I love our Bible.
I love the accounts it gives of ordinary people encountering God and interacting with Him.
• I am encouraged by accounts of people serving God faithfully and humbly.
• I am warned by accounts of people getting things wrong (as we all do sometimes), but I am also comforted by the knowledge that every human being who ever served God made mistakes and got things wrong sometimes, including those specially chosen by God such as the prophets and Jesus’ disciples.
I also love the way God speaks to me through our Bible.
Many years ago, some words of Jesus leaped off the page of my Bible and hit me in the head. (I’m sure that many sisters and brothers reading this have had similar experiences.) The words that hit me were “You have one teacher; the Christ” (Matthew 23:10). These words are very simple but the consequences of accepting them as being a true saying of our loving Lord and Saviour seemed to me to be immense. If Jesus is to be our only teacher, then what about all the other voices we have in our Bibles. What about Paul? What about the other writers?
This moment led me to make a very thorough examination of this passage in Matthew and to research the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy of scripture. Because I have spent many years studying at a seminary, I have had the opportunity to study these things carefully and in depth, using the very best commentaries. I have also been able to discuss these things with other scholars, including experts, face-to-face and online.
I have been studying these things over many years, and I have not found any convincing evidence that every word in our Bible was inspired by God. It is, of course, possible that God directed each and every Biblical writer to write down each and every word, in the original languages, but I have found no clear evidence that he did so. Of course, I cannot show evidence that God did not inspire every word and so I do not teach that our Bible is not inspired by God but neither do I teach that it is.
God speaks to me through our Bible. It’s not the only way he speaks to me, but he most definitely does speak to me through our Bible. I believe that this is how we should read our Bible – asking God to speak to us through it and expecting him to do so.
Lastly, but most importantly, the Bible contains the teachings of our loving Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is Lord of my life, my master, my only teacher, my God and my King.
Jesus is Lord!
God’s law really is written on our hearts.
God promised to write his law on our hearts. I think it has already happened. I think God’s law really is written on everybody’s heart. Everyone on earth. Right now.
What is God’s law? There is a recurring, consistent theme in our Bible. It keeps cropping up again and again – all the way from Genesis, through the prophets, to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament writers: God commands us to look after those who are disadvantaged, alienated or being treated unjustly, and to be fair and just in our own dealings with others.
Most people reading this article probably don’t need to be reminded that God commands us to look after people who are disadvantaged or alienated or being treated unjustly, but I’ve listed just a few of the passages from our Bible that confirm this at the end of this article. It is stated over and over again but it is stated particularly well by Micah:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Note that Micah tells us that God has already shown us what is good.
Jesus confirms this consistent Old Testament message by stating that his followers should love each other and love their neighbours. He doesn’t make any exceptions to this. Our neighbours include everybody. Jesus, confirming the Old Testament message, particularly tells us to look after those who are disadvantaged and alienated.
God promised that his law would be written on our hearts.
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33.
Can we see evidence that God’s law is written on our hearts today? Can we see evidence that, as Micah said, God has shown us mortals what is good? I think we can.
Think about the stories we tell, the books we read and the movies we watch. The “good guys” look after others, take care of the disadvantaged, sacrifice their own comfort for the wellbeing of others, sometimes even give up their lives for others. These characters are the heroes. The “bad guys” are selfish. They exploit others. They are only interested in making themselves more comfortable. These characters are the villains. Deep in our hearts we all know this is true. We know this is truth at the deepest and most fundamental level. We know this is true whether we have any interest in religion or not. We know what is right. We know we are supposed to look after those who need looking after.
To put it another way, we have no excuses. God’s law really is written on our hearts.
Let’s finish off by talking about sin for a moment. Sin is acting in opposition to God’s law. So, the bad guys are sinful. We know this. Sin is ignoring our brothers and sisters who are in need. Sin is making ourselves comfortable at the expense of others.
Sin is selfishness. Selfishness is sin.
It’s that simple.
A few of the many passages in our Bible showing us God’s command to look after people who are disadvantaged or alienated or needing justice:
Genesis 18:19; Exodus 23:1-9; Deuteronomy 6:19-20; 1 Kings 10:9; Psalm 33:5; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 18:5; Isaiah 10:1-4; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 9:24; Jeremiah 22:15-17; Hosea 12:6; Amos 5:12-15; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:9-10; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 10:30-37.
Let me put the question another way. Does God need the Bible in order to communicate with his human children? I would agree with Paul when he said, to Timothy, that scripture is useful. But I would not say that it is essential, for the following reasons.
God was interacting with human beings very effectively long before human beings invented writing. (Let’s be clear on that point. Human beings invented writing.) Writing, as it developed in Eastern Mediterranean cultures, did not reach the level of complexity which allowed humans to write down stories, histories and laws until about 1500BC (which, interestingly, is the earliest date we have for the life of Moses who is widely believed to have written the first five books of the Bible).
The book of Genesis deals with events that happened before we invented writing. Genesis was, obviously, written after writing was invented, but the events recorded there occurred before the invention of writing. There is no mention of writing in Genesis. Yet, Genesis makes it clear that God communicated very well with humans including Noah, Abraham and many other people that feature in that book. Did God change when humans invented writing? I think we would all agree that he did not.
Human beings invented writing and the Bible is a product of that invention. If humans had never invented writing, we wouldn’t have any books at all so we wouldn’t have the Bible.
God did not need the Bible to communicate with his children before we invented writing and he doesn’t need it now. So, I believe that the Bible is very useful for knowing God, but not essential. Prayer is essential.
We must not forget that for almost all of history, most people couldn’t read. Even today in countries where education is compulsory there are many people who can’t read. There are also many people who can read but don’t enjoy reading. Is God only interested in reconciliation with those of his children who can read or who like to read? Of course not. For most of the last 1500 years in Europe, and in those countries colonised by Europeans, only the priests and members of the ruling elites were taught to read. Do we find, in our Bibles, an account of God only wanting to interact with priests and nobles? No. We do not. We find an account of God wanting to interact with the poor – the very people who would least likely be able to read.