Questions Theists Can’t Answer, the Bible
Another question from that old Reddit thread that has questions designed to stump theists:
If the Bible is the word from God, and the word from God is perfect, why does it need interpretations? Why don’t you stone adulters or avoid wearing clothes made from mixed fibers as stated in the Bible? Why don’t you sacrifice animals to your God?
This is really two questions. First, Why does the word of God need to be interpreted? And second, Why don’t Christians adhere to the Old Testament Laws?
Let’s start with the first question. For the sake of simplicity, time, space, and offering skeptics the benefit of the doubt that they understand that “translation” and “commentary” are two entirely different concepts bearing absolutely no relation to one another and lumping them together is just plain ignorant, I’m going to assume that we’re talking about commentaries on the Bible, or expository sermons, things like that, when the question asks about interpretations.
Why do we need them? The simple answer is that the Bible wasn’t written for us, 21st century folks living in the Information Age. It was written thousands of years ago, for much simpler folk. Don’t confuse simple with stupid. The target audience of the Bible had different literary conventions and idioms of language than we have today. Concepts that seem outmoded or alien to us are due to the huge gulf of time that separates us from the original audience. A good expository sermon or an excellent commentary can help bridge that gulf of time so that we can best apply the timeless teachings of the Bible to our modern life.
The second question has been asked a thousand different times to me alone just in the four years I’ve been doing apologetics ministry. I’m pretty tired of it. I should just write an e-book and point people to it whenever I hear it. Maybe another time. Right now, let’s just look at the short answer as to why Christians don’t celebrate the Festival of Weeks, the Year of Jubilee, or offer animal sacrifices.
The apostle Paul denounces the Law in the letter to the Galatians and in the early chapters of Romans. The Law saves no one, the apostle teaches, because it is through the law that we can know what sin is. Salvation is by the grace of God, gifted to us through faith in his Son Jesus–nothing more. As my pastor often puts it, “We are saved by grace through faith, plus nothing.” It isn’t necessary for a Christian to follow the precepts of the Law any longer, at least not in order to save our souls. The saving work of Christ has already accomplished our salvation, so we no longer need to work in any way to do that. What we do of the Law is volitional, done solely to honor God.
That doesn’t actually mean that we can live anyway that we feel like. Christians are repeatedly urged to live in a manner worthy of our calling by the apostle Paul:
- I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3)
- Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Phil 1:27-30)
- And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10)
- For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 The 2:11-12)
The moral is that we are to walk upright before God and man; basically, have high integrity (see Mt 5:33-37; cf Jms 5:12) and shine the light within us from the highest mountain so that all may see (Mt 5:14). We are saved by our faith, but we need good works to complete the faith and transform not only our lives, but the lives of those around us for the better. After all, what good is mere faith if isn’t active and accomplishes nothing?
Posted on March 30, 2011, in Apologetics, Theology, WWGHA and tagged Bible, Bible Commentary, Bible Translation, divine grace, faith, Jesus, Mosaic Law, Salvation, sanctification, Sermon on the Mount. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.