IF YOU PUT A BIBLE in the hands of one Christian and another Bible in the hands of a non-Christian, then you ask them each to read the same story, who do you believe would do the most thinking about what they’ve read?
Here’s what I’m wondering. Would the Christian tend to skim through the story, accepting as fact everything that’s printed, while the non-Christian would raise intelligent questions all the way through the story?
Take the story of God and two celestial associates suddenly showing up in the camp of Abraham. God tells Abraham that
- Abraham’s 90-year-old wife is going to have a son within the year
- and God is going to Sodom to see for himself how sinful the city is.
I think most Christians would breeze through that story in Genesis 18 and believe everything they read.
But I don’t think people outside the faith would agree. They would pause to do some serious thinking about that story.
When I write books about the Bible I try to think like people outside the faith or new to the faith.
Here are a few questions I think they might raise as they read that story. I mention the questions because I believe we Christians need to be willing to think with those folks.
- Why should we believe that Sarah delivered a baby at age 90 or 91 when the oldest person on record to deliver a baby in modern times was 70-year-old Omkari Panwar of India, who gave birth to twins and died three years later?
- Why does God have to come down to earth to check out Sodom, “to see for myself if those people really are that bad” (Genesis 18:21)? That sounds like a god in Greek mythology, not an all-powerful God who knows everything.
- Why does God have to toss around in his head whether or not to tell Abraham that he’s going to Sodom to lower the boom: “The Lord said, ‘Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?'” (Genesis 18:17)?
- How did the writer know what God was thinking?
- Why should I not read this like a work of ancient fiction intended to add some color to the story of the legendary founder of the Jewish nation? Is there any harm in believing this is fiction?
Those are tough questions, aren’t they? But I think they are reasonable questions that we need to address.
I’m working on it for an upcoming book. If you have any suggestions, I’ve got comment boxes.
We believe all of it because of our faith in God.
Stephen M. Miller
Hi Debbie. I think that reply would prompt newcomers to the faith to ask followup questions.
They would ask what the connection is between believing in God and believing in the Bible. They might say you can believe in God without believing the story of a 90-year-old woman having a baby.
I guess I have been reading more of those theological books again Lol — I Like your approach of just presenting the stories of the Bible. It all boils down to Faith, not evidences (although they help in the matter). The Spirit of God must illuminate — be critical, but with a heart of Faith! I take a Presuppositional approach to my faith — two points 1) God is and 2) God has revealed Himself in the Scripture. How did I come to that point? The grace of God and Faith in God. I like to ask questions, as you know, and wrestle with the Bible myself, but it all comes down to the regenerating work of the Spirit in my heart that questions like this are nothing for the God of the Universe to solve. Thank God for people like you to take others on that journey of discovery!
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks for the note, Wayne. The idea that we should presume from the get-go that the Bible is historically correct is one idea that I think folks outside the faith would have a hard time accepting. We don’t do that with other things, unless we’ve already become convinced that they are worthy of our trust.
I think the challenge we face in presenting the Bible to people outside the faith is to start where they are, with little or no faith in the Bible or God. Not where we are, with faith up to our ears.
It’s not an easy and familiar place for us to start. But that’s where they are. And I think it’s where we need to be…at least long enough to let them see what we believe and to discover why we believe it.
Our faith, it seems to me, doesn’t start or end with the Bible. It starts and ends with Jesus.
I’m thinking out loud again.
Several years ago I began asking those questions, and I have been a Christian for over 50 years. I guess the greater question for me would be: Is there harm in believing that several portions of the Bible may not be as God intended as his Holy Word? I have always followed Jesus and was taught to accept everything else on faith. However, I believe that my faith is stronger now then ever before, and I am okay with finding out that I may be wrong on many points. I think God wants us to ask questions. I have not wandered from the faith, as some would think of me. I still read and study the Bible regularly. But I feel that I am growing in Christ even more, when I’m willing to put some things on the back burner. I would welcome a forum for a peaceful discussion on these and other observations.
Stephen M. Miller
Steve, you’ll see me doing that for you in 100 Tough Questions About God and the Bible. I sent you a free copy of that book last week. You should get it soon, if you don’t already have it.
Hello Stephen – Great post!
I think your unconventional strategy to “win souls” will prove effective. There are many gaps in the bible I believe our Father purposely left out to further separate His sheep from the slaughterers. As Jesus said, “my sheep know my voice,” so where evidence fails us, faith covers us. However, as Jesus explained, many who hear the Word will be as seeds which produce harvests that ultimately wither. Taking an approach from the “withered perspective” may help discover new and fertile ground to sow His seeds. Furthermore,
I believe it is strategies such as this that will help lead new schools of understanding our biblical history.
I would love a copy of your free book “100 Tough Questions About God and the Bible.” I’m certain to gain many valuable and vital insights to supplement my Ephesians 6 armor.
Stephen M. Miller
About the book, 100 Tough Qs, go ahead and subscribe to my free blog or quarterly newsletter. That’s the group of people I draw from to give away the freebie copies of my books. I think I might be able to accommodate you. Peace to you.