The Same Voice
Tim: You know, the Bible was written over a period of what, Joey? 1500 years or so? By 60-some authors? And one of the amazing things to me about the Bible that has kinda come to a level of somewhat astonishment is that it all has the same voice to me. I can pick up another book that was written by that era, even books like The Book of Enoch, which is quoted in Jude, and it’s just a different voice. So, from my standpoint, it’s actually God speaking through people. And the Bible says this of itself, it’s God speaking through people in stories and in circumstances. And so if God’s different, then it wouldn’t be relevant. If God’s the same, then it would still be relevant. So that to me is the big question—is God the same or not? And of course, Hebrews says he’s the same. So now that then morphs to the question of, well, is God the same in the Old Testament as in the New Testament? Absolutely. The basic way God has dealt with Adam and Eve, and Abraham, and Abraham’s family in Israel, and people in the New Testament era and people today, it’s always been the same. He accepts people by love and grace and gives them acceptance for those who believe, and he then gives clear consequences of, “Now you choose. I wanna make clear to you what a good choice and a bad choice is.” Which is basically just what good parenting is. If you’re a good parent, you know if you try to control your kids, you’re gonna run them. But if they grow up knowing the difference between good and bad choices, and then you let them go, you did your job.
Biblical Culture Shock
Mark: So one of the things I struggle with, and this is especially true in The Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well, you’re reading stories about people from thousands of years ago, and the culture is very different, radically different. So you’ve got polygamy going on in the Old Testament, you have total warfare going on where God says “Kill all of them,” right? Men, women, children, animals, everything. It’s pretty horrifying stuff from a modern perspective. And women have a particular place in society that’s different from women in society today. So culturally, it seems it’s a little bit shocking, to be honest with you, when you first dig in. And so I think that’s where this question comes from, “How is this relevant to me?” And this is, even assuming it’s God speaking, it’s God speaking to very different people in very different circumstances at a very different time. And so I struggled with that in the beginning, and what I came around to is, if I read the stories in the Bible for the principles behind the stories instead of well, what’s that character’s particular circumstance? What’s Job’s particular circumstance, you know? Job is sitting outside the village and he’s wearing burlap sackcloth and he’s throwing ash on his head and I’m thinking “That’s weird stuff.” And so I start thinking, “What were his circumstances and what are the principles that are being demonstrated there?” And I started to look at stories from, “Okay, what’s the principal instead of what’s the actual person doing or saying?” And I realized that everything that I experienced in my own life is represented in the Bible, that there really is nothing new. So no matter what I’m going through, if I’m going through betrayal by a friend, if I’m going through a time in my life when I’m in the valley of despair, I’m experiencing the death of a loved one, all of those circumstances take place in the Bible. Yeah, the time and place are different, and the context is different, but the human experience remains the same, so I think the guidance provided by Scripture is the same. Because we’re humans, human nature is human nature that hasn’t changed, and the way God speaks to humans because of our nature has not changed. So, for me, it was, “Don’t get so fixated on what the exact story is, what’s the underlying principle or what’s the story trying to teach us.”
T: Yeah, I think I do something similar but different. I try to take those circumstances, in addition to what you said, the principles behind it, but also like, “Okay, how can I bring those circumstances into today?” I have not found any instances, so far, that I can’t see a corollary of something today. Like, for example, and this is a tough, tough thing, like “Wipe out the men, women, and children.” Well, in World War II, we did that when we bombed German cities.
M: And we dropped the atomic bomb.
How to Learn from the Circumstances
T: We dropped the atomic bomb, because there was a greater good. And we said, well, there was a greater good because Hitler was really bad, look at what Hitler was doing. Well, these cultures were murdering children as an object of worship. And so what we find ourselves in the position of doing is saying, “Well, based on what I know, I can justify what we did, but based on what I know of that back then I can’t justify what God said.” It’s a little presumptuous. That presumption is like, “I know in my culture, I have the knowledge to say it’s okay, but back then it must not have been okay.” Oh, really? I mean, really? And furthermore, He gave those people 400 years to repent. And He said, “Their iniquity is not yet full.” And so does God know what a greater good is? Or do only I know what the greater good is? So far, I haven’t found any circumstances that I can’t say, “I can both learn from the circumstance and really, there’s a form of what we do, that we do that same thing in our society as well.”
Joey: Yeah, I think for me, with this question, there’s a couple of things there at play. The first is, I think it’s a real testament to Scripture, that the Bible is the biggest selling book of all time, and that there’s never been a generation that hasn’t felt like this had some application to their daily life. There hasn’t been a generation that’s just like, “You know, this doesn’t seem to jive.” And I think the reason for that is because what the Bible is doing is laying out the foundation of reality. It has to have some context, it has to have some historical setting in order to do that. But it is speaking to these deeper foundational truths, and maybe this is an oversimplification, but things like gravity are not going to change. Things like, if you love somebody that you’re in a relationship with, if you’re kind to them, they’re more likely to be kind back to you. That’s just describing how reality is. Those aren’t contextual. You maybe need a context to bring that to life and to make that point, but the deeper truth is the deeper truth. And that is something that’s gonna transcend time and culture and setting. And I think your point, Tim, is absolutely right. We read so much backwards from our own culture perspective, not understanding that that comes with so much baggage and so much bias that it causes us to unfairly be able to justify where we are today, and sometimes be unfairly harsh to what we are looking back on.
T: Or looking at other cultures or even other people and saying “I do this and I self-justify that, but they do the same thing in a different package, but that’s not acceptable to me.”
J: One of my favorite examples about this is, that we’ve traveled all over the world, and we would be in Africa, and they would say, “I will meet you at 10 o’clock in the morning.” 10 o’clock in the morning came and nobody was there. 11 o’clock in the morning, nobody was there. 12 o’clock, if they’re early, they showed up, right? And it would drive us crazy. And there’s this feeling as Westerners of like–
T: You’re not respecting my time.
J: “They are just so rude about this. They don’t care about us, they don’t care about honoring time, it’s just so inefficient.” And you get all these rationalizations, and we finally had a local pastor in Uganda explain to us the way that they view time. He said, “You know, in American culture, time is money and you gotta have everything. Time is a resource that’s disappearing, and so you’ve gotta make the most of it every chance you get. But in Africa, we view time as a neverending resource. There’s always another minute. There’s always another day.” So, if I’m on my way to meet Mark at 10 and I meet Tim along the way, well, I can have that conversation and I’m gonna see the opportunity for what it’s worth right now because there will be more time for Mark later on, it’s not an either-or proposition. And that was really huge for me to help understand like, “Oh my gosh, it’s not just that they’re doing this wrong, it’s that we have a different kind of mindset.”
Where is that in Scripture?
M: Yeah, you know, as I’ve gone through life’s travails since becoming a Christian, I’ll often ask you or somebody else, “I’ve got this thing going on in my life, I’m trying to figure something out. Where is that in scripture?” And so I think one of the tools that new Christians can use is going to other Christians, you know, or even online. If you just put in a search engine, what you’re going through, “Is there anything in the Bible about business conflict? Is there anything in the Bible about, stereotypical, the loss of a loved one or a broken heart?” If you do that, it’ll
point you to scripture. And I think the most amazing thing, and I think this is really important if you’re a new Christian, is to understand that the Bible is actually a resource for you. It is THE resource and it’s absolutely incredible. I’ve not run into anything that I’m experiencing in my own life or where I’m trying to advise somebody else, that I can’t find guidance in the Bible. It is the whole of human experience in a single document, which is incredible.
T: Well, it’s God’s voice. And we experience this a lot with the Yellow Balloons Devotional. I hear this all the time, I’m sure you do as well. People say, “It seems like it always speaks just to what I would need that day.” Well, that makes perfect sense because it’s God’s voice and God populates all knowledge in all areas. Right? So actually the Bible can speak to us in a multidimensional way, to any situation we have, through any story we hear. It’s supernatural in that respect.
M: Is it relevant? The answer is yeah, absolutely.
T: It’s incredibly relevant. Now, a related question is, “Is it reliable?” Is it “Case for Christ” that Lee Strobel does that in?
M: Yes, “Case for Christ.”
T: A great resource for these kinds of questions, but a nutshell, we have more textual evidence for the reliability of the Bible by many orders of magnitudes than any other piece of literature and ancient literature.
M: Yeah, the term for that is historicity. Is it historically accurate? And because I’m a lawyer and a skeptic by nature, Lee Strobel’s book was important to me. And I would say, if you’re seeking, I highly recommend the book. Strobel was a journalist, an investigative journalist and a lawyer, and he decided he was gonna prove that God was not real. His wife had been a person of faith, and she had drifted from faith and become an atheist and was moving back towards faith. He was really angry about it, so he was gonna prove to her how stupid all this was. So he used all the tools of an investigative journalist, all the tools of a lawyer, to build the case that the idea of a God, an all-knowing all-powerful God, was ridiculous. And in the end, he ultimately becomes a believer, because he can’t do it and he’s convinced. Well, one of the things he goes through is, “Is the Bible historically accurate?” And step by step, he goes through, you mentioned in one of our other segments that if you look at the Apostles, they present themselves as idiots. And what we mean by that is they present themselves as idiots and they lay out all their foibles for all of history to see. I didn’t understand. They’re walking down the road, they’re arguing about who will sit at the right hand of God, and Jesus walks up and asks what they’re talking about, and they basically say, “Nothing, we’re not talking about anything.” They believe that they’re talking to God, and they’re so silly that they lie to Him. And so what’s so interesting about that historically, going to historicity, is all the other writings of that era, anybody who wrote about themselves or had a book written about them, which is mostly how it was done, they had the court historian or whatever it was, “Tim Dunn, the greatest ruler ever to live. Never made a bad decision, the smartest guy, the most handsome guy, the best warrior.” See, today we’re used to this. Today, people write tell-all books and make millions of dollars because they wrote about what idiots they are. But in this era, the biblical era, it was exactly the opposite. If you were written about, it was only in a heroic sense. That takes the Bible out of the mainstream of literature during the era it was written and for some reason, it’s completely different. It’s written in a completely different way. And then every year, archaeologists discover in Israel, Biblical sites that say, “Wow, this thing in the Bible that we didn’t think existed, here it is physically on Earth, it still exists.” And what they don’t discover, and this is very extraordinary historically as well, you don’t hear about any discoveries where they’re like, “Well, we discover this thing and it proves this portion of the Bible is absolutely wrong.” That discovery never happens. And so there are all kinds of things that point to the historicity of the Bible. How do I know it’s true? It’s written by men. And I think that’s another good question. Like, “Well, if people wrote it, people are fallible.” And people definitely wrote the Bible, so how come it’s not wrong if people wrote it? What do you say to that? When people ask you that question.
God Chose the Writers
T: Well, the Scripture says of that, that it’s inspired. And interestingly enough, Jesus could have left behind a book, but he chose to write it through people. And I think there’s a real deliberate picture in that, and arguably everything in the Bible is picturing a lot of different things and reality as a whole. But the picturing in that is, “I, God, am choosing to work through people.” He doesn’t need us, He’s chosen to use us to do His business, and that’s our great privilege. In fact, I think we’re gonna do a session on “What’s the Bible About?”. And in short order, it’s about us ruling
instead of the higher beings, which is the angels, for God’s very specifically designed purpose,
which we’ll talk about. So He’s chosen to work through us to do His purpose and it’s a pretty big
M: So what we’re saying is, it is accurate and it is relevant today because it applies to all of humanity through all the time, it would be relevant 200 years from that.
T: And what about translations? And what about the different transcripts? You find different transcripts and I think there’s a 1% difference. And I would say, I think God allowed those things to happen because he doesn’t want us to worship the book. He wants us to worship the principles of the content behind the book. And yes, in translations, things are missed and you can go in behind it and get more color, but ultimately, this is a spiritual journey. And the New Testament teaches that the real teacher is not those words, it’s the Holy Spirit. And it’s not the written word, it’s not the ultimate word, the Living Word is the ultimate word and that’s Jesus. So, actually, what we’re seeing is like a shadow of the real thing when we read these words. We’re actually seeing a shadow of a person and the person behind it is what we’re actually going for.