All of this talk about text and historical criticism, about our starting point, about tearing apart the Bible to try to piece together the Scriptures and make human sense out of it, it brings us to this one pointed truth, which is sure to ruffle a few feathers:
All we're really doing is asking the same question that's been asked since Genesis 3 - Did God really say...?
That is the point of literally all of this criticism. It has to be. Because in all of the years that I've spent in church and spent in academia and spent in the seminary, the conclusion that all of this criticism draws is never "Yes, God really said."
It's always - Moses didn't really write that book. Isaiah was written by three different persons. The Greek word here was actually used more commonly to mean _____. The culture of this period of captivity leads us to believe the people really needed _____.
No one, and I mean no one, who is engaging in all of these archaeological digs, Hebrew and Greek exegeses, historical inquiries, and questions of authorship ever comes out and says, "Yup. God wrote it, and that's what He meant."
And it's how we're getting into so many of our Bible debates. It all starts with someone who thinks they have all of this background knowledge, all of this insider information, all this high-brow stuff that comes from having done "all of the research" who says something like, "What the Bible really means here is..." and all of a sudden, what God says doesn't matter. What God "meant" by our own human wisdom is what counts, and just like the serpent, we have turned it all around.
We are convincing ourselves to pick the fruit and eat it, all the while proclaiming our own righteousness in doing so.
They say it's naive to simply read in faith, to think that the Bible just says what it says that it says. To say that it means what it looks on the surface like it says it means. To believe that God wrote it with a particular aim in mind and that it might transcend all of the questions that we have about it. They say that's the problem with us Christians - that we're just too willing to believe without the "facts." That we have to ask the questions, all of which are really one question: Did God really say?
And if our answer is yes, He did, we're still wrong. Because, they say, that's not what He meant.
It's troubling. And...it's complicated. I get that. You might even right now be thinking about how complicated that is and think I'm missing this glaring reality that turns the questions on their heads or at least makes them somewhat legitimate. I assure you - I'm not missing it. I know what the next question is. And we'll talk about it.