By Janet Weaver Smith, Â©gardenministries.org – 2012
(Scroll down for PART 2: How Do We Know that the 66 Books in the Bible are the Inspired Word of God and Can be Taken Literally?)
Who’s to say who determines what constitutes morality and immorality?
Why do we need to believe in God and obey His commands in the Bible anyway? Why can’t humans, apart from the God of the Bible, create and define their own effective and eternal moral standards and then live by them?
The quick and simple answer is this: after thousands and thousands of years, humanity has hands-down proven its propensity toward depravity and its desperate need for a Divine Arbitrator. There is no question that humanity needs an independent authority, above and outside the scope of human limitations, whose moral character is proven, whose laws are firmly established in love and goodness, and who has the timeless wisdom and power to justly settle disputes.
Because humans are stuck in a body suit that is confined by time and matter and because humans, by our very nature, are naturally limited to “self-is-my-center” motivations, none of us can objectively serve (individually or collectively) as a perfectly just Arbitrator for all humanity. In order to be a just Arbitrator, humanity must have someone externally bigger and outside of our individual or collective scope of authority who can transcend time, and who is exclusively and objectively motivated by perfect love for every one of usâ€”not just certain ones.
Fortunately for us, one such a Person exists, has proven He exists, and has freely and lovingly given Himself to all of humanity as a free will offering for us to accept or reject. And even though God created us to live in union with Him and in the end, that is what our Divine Arbitrator lovingly seeks to restore, He still gives us the choice to believe and receive Him as our Father and His Son Jesus as our Savior and to obey His commands as they are laid out in His Wordâ€”the 66-books of the Bible.
We can believe and receive His terms (Jesus) for restored relationship or not. We can call Him “Creator” or not. We can call Him a Great Prophet or not. No matter what we call Him or how we relate to Him, there is no way to get around the facts that prove that we still need His eternal provisions to exist. We need His moral laws. We need His wisdom. We need His love, and we especially need His powerful natural resources to hold and rescue us from our natural bent toward depravity and self-centered, narrow-minded wasteful ways.
But let’s not settle for just a quick and simple answer, let’s dig a little deeper into the subject of morality. What is morality?
Morality houses the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. It’s a particular system of values and principles of conduct, esp. one held by a specified person or society. It is the extent to which an action is right or wrong. Moreover, morality is behavior or qualities judged to be goodâ€”virtue, goodness, good behavior, righteousness, rectitude, uprightness; morals, principles, honesty, integrity, propriety, honor, justice, decency; ethics, standards/principles of behavior, mores, standards. Plain and simple, morality is goodness. It is the quality of being good, in particular virtue and moral excellence.
If morality is the result of people engaging in making right decisions and employing commonly understood values (or principles) of goodness, then it follows that there are also wrong decisions that can be made that lead to bad and damaging results, i.e., immorality. When bad choices have been made, in order to restore peace, health, harmony, or bring justice, these bad behavior decisions and their negative consequences always require some sort of rectification and resolve through laws or rules that are ironically and guess what? Founded upon moral principles.
It is highly optimistic or just plain unrealistic to think that we humans created our own morality and can, by ourselves manage our ultimate destiny. If that were the case, we should have made a lot more headway in creating a good and sensible world by now shouldn’t we have? Who must we then blame for our ever-increasing moral instability? God or humanity? Who must we look to for moral reconstruction? Humanity or God? Who can we credit for the goodness in our world? God or humanity?
Since the goodness of morality provides great benefits that most people really enjoy, the real question is, why do we human’s, who want all the benefits of moral excellence, still make immorally wrong or bad decisions that reap negative and destructive consequences? Why is it so hard to believe that we need God and His strength to follow His moral commands? When we actually think about it, it is harder to believe that humanity can be its own moral trendsetter than to believe that God is our very competent moral Overseer. So why do we want to believe in people more than God?
It is simply this: we don’t want to believe God! We don’t want to answer to God and His Word and follow His commands. Our self-as-center compass inherently hates being led away from itself in submission to another. We want to go our own way, have our own way, and live our life as we see best. At some point however, we will have to face the fact that even if we don’t want to follow God, we still have to employ many of His ways to survive and thrive in this life.
Without employing God’s obvious moral laws (“God’s” because He was the first to record them in His Word), we cannot expect the long-term benefits of His morality. Everyone “doing their own thing” and “going their own way” always culminates in chaos and anarchy. Morality from a secular perspective is arbitrary and meaningless. There is no sure-anchor-to-the-soul that rings true and no solid ground within the conglomeration of aggregated humanistic perspectives and subjective opinions. Whether they realize it or not, non-Christians or people who call themselves Christians but don’t believe that the 66 books of the Bible are God’s inerrant and irrefutable Word still have no choice but to borrow from a biblical worldview to make sense of morality.
Like it or not, we need God’s worldview and moral standards, at least to borrow from, in order to live the life we want to enjoy. And with or without realizing it, we are living by and benefiting from God’s standard’s of moral excellence every day. Unless we choose willful blindness, it is easy to find these moral guidelines within the pages of the 66 books of the Bible.
PART 2: How Do We Know that the 66 Books in the Bible are the Inspired Word of God and Can be Taken Literally?
By Janet Weaver Smith, Â©gardenministries.org – 2012
The 66 books that make up today’s Holy Bible form the reliable and irrefutable Word of God. People who were divinely inspired and “breathed upon” by the Holy Spirit wrote all 66 books. Every one of the 66 books in the Bible can be read and received as God’s literal Word to humanity. But don’t just take someone else’s word for it, do your own study and decide for yourself if the Bible is what it claims to be. To learn what the Bible claims to be, read these scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:15-16, 2 Peter 1:21.
Throughout the centuries, many have attempted to diminish, discredit, or dispute the 66 books of the Bible as God’s living Word. Perhaps they think that by doing so they can abdicate their responsibility to accept or reject an obedient, dependent relationship with God. Challenging the process of canonizing the 66 books or writing fictitious novels that influence cultures are just a couple of methods used to discredit the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible. Still somehow, undaunted, the Word of God survives all threats to its validity and since it’s inception, is the single-most highly demanded book in the world for all time.
When asked, “Why then has the Bible been so bitterly attacked?, acclaimed British theologian and Bible teacher Brian H. Edwards answers, “It’s because the Bible is what it claims to be. It is the reliable, inerrant revelation of God whose message is demanding. It must be destroyed or else obeyed. There is no other alternative.”
Here is a good resource to watch and learn about the historical background of how and when the 66 books of the Bible were canonized and compiled: Brian H. Edwards teaches “Why 66? How Do We Know the Bible is True?” Parts 1-4.
“If we believe we are created in the image of God, we will seek to behave accordingly. If we believe that we came from monkeys, likewise we will behave accordingly.” â€“ Brian H. Edwards
If we accept the 66 canonized books of the Bible as the true Word of God and His gracious gift to humanity, we can more fully enjoy the benefits of His truth starting right at the beginning of the Bible.
The following is an excerpt from HCSB Study bible notes found at www.mystudybible.com:
“The opening verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, contains seven Hebrew words, which establish seven key truths upon which the rest of the Bible is based.
1. First, God exists. The essential first step in pleasing God is recognizing His existence (Heb 11:6).
2. Second, God existed before there was a universe and will exist after the universe perishes (Heb 1:10-12).
3. Third, God is the main character in the Bible. He is the subject of the first verb in the Bible (in fact, He is the subject of more verbs than any other character) and performs a wider variety of activities than any other being in the Bible.
4. Fourth, as Creator, God has done what no human being could ever do; in its active form the Hebrew verb bara’, meaning “to create,” never has a human subject. Thus bara’ signifies a work that is uniquely God’s.
5. Fifth, God is mysterious; though the Hebrew word for God is plural, the verb form of which “God” is the subject is singular. This is perhaps a subtle allusion to God’s Trinitarian nature: He is three divine persons in one divine essence.
6. Sixth, God is the Creator of heaven and earth. He doesn’t just modify pre-existing matter but calls matter into being out of nothing (Ps 33:6,9; Heb 11:3).
7. Seventh, God is not dependent on the universe, but the universe is totally dependent on God (Heb 1:3).
Garden Ministries affirms 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, we 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, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.â€
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. We will walk in a life that is pleasing to God because our faith, hope, and love for Him and for people is ever-increasing.
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.
We live in a time of ‘authority crisis.’ â€“ Dr. Chuck Missler, http://www.khouse.org/
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 (Mikebickle.com) says (and I paraphrase him below) in his article, “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
(end of Mike Bickle paraphrased quote)
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 and His Word as the sure anchor for my soul?”
Janet Weaver Smith and her husband George Smith co-pastor their home-church family in Southwest Minneapolis. Â©gardenministries.org – 2012