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What if Scripture isn't true?     From Is Scripture True? Audio
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  —Judges 21

How do Christians handle parts of the Bible that seem inconsistent with God? The winds are abuzz reviving an old solution. "Dismiss it." Even preachers are encouraging us saying, "Those parts couldn't possibly be from God," or "You don't understand what that meant. It's actually the opposite of what it appears to say."

#whatLINE is about making sure that you, your small group, and those you love recognize the line between belief in Scripture and unbelief. The arguments that attempt to shred just a bit of Scripture are slick and alluring, but what happens if we just throw it all away? What happens if we disregard Scripture altogether?

Arthur Leff, an unbeliever, in Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law for the Duke Law Journal laid out an examined case of law without a higher power. The problem is that without God, "we are able to locate nothing more attractive, or more final, than ourselves."

That sounds reasonable. Without God, then we'll just decide. Leff goes into a lot of detail in his short paper, so if you have questions, read the article linked above, but his conclusion is that without God, without a higher standard, "it is impossible to say that anyting ought or ought not to be." 

Scoff at this at your peril. Murder is wrong? Well, I happen to agree, except under certain circumstances like, say, self defence or military combat. But there's 19 guys a couple years ago who felt murder was wrong, except in other/different circumstances, so they flew three airplanes into buildings. Without God, there can be no normative standard for the law.

I've shared this previously in the post Liberty and the Standards of Jesus (and that post was excerpted from A Rooster Once Crowed: A Commentary on the Greatest Story Ever Told, Chapter 9—Tune into Life’s Belief, pgs. 130-134), but Flannery O'Connor's character, The Misfit, in A Good Man Is Hard to Find grasps this issue cleanly. He said:

If [Jesus] did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

In the absence of God, eventually, ethics must choose between personal liberty and community peace. As Leff puts it, without a higher standard of normative law, we must choose between "nothing but rights" or "no rights."

I can hear you now, "So an academic journal and a piece of southern gothic fiction? Is that the best you can do?"

Czeslaw Milosz was a Polish poet, Nobel Prize winner and survivor of Stalinist and Nazi regimes. He grew up under governments where men decided what ought and ought not. In a short piece for The New York Review of Books called The Discreet Charm of Nihilism, Milsoz wrote:

Religion, opium for the people. To those suffering pain, humiliation, illness, and serfdom, it promised a reward in an afterlife. And now we are witnessing a transformation. A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.

The absence of God means the absence of judgement. When that is removed, then men tend toward governments that act with impunity.

But this isn't us, right? We haven't gassed anyone or violated anyone's civil rights, right?

Well, what was the standard that Jesus set? If you've looked on another with lust, you've committed adultry (Matthew 5:27-28) and if you've been angry with your brother, you've committed murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Why wouldn't God look at denial of small pieces of Scripture as denial of Him? 

As Christians, we're called to read, follow and struggle with Scripture. This doesn't mean leaving my brain at the door, but when I come to a difficult or incongruous or personally challenging passage, it's the difference in asking:

  1. I don't know how that can possibly be true, but I'm going to keep searching for how it is. Lord, show me how this is You, why You've laid this here for me and how I can use this, or
  2. My 21st-century, western (or eastern), _________ educated outlook has prepared me to determine what should and shouldn't have been included in Scripture and this is not the God I know."

This is not without precidence in Scirpture. The brutality and bad decision making in the Book of Judges is regularly cited by non-believers as the book that proves God is either inhumane or isn't behind Scripture. But Judges isn't meant to reflect how God wants things to be. Judges reflects how far afield man gets when he does what is right in his own eyes.

I'm of sound mind and reasonably educated. I've reviewed the facts and have a track record of (mostly) good decisions. And I'm unfit. I cannot determine how I should react (much less mankind) to the myriad of situations in culture. But God shared Himself through Scripture in a way so perfectly that I've found no better guide for my life, my house, my country and my planet. Don't discard God. Wrestle with Him. He'll respect you for that.

l love you. 

This is the second post in a series titled #whatLINE where we're considering whether we can trust Scripture. Essentially, is Scripture true? I've drawn heavily from various Tim Keller sermons, but I don't remember which ones. These have just become part of my knowing. To hear an audio of a lesson associated with this post, click the player below, or #whatLINE - Is Scripture True? audio, linked here (it'll stream from a mobile device). If you'd like to get these posts sent to you via email (and you're not already), click here to register and make sure to tell us that you're a Back Porch Friend.

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