The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130, NIV)
The other day, I was listening to someone, I believe it was Dr. William Lane Craig, talk about the salvation of children and infants. He said he believed that children and infants were saved automatically, as the Bible alluded to it, though it was not explicitly stated that way. He commented, however, that it was likely that God intentionally left that as an implication and not a direct statement due to the potential consequences if it was confirmed.
As I was listening, I started thinking about how there are many things in the Bible that aren’t explicitly stated. I thought about how many of these indirect statements and allusions the Bible makes and hence there are many divisions amongst believers on exactly what is believed. Although Orthodox Christianity as a whole agrees with the same core set of beliefs, there are so many variations in regards to the non-essential ones. And, there are groups who don’t agree with the same core set beliefs and branch off even further!
Does it mean that we have an arbitrary God who decided to make things more confusing that then leads people astray?
Of course not!
So I started thinking – what if the Bible were completely clear and straight-forward?
It started as a point of sheer fantasizing – what if the whole Bible were as straight and simple as the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) are easy, straight-forward, and simple. What if instead of so many pages, it was a condensed booklet. What if it said something like this:
There is a God who is eternally existent and uncreated. He is a Spirit so you cannot see Him but He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God created the universe and all the water, land, plants and animals. God created man and woman. Man sinned and brought death and separation from God. God showed people many miracles and other signs as proof of His power and authority. God blesses and redeems those who believe in Him. God told the Israelites to sacrifice lambs to Him, because they were sinful and this was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and that is His Son. God brought the birth of His Son through a virgin to show it was a miracle. Jesus did many signs and wonders to prove He was the Son of God and therefore also God Himself. Jesus was hated by many because He claimed to be God and they did not recognize Him as the Jewish Messiah. Jesus suffered and died a horrible death on the cross bearing our sins. Jesus was raised again in a bodily resurrection just as everyone who believes in Him will be one day. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so sacrificing of lambs and animals, feasts, festivals, sabbaths and the rest of the Law will be fulfilled and therefore we are not kept under it. Salvation is achieved by belief and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the 2nd person of the Godhead, or what could be called the “Trinity”. Jesus will one day come back again, this time to ultimately defeat evil and rule the world.
Welp, there’s the Bible in a nutshell, right? So easy and clear, and such a quick read. Now, not everyone who might read this will even agree with all the statements posed above but, that’s a discussion for another time. Anyway, let’s back track and say there was no Bible as we know it today. Let’s say that the Bible as we knew it consisted of the statements above and some others to cover say, the 10 commandments, the 613 laws, etc.
That would make things extremely convenient! It would be almost like Cliff’s Notes for the Bible, right? (I’m sure those exist but I don’t actually know nor am I inclined to find out.) How much simpler would that be?
“Well, I have a question about this…”
“Well, God said this.”
“Oh, yep. Thanks!”
In the midst of my novel thinking, I pondered, “What if that were really the case? What would the harm be?”
For starters, to realize the gravity of the situation, we first must recognize that the Bible is not merely some fictional literature. It is not even a singular book. It is many books, written by many different people, over the course of centuries, compiled together to make one single Book that we know today as the Bible.
What makes the Bible a special book and what gives it the singularity is that it is entirely inspired by and about God. It’s sort of an autobiography, if you will, done in an entirely different way from what we are used to. The entire Bible is to reveal God to man. It’s actually a picture book of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are “pictures” of Jesus throughout the entire Old Testament, and the entire Bible is used to reveal Him. By pictures, I don’t mean that you have to find a copy of the Bible with illustrations! I mean that there are symbolic meanings to be derived out of multiple places in the Old Testament about Jesus, and not strictly in the intentionally prophetical parts (such as the book of Isaiah).
The story of Jonah in the belly of the whale is probably the easiest. He was in the whale for 3 days, Jesus was dead for 3 days. Joseph, Isaac, Ruth/Boaz, David, etc – all have symbolic meaning and parallels, as “pictures” of Jesus. This (along with all other prophesies and everything else) isn’t just for poetic purposes, these “pictures” are revelations so that the Jews who met Jesus, having read the Scriptures, would recognize their Messiah. This is also for us in this day, to solidify the claims of Jesus as the Son of God as well as learning all about the Lord Jesus Christ. We can recognize that if people centuries before His birth were writing about Him, and things they prophesied and wrote were coming to fruition not just in what He said, but also what happened to Him, we can recognize the truth in the previous sayings and the overall meaning and importance!
Without the detailed accounts of the Old Testament or the New Testament, we also don’t get to see the evidence that God is who He says. We don’t get to see why certain things happen the way they happened. We don’t get to see His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His patience, His trustworthiness. In short, it’d be similar to saying “I love you” but never showing it.
Without the detailed accounts, we would have no reason to know that God is who He says He is. So, even if it were somehow possible even to pass along all this through the generations, what reason would anyone have to believe any of what was said? If some man just walked up to you and said,”I’m the Son of God, which also means that I am God Himself but being constrained right now within a human body. You need to trust in Me. I love you,” would you believe it? Would you have any reason to? Now let’s say that you had that information and then the same man performed miracles in front of you. Would you then believe it? Exodus tells us that some of Pharoah’s wizards could do a few of the same things that Moses was doing. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t simply be that? Why would we even know to believe in God at all?
Let’s say that somehow He managed to prove Himself as Son of God back in His time. And then here we are now, a couple milleniums later. Why would we believe those accounts from then? What reason would we have if that was all the information we were given? That truly would be blind faith!
I think there are other reasons at play here. If God made it abundantly clear and straightforward, we would be even more accountable to not listen, yet we would not necessarily have much justification for doing so! If God made things abundantly clear, would we turn to Him for anything? Many people pray for wisdom, guidance, and understanding. What we miss is that it brings us to a dependency on Him, which is what He calls us to – complete dependency on and submission to Him! Well, if it was all spelled out for us, then we would all easily be self-righteous. For example, the ten commandments tell us not to lie, steal, murder, etc. Right? So we would all be even more inclined, I speculate, to say, “OK, well, I don’t do those things, so I guess I’m all set!” That’s not what God wants of us at all.
We can also take a look at the history of the Bible. As mentioned, what we know as The Bible is actually a compilation of books throughout centuries. We have to look at it and treat it as a book of history, as well as the Word of God. The point being, if it didn’t have any history to it, it would have likely been done away with long before now and/or there would be no reason for us to follow it now. Some of the statements made within the text are used to date the Scriptures and help confirm their validity to unbelievers. If a historian studies the claims of Scripture and finds that they are true historical documents, then he or she might come to believe in Christ as a result. If a historian has nothing to go by in Scripture, then that person would have no reason to believe a word of it and would rightfully chalk it up as historical fiction. Since it has been shown even in our present day as a historical compilation of books, as well as one where different books within it also validate other books within it, we can trust that this truly is the Word of God and not merely Aesop’s Fables.
In summary, my exercise in imagination actually just revealed to me more about how incredible God is. As Dr. Jerry Benjamin says, “Scripture explains Scripture.” Meaning that in large part, the things that might not be clear while you’re reading them here often become more clear while you’re reading something else about them later on. If we read on and pray for guidance, we can gain deeper understanding. But we have to keep reading the Word. If it was all laid out before us, we would probably shove it into a drawer – or worse, a trash can – and forget all about it. But it is ultimately the Lord who reveals Himself to us in the Word – which would not be nearly as profound, significant, or meaningful if we had the Bible merely as an instruction book with bulleted points and numbered lists.