The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Bible Isn’t Perfect: Now what?

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The Bible isn’t perfect. It’s a collection of historical documents which were composed by imperfect humans. Did God have a hand in making the Bible what it is today? Of course He did. Nothing happens in this universe without God’s involvement. God is certainly the One who made the Book available to us, but He never taught us to view it as perfect. We did that ourselves. We turned the Bible into an idol and we taught other Christians to do the same. That was a major error on our part.

When you’ve spent your whole Christian walk being taught to view the Bible as being on some kind of pedestal of perfection, having God knock it off that pedestal and send it crashing to the ground can be a rather traumatic experience. You go from hanging on the Bible’s every word to wondering if the Book has any value at all. So, does it? Is there a point in reading the Bible? Certainly there is. There is as much point in reading the Bible as there is in listening to a sermon or reading some article on the internet about God. Focusing on God is a very useful thing, and when we are trying to learn more about Him, He will lead us to a variety of sources. The Bible will sometimes be one of those sources. When God prompts you to read the Bible, you’d be a fool to ignore Him. But when He’s not prompting you to read it, then why would you?

Can we make God talk to us? No, we can’t. But in the midst of turning the Bible into an idol, we decided that reading the Book was a way of forcing God to part His lips. Over and over you’ll hear it said in the Church that if you want to hear from God, all you have to do is crack open the Book and start reading. How irreverent. God is not a television and the Bible is not a remote control which we can use to turn God on. God is an independent Being who will talk to us when He darn well wants to.

God refuses to be led around by His own creatures. Certainly He wants to talk with you and He wants to develop a strong bond between you and Him. But strengthening that bond requires forging certain core attitudes within you: trust, reverence, submission, and dependency. All of these attitudes are strengthened through practice. How do you practice them? Certainly not by worshiping the Bible or by using it as a means of controlling God.

If you’re going to grow close to God in life, it is vital that He rip the Bible away from you at some point. Your grip on it is much too tight—not because you’re trying to rebel, but because you’ve been badly taught. Let’s face it: you felt a lot more secure back in the days when you still believed the Bible was infallible and inerrant. That security was a sham. Any object which enters your life and ends up making you feel insecure about relying on God alone is a detriment to your soul. You should never have felt like a physical object was more trustworthy than God Himself. You should have never developed this negative, apprehensive attitude about relying on the Holy Spirit alone to guide you in life. Yet this is what idolatry does to us: it divides our attention, weakens our devotion, and cripples our faith. If your trust and confidence in God is going to be restored, this idol has to go. You need to get nice and jaded about the whole thing—so much so that you stop hanging on every word that the Bible says. Instead, you should learn to approach it with the same caution that you should be approaching all teaching in life. When the apostle John starts rattling off his theory that any Christian who doesn’t love people can’t be saved, you should be suspicious and guarded. You should be praying as you read and asking the Holy Spirit to confirm or deny the truth of what John is saying. The same goes when you read the words of Paul and Moses and Solomon and Jeremiah. Everything must be tested. No human writer can be trusted to deliver God’s truth in an unadulterated form. The Bible contains many errors—some are more obvious than others. You used to call those errors perfect truth. Now you’re learning better. This is a very good thing.

So then, if the Bible isn’t perfect, how can we apply it to our own lives? Such a question leads us to ask: why is it so urgent that we apply the contents of the Bible to our lives? Shouldn’t we be trying to apply the wisdom of God instead? Yes, we should, and the wisdom of God comes to us through a variety of channels. It is God’s conviction and God’s instruction that we should be focused on in life, not the words in a Book. Can God’s instruction come to us through the Book? Certainly, but so can the condemnation of demons. The Bible is not some faucet which only pours out pure water. The Bible has some truly idiotic statements in it. It contains theology which is glaringly wrong.  We can’t just be opening our souls and pouring in the text of the Book as if it was all pure truth. This is what we did back when we treated the Bible as our god—back then it was a case of “anything the god says goes.” But now that we have learned the Bible is not a god, it must be treated as the human product that it is. Yes, it contains some fabulous kernels of truth—but only God can identify those kernels for us.

We call the Bible “God’s Word” yet in reality, not every word in the Bible can be ascribed to God—at least not in the sense that He would approve of them all as true and accurate. As the sovereign King, God is ultimately responsible for the fact that the Bible exists, but He has intentionally preserved error within it to prevent us from worshiping it. Notice how that didn’t stop us. What stubborn little idolaters we are.

It is vital that we see our behavior for what it was: it was idolatry. When we start calling things by their right names, it puts our current trauma in perspective. We haven’t lost God just because our perfect Book has been torn away from us. We haven’t been cut off from the illumination of the Holy Spirit. We haven’t been cast off and left without wisdom. We haven’t been abandoned in open pastures where we are now easy prey for wolves. This is what Satan wants us to think when we start questioning the perfection of the Bible because Satan wants to drive us right back into the clutches of idolatry. The irony is that we were much worse off back when we were clinging to the delusion of a perfect Book. Now that the Holy Spirit is connecting us with reality, we are getting freed up from some extremely damaging deceptions. The apostles were not perfect. The prophets were not perfect. No human being is perfect. But we don’t need perfect humans or a perfect Book because we have God Himself. He is our only Source of truth in life. He has ALWAYS been our only Source of truth in life—we just lost sight of that fact when we were busy worshiping our Bibles. Now that they’ve been taken away from us, we think some gaping void has appeared in our lives. No, it hasn’t. It’s more like God has muted a loud radio that’s been blaring in the room while He’s been trying to talk to us. Enough already with what the New Testament apostles wrote. It’s time to stop being so wowed by dead people.  We need to turn our focus entirely onto God.

So how do we do this? We ask the Holy Spirit to open our minds to His truth and to fill our souls with His wisdom. We ask Him to do a thorough scrubbing of our theology and remove all the lies. We ask Him to teach us how to hear His Voice and how to rely on Him alone as our Guide in life. Then we need to get out the blind faith and absolute trust which we used to waste on the Book and redirect it onto God where it belongs. Can you trust God to guide you in life? Yes, you can. You used to trust the Book. You used to hang on its every word. There is no doubt that you have the necessary skills, you just need to learn to apply them properly.

Alright, suppose we feel prompted to read the Book one day and we bump into a passage that makes us uneasy. We pray for guidance and none comes. What now? We wait, of course. Since when does God owe us an immediate answer to all of our questions in life? Clearly if He is not illuminating us on a specific point, it’s because He doesn’t feel that point is as urgent as we do. It comes down to trust. Are we going to give God the same measure of trust that we used to give the Book? We really should be giving Him a whole lot more, but the truth is that most of us are hardly giving Him any at all. The Book we trusted, because we could see it and touch it. The Book felt like some magic thing that made our invisible God visible. But no, it wasn’t.

Why did you submit to Jesus as your Lord and Savior? How do you even know Jesus is God? Because of what you read in a Book? You need a much better answer than that. There are a ton of religions in the world that have made up some sort of bible for themselves. Why exalt the Christian Bible over any of the others in importance? Because your pastor told you to? That is seriously weak. If you go through life just believing everything you read and hear, you’re going to end up in a major mess. You shouldn’t be giving your life over to some invisible Being just because of the words in a Book. You must be convinced in your soul that the God you’re praying to really is THE God, and the only way you can get there is if God Himself has convinced you. If you really know that Jesus is God, it is because the Holy Spirit has spoken to your soul, not because you read words in a Book. Maybe the Holy Spirit used words in the Bible to spell things out for you, but He didn’t have to. He could have given you a series of dreams or simply downloaded understanding into your brain. However He did it, He was involved, and it was HIS involvement that made you sure of the truth.

God drives us to Himself because we were created to know, worship, and serve Him. You were born a selfish, prideful human being. Try casting around the idea of submitting to Jesus to unbelievers and see how repulsed they are by it. You’d be just like them today if an outside party—the magnificent Holy Spirit—hadn’t intervened in your life and opened your mind to understand truths which sound crazy to unbelievers. We do not believe what we believe because of some dusty old documents that were written by people who are now dead. We believe in God because we have met Him. He has come into each of our lives and He has opened our eyes to see things that we were totally blind to before. We have a very real, ongoing relationship with the Ones who created us—this is why we do not need a Book to back us up. If a Book happens to state something about our Creators which is truth, then we will know it because the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us.

Suppose you know nothing about cars and you go to a plant that manufactures them. The lead engineer gives you a tour of the place, and as you follow him around, he explains to you the way things work. Why do you believe what he says? Because you are convinced of his credibility. Why do we believe what God says? Because we are convinced of His credibility as well, only we know that His credibility is far greater than anyone else’s.

No one can teach you to trust God. God Himself must teach you to do this, and until He does, your trust is only built on the faith you have in others. But once God teaches you to trust Him, you no longer need to have faith in other people or in the credibility of a Book. You believe some of what you read in the Bible because God makes it ring true to your soul. You discard other portions of the Bible because God makes them ring false. It is GOD who is your litmus test in life. It is GOD who gives the Book its credibility, not human beings. Who cares what the so-called experts say? They are not the Holy Spirit. You must learn to believe NOTHING until God makes it ring true in your soul. When He does, you hold fast to the things He has revealed to you, and over time He will add more and more truth onto the pile. It is a glorious thing to be educated by the Holy Spirit, because when you listen to Him, you know you are hearing truth. When people reject the truth God has shown you, it doesn’t matter, because you know it is correct. You know it is correct, because you know where it came from: from God Himself, not your pastor, not your emotions, not your own wishful thinking, and not a Book.

In life, we pursue the Voice of God. When we hear Him speaking through the Bible, we keep reading and listening. When we hear Him speaking through some other book, or some series of sermons, or some internet site, then that is where we park and listen until He has told us everything that He wants to say. When He stops talking through that source, we move on to something else. If He circles back around to a familiar source later on—which He often does—then we return to that source with Him and we set up camp there again until He tells us to move on. There will be times in your life when the words in the Bible are leaping off the page at you and God will be flooding your mind with fascinating insights. There will be other times when you find it as dull as dirt. Go with the leading of the Holy Spirit. When He’s not giving you any leading, then wait where you are until He does. This is how it works with God. This is how it has always worked. There has never been some magic button we can press to make God speak to us. There will be plenty of times in life when we go around with unresolved questions and theological dilemmas. This makes us feel very uncomfortable at first, but the more we learn to trust God, the less threatened we will feel by having unanswered questions. We must learn to anchor our faith in God’s good Character and in His great love for us. God wants us to mature in our knowledge of truth, and He will teach us in the perfect order, at the perfect pace. We must submit to His schedule in life and stop trying to hurry Him along or direct Him about.

Is there Divine wisdom and truth in the Bible? Absolutely. Is there human foolishness? Yes, that too. How will you know the difference? Only the Holy Spirit can sort it out for you. We don’t like this answer at first, but there is no other answer. There is no back-up we can turn to when the Holy Spirit isn’t coming across with the answers we want. If you try to make human beings your substitute for God in life, you are guaranteed to go astray. You must learn to trust Him and Him alone. Yes, this is a process that takes time, but let’s remember that God is the One leading you through it. He wants you to learn to depend on Him alone in life. Does He know how to get you there? Of course He does. Ask Him to make you all that He wants you to be.

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