Chapter 1: Scriptural and Logical Interpretation of the Bible
Based on God's word but with divergence from some current teaching.
To illuminate on my statement in the title “Based on God's word but with divergence from some current teaching”. Many Christians are doing heroic works in these dangerous times. Like having brought the gospels too all nations over the last century. Also bringing forth better, Christ centered TV programming to give people a better choice in television. And working in the political arena, including not abandoning historical truth in the interpretation of the Constitution, and many many other things.
However the Kingdom of Heaven is not complete yet and changes still need to occur in spiritual, social, and political areas.
I have differed from current Conservative Christian thought in;
• Not considering that all the Bible is literal, as this even conflicts with what the Bible says.
• Not seeing conflict with sound, well-reasoned science, as all truth is from God, and God created the world with a logical nature to it. As we understand Bible prophecy better we can more clearly see the real world situation in Bible prophecy. Perhaps this is in the time and sequence it was preordained to be understood.
Section A: Proper interpretation of Bible, particularly the oldest writings.
God spoke first to the nation Israel, as a way of later speaking to the whole world. For example, if you are a student in a new school, and say your cousin has been going to that school many years, you might be able to use your cousin as a way of meeting new friends. Likewise God used his relationship with the nation Israel as an introduction for teaching the rest of the world about him, about human nature, about right and wrong, and about the way to a better life.
To say the entire bible is literal is contrary to what is written in the Bible. For example Jesus used parables again and again, and the Song of Solomon is a poem, and the Psalms are songs.
Further much of the Bible contains symbolism, particularly Prophecy, which is not literal at all! So it is incorrect to say the Bible is all literal.
A strictly literal interpretation of the Bible does not make one Christian, but one can believe else-wise as to the nature of God's use of the Bible to communicate with mankind, and still be Christian also. Yes there can be disagreements among Christians as to the methods Gods uses in talking to us. One can be Christian and believe it to be perfectly reasonable to expect that God may have at times in the Bible just let people speak their own hearts and minds, rather that all of it being spoken by revelation from God. We cannot come to a proper understanding if we suppose to speak for God as to his intent in all the speech of the Bible. We can more reasonably discern Gods intent if we let the Bible speak to us as God had it written, with the use of logic (truth) as a guide, as part of spiritual discernment. A strictly literal or entirely revelational interpretation of the Bible simply does to match with the facts, and we may be sorely missing Gods intent if we dogmatically stick to these speech types as the only method/style of speech that God is permitting in the Bible.
How do we know things like the story of Noah's ark really happened or were not just moral tales? We don't unless there is evidence. God knows the answer and God chose how he wanted the Bible written. We can't just tell him it is all supposed to be all literal. We have to try to understand what it actually is, as what it is, is how God CHOSE TO HAVE IT WRITTEN. God may have chosen to use non-literal moral tales, or poetry or other styles of writing. We must look at the evidence to understand God's intent, and not set preconditions.
There are many internal contradictions throughout early pages of Genesis. There are two stories of how men and women were created. Jacob “saw God face to face”, yet Jesus said, no man has ever seen God. There is the statement that man shall live only 120 years, then the story goes on to having people live 100's of years after that at times. And numerous others.
I feel God chose choose to let the ancient Hebrew's fictional oral traditions to be part of the early Bible, so as the demonstrate that they were human like all the rest of the cultures in the world with their oral traditions (which where most numerous). But when world history progressed to a certain point God choose to step in and began to speak to mankind, first through the Hebrews (starting with Abraham), then though his son Jesus Christ when the proper time came. Likewise there is reason to suspect that God allowed men to speak on their own accord, without divine inspiration or revelation in parts of the Bible. For one thing this helps create contrast between men’s partial understanding and Gods full understanding, making God's teachings clearer this way.
So it's really that God would expect us to just use COMMON SENSE in interpreting the Bible. So logically one should look at all the miracles and unbelievable parts of the Bible and test them by evidence. Is there evidence they were supernatural events that really happened and are they in a context of being miracles from God. If not then are they fables, and there is nothing wrong with fables, fables are a perfectly useful way God could choose to teach ideas and moral truth. The stories in the early part of Genesis are just that, fables with no evidence to back them up, and they often contradict themselves and common sense. They are isolated from the rest of the Bible in style and context. I believe they are not literal from God, rather it was God's INTENT to basically allow the early Hebrews to express their culture and ideas SO AS to show the thinking that this culture was having at the time God began to engage mankind directly. This was first though the relationship with Israel only, and all the REAL miracles that happened thereafter (they have evidence and proper context). This culminated with Jesus Christ and his REAL miracles (which have evidence and the proper context to believe them as real), though which God OPENED UP this personal relationship and teaching with ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH. That is not to say God didn't create the universe, he did, along with the seven day cycle which is part of the Ten Commandments. But the creation story in Genesis is just an expression of Gods creation, we now know from science (and all logic is from God, even logic outside of the Bible) that the universe was probably created in the Big Bang, instantly, a SUPERNATURAL EVENT. Thereafter it evolved in many wondrous way, to Gods glory, unto this very day, as God PREDESTINED it to do.
Whatever the reason, there is cause to think that God may have intended the Bible to be composed of both divine revelation from God through men, combined with merely human ideas also. I would divide the Bible this way:
The Direct Teachings of God
1. Directly divinely inspired writing from dreams or visions through men.
- The patriarchs and Kings from Abraham downward (only those whom had such visions ( etc ), as some Kings were crooked).
-All the prophets.
- Some of the happenings in the New Testament other than the Gospels and Revelation
2. Completely direct from God
-Jesus's teachings in the Gospels, early Acts and the Book of Revelation.
Teachings of Men
1. Highly inspired teachings (because of direct contact with Jesus), but teachings of men.
- Most of the new testament outside of the Gospels and Revelation.
2. Other straight human teaching
- Genesis up to around the of time of Abraham I believe is the Jewish oral traditions written down, probably from a period before God actually began to speak to them.
- Solomon’s writings, including the Book of Proverbs. While there is a lot of good advice here I would say it is not given from God, but just from a wise person. One example the repeated use of the word fool in Proverbs, while Jesus said not to call people this in essence (Mt 5:22).
All truth (logic, reason) is God's truth.
All truth (logic, reason) is God's truth, so there is never a conflict with the Bible, to the contrary, logic only illuminates the Bible. Likewise the Bible's teaching's, when taken in context and with reason, helps to keep us from straying to unwarranted social and scientific ideas, like paganism, psychology, homosexuality, etc.
God is supernatural. God created an orderly and logical natural world for us to live in. One fourth of the Bible is prophecy, and it proves the existence of God, and that God intended the Bible to be written. Therefore ANY certain, logical, scientific understanding of the world will only help, not hinder the understanding of God’s purpose and style of writing the Bible, as all scientific truth is just God’s creation.
Evolution is okay
The creation of the universe out of nothing was a supernatural act (of God). Being humans we are not able to understand at all how this could be done. Even if God wanted to explain it to us we would not be able to understand it. Therefore the seven day story of Genesis must only be poetic in nature. Evolution is just part of the laws of nature God created. God left those laws for us to discover, not laying them out in the Bible. The Bible teaches on the more important subject of our relationship to God and too our fellow man.
I am not a expert on evolution, but I am familiar with some science, and it seems the facts for evolution are entirely sufficient. Consider the big picture, from geologic history it is clear that the deeper you dig into sediments, the more and more primitive animal and plant life remains are found. Science has been able though numerous methods to clock this in terms of many millions of years, not thousands. Why the Dinosaurs if not a part of evolution?
Some are turned off by the idea of animals and man evolving from microbes, or they say it's an impossible idea. It seems just like God to me that he should humble us such, and God is perfectly able to, and did I believe, create the universe from small things, and create the creatures of the earth starting with small things. It is to the Glory of God that he can create from humble beginnings. This is not to say that a spark of soul, somewhat departed from animals, may not have been added along the later path of evolution. Whatever, God is in charge, and God CAN do miracles along the way, or just the miracle of creating the beautiful laws of nature to start with, or both.
Some say teaching evolution has only contributed in the moral decline in America. I think it’s only to the extent that the false idea is put forth that you have to choose one or the other. God and the Bible, or evolution and no God. This is not correct. What we have here is a case were logic (proper science) can actually help us better understand God's teaching in the Bible, not conflict with it. The moral decline in America is also much more caused by Hollywood than anything else. ALL logic is from God, we need to have FAITH about this, and not fear that somehow science is going to prove God out of existence. It has not even come close to doing this. Some have only put up an unnecessary and incorrect “stumbling block” between science and God. GOD IS SURE, Bible prophecy PROVES the supernatural existence of God. Science is not about to prove God away. Quite to the contrary, the Big Bang Theory tends to prove a supernatural beginning to the universe.
Further the Bible is a complex book, it was written in the style of the day when it was written and to the level of understanding of that day. 4,000 or so years ago there was little or no understanding of science (remember science is just how nature operates, as God created it to). They did not then even know why the sun rose in the morning or why rain formed and fell, etc. So elaboration on the nature of creation was just not possible at the time the story of Genesis was written. This is another reason why it is a poetic description of creation and not literal (science now understands some of what happened following the initial creation, soon after and in the very long run, but again we can never understand the initial act of creation, it is beyond us to understand this and God's full supernatural nature).
Some practical uses of an understanding of evolution are in knowing how evolution influences what a good diet and health choices should be. Also it gives many insights into our feelings, often the negative ones, we must raise above to be more civilized, closer to Gods will, and the best we can be. It proves homosexuality is something we would not normally be born with. Understanding the universal laws of nature that God created helps us to cope with our survival and well-being.
There is also cultural evolution. In many ways society is like a big computer software program, with God still in the process of programming it. When it’s done (the kingdom of heaven) things will operate smoothly, but now it's still full of glitches, errors, and undone parts.
The arguments the evangelical anti-evolutionists give are not very accurate and not at all substantial. We know God exists from supernatural prophecy he gives us as proof in the Bible. The logic and the facts for evolution have been discovered by scientists. So if we follow Gods advice and seek him in spirit and in truth, we must pay attention to logic.
Section B: Not being superstitious about God guiding our lives, or about prayer.
What can one say about prayer? I do find it puzzling what God says about prayer and faith. I know it is important, even if it is just to air out our thoughts to God, and to let the mind function better, freer of stress. Perhaps it helps us meditate on God's principles, and helps us acknowledge there is a higher power in life than humans alone.
See I don't want to get superstitious about prayer, yet God says “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find”. But should we expect God to just grant us a wish list? I have come to lean toward the idea of spiritual knowledge is what God is mostly talking about here. What does God wants us to pray about (or not pray about), and just what does God expect us to receive from him from prayer? I find it quite a mystery and don't quite believe those who say it is not.
Likewise many get into this idea that our lives are lead directly by God. I believe God made things a little more free flowing than that. We get concepts of how we are to behave, and and how we are to approach life from reading God's word. But WE are to take that teaching and apply it to needs in the world as we see them, with prayer, but not necessarily with the idea that God is doing all the planning for us, and we just need to “tune into it”.
Likewise we should not look at illness and disasters as directly just part of a plan God has to test us, rather they are just the harsh reality of life. THIS IS NOT AT ALL TO SAY they cannot test us, and teach us, and make us stronger many times in the long run. Nor is it to say FAITH in God's presence and love, that it is there, rather we live or die, is not very important. Nor is it to say pray cannot bring us closer to God and to answers of problems. Only the right perspective (of which I admit to being no expert) is important. I feel very uncomfortable with some of the borderline superstitious way of mixing God and reality that some in the Christian right preach, which I do not believe is God's intent. Pertaining to all of the above here are some Bible passages.
Luke 13:1-5, 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans , whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans , because they suffered such things? 3I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 1
Also John 9:1-7 1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.1
In these passages Jesus is telling us that troubles and disasters are not a punishment from God. Likewise they are likely a free flowing reality, where mere chance is a factor.
Further the idea that God talks to us directly though our conscience; the idea we pray and then just wait for a response from God, which we should expect to receive literally though an event or through our thoughts is something I question. We get counsel to our souls through prayer, but decisions are our choices based on what we feel is serving God best, not based on signs. This is why it is so important to study the Bible, especially the Gospels and New Testament, as this is the real communication and counsel God has to give us.1
God is a minimalist
God is Love. God gives ADVICE. God is Lord. But God is also a minimalist. Over the course of History God has intervened very little. For thousands and thousands of years cultures developed all over the world. God only, at a certain point in history, intervened with one little group of people, in one small part of the world, from which we have the Old Testament, a testament of that interaction of God with the Hebrew nation. Even here, while some of the time his interaction was spectacular, other times it was only one or two prophets at a time occasionally conveying his will to the one small nation of Israel.
After time God came as Jesus to fulfill what the Old Testament had been leading up to. Jesus gives us the New Testament and Holy Spirit, including the true instructions of God as how to live our lives with the right attitude and priorities. This teaching was all done in only three years, after which God appeared to the apostles a few times, most notably when the apostle John was given the book of Revelation. Other than that God has been virtually absent from the scene for the last 2,000 years. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. The need to leaving reality open, without much supernatural interaction? Letting history run a course to teach us the need for his guidance in the future? I think both of these, but this is not purpose with this book to carry on with this discussion. Probably when Jesus returns in the Millennium it will be better understood.
There are a few examples of miracles from God over this time, such as the appearance in Lourdes, Fatima, Guadeloupe, though spectacular, was limited to those appearances only. And perhaps through Ellen G White's visions which, though less spectacular, were instructive, but limited to the vision and did not extend to her writing, which, though they have truth, have considerable misinterpretation also. However both are reason/proof enough for a aware person to look to God and his Holy Bible. But most, but not all, claims of Gods miracles in the last 2,000 years are false and misleading, or just wishful thinking. But in the present time there seems smaller scale miracles are occurring in individual situations, sort of to keep some progress going in the building up of the Church, but again God only does a minimal here, after that WE must be the ones to make decisions. This is not a difficult thing, there are multitudes of ways to support the Church and do good works in the world, all that is needed is the COMMITMENT to put God first, and then listen to what he has to say in the Gospels, and lastly look at the needs around us.
God promised to return at some point, when some things had gotten so bad the survival of human life on earth itself would be threatened, such as by nuclear war or environmental damage. But here again God is ONLY promising to intervene when there is dire need. Yes God is a minimalist, only interacting with us, the human race, the temple (pinnacle) of his creation at a minimum. God is certain because the supernatural prophecy of the Bible PROVES his existence. Also there must be a good reason God CHOOSES to do this limited interaction thing. God must have a purpose (though I do not understand it all) for letting things be and expecting US to do our part in making the world a better place.
So let’s pay attention to what God has taught us, the emphasis on our character and attitude toward relating to others, and to him, that is so empathized in the Gospels. The Gospels are our Guide book, SHORT AND SWEET (God keeping it minimal again), but we should study them well and consistently, at least on every Sabbath. And lets us not forget the forgiveness he extends to us for any sins. God knows how devastating guilt can become, but he says instead YOU ARE FORGIVEN, and does not want us to fall into guilt but to keep trying and as a well-known prayer goes “Lord help me to change the things I can, accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference”.
Violence in the Bible
Many say "the Bible and Christianity is as violent as any other religion or belief". Others point out that God directed the Jewish people to war in the Old Testament. This is all true to a point. The Old Testament is a very violent book, and God did as mentioned above. But here is the difference. God was meeting the human race were it was at, then transforming the situation to make the world ultimately a more peaceful place. Warfare was a yearly ritual thousands of years ago. God would have had to intervene miraculously to prevent the Jews from being attacked, or from attacking others, he instead choose to be a minimalist as far as miracles, and instead blended into the situation (and I remind the reader the tribes God directed the Jews against were barbaric in that they practiced child sacrifice), but slowly transformed Jewish culture, to the point that when Jesus was sent, it was then very much a message of peace, and that even to today that transformation to a more peaceful world is part of God's plan.
Section C: Why Do People Not Believe In God?
Lack of Knowledge of God
In past times people made up ideas to explain the world around them. Man has no understanding of God when born, other than a vague “sense” of something. God appeared to the people of Israel and craved out a story, The Bible, which we now have, as a way for us to understand who He/She/God is.
Today many people do not believe in God because they may not have heard of the story in the Bible, or not have heard enough of it to appreciate it, either because other ideas occupy their thoughts, or just from direct lack of Biblical knowledge. That is not to say most people don't have access to it but that they are not motivated to look into it, or don't understand very well what they do read.
But if you ask someone, would you believe if you knew God was real, and they still say no. Well of course that's their choice, but God wouldn't be communicating with us if God didn't think it wasn't important for us.
Why People Can Confidently Believe in God?
There is proof, evidence, that the Bible is true. In Islam, or Mormonism, both religions were professed to be given from God to one man though revelations. In the case of the Mormon religion to Joseph Smith by an Angel and via gold tablets. In both cases we have to rely essentially on the word of one person as to the truth of matter. In contrast, in the Biblical story, God spoke to hundreds of people or prophets over several thousand years though revelations. Further may miracles and revelations were witnessed by thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of people over this time period, including but not limited to events of the exodus, the time of the Jewish people living in what is now Israel, on down to the miracles of Jesus.
But how to we know they are true? Were the prophecy's really written before the fact, or later after the events? Here one has to look at the preponderance of the evidence, and the antiquity of the Bible books seems very much to be the correct conclusion. I will not go onto here, one can do there own research. Archaeological evidence is even now surfacing of the exodus, from chariot wheels in the Red Sea crossing area, to the finding of the correct site of the Mt where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Later in Jesus day and after, he was mentioned in other historical writings at that time. There of course is little way to physically prove if Jesus preformed miracles, but to disprove them one would have to disprove the thousands of professed witnesses to the events, as opposed to the one professed witnesses in the other two religions.
God does not expect blind faith, but faith based on evidence, therefore within the words of the Bible itself he provided prophecy, that is he reveled the future to people who then wrote it down in the books of the Bible so as, when the prophetic events came to pass, we could use that as confirmation of the Bible being Gods true word (because foreseeing the future is a supernatural thing that only God can do). Please understand that the Bible is a compilation of books written over several thousand years. The prophecies have come true, including the prophecy concerning future Kingdoms, such as those of Alexander the Great and others, as well as prophecy predicting Jesus. Then others after Jesus's time, some being fulfilled today or still to be fulfilled. There is a range of prophecy from the very abstract, to the straightforward. That is why some ideas, such as the rapture, are debatable, as rather that is what the Bible really says or not. But all in all the hundreds of prophecies that have already come true are proof of the Bibles validity.
I will not go over them all here, one can search on-line,
but I have gone over the most significant ones concerning the "end
times" (that means the
end of a certain stage of history, hopefully).
There also are many other tantalizing occurrences that can most certainly be thought of as proof of Gods existence. It is if God keeps wanting to throw in just a little bit of proof here and there to see if anyone cares to listen.
I am talking particularly about post 1000 A.D. miracles. Joan of Arc, Lourdes, Fatima, our Lady of Guadeloupe, Medjugorje. As well as things like the Shroud. Even some words. have you ever considered that the word Israel, a word given way before the English language was formed, sounds like "Is Real" in English. Or the Hebrew word for God, often spelled YAWEH in English, if spelled backwards is "He Way".
And one more, one not mentioned much, but which I am very convinced of. The Gospels, NO WAY anyone could have written down all that detail, particularly the nuisances of meaning in such good sentence structure after Jesus's death just from memory. NO WAY any human could have had that good an ideology to present. NO WAY anyone was transcribing it as it happened. It had to have been given to the gospels writers through supernatural memory restoration. And that's what Jesus said in John 14:26 "and the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and remind you of all things that I said to you. "
What is God
According to the Bible God is a Spirit. Scientifically I would say God is all matter and space, all points of existence, sort of like the ancient ether theories. As God is all the ether, therefore no voids, everything about God happens instantly, and in any form desired. God created voids to the ether, and consolidated matter when he created the universe we know. So in our world it takes time for events to happen. God created laws that control the behavior of all this, laws left possible for us to discover by logical deduction, which today comprise what we call “science”. But God is still transposed over all his universal creation, acting instantly, when he wants and in any form he wants. As such also it is apparent God has a mind, that is thoughts and actions beyond just the “material stuff” in the universe (his and ours).
The Bible then is Gods chosen way of communicating with us. Apparently only by story can he get across a message that we can understand well enough to appreciate. This message boils down to mostly advice of how to conduct ourselves, in relation to God, and in relation to others, and in relation to our individual feelings and needs.
Contrary to what some preachers preach you may have noticed that God is very “hands off” his creation. Of all the thousands of civilizations he choose to speak to just, one, and them only to some people, part of the time, to give an example to all of us. But then he leaves us alone, to our own choices and struggles. Indeed God is not imposing himself on the Human Race any more than minimally necessary in my opinion. Someday psychologists or scientists or philosophers may understand this more completely, someday. But God seems to be implying there is a need for him to do it this way.
That all said that is part of the dilemma. God has given us good advice in the gospels. Wisdom would preclude the need to follow such therefore. Those that do not then are either still lacking the basic knowledge or discernment of the truth to the Bible, so they do not believe. But God is not imposing his will on us. Neither should believers hate non-believers, but open expression of one’s opinion, whatever they are, is a good thing, but never violence, threatening, or malice towards others because they understand or believe something differently that we do. People should not let differences of opinions offend them so much. Only though open discussion can truth be found.
The question really then is not “does God exist”, this can be proven fairly easily in the affirmative. The real question, which most theologians are failing to address, is “why is God so uninvolved”. Obviously he has good reason to stay “hands off” for the most part, but we need to understand this subject better in order to understand Gods will for us better.
So what is the Value of Believing in the God of the Bible?
God has kept things fairly simple. All the Bible teaching is summed up pretty well in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5-8). The main points are
Love God and your Neighbor. Love should be UNIVERSAL not partial. Even love your enemies. Reading the New Testament can help one understand better just what this loves is, and is about.
Be non-contentious. Cooperation and working together is what builds success in life.
There is right and wrong, that is to live we do have laws of nature and limits and boundaries we must work within.
God forgives us of our sins.
Likewise why did God bother writing the book of Revelation if it’s so obscure and abstract (as it is). Firstly we need to do our own thing to be real, but we also need Gods instruction, there is a balance here. Secondly without history God can't point out and say whats right and whats wrong, we need the history to understand what God is trying to explain. So after enough history we can both unravel the meaning of the Book of Revelation and likewise then understand what God is trying to tell us.
What can we then learn from the Book of Revelation. Well that matters as to how you do interpret it, but I see a number of things as pointed out out the end times which we can be obedient too.
- Gods plan, things get better in the end.
- Danger of hurting the environment
- Danger of Islam
- Danger of that if run wrongly businesses can exploit people rather than contributing to the success of society.
- Danger of anti-Christian ideologies like Communism, that deny the rights of Christians to practice their religion.
- Danger of Hollywood and sinful television.
- Preparing for the war of Armageddon so as to survive it.