The human mind is truly a wonder, We've learned that the once indivisible atom is
actually composed of smaller parts, themselves composed of particles even yet smaller. On the other side of the scale we've peered out billions of light years across the universe almost to the beginning of time itself. From the miniscule to the immense and everywhere in between, we've gotten pretty good at figuring many things out.
In the past century alone we've acquired the ability to fly freely all over our entire planet and even beyond as both our human and mechanical emissaries have plied the sea of space - the most distant of them now traveling so far away that the sun looks like nothing more than a very bright star shining in the blackness.
Where it once took months or even years to send messages across our world, we now take instantaneous communication to almost every place on Earth for granted. Our advanced technology has also allowed us to live in relative comfort from pole to pole, under the sea, and above our atmosphere.
But where there is a positive, we also have the negative.
The human inclination of "wanting to do things our own way" which reaches back to Adam and Eve's fall, through the building of the Tower of Babel and right up until the present is perhaps the prime reason for the increasingly dark world to which we open our eyes each morning, At the risk of introducing a new cliché, I think that "Pride thy name is human" is nevertheless an accurate one. We often get so enamored of ourselves that we forget the One that made us and everything else.
To put things in proper perspective, let's see what God told the prophet Isaiah way back in the 8th Century B.C .: Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Considering just how huge this universe is, that's saying a lot!
Paul accurately describes our limited perceptions:
1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
In other words, while we exist in this life, our understanding will be exceedingly limited at best, even for the brightest of us. No matter how smart we think we are, we'll never be able to understand the mind of God in its totality. But we could never even begin to comprehend him unless God in some manner chose to reveal himself to us. Fortunately he has done just that in the pages of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit to provide us a record of his deeds and wisdom across the ages for all to read. But it gets even better because he has made this very same Spirit available to all who accept Jesus to assist us in understanding it:
John 14:26 [Jesus said to his disciples] But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you. [Here and throughout, bracketed sections are added for clarification.]
As to importance of the Word, we have:
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them [to] your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
2 Timothy 3:16 [Paul wrote] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable fro doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Revelation 22:18-19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words in this book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
I think it is safe to say from the passages above that God takes his Written Word very seriously ranging from the first five books of Moses all the way up to the final book of Revelation. But is what we are reading today accurate? That's a fair question.
Regarding the Old Testament, the discovery and study of the Dead Sea scrolls has revealed very little variation in the original Hebrew and Aramaic over the centuries. The New Testament has over 5000 ancient copies of the original books comprising it either in part or in total still available. This evidence points to a level of reliability to which no other historical documents even come close, as far as I know.
Now, does this mean that the particular version of the Bible you may be reading is 100% accurate? The simple answer is "No," in that there are minor variations even amongst the ancient texts. Likewise, when translated into modern languages some of the words may have no direct equivalents. And don't forget, languages themselves change over the years. Now this may be troubling information to some, but the main thing to remember is that the best Bible scholars agree that the differences are by and large insignificant. But you needn't take my word for it alone. Neil R. Lightfoot, author of "How We Got the Bible" (MJF Books, copyright 1963, 1988, 2003) makes this exact case with his excellently researched and well-written book.
For English speakers, you can't do much better than having the King James, Revised Standard, and New International Versions in your library, in my opinion, along with a good concordance such as Strong's.
Now that I've hopefully established the Bible's importance and reliability, let's examine what happens when individuals, parishes, and even entire denominations practice "Bible Grab Bag," This is what I call a selective reading of scripture, usually out of context, designed to back up whatever opinion or doctrine one wants to promote. Here's an example:
1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
This is certainly absolutely true. But when it is quoted to create an "anything goes" doctrine, it is clearly being misused. One result of such is the false claims that God would never send anyone to hell, no matter what they do or what manner of lifestyle they may be living This, of course, is refuted in Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 12:5, 2 Peter 2:4-9, Revelation, chapter 19 and many more. This includes even those who have rejected Jesus as the only means of salvation (John 14:6).
It may surprise you to know that this "pick and choose" approach which mixes the truth with a lie isn't something humans invented, A look back at Genesis 3 shows Satan using this tactic very effectively on Adam and Eve. About them getting to know the difference between good and evil was the truth, but the devil lied when he said they wouldn't die after eating the forbidden fruit. Likewise when Jesus was in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:1-10), Satan tried using Scripture to get Jesus to play his game. Of course, Jesus countered this ploy by his correct use of the Bible. How the devil ever figured he could outwit the man who wrote the book must be a prime example of his own arrogance and self-delusion. Unfortunately, he's had a lot better luck with most of Adam and Eve's descendants.
Since it’s very beginning the church itself has been a prime target for Satan's deceptions. In the Olivet Discourse, the very next thing Jesus mentioned after the destruction of the Temple was the coming of false prophets and false messiahs. Many of Paul's epistles, and in particular his letter to the Galatians, dealt with combating erroneous doctrines. The Antichrist who will rule the future world will no doubt take this deception to a whole new level.
Now as we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, it appears that we are seeing signs that this corruption of Scripture is already going into overdrive. Many major Protestant denominations have rejected Jesus as the only way to be saved (John 14:6, Acts 4:10-12) but have had no problem accepting openly homosexual clergy into their pulpits in direct contradiction to Bible teaching (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). I myself left the Episcopal Church after being a member for almost 50 years because it is now traveling down this path of false doctrines. In addition to this, I continue to find troubling that so many have still remained in TEC and the other denominations which have adopted similar "innovations." I am especially concerned about the kids who attend Sunday School in these places because a lie repeated often enough does start to sound like the truth and the young are generally the most vulnerable.
That the influx of heresy (might as well not mince words because this is EXACTLY what it we have here) is weakening, distracting and dividing the church at this particular time when we see the darkness growing over our world leads me to believe that this is no accident. The church which once provided a moral compass to the society around it has now become increasingly ineffective at the very time the enemies of Jesus are growing stronger. In a very real sense its light is going out while the "prince of this world" tightens his grip.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul warned his young protégé' Timothy that this very thing was to come in the Last Days:
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons].
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables.
The prophet Hosea once said:
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to thee: seeing thou hast forgotten that law of they God, I will also forget thy children.
Now, let me ask you a question: When was the last time you heard these passages read or preached upon in YOUR church? If the answer is "Never" it seems that perhaps you should ask your pastor "Why not?" But be cautioned that your inquiry may not go over well in many churches these days.
Another casualty in the modern church has been the paucity of teaching about the End of the Age. Though some denominations have incorporated prophetic passages into their Advent lectionaries, it seems there is little emphasis on them in these times of ours when the signs are increasingly showing up. People are just not being informed of them and what the implications are when this information is needed the most!
Now let's consider two logical inconsistencies to the "Bible Grab Bag" approach.
1) If the Bible is indeed the Word of God, what gives any person the authority to decide which parts are "relevant" and "accurate" and which are not? In order to do so, aren't such people setting themselves up to know MORE than God?
2) On the other side of the coin, if the Bible is no more than an ancient collection of writings by a bunch of guys expressing their own opinions, then why then can't each of us just make up our own theologies as we go along?
This all may sound pretty ridiculous, but this is precisely what is happening in the church right now.
The point here is that the only argument that really works is that the Bible is indeed the Word of God and that as such must be taken in its entirety or not at all. Perhaps the greatest evidence that this is true is its unerring record in predicting events future to when they were first recorded. In addition to the prophecies we've already related regarding the state of the church in the Latter Days, here are a few even more compelling ones concerning Jesus himself:
1) His unusual birth - Isaiah 7:14, confirmed: Luke 2:1-7
2) His birthplace - Micah 5:2, confirmed Luke 2:1-7
3) His lineage from King David - Isaiah 11:1-2, confirmed Matthew 1:1-16
[Joseph's ancestors], Luke 3:23-38 [Mary's ancestors, and Joseph's legal
ancestors by virtue of his marriage to Mary], Revelation 22:16.
4) Details of his death- Psalm 22;16-18, confirmed John 19:17-24.
5) His resurrection - Psalm 16:10, confirmed Matthew 28:1-10
In conclusion, it appears that the Bible is exactly what it claims to be - the Written Word of God, just as Jesus is the Living Word of God (John 1:1-17). Now any "Jesus" who was not virgin-born, or did not perform miracles, or hadn't died on the cross for our sins and was physically resurrected wouldn't be the real Jesus at all, would he?
In the same manner that Jesus the Living Word must be taken in his entirety, so must the Bible which is Written Word be as well. To do otherwise is to accept "another Jesus," and "another Gospel" which are nothing more than counterfeits that can lead to salvation for no one.
The main reason that these "alternate Jesus' "and "alternate gospels" likely have such appeal is because they allow people to avoid a very unpopular word and concept in our society today - ACCOUNTABILITY! None of us likes to be told that we might be wrong or that we might have to give up some of the bad things we do that we enjoy so much. Or that continuing to do them will have consequences which might last into eternity.
The problem is, ignoring the truth doesn't make it any "less true." Believing the Earth is flat for example, as some people amazingly still do apparently despite all the photos from space, doesn't make it any less spherical. Not accepting the Bible in its entirety and Jesus in his entirety likewise doesn't change the truth about them.
So it really is a case of "All or Nothing," isn't it?"