A friend of mine has recently started to read the Bible. He has been around Christianity for much of His life, but has never become a believer. He sent me a list of 16 questions primarily about the Bible and I thought it might be helpful to include my answers to 12 of those questions.
My starting point is always the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is true, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient to answer the deepest questions of life. Christians are called to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)
Here they are:
Jesus lost His temper in the church when He discovered people were gambling in the church. Is it ok to break things and possibly kill people if they do not do as told or you don’t get your way?
No, it’s not. But there is such a thing as “righteous anger”. If you caught someone trying to abuse and harm your wife and kids, then there had better be a sense of anger when you find out. That doesn’t mean you respond by killing them, but you need to let the perpetrator know that what they are doing is very wrong, and then do what you can to stop them. That is “righteous anger.”
How Jesus responded to the Pharisees and religious leaders in the Temple is like that. They had taken a sacred place of worship and defiled it by making it a place of business where they were making huge sums of money. This was very wrong and Jesus responded with righteous anger. When I think about all the babies that have been aborted in this nation and around the world, it angers me. But I need to be careful how I respond. The Bible says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…..Beloved never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:17-19).
Lastly, keep in mind that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). There are things He did recorded in the gospels that perhaps seemed wrong and sinful, but are not.
If God created Adam and Eve then why couldn’t God create other people so Cain and his sister would not have to commit incest?
The short answer is, God could have easily created a world with thousands or perhaps millions of people in it, but He chose not to. God’s plan was to start with just two people and let it grow gradually. The reason we have a conviction that incest is wrong is because of God’s word. After the Exodus, God commanded “none of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness” (Leviticus 18:6).
We must be careful not to impose upon God and say it was wrong for Him to do this or that. God is God. He does all that He pleases. He establishes righteousness and justice and in His wisdom, He decreed that incest was wrong. However, He also decreed that the world would start with just two people, not thousands.
It seems like Indian folklore and the Bible are similar, why is that?
Though there may be some commonality, there is a vast chasm of difference between them. The Bible teaches that there is something very wrong with the world (the problem of sin). It is also clear that a holy and righteous God has invaded time and space to meet that need through Jesus Christ His Son (Galatians 4:4-5).
From your description of Indian folklore, it sounds like one culture’s attempt to make sense of the world through story, which is very common. The Bible, on the other hand, is God’s self-revelation to us. We learn about the Creator God, we learn about ourselves, and we learn about this fallen world. As we read its pages, we can’t sit back and be passive, neutral bystanders. The form of Scripture is kind of like – this is truth – you either accept it or reject it. You either turn away from your sins and run to Jesus in faith, or suffer the wrath of God.
If the Bible is such an explicit collection of stories, then why is the bible not clear as to when Jesus was born?
Actually, the Bible is not just story (narrative). While large portions of Scripture are narrative and history, there are several other kinds of literature such as poetry, prophecy, letter, and plenty of didactic material such as you find in the four gospels.
In terms of dating Jesus’ birth, the gospel writers’ primary concern was not to tell us the date Jesus was born. Their concern was to tell us what He did – life, death, burial, resurrection – and to record some of His teachings and miracles. However, we can infer from Scripture when Jesus was born (around 5-6 BC). We are told that King Herod died (Matthew 2:19), and Jesus could not have been more than 2 years old at the time (Matthew 2:16). Herod died in 4 BC, which means Jesus was born around 5-6 BC, roughly 2025 years ago.
By the way, the dating system we know have, was not invented until many years after Jesus was born. So in that sense, the gospel writers could not have said Jesus was born in 2529 NV, for example (just to use a hypothetical number). There was nothing in place like that at the time. All they had was geologies, such as what we find in Genesis 5 and the book of 1-2 Kings.
Why are there so many translations of the Bible?
The Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, not English. Therefore, if we don’t know the biblical languages, the only way to read the Bible is through a translation. But as I said in our conversation, translation is not always an exact science. In Greek there are at least 4 words for our English word love. Translators must decide which is the best one in a particular verse or passage.
Or just think of other famous books. For example, Charles Dickens classic book “A Christmas Carol” has been translated several times into French, not to mention all the other languages it has been translated into. Why not just do it once and no more? Well, some people like more of an easy to read translation, while others like the more literal translation that is not so easy to read. Translators seek to meet varying needs, and the same is true of the Bible. While have many great translations in the English language, we are always seeking a better, more perfect one. My favorites are the ESV, CSB, NASB, and for those who don’t mind old English, the KJV.
People who lived on the earth before Christ, where do their souls go?
Great Question! There is a chapter in the Bible that is really helpful in answering this question – Hebrews 11. This chapter looks at many of the great saints of old that we read about in the Old Testament. After reading this chapter it becomes clear that OT peoples were saved the same way New Testament peoples are saved – by faith! But there is one slight difference. OT people were looking ahead to the work of Christ (the Messiah) to save them from their sins, while NT people (and that includes us) are looking back to the finished work of Christ.
To answer your question, it all depends on the particular person. Were they looking ahead and trusting God for their salvation? If they were, then they will go to heaven. Or, were they looking to their own righteousness and good works and keeping the law? Those people will go to hell. To summarize, people in the OT are saved the same way we are today – by faith alone and through Christ alone. It’s just that OT people were looking ahead, while we look back.
If God knows all and sees our future before we were ever born, why doesn’t He just end humanity and send the Christian’s to heaven?
First off, you are right to affirm that God sees our future before we are born. Bible verses such as Ephesians 1:4 and Psalm 139:16 tell us that God knows us and is the author of salvation. However, we also must remember that God has a perfect plan of redemption that is not yet completed. There are prophecies in the Bible that have yet to take place. The Bible also says that the “gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world….and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Though no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), one day the last soul will be saved, and God will complete His redemption plans.
If God is a compassionate God, why does He let people suffer on earth?
Believe it or not, our suffering is a grace. If you are a Christian, it is something good for us and even necessary. Just to be clear, God is not the author of suffering and sin (James 1:13-15). When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden paradise, He gave them tremendous freedom, but did put one stipulation in place – don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, Satan tempted them and they gave in. Ever since then, humanity has been banished from the garden paradise and now dwells in a fallen, sinful world. So don’t blame God, blame man.
I want you to look up some verses for me – James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, 1 Peter 4:12-19. What you will see is that God uses our pain and suffering for our good and for His glory. Often times, if it wasn’t for suffering, we wouldn’t see our great need for God. That is why I say suffering is actually good for us and we can actually “count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).
Why is science able to explain nearly everything that takes place in the Bible?
It can’t. Science tries to explain away the miraculous, but most of the explanations are weak and not even scientific themselves. The scientific community has no place for miracles in their scheme, therefore they simply write everything off that is not explainable to the modern mind. However, that doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t really walk on water. They can’t prove what they are saying, so the same charge can be laid against them.
Science says = miracles don’t happen. Bible says = miracles do happen
Neither side can be proved in a scientific way. However, I can tell you that God has answered prayer in my own life in miraculous ways. Is the scientist going to be bold enough to call me either a liar or a fool? He might, but his charge can’t be proved.
If Cain married his sister, then there would be only one race of people. Where do all the other races come from?
Great question. The answer is, in the genetic code.
God placed all the genetic information in one man and his wife (Adam and Eve), for all the future generations and all his billions of offspring. When you study genetics, you will start to see how in just a few generations you can have people with completely different skin color yet the same ancestry. We see this in the animal world too. That is the greatness of God in Creation!
If there are so many nonbelievers (God knows who they are) and so few believers then why does God want so many people to experience heaven?
You have spoken well. The majority of people reject God (Matthew 7:13-14), God does know His people (2 Timothy 2:19), and God does want people to be saved and go to heaven (2 Peter 3:9). The question is how do we synchronize these truths? How do they fit together?
In all reality, it is a bit of a mystery, but Scripture does help us better understand how God is working. The Scriptures clearly teach both the sovereignty of God in salvation (Ephesians 1:3-7, 11-12, Romans 8:29-33, 9:11-20, John 6:44, 15:16, Acts 13:48) and human responsibility (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:3-5, 2 Peter 3:9, Revelation 22:17, Joel 2:32).
A great Baptist Preacher in England was once asked how he reconciled these two aspects (sovereignty of God in salvation and human freedom and responsibility)? He responded by saying, “I don’t try. I never reconcile friends.” While our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite mind of God, we can trust Him. These seemingly contradictory points harmonize perfectly in the plan of God. We can also praise Him and thank Him for His grace in saving us (if we are a Christian).
Why does God never reveal the forbidden fruit? Could it be that God wants to prevent people from achieving His status and why?
The identity of the fruit is really a secondary question. The main thing that the author of Genesis wants to communicate is that Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God. Whether it was an orange, apple, pear, or banana tree doesn’t really matter. If it would have mattered, then God would have made sure it was recorded in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In terms of the second part of your question – “achieving God’s status.” That is never a possibility. The creation (us and everything else) could never be equal to the Creator. I could build a really cool Lego replica of the Titanic and spend a year doing so, but my Lego creation will never “achieve my status.” It’s just a really cool thing for people to look at.
Yes, we are image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27), but we can only reflect and mirror God in limited ways. God is perfect and holy and we are sinful and corrupted. God does want to free us from our sin (Romans 5:8) and God does want to give us His Divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4), and He does that through the work of Christ on the cross. But this side of heaven, we will never fully be like God.