, let me be straight. I love my grandparents (only my Dad’s Mom is still living and with us today), but some grandparents can embarrass us, can’t they? Specifically around race and things like that, they just embarrass us sometimes. Some of the things they say, even innocently, you’re just like, “Don’t talk like that… Don’t say those words around me, please.” It’s a shameful thing that some people in older generations don’t understand is shameful. And if you don’t think that same thing on a different subject is going to happen to us 30-40 years from now, you’re a fool. And so this first bit of it being old-school is, “Oh, so I’m trusting in thousands of years of history that have actually yielded some pretty fascinating and phenomenal results. I really am such an idiot.”

Now the second thing that happens more often than not, is simple regurgitation. What I mean by that is so many people that are skeptical will just go, “Well the Bible is just filled with inconsistencies.” Every time you hear that, you should simply reply, “Okay, show me.” Nine times out of ten, they can’t really show you. They’re just regurgitating. But there are semblances of inconsistencies in the Scriptures that need to be unpacked for sure. So for the guy or girl who would say, “There are inconsistencies, and here is what they are,” it usually can be solved by a very basic, intro-level understanding of hermeneutics.

Here’s what I mean by that. You don’t read history and poetry the same way. You read them differently. They are two different genres of literature. You don’t read them the same. So what I have found a lot of the time on the inconsistency front is they want to come out of Psalms and talk about the natural order and say, “That’s now how the natural order works.” Well, “It’s a poem.” You don’t pick up some Edgar Allen Poe, and after reading about a talking raven, toss that book in the garbage, do you? Does anyone really believe Poe’s objective in that poem was to try to convince everybody that an actual raven talked to him? Well, maybe. He was insane after all. But we don’t read poetry like we read history.

So you can’t go to the Psalms and say, “Look what it says about the sun. Scientifically we know it doesn’t work that way. You see? It’s inconsistent. We should throw away the entire Bible, except for maybe that part about loving others, let’s keep that and misquote it.” No, the Psalms are songs and poems. You read poetry different than you read history, different than how you read a genealogy, different than you read architectural specifications. We know that different genres require different forms of interpretation.

And then here’s the other big thing that happens. There is a fundamental posture of heart when it comes to the Scriptures that reveals where your heart really is. People either come to the Scriptures with a heart that desires for it to be true or they come to the Scriptures with a heart that doesn’t want it to be true. And depending on where your heart is, you’ll find all the ammunition you need. Here is a classic example of this, straight from the New Testament:

The Pharisees and Scribes loved to question Jesus and try to trap Him in His answers, but He always nailed them, just completely blew them away with His responses… and it never led to their repentance or faith. So they would get together and go, “How can we trip up Jesus? How can we turn the crowd against Jesus? I know, let’s ask Him about taxes!” And then they would stroll on over and ask, “Hey Jesus, should we pay taxes to Caesar?” And Jesus responds with one of the most brilliant answers ever given in recorded history, “Does anybody have a coin? Whose picture is that on this denarius? It’s Caesar’s image. So why don’t you give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and give unto God that which is God’s.” Jesus didn’t dodge the question, He said, “Sure, pay taxes to Caesar because the coin bares his image, but you were created in the image of God, and your whole life belongs to God. And it’s not like they go, “Oh, He’s right. That is the best answer ever, He completely got us. He’s the Messiah. Praise Your name! We’re going to follow You now.” No, they’re like, “Dang it. Okay, gather up. What are we going to get Him with now? How about resurrection!”

And then they run back out and go, “Okay, let’s say there was this dude and he had a wife. He died, and his brother married his wife. He died and the third brother married his wife. On and on through seven brothers. At the resurrection, whose wife is she?” And Jesus just goes, “Man, you don’t understand the resurrection. In the new heavens, in the new earth, when all things have been made new, we won’t be given in marriage like we are here. Marriage is a shadow of covenant. Covenant will be fulfilled. Our relationships there will be so vastly superior to our relationships here that marriage won’t be an aspect of the new heaven and new earth the way it is now. I’m not saying you won’t know your spouse or you won’t have special affections for them. I’m just saying the relationships we have in the new heavens and the new earth, when all things have been renewed no longer require shadows because we’ll have the true form. Marriage is a shadow of something, and we’ll have the actual true form in the new heaven and new earth.” And do they repent? Absolutely not. They immediately go back and just do this over and over again until they figure out they can’t get Him, so they decide to kill Him. Instead of thinking, “Hey, maybe He is who He says He is…” They reach the conclusion, “He has grown too powerful. He keeps duping us. Let’s kill Him.” And then you get the cross.

Sadly what I have found through study and conversation, is that a lot of people approach texts in the Bible like this. “Let me prove it wrong.” So they go and Google something like, “Bible inaccuracies.” Here’s a pretty common one from Matthew 28:5-7, where it says, “But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.'” Now in John 20:11-12, the exact same story is also described. Here’s what it says. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white.” So in the Matthew text, one angel speaks to her, and in the John text, there are two angels.

Now if the fundamental posture of your heart is, “I do not want to believe the Bible, and I do not want to submit to the God of the Bible,” then this is a problem. It’s time to throw away this error-ridden book. If your fundamental posture is, “I love the Lord. The Holy Spirit has awakened me to reality, what do I do with this?” it’s a lot more simple, and beautiful.

So if I get home here in a little bit, sit down with my wife, Kat, and she asks me if I talked to my friend Greg today and I say, “Yeah, I talked to Greg, and here’s what we talked about.” And then later on, Greg may call me and say, “Hey, is Ryan still ok with our plans next weekend, did he ever hear back from Taylor?” I’ll say, “Yeah, he’s still good to go, and Taylor is coming as well.” Now Kat would not yell from the kitchen, “You are a liar!” No, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t go, “I talked to Greg, and do you know who else I talked to? I talked to / texted with / saw this person, that person, and this person…” I don’t always do that. Why? Because that’s not what she was asking. So Matthew says an angel spoke to her. John is a furtherance of the narrative. So we know one angel spoke, but there were two angels there now. How do we know that? Because there is unity in the Scriptures.

The primary message of the Bible is the gospel, it’s what the Bible teaches. Passage after passage, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the cross of Christ. God is making Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteous, perfect life of Christ. What an incredible exchange. Shouldn’t we want this to be true? Like, I get humanistic secularism. I understand it, but there are some real huge holes in it. Like, I love my wife… I really really love her. And I refuse to believe that my affection and love for her is just neurons popping off in my head, that love has no significance, no meaning, no depth, no nothing; it’s just chemicals firing off in my brain. And I refuse to just delude myself into ignoring the logical implications of that worldview, and behaving as if those implications don’t exist.

It’s such a weird thing, what atheistic secularists believe. Okay, so what’s love? Have you ever been so infatuated with another person that you can feel your soul being stirred? Do you not believe in love? You can, but love is just a chemical for you. Or what do you do with beauty? What makes something beautiful? Have you ever stood and just been in awe of something? Have you ever stared at a picture, a painting, any piece of art, any sunset or a landscape and just been in awe of what your eyes were drinking in? So what do you do with beauty? Is it just neurons firing off in your head? Is that all beauty is? Are all aesthetics just something that we project meaning upon? I mean, what makes something beautiful? I’m telling you, there is an intense ferocity beneath everything. It’s the uncaused Cause, the Prime Mover, the Creator God. And if there is no God, there’s really no such thing as love, there is no such thing as beauty.

Here’s another confusing thing about the secular mind and reality. A lot of people I know who are very secular, they just decry that people aren’t more involved. “Why aren’t we getting more involved in Sudan? Why aren’t we getting more involved with helping and serving the poor?” As a Christian, I’m just like, “Well, your own worldview says that eventually the sun burns up and kills all of us and that all of this is meaningless to begin with. Your very worldview is competing with your desire that all of us engage the poor.” Shouldn’t we want the Gospel of Jesus to be true? It brings deep meaning, it brings immense truth, it brings powerful purpose. Religion does not. Religion is very exhausting. Do this so you can be accepted? Oh no, no, no… The book of Hebrews says God is no longer taking any offerings for sin. Christ on the cross was that offering.

Also, in the end, Jesus did not die for my arguments, my research, my preparation, my study, my witticisms, my sarcastic comebacks, or any of my understanding of the issues at hand. He did die, however, for my pride in any and all of those things. There is hope, there is love, and there is Truth to know.

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