Sunday, August 21, 2011
The Bible DOES NOT Have the Answer To Every Question: But God Does
Despite the glib assertion, often heard, that the Bible has the answer to every question, my questions keep accumulating. It has been my experience that reading and contemplating the Bible raises at least as many questions as it answers. But then, perhaps I read it differently than those who say they find an answer to any question they bring to it.
The psalmist, who repeatedly tells us he meditated (day and night) on the Scriptures available to him, must not have found the answers to his questions lying on the surface, easy to find and quick to understand. He found it necessary to meditate on the things he found there. Meditation is a process of asking questions and seeking answers. It can keep you up all night, or at least awake all night. And in the end – the end of our life – we will still have questions unanswered. Thank God! Think how awful it must be for those who, at age 30 or 40, have found the answer to all their questions, but are required to live on another three or four decades with nothing new to learn.
I’m being too facetious, of course. Those who claim such clarity of understanding are not saying they never have questions, merely that, when they do, they can reliably go to the Bible and find an answer there. And no doubt they do so. Whether the answer they find would be universally acceptable to others with the same question is very doubtful. But if it gives them a sense of clarity in their view of the world, and if they do not later “live to rue their decisions” based on that “clarity,” it is, at the least, harmless for them to make the Bible their sole guide to daily problem solving.
However, it would seem that, if the Bible were meant to give that kind of specific guidance, it would have been structured more in the form of a technical Manual for Living, with a Table of Contents listing chapters that address each area of life. Instead we have a marvelous, almost haphazard, collection of stories, histories, songs, poems, prayers, sermons, prophecies, and theologies that were written over a period of a thousand years or more. Where does one begin to find the answer to the problem facing them today? In some specific verse? Or in a particular story? In a teaching or a prophecy? Or in a grand understanding of all of it together?
I would say, for the ordinary problems of everyday living, God has given us a brain, life experiences, amd the wisdom of others around us to guide and direct us. To look in the Bible for the reason your computer doesn’t work today – ah, yes; some do so, declaring it an “attack” of Satan to be combated by prayers or incantations – is non-sense. It may take a bit of hard searching to find the problem, using less “spiritual” means, but in the end, the result will be more favorable and the “fix” more permanent.
The Psalmist meditated upon the Word of God, delighted in it, and drew solace from it. Taken as a whole (and it should be taken as a whole, both in the breadth of familiarity with all of its “books”, and with the span of one’s life devoted to meditating upon it) the Bible introduces us to dozens of men and women whose stories of success and failure provide grist for the mill of our minds as we wrestle with situations not too different from theirs. It puts us in dozens of situations in which other believers have wrestled with the conduct of their life in treacherous times. It gives us the teachings of those who have knelt closer to the Throne of God’s wisdom than we have. It teaches us that despite the ups and downs of human behavior through the centuries, God has been on a consistent path to redeem sinful mankind.
The Bible doesn’t answer every question I have; neither the little ones about why my car makes that strange noise, nor the big ones about when the supports should be removed to allow a loved one to slip on into eternity. But meditating upon the whole of Scripture can teach me to: “not take thought for tomorrow, whether my car will break down or not, but to trust that God will give me the wisdom to fix it, or find someone to do so, if it should break down.” (That last “quotation” is an example of the synthesis of Biblical truth that can occur as a result of “whole Scripture” meditation.) And the Bible can bring comfort – and wisdom – to those who have the very hard questions to answer about life and death, assuring them that, “to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” Whether we live or die, were are Christ’s. Whichever door we decide to go through we are assured by Jesus’ words, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you. I am with you, even to the end of the age – the end of life.”
God’s faithfulness to us is not determined by the course of action we take in a particular situation. He is committed to us. He has given us free will. He expects us to seek to know his will before we make our choices. But he doesn’t stand back when, in good faith, we make a bad choice. He goes through that door with us too. And if it is, indeed, a bad choice, we will have found the answer to that question. We can move on to prayerfully choose another door, using the wisdom gained through experience and our meditation on the Word of God.
A final word of encouragement from the Epistle of James: “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. He gives it liberally and doesn’t scold us.” Facing a problem? Need to know which door to go through. Ask God for wisdom, then, if it seems good to you and the Holy Spirit, give it a try. If you’ve listened carefully and acted honestly you’ll get the right door. You won’t be alone, though, if you fail; others have too. But you’ll not be without Jesus presence either. He promised that.