Once again, we come back to the one solution that answers the questions without creating more: what if the Bible is simply inspired by an eternal God who already knew how we would translate it in our times and who understands that this doesn't change His message at all?
After all, He tells us He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Isn't it, then, just us who change?
And really, not that much. If there's one thing we know, it's that even though our world and our circumstances change, humans don't really change all that much. Our hearts are still wrestling with the same things that they have always wrestled with. We are neither more nor less insecure than anyone in ancient Israel. We are neither more nor less concerned with right and wrong. We have neither more nor fewer questions about our standing with God.
At our core, in the depths of our hearts, in our very souls, human beings are remarkably consistent across time.
We tell ourselves that it's different, that the Bible must be irrelevant to us because it doesn't mention anything about social media, for instance, or because very few of us is at risk of losing our ox or because we no longer have flat roofs that require us to build a safety barrier around them or because Israel never had to deal with the corporate world or gas-powered vehicles or airplanes.
In fact, these are the nits that we pick with the Bible pretty often. We talk about how we can't believe the peoples in the Bible ever had slavery and what horrible persons they are, and we pick this as a hill to die on. But it's not about slavery; slavery is a cultural context the same way that homosexuality is part of our cultural context. The emphasis has shifted in the past four thousand years or so, but at the end of the day, the slavery has so little to do with the truth that God was trying to tell us. As long as we let ourselves get caught up on context, we'll miss the whole Word given to us.
That's the point, isn't it? Every question that we've looked at for the past two weeks is, in its essence, a question of context. It's a question of whether God could have said what He actually said, given the societies that peoples have lived in.
But truth is truth, and humans are humans, and God is God. And when we don't let ourselves get hung up on the questions of whether the contexts are valid, what we discover is...the truth is. God's Word is. What God actually said, unencumbered of all of the human junk we waste our time discussing around it, is eternally valid.
So doesn't it make sense that we keep re-translating the Word for our times? Wouldn't God expect us to do that? The primary rule we have to remember is that culture doesn't contextualize truth; truth contextualizes culture. It's this rule that we seem to have gotten backward in all of our searching.
I'll tell you what I believe - I believe that if the Word isn't the inspired word of God, then it's nothing at all. It cannot give us any information at all about the God that we serve; He is simply a God created in our own image according to the prevailing winds of the time.
But if...if God's Word is truth beyond its context (and therefore, still truth no matter what context we put it into, as generation upon generation of the faithful have proven over the course of human history), then we need to stop all of this nonsense about trying to "establish" the Word of God or set it in its own context and focus on setting the eternal truths in ours.
(And no, this doesn't mean that we just use it to affirm whatever cultural beliefs we already hold. That is a dishonest act, and it does not please God.)
I just find that if I take for granted that God is an eternal being with an eternal truth and boundless love, then all the questions of academic types and pastors with pet political purposes...just fade away. Every question is answered.
Any other way, any other way at all, and we're left with more questions than we started with.
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