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Guest Post: Why doesn’t the Bible address X?

July 3rd, 2009 by Madeleine

The following is authored by Bethyada of True Paradigm, it is particularly apt given recent comments left on this blog. Bethyada writes:

A not infrequent complaint raised by theism sceptics is that the Bible does not address many issues the sceptics think it should address; if indeed the Bible is a divine book and not merely a human one.

There are several problems with this demand

  1. It assumes the critic’s concerns are the same as God’s
  2. It assumes the Bible is written for the sceptical
  3. It assumes that God should dictate Scripture rather than use his servants to author it
  4. It ignores that Scripture was written into a culture
  5. It ignores what is contained within Scripture
  6. It ignores that the issues may be addressed indirectly
  7. It places an unreasonable burden on the size of the resultant text
  8. It suggests that if such was included the sceptic would be convinced of the truth of the Bible
Whose concern is important?
To ask that the Bible address X, Y, or Z assumes that these are the things God is most interested in recording for his people. The Bible is diverse, though there are several common themes. A major theme is right relationship with God. There is a large amount of material discussing individuals and nations in right and wrong relationship with God and the consequences of such. God is forever calling people to himself and rebuking them for going their own way. The Bible suggests that the biggest problem in men following God is not evidential, rather wilful. All Jericho were in fear of Yahweh after reports of his exploits, yet only Rahab submitted to him.

Related to this theme is reconciliation, especially the focus on God coming to earth as a man to teach us God’s way, to receive our punishment and to establish a kingdom. Thus, much of Scripture builds up to this event, describes this event and discusses the consequences of this event.

Who was the Bible written for?
The Bible has information that can be used to defend the truth of God and to rebuke the mocker; that is, it does have apologetic value. However the intended audience includes and is probably predominantly, those who belong to God’s kingdom. At the time of the Old Testament that was Israel (though admittedly this included apostate Israel). In the New Testament the gospel of Luke (and Acts) are addressed to Theophilus (Friend of God). The letters are all addressed to individual Christians or churches. The biblical “inadequacies” as claimed by the sceptical may be of less concern to believers.

The Bible was written by God’s servants
Scripture, in the main, is not dictated by God. Thus there is freedom for the authors to write in their own style. Christians believe God had the authors include what God wanted recorded. Many also claim that God prevented them from writing error. This at least allows for difficulties in reconciling parallel passages, none of which contain exhaustive information.

The Bible was written into specific cultures
This fact has been misused to limit the scope biblical injunctions. Nevertheless, the authors were writing to the people who lived and thought a common culture. They addressed issues that were pertinent to the people around them. This includes who they perceived as their friends and enemies at the time. Laws related (in part) to their way of life, the types of houses they lived in, the foods they ate. The Israelites were an agrarian society. Many of the specific issues we face in the 21st century were non-existent in ancient Israel and some of them would have been barely comprehensible. However, most issues faced by diverse nationalities have some degree of commonality. Truly new concepts, such as intellectual property, are not that common. To request the Bible address specifically, issues that post-date its completion is anachronistic. The Bible may do so if God wishes but to complain of these types of deficiencies is unreasonable.

What does the Bible discuss?
The fact is, the Bible does discuss a wide range of issues. There may be questions we have that it is difficult to clearly answer from biblical considerations but what of that which the Bible does tell us? It tells us a lot about God, a lot about us. It tells us we are broken. It tells us our relationship with God is broken and better, how to fix it. It tells us how to treat others. It teaches about relationships with one’s spouse and with one’s children. It tells us about honesty in business relationships. It tells us to concern ourselves with the less fortunate.

There is much we are shown about in the Bible. Is the concern about what is lacking actually about us not liking what is not lacking?

The indirect teaching of Scripture
It is not that difficult to apply what the Bible says within an ancient culture to our modern one. Is it really that hard? to go from “build a parapet around the edge of your [flat] roof” to “build a fence around your swimming pool.” Does one really think that if God opposes getting intoxicated with wine that he approves of getting intoxicated with marijuana? Many of the questions we have in our modern technological age are addressed indirectly through Scripture.

How big do we want our Bible?
It is difficult for a finite text to cover all the questions that man is capable of asking. The amount of information now known to man is vast, too much for any one person to know. Yet there are questions I can ask (that are intrinsically answerable) and not one man on earth currently knows the answer. If the Bible addressed in detail the specific answer, along with an underlying explanation of the assumptions of the questioner, of every question raised by a bibliosceptic its size would be enormous, not to mention unsustainable for the ancient scribes. For a hand-written book, the Bible is already pretty large. And even many Christians have not read it thru. How does one gain the overall themes of a book that would take a lifetime to read thru once?

Would a different text alter the sceptic’s position?
My considered view is that the complaint of biblical deficiencies is an empty one. Inclusion of specific issues would only mean that different deficiencies would be raised.

As mentioned above, the problem, as the Bible sees it, is not one of knowledge; rather it is one of the will. Rahab chose to worship Yahweh. Many of those who would be willing to submit to Christ have enough information to evaluate him. If someone has a real stumbling block then it is worth addressing it with him. But there is enough clarity in Scripture for those whose hearts are good soil and there is enough concealment for the mocker to remain sceptical.

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