What do you do when you encounter things in the bible that seem to be problems? Worse, what should we think when people with degrees or books to their name tell us about all kinds of issues the bible has (which we never heard before!) that show it shouldn’t really be taken seriously?
The answers to those questions have to do with a whole lifetime of reading, praying, obeying, trusting–basically, living out the life of faith–as well as serious studying, if we care to verify our claims to know truth. But there are many, many people who have given their lives to do exactly that, and devote some or all of their time to showing how these problems tend to disappear when we examine them with open minds and trusting hearts. For instance, the other day I ran across this passage from John Frame’s book The Doctrine of the Word of God which addresses these things in very clear and encouraging way:
Once we come to faith, problems look different.
Problems test our faith, but they do not carry anywhere near the weight of God’s self-witness. That was true for Abraham, even though he had only a few individual encounters with God.
We have had far more than that: three thousand years of history in which God has spoken to his people and attested his word (by Divine voice, prophetic-apostolic proclamation, and written Word, and of course through his Son Jesus Christ) as true. Those revelations have led to the formation of a Christian way of thinking, a Christian mind. To that mind, attacks on Scripture are never credible because they must overcome a vast weight of God’s own testimony.
This is a great line of thinking. Isn’t the bible the record of God revealing himself and demonstrating his desire to communicate to us? Hasn’t he showed himself to be faithful and trustworthy? And, even more than that, haven’t we personally met him, and hasn’t he shown us individually that he is to be trusted?
Despite all this, Frame says,
sometimes believers think like unbelievers. Often believers will ascribe authority to liberal scholarship–scholarship committed, as have seen, to read the Bible like any human book. Such scholarship regularly assumed that the biblical worldview cannot be true: that miracles cannot occur, that predictive prophecy is impossible, that God cannot speak words and sentences to human beings.
The would-be autonomous kind of scholarship is often arrogant in its claims. In the past, such scholars have often spoken of the “assured results of modern scholarship.” One does not hear that phrase so much these days; most all these “assured results” have been questioned. But on stands amazed at how easily modern scholars can claim that this portion of a verse in Genesis must have been written by a different author from that one, or that this sentence ascribed to Jesus in one of the Gospels must have originated in a setting different from that set forth in the Gospel itself. In reply to Rudolf Bultmann’s claim that the personality of Jesus was unimportant to Paul and John, C.S. Lewis, himself a scholar of ancient literature replies:
“Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see?”
“These men ask me to believe that they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.”
The difference between liberal Bible critics and believing Christians is not merely academic, a difference in point of view; nor is it merely a difference in presupposition (though it is certainly that). It is a moral difference. The liberal reads the text with an incredible exalted view of his own competence to understand ancient cultures and writers in finest detail. Christians should remember that our faith divides us from the liberal tradition in the most profound way. We are often tempted to reply to their arrogance with more arrogance. We should avoid that temptation, by God’s grace. Often, as we will see, this means that [initially] we respond to Bible problems with an honest “I don’t know.”