Recently a friend asked us the following two questions:
1.) Is the book of Genesis written figuratively or literally?
2.) Or is it a mixture of both?
This is our reply letter to their questions:
We commend you for challenging yourself to search out the Truth behind what you believe or don’t agree with. Developing your moral compass is vital to solid spiritual growth and maturity. The foundation of personally knowing Jesus through the study of His Word is what will hold you through many of life’s storms and will give you the power to stand in times of need.
We will answer your questions and include some weblinks for further research.
First, in our Garden Ministries online article, How to Know a Good Bible Teacher, I describe how we look for good Bible Teachers who we can point people to when their important questions arise. Acts 17:11 tells us to be open and receive the Word but just as importantly, we are also to “search the scriptures daily to prove whether the words be true.” It comes as no surprise that continual attempts to undermine our confidence in the truth of God’s Word will be launched. The result of this is that we may be more “open” to receive teachings without “grounding” them through Scripture because we question whether the “grounding materials” (i.e., the Scriptures) are actually grounded.
Secondly, rather than asking, “is the book of Genesis written figuratively or literally? Or is it a mixture?” we suggest that you ask and search out the overarching question, “How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God and can be taken literally?”
To answer that question, George and I (and Garden Ministries) affirm the inerrancy and absolute authority of the Bible. We also believe that though some English versions of the Bible have a few translation issues, those issues have been clarified by Bible Scholars and are easily discoverable if they are searched out. Furthermore, these “issues” do not support the big leap that many take in invalidating the dependability of Scripture and/or any trend toward distancing the stories and writings of the Bible by making them figurative rather than literal. In other words, George and I firmly hold that the Bible is to be read and taken literally in all aspects and when symbolism or figurative speech is used poetically, it is obviously figurative and even then, usually points toward some level of literal application.
The Truth “who sets us free” is Jesus. If we really want freedom, we will want the truth that sets us free, who is Jesus, not humanism. John 14:6, “Jesus answered, â€œI am the way and the truth and the life.”
For centuries, many attempts have been made to distance people from believing that the Bible is the literal Word of God and can be taken literally. If I am to discover the truth of who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, and who I am in relationship to God, I must have access to this information and view it as infallible truth. The Bible provides me with just such information. To test this out, I simply look at the results. When I act out of the truth of God’s Word does the promised “fruit” bear witness to its realness? Are the promised outcomes of freedom, forgiveness, love, unity, hope, peace, joy, goodness, and patience happening in my heart and my life?
According to the Bible, I can expect, that in union with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, I can make definitive moral choices and I can experience an ever-increasing release of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness”) and I will also feel more “free” (John 8:32 says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you freeâ€).
Conversely, in order to give humanity the upper hand over believing in God as the ultimate authority, humanistic liberalism must first undermine the authority of the Bible, which commands a believer to fully surrender “their all” to their loving Creator God. Thus, much of the world’s philosophies, coined as “liberal,” are somewhat oxymoronic in that they are rooted and grounded in humanism which ironically leads humans into the ultimate bondage of self-centered helplessness. The moral compass of humanism has few absolutes and leaves people without a trusted “authority” who they can depend upon when a line must be drawn between opposing sides. Humanistic liberalism says it provides for such but in fact, when conflict arises, only “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The “fruit” of peace, joy, patience, goodness, etc. is at best, sporadic and temporary, and lasts only until the next squeaky wheel rises up.
If someone does not want to live their life surrendered to Jesus Christ and submit to the authority of His Wordâ€”the Bibleâ€”they must deal with His call for surrender by rejecting His credibility and rejecting His resources for learning. Thus, attempts to reduce or strip the authority of God’s Word are the result of attempts to elevate humanistic “morality” over God’s Biblical morality. In order to elevate something, something else must be put down.
In the end, with all things considered, we are either experiencing good fruit or bad fruit. For those of us who hold to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God and who are walking in union with the Holy Spirit, we can expect to know the Truth, who is Jesus, and who we are in Him. We can expect to experience an ever-increasing amount of the lasting fruits of peace, joy, patience, goodness, and kindness.
Authority, truth, and morality are directly related to each other. Thus, when the Bible’s authority is questioned and compromised we must adjust our worldview of authority, truth, and morality. When we reject or reduce the authority of the Bible, we are also changing our worldview. We must then answer our *4 basic world-view shaping questions (see below) based on our changing belief system. In essence, if a person no longer takes the Bible literally, then they are no longer subject to its literal authority and are no longer directly and completely accountable to the writer of the Bible, Jesus, as Lord and Creator. Apart from this moral accountability, a person can live their life as they see fit or as the pressures or pleasures of their accepted social, philosophical, and religious beliefs allow them.
That said by George and me, we will also point you to two of our favorite Bible Teachers to further answer your important questions:
1.) Dr. Chuck Missler, khouse.org
2.) Mike Bickle, mikebickle.org
To paraphrase some of what Dr. Chuck Missler says in, How to Study the Bible and
How Do We Really Know the Bible Is the Word of God?
“We live in a time of ‘authority crisis.'”
There are *4 basic world-view shaping questions:
1.) Who am I?
2.) Where did I come from?
3.) Where am I going?
4.) To whom am I accountable?
Mike Bickle says (and I paraphrase him below) in Why is the Bible so Important to You?
Jesus is the Living Word and is completely unified with the written Bible. The Bible is the holy transcript of Jesus’ soul, imparted to people who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to receive His words by revelation and write them down. II Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Bible is God’s plumb line of truth. The Bible provides boundary lines that align our moral compass with God’s “True North.” These boundary lines provide insight and wisdom in:
â€¢ How we live our life
â€¢ How we get clarity and understand God and His love
â€¢ How we can stand on solid ground during difficult times
â€¢ How we receive and process revelation
â€¢ How we build our family and community life
In the future, when questions arise, it can help to take a look at their long-term outcome. Look at the “fruit” of a “belief” and ask yourself, “Does this belief lead me to a closer love-and-trust relationship with Jesus Christ or does it lead me away from trusting and loving Him as the sure anchor for my soul?”
We hope this helps answer your questions and inspires you to ask many more!
George and Janet