Imagine yourself on a desert island. It’s just you, a few miles of bright, sandy beach and the vast blue ocean all around. And treasure. Somewhere on this island is a buried treasure of unimaginable worth. And it’s your job to find it. Armed with nothing but a map, a compass and a shovel, you set out in search of what promises to be a magnificent prize. If your map and compass are both reliable, and if your legs don’t give out, you ought to find what you are looking for before too long. But what if your map is mistaken? What if your compass never points north? What if you can’t trust the only tools you have to help find the treasure?
This analogy is admittedly a bit silly, but the problem it addresses is far from foreign to students at Eastern. The Christian Church has for over a millenium treated the Bible as a map and a compass, not pointing to a large sum of money, but to the heart of God Himself. From the very first week or so of class, many Eastern students have their faith in the reliability of the revealed Word of God challenged and undermined, being reminded time and time again of the many “inconsistencies” and “contradictions” that have forced many open-minded scholars to question its historicity. And sadly, unable to respond to the confrontations to their faith, many Eastern students have swallowed the bait.
Some defenders of this way of thinking, in an attempt to explain these apparent problems, choose to affirm God’s perfection, instead assuring us that the message was garbled in the transition to human language. Others suggest that God is not concerned with trivial historical details, but is more intent on conveying the larger story of His grace and love, working in humanity to bring sinners to salvation, and so some errors are perfectly acceptable. Still others prefer to point out that God could not possibly have addressed every false idea that man has come up with, and so He accommodated His message to the errors in our thinking, choosing to speak to us in ways that are “mostly correct.”
Friends, this is wrong. As Christians, we believe that God is sovereign over human language; to demand that He be restricted to its confines negates His omnipotence. On the other hand, to insist instead that He would willingly adapt Himself to our own errors or incidentally affirm our own mistakes makes God out to be at best, capricious, and at worst, a liar. But 1 Samuel 15:29 makes it clear that God “will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
I believe that there is a better way. We must place our trust in God’s Word; without it, we have no map, no compass and no direction. When we insist that it contains errors in the original manuscripts, we are destroying the very foundation of the Church, placing more confidence in ourselves than in God. We must not settle for the easy route; if we cannot trust everything in the Bible, then we have no right to trust anything in the Bible.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m only human, and I make mistakes like everyone else. But our God is not like us. He does not make mistakes. He couldn’t speak anything but truth, even if He wanted to. It requires faith to believe that the contradictions can be resolved, and faith is a choice. Choose this day whom you will believe. The treasure awaits.