Is the Bible Written for Everyone?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Now, Dave, I want to open this segment of our program by quoting a highly respected evangelical, Dr. R. A. Torrey, who headed Moody Bible Institute in the early 1900s and also pastored the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles before his death in 1928. This quote is taken from your book, In Defense of the Faith, and it’s found in the beginning of chapter 5 on page 112: “Every careful student and every thoughtful reader of the Bible finds that the words of the Apostle Peter concerning the Scriptures, “that there are some things in them hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16), are abundantly true. Who of us has not found things in the Bible that have puzzled us—yes, that in our early Christian experience have led us to question whether the Bible was, after all, the Word of God? We find some things in the Bible, which it seems impossible to reconcile with other things in the Bible. We find some things which seem incompatible with the thought that the whole Bible is of divine origin and absolutely inerrant.
“The Bible is a revelation of the mind and will and character and being of an infinitely great, perfectly wise, and absolutely holy God, but the revelation is to finite beings who are imperfect in knowledge and who are also imperfect in character and, consequently, in spiritual discernment. There must, then, from the very necessities of the case, be difficulties in such revelation from such a source made to such persons. When the finite try to understand the infinite, there is bound to be difficulty. It is not wise to attempt to conceal the fact that these difficulties exist. It is the part of wisdom, as well as of honesty, to frankly face them and consider them.”
Dave, I certainly agree with what Dr. Torrey is saying. I guess I put my emphasis more that, although we’re finite beings, if we were perfectly finite, or perfect in our finiteness, and we didn’t have a sin nature, God could make it completely clear to us. He could design something that finite beings could understand fully, but we’re not. We have a sin nature, even if He lays it out as simply and straightforward as it possibly could be, we’d blow it somehow. We, ourselves, our wills would have problems with that.
Dave: Yeah, Tom, for myself—and I think maybe Dr. Torrey was speaking rhetorically—I have never found anything in the Bible that caused me to question whether it was God’s Word. Now, I’ve found some things in the Bible that puzzled me for a short time, until I really investigated it. But I could give you puzzles I talk to God about all the time. “Lord, You have always been, You always are—how is that possible?” Just the character of God, that God exists, we know He must exist; we have been through that a number of times. You can’t get everything out of nothing. There was a time when nothing . . . all things wear out, second law of thermodynamics—there was a time when there were no things. But you can’t get things out of nothing. There had to be someone. We are driven to this conclusion.
But to comprehend a God who always is—not only always has been, He always is—that’s beyond me. I say, “God, how did you get to be God?” And then, of course, I know that that’s a ridiculous question. It’s beyond me, and, of course, God is trying to open our hearts to an understanding of Himself. In fact, He wants us to know Him, and this is what His Word is about. God is revealing Himself to us.
So, there would be things that are difficult, as Peter says, “hard to be understood.” But Peter adds this—he says, “Which they that are unlearned and unstable, twist, as they do the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” So, well, that’s what this book, In Defense of the Faith, is about because, as we have mentioned, I have files of this sort of thing, and I have gone through them and I’ve tried to find some of the toughest questions that the skeptics and critics have asked.
Tom: But also, what he refers to, and that’s what this program is about—the B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me; and we want people to have a heart for God’s Word. Where else are they going to find truth? As we’ve said many times on this program, if we don’t have a source of truth, of God’s specific revelation to us, then we’re left with our best guesses. I mean, it’s all wild speculation—no matter how good it sounds or how it makes us feel or whatever, it’s just your opinion against my opinion, Dave, or thousands of others who we could fit in this room. Of course, we couldn’t get a thousand people in here—we could get about two or three.
Dave: Right. Yeah, well, Tom, the Word of God is true, and you can check it out, you can test it, you can examine it, and if it isn’t, if we have not heard from God—and we have said this many times—then, forget it. Shut down the seminaries, shut down the churches, shut down the universities, for that matter, because there is no purpose or meaning! We wouldn’t have a clue as to why we’re here, how we got here, and so forth. So, God has revealed Himself to us and He has revealed Himself in His Word, and His purpose and plan for our lives. But there are those who have sincere questions, and they are definitely, as Dr. Torrey said, there are definitely things in the Bible that seem to be confusing; seem to be contradictory, and that is what we are trying to discuss here.
Tom: And encourage diligence in searching the Word, wrestling with these things. Let’s go for our first question here: “Why didn’t Jesus, if He really rose from the dead, show Himself openly to the rabbis and to the common Jews and to the Romans? Wouldn’t that have established once and for all the fact that He had come back from the grave? And would not such a public appearance of Christ have converted the entire world of the day to Christianity? The fact that even the Bible admits He didn’t do so is presumptive evidence against the alleged resurrection, is it not? If He really was alive, why didn’t He prove it openly?”
Dave: That’s a good question, tough question; a lot of people ask it. Well, why wouldn’t he? Well, the basic assumption behind this question is, that everyone has an honest heart and that everyone really wants to know God, and everyone is open to the truth—if you can just show it to me. I remember when I was in the business world, I don’t know if they have such things now, but we used to—some people, I saw it on a number of desks, a little sign that says: “Don’t confuse me with facts—my mind is made up.” So, this questioner is assuming that no one thinks that way—that if Jesus had just shown that he had risen from the dead, everyone would believe.
That’s one of the basic underlying problems with much of the charismatic movement. They think that what we need are signs and wonders. This is what John Wimber thought—signs and wonders movement— “If we could just show people signs and wonders, then, everyone will believe.” Well, again, as we have mentioned it before, no one saw such signs and wonders as “the children of Israel,” they are called in the Bible. Talk about the Red Sea opening in front of you! God speaking with an audible voice from Mount Sinai—manna comes every day.
Tom: Right, well, just that one—the Red Sea parts, they cross to the other side, and immediately they put together a golden calf to worship.
Dave: In fact, the rabbis, the Pharisees, had plenty of evidence. They knew, for example, that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.
Tom: And that was, what? Just weeks earlier.
Dave: A few days, actually. There were witnesses who told them about this, and that was why they said, “We’ve got to kill him; we can’t have him doing this!” In fact, they were even going to kill Lazarus because Jesus had raised him from the dead. Talk about hard hearts! Just because there was proof. You know, even among those five hundred to whom Christ appeared at one time, remember? Went out on a mountain in Galilee and there He appeared to them. It says, “Some of them doubted.” There is no way that just evidence, facts, can convince anyone of spiritual truth, of the truth of God, of the gospel, and so forth. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit desire to do that work in every human heart.
Tom: But what about the will in this, Dave? Isn’t that a part of it?
Dave: We talked about that the last time: John:7:17, “If any man wills to do God’s will, he will know. Whosoever will may come,” Jesus says. This is not like Islam, where they hold a sword over your throat and will take your head off unless you confess, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”
Tom: Where they have the power to do that.
Dave: Right, in Indonesia and other places—Sudan, of course. No, God is not trying to trick us. He is not trying to force us into anything, and He wants our heart. So, the scripture says. “If you believe with all your heart, you may be baptized,” Philip tells the Ethiopian. So, you know, there were people who saw Jesus.
Tom: What about the Roman guard over the tomb?
Dave: Well, right. I mean, the Roman guards—they sure knew that Jesus was not there anymore, and they had even seen an angel roll the stone away, and they ran to tell the Pharisees, the rabbis: “He’s alive!”
“We were scared to death; we were frozen in fear!”
Tom: And the Pharisees must have believed them because they offered them a bribe to change their story.
Dave: Right, to tell a lie. They weren’t going down to that empty tomb and prove that Jesus was still there. So, Tom, the fact is, evidence alone, would not do it. Why would he waste his time? Jesus was following, in fact, what He had said to the disciples: “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” I’m willing to discuss—I’ll talk all night with someone who is sincere, who has sincere doubts, but when I find out that all they want to do is argue, they’re just trying to find some chink in the armor of a Christian, they are just determined—they’re not out for truth, they don’t want to know the facts, but they are, somehow, going to prove the Bible isn’t true. Tom, I don’t have any more time for them.
And, Jesus would have been wasting His time, number one; it would not have changed the minds of the rabbis. Even some of His disciples doubted. Now they had further evidence, of course.
Tom: Overwhelming evidence, Dave! And that’s kind of a point that I want to address here. On the one hand, we’re saying that there are people that no matter what the evidence is: “Don’t confuse me with facts,” as you said earlier. They’re never going to believe, no matter what. But evidence is a good thing. Much of what we do on this program, things that we’ve addressed—your book!
Tom: And there was an overwhelming amount of evidence.
Dave: There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for anyone today, and I don’t know whether we get into that in this particular book, but we have dealt with it in talks and other books. Simon Greenleaf, of course, you remember? He was co-founder of the Harvard Graduate School of Law. He was an agnostic, was challenged by some students to investigate the claims of Jesus, and he did so. We may have talked about that even recently. Many lawyers have examined it. A terrific book, I don’t think it’s in print anymore, A Lawyer Examines the Bible, and in that book, Irwin Linton, the author, says, “Look, any lawyer that wants to examine the evidence . . . he’s going to have to come to the conclusion that this is true,” and that’s what Simon Greenleaf said. So, we have evidence today. One of the great evidences, of course, is in the transformation in the disciples. They were cowards, they were afraid, they all fled to save their own skin, and when they thought Jesus was the Messiah, at that point they still thought He was the Messiah, and then, you’re telling me that when they now know He is dead and in the grave, they somehow get the courage to steal His body and hide it in Peter’s basement or somewhere, you know, and then . . .
Tom: According to the Passover Plot and other myths.
Dave: And then tell this lie, and then they are willing to die for a lie? Nobody is fool enough to do that. Suddenly they have the courage to stand there before the Jews who had crucified Him, who had cried: “Away with Him!” and tell them that He was alive? And that Peter has the courage (Acts:12:4): “Neither is there salvation in any other,” he tells the rabbis. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved?” These cowards suddenly got the courage to testify to the resurrection because they had stolen the body and made the whole story up?
You cannot escape that, and Paul, of course, is one of the great evidences. Not only did he turn from being a persecutor to become a Christian, knowing that he would be persecuted—and you could say, well, that doesn’t prove that he really saw Jesus—and indeed, it doesn’t. He could have hallucinated, maybe it was a guilt complex or something. But he now corrects Peter, and he becomes the chief apostle. He didn’t study under Jesus, but the other apostles who studied under Jesus for a number of years, they have to acknowledge that Paul, this former Saul of Tarsus, he knows everything they know and more, and he becomes the great authority who writes most of the New Testament! You cannot deny this man met Jesus of Nazareth, and when you read his words in Galatians 1: “I certify you brethren. . . . ” I’m a CPA, I know what that means. You had better be careful if you certify something—it had better be true. “I certify you brethren the gospel that I preach is not of man. I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. I didn’t consult Peter and James and John; I didn’t go up and say, hey guys, I think I would like to preach this gospel but . . .”
Tom: He didn’t check with the magisterium.
Dave: No. He got it straight from the resurrected Lord! There is just no way that you can explain these things away. There is no other explanation except Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Tom: Dave, as you were talking, I was thinking about another example of overwhelming evidence—I don’t want to belabor this —but you know we have talked on this program many times about the creation/evolution controversy, and you find people with PhD’s, with the ability, the skills, the intellect—all of that—and they can’t recognize the design . . . let’s not say they can’t—they can, but they won’t recognize a Creator behind design that’s so far above anything we can even comprehend.
Dave: Tom, when I was in University, I guess I had a course or two on that. I majored in math, but we took some of these other general courses as well. I can remember disputing with the evolution teacher: “Come on, you guys! You can’t be serious about this. You are going to tell me that an eye began with an irritation on the skin, and over how many millions of years it somehow developed all the rods and cones and the nerve connections to the brain, and, I mean, it’s incredible—the lens and everything. And that all developed by chance over a period of time when it wouldn’t help this creature or these creatures survive until it worked. Now how are you going to develop this thing from the intricacies of this, and it doesn’t work yet, but it somehow helps them survive and it’s all moving in the right direction. Tom, I’m sorry I do get a bit angry. No rational person can think that! But listen, we live here in Bend, our little newspaper, The Bend Bulletin, when was it? About a month ago they had a terrific . . . well they have some good scientific stuff in there, and they don’t make it up themselves. They get it from some other source—and this was quoting top (I don’t know if you remember the article) it’s quoting top scientists that deal with lenses and so forth, and they had just discovered that some particular species of starfish has several thousand eyes all throughout it’s body and they have—each eye has a lens that they said is 10x beyond anything we’ve been able to come up with, and we are studying the design of this lens to improve our lenses! Now, you’ve got several thousand eyes, lenses, all developed by chance, simultaneously, and somehow all got . . . Tom, there is no way any rational person can honestly believe in evolution—that it all happened by chance! It couldn’t possibly.
Tom: Yes. See, again, Dave, it comes back to the will. They just are rejecting what is so obvious because, what happens when you have to come face to face with the idea that there is a Creator, that there is someone that you will have to stand before, and it has to be submitting to His will?
Dave: That’s what is appealing about the Star Wars Force. It’s impersonal, it won’t hold you morally accountable, doesn’t make laws and make you obey them—or there are consequences if you don’t obey them.
Tom: So, Dave, just to finish off on this question, certainly there were lot of things—we could sit here and discuss things that we think Jesus could have done and how He may have worked this way and that way, but He did everything perfectly. This is according to His will, His design, and as we said, somebody writing this question is looking for one item, something that going to work effectively for everything. But Jesus gave them far more than this person really understands.
Dave: Tom, it’s not just a matter of the will, beyond the will—it’s a matter of pride. It would be a very humbling for the great evolutionists with their PhD’s and their honors and the books they’ve written and their university courses and so forth. They have gone so far out on that limb, it would be just very humbling to admit—“Hey guys, it’s wrong! We were wrong!” It’s also very humbling to mankind to admit there is a God who is greater than they are and they are accountable to Him. And morally—if there is really a day of reckoning, we don’t want that. Tom, you’re what? How many? Fifteen years younger than I am, or something like that—I don’t remember. You were more part of the . . .
Tom: I still have trouble keeping up with you, Dave. I know what that speaks to.
Dave: You were more part of that hippie generation, or that time, or whatever. I used to minister to them. I used to get up to the free speech platform in Berkeley and visit the Mustard Seed, the Messiah, that had that health food store down at Telegraph Avenue and so forth. But you were part of this thing and what were they all about? “We’re going to do our own thing.”
Dave: “We’re going to get control of our lives—and we can do it! We can do what we want to do.” Well, that’s man’s problem. That was Satan’s problem. Lucifer: “I will be what I want to be.” Well, it puts a damper on that when you face up to the fact that there is a God, the Creator of the universe, and He created us for a purpose. And, if we miss His plan—if we do not find what He made us for—we have missed everything that the Creator wanted. We have missed the whole purpose and meaning of our lives. But we are going to have to submit to His will. We are going to have to allow Him to reveal His will to us, and we are going to have to be willing to do it.
Now, Tom, I know we are out of time, but who would not want God’s will? Isn’t He smarter than we are? Doesn’t He really love us? I mean, there is so much beyond what we could imagine that God would have for us, even in this life, much less the life to come, if we would allow Him to have his way.
Tom: Dave, you talked about the years back . . . remember, I was sort of a bourgeois hippie—I didn’t go the whole nine yards—but everybody seemed to be seeking and searching after truth, but when it all came down to something, there was never a truth to find. It was always a relative thing, and that’s really a crime. When somebody sincerely seeks after truth, God has got it available! He has it out there for those who will seek after Him.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Amen.