A need to defend

The Bible today is frequently scorned in the media as a book of Middle Eastern fairy tales, and criticised as redundant and irrelevant. We are living in an age of scepticism, where ‘informed’ atheists abound who have scathing perspectives on the Bible, which they are all too happy to share.

It is hard to take these continual attacks at the most sacred basis of our faith, the Bible. The Bible however can withstand these assaults. Some people we encounter today may have a few snide remarks to say about the Bible, but we should be equal to the task of defending our firm conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. Our defence need not be furnished with citations from contemporary scholarly works, but it should be our own, and tempered with a love for the Word of God and our meditation therein.

Our founding brethren were active in defending the Bible in the face of sustained attacks, in an age where a variety of new views were tolerated and even encouraged. Christadelphians were known for possessing a rational and scripturally defensible faith, were well versed in the Scriptures, and active in the defence of the Word of God.

Is that same spirit still burning in our midst? Are we still active in dispelling error and darkness? Are we passionate about defending and upholding truth? Perhaps we feel shaken or overwhelmed by so many assaults on so many fronts; or maybe we have been affected by the prevailing spirit of Humanism and tolerance in the world, and feel no need to rise to the occasion. Whatever our present state, the Bible makes it clear that we should be ready to defend our beliefs and leave people with a positive impression of God and His Word (1 Pet 3:15). To do this we need to be prepared, and the best way to prepare is to anticipate the attacks before we encounter them.

A common attack – God is unjust

The Bible relates many powerful stories filled with valuable lessons for life. However, some of those lessons are today considered unsavoury since God on occasions commanded the destruction of ‘innocent’ people. These are considered by critics as a gross injustice, and a terrible contradiction of a ‘supposedly’ all loving God.

Yet it is often overlooked by those who speak against the Bible that in this supposed age of enlightenment, acts of deception, torture, war and even genocide are practised and justified by many nations on the earth. Their justifications are centred on laws defined by men, doing what they have decided is right ‘for the greater good’, while those on the receiving end suffer. Perhaps even more tragically, nations sometimes commit such atrocities in the name of ‘religion’, which supplies more ammunition to the atheist.

This perceived problem lies with the perspective of the observer. The stories of the Bible are often examined and criticised from a world view framed with Humanism. Morality today is no longer based on the Bible, but is determined by the rule of the majority, while truth is considered to be relative to each individual’s world-view. The only universal measure of right and wrong today is whether anyone gets hurt. But is this a suitable criterion for defining morality? While those who do not believe in God may find this satisfactory, there can be no denying that the fabric of society is crumbling because we are abandoning the biblical moral code that Western society was founded upon. Surely if there is a God, it is His prerogative to define what is right and wrong. It is important to establish that God’s motives are not malicious (Ezek 33:11), and He is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet 3:9). However He does expect that we listen to Him and obey His commandments (Deut 11:27; Rom 6:16).

Furthermore, many of these ‘less savoury’ stories in the Bible, which today’s humanists are so quick to point out, only happened after repeated warnings that no one at the time had any excuse to ignore; the Flood in Noah’s day (Heb 11:7; 2 Pet 2:5); a man put to death for collecting sticks on the Sabbath (cp Num 15:30–33; Exod 31:14); the ten plagues poured out on Egypt (Exod 11:4–10), and Israel’s war against the Canaanites ( Josh 2:8–21; Josh 9:3–15 – both Rahab and the Gibeonites heard the warnings and acted).

This point could be extended to include natural disasters, which of late have caused so much tragedy and despair in the world, and are occurring with increasing frequency. Aside from the fact that the Bible warns of an increase in these disasters prior to the return of Christ, these events have occurred often enough (and even in the same locations) for mankind to know how to avoid most of them. Yet mankind continues to settle in earthquake-prone areas, tornado zones, regions of regular flooding and near active volcanoes. God performs judgment suddenly, but never without warning, and man ignores these warnings to his peril. It is hypocritical for men, who have largely turned their backs on God, to blame Him when things go wrong.

Another assault – the Bible is inaccurate

While some Bible stories are deemed cruel and unfair, many other lessons from the Bible are scorned as either ‘make-believe’ or completely inaccurate. Archaeology and history have silenced many of these criticisms. We might furnish our armoury with a few examples where the Scriptures have been vindicated by recent archaeological discoveries, but there are plenty of other areas of the Bible that we can use to deflect criticism and place an antagonist on the defensive; the hygienic requirements of the Law have been vindicated by science; the consistent message of the Scriptures written by many authors over many centuries; the fulfillment of Bible prophecy concerning the nation of Israel, and the coming of the Messiah, and the rise and fall of world empires (Dan 2), and the political alignment of nations prior to the return of Christ.

And while some might persist, there can be no denying the accuracy of the picture that the Bible paints regarding human nature, laying bare all its blemishes and spots. It is not surprising therefore that self-interested people who exalt in the achievements of mankind do not like some of the stories the Bible contains. The picture is sometimes ugly, because the Bible holds up a mirror to human nature, exposing its capacity for evil. Many prefer not to be confronted with reality, instead clinging to the delusion that man is inherently good, that he will climb to greater levels of enlightenment through science and technology, finally reaching utopia and throwing off the ‘shackles’ of religion.

Society today has charted that course. Mankind largely does what he pleases, and society is falling apart as a consequence, just as the Bible predicted two thousand years ago (2 Tim 3:1–5).

The true source of injustice

Many of the issues people raised with the stories of the Bible centre on morality. Who should set the standard for what is right and wrong? The Bible is full of examples of what happens when man makes his own choices. Humanism is a movement as old as man himself, which exalts mankind as the highest of all beings, and thus the master of his own destiny. Yet the carnage in the world today attests to the inability of man to solve his own problems.

We only have to look at the sorry state of the world to see how pathetic man is as he attempts to elevate himself to an imaginary utopia. In every age corruption and greed have abounded, with the rich minority inevitably enjoying almost all the wealth, and the poor scrabbling in the rubbish to live from the scraps.

It’s hypocritical for people today to despise the Bible because of injustice; they themselves are content to live in luxury while many of the world’s population struggle to find food and water to survive another day. Western society shields us from the basest evils that occur every day in less fortunate places on earth. We live in delusion, never having to confront the realities that our selfish standard of living exacts on the rest of the world.

Who is responsible for the starvation in the world and the inequity of its classes and races? Who is responsible for all of the unmentionable crimes of today, and the perpetration of all the injustices? Who marches out to war, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake? Who consumes and destroys the earth for his own satisfaction and glory? It’s time mankind acknowledged the root cause of the world’s problems, and the complete inability of men to solve them. Humanism’s greatest delusion is that mankind can solve the world’s problems; yet man is the cause of them all! Left to himself mankind is destined for extinction to which he would inevitably succumb.

Again the Bible has ‘got it right’; there really is a state of perplexity in the world today; there is no human way out, and many are starting to realise this dreadful truth (Luke 21:25–26).

Be ready always

The stories in the Bible are true to life, historically sound and carefully told to reveal the hopelessness of man when he does not heed the warnings God has given, and disobeys His words. And while the warnings were sounded long ago, the judgments of God are now about to be poured out on a world that turned its back on Him.

We are blessed to know from the Bible that this world will change for the better one day soon, but not through the efforts of mankind; it will only come about through the righteous intervention of Jesus Christ when he returns.

Life is a privilege but few treat it as such, choosing rather to waste the opportunities God has given us to know Him and the glorious prospect of being partakers of the divine nature. It is a testament to the mercy and patience of God that He provides such a choice to all men.

This should give us renewed vigour to stand up and defend the Bible despite the weight of opposition and tide of scepticism we are swimming against. Let us continue to prayerfully meditate on the Word of God, so that we will be prepared to speak of the Hope that burns within us whenever the opportunity arises.