Can We Trust The Bible? (Part Four): Textbook Faith


In our past three posts, we have examined some of the issues that come up when we are trying to establish a reliable case for the Bible. You can check out any of the series by clicking the individual post:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


In this post, we are going to begin focusing on the purpose of the Bible. What is the Bible? Does it have a unified message? To start, the Bible is not a single book. It is not like a book of literature that you would read straight through from start to finish, though it does have a beginning and an end. It is not like a textbook that you would mine for different facts on a subject matter. The first thing we need to realize about the Bible is that it is not a single book but a library of books. This library of books contains different genres, different historical perspectives—in the case of Chronicles and Kings, or the Gospels these different perspectives are offered on the same events. Just as you would not read a book by Charles Dickens to learn about astrophysics or turn to a math textbook to find beautifully written poetry, we can struggle with the Bible if we approach it asking questions that a particular section of Scripture may not be addressing.


The most glaring misapplication of genre categories usually happens right at the beginning in Genesis 1, we will focus our attention there for this post. As much as people have tried to treat it like an earth science textbook, Genesis 1 has all the markers of a poem: elevated language, repeated refrains, stanzas that mirror one another and yet many Christians have grown red in the face trying to swear that it is offering a scientific account of how the world came to be. But Genesis 1 is not doing the work of science, the author of Genesis 1 is doing profound theological reflection stating simply there is a God who in the beginning so overflowed with grace, love, and power that he spoke this world into existence. John Walton, in his book the Lost World of Genesis One, proposes the theory that the creation account in Genesis 1 demonstrates God creating a world where he can be present with his creation—a temple, if you will.


In literature, there is a principle that the first lines that a character speaks usually is revelatory in ways that will only become clear later for that character’s story and internal life. The first word that God speaks in the Bible is a phrase: let there be light. And in this succinct phrase so much of what God is trying to do is encapsulated. Three points about how this phrase points to God’s purposes in the Bible:


  • God Speaks- It is not redundant to say that the fact that God speaks reveals that God is a speaking God. Speaking is relationship, it is opening up one’s interior life and giving voice to something unseen inside of us. Thoughts, ideas, desires, jokes become audible sounds that can be received and interpreted by others. God wants to make himself known, he speaks in order to connect.


  •  God Draws Near - Many of the myths that were a part of the Ancient Near Eastern culture that the Israelite people shared, had their gods creating the world by conquering or vanquishing other gods or forces of chaos. But the God of the Bible speaks. He is so powerful that his very word creates worlds. But here’s the thing, he doesn’t create by conquering, he creates by speaking. He calls to creation, relating to it. From the very first words that God speaks we see glimpses of what God is trying to do inspiring a God-breathed book. He is drawing near. culturally conditions of what god should look like.


  •  God Draws Near-Many of the myths that were a part of the Ancient Near Eastern culture that the Israelite people shared, had their gods creating the world by conquering or vanquishing other gods or forces of chaos. But the God of the Bible speaks. He is so powerful that his very word creates worlds. But here’s the thing, he doesn’t create by conquering, he creates by speaking. He calls to creation, relating to it. From the very first words that God speaks we see glimpses of what God is trying to do inspiring a God-breathed book. He is drawing near.


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