photo credit:  Eric Fischer  via  photopin   cc

Why I No Longer Believe the Bible Has "All" The Answers

photo credit: Eric Fischer via photopin cc
A few years ago US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese during take off and lost engine power. The plane would have crashed were it not for the skilled pilot who managed to land on the Hudson river sparing the lives of everyone on board. The event became known as "Miracle on the Hudson" and everywhere you went you could hear people thanking God. Months later Air France Flight 447 bound from Brazil to France crashed into the Atlantic leaving no survivors. Why didn't God spare them? Did he love the people on Flight 1549 more than those on Flight 447? Did he use up all of his miracle power at the Hudson and had none left for the Atlantic? Or did he simply have nothing to do with either event?

Questions like this plague many Christians. There is so much about God we don't understand. Why do we praise him for healing Mary of cancer but then have nothing to say when John dies? Did he really heal Mary? Why do bad things happen? Why so much suffering and pain? These questions, and many others lead many to abandon their faith in God trading it for the seemingly more attractive pessimism of a skeptical worldview. 

As a Christian, theologian, and Jesus-follower I have often struggled with deep questions which the Bible doesn't seem to give a direct answer for and have come to a simple open-ended conclusion. Contrary to what I once believed, the more I study the Bible the more I am convinced it doesn't have all the answers - in fact, I don't believe it was ever intended to. Historically, people have used the Bible as a prescription magazine for all of life's problems and questions. It has worked for some, but not for others. But rather than seeing the Bible as an encyclopedia with hidden answers to humanities deepest philosophical questions I now see it simply as a GPS.

Allow me to explain. A GPS is a modern device used to get from point A to point B. Using satellites in space the GPS identifies your current position and then gives you detailed directions on how to get to your destination. Now suppose I told my GPS that I wanted to go from Perth to Sydney. I put the destination into the computer and in a few seconds I have a detailed map complete with vocal instructions on how to get to Sydney. I start driving and after a few miles I run into a car accident. An hour later the road is cleared and I am on my way only to be met by a flat tire. I pull over on the side of the road to fix my flat tire and it starts raining. Drenched, I hop back in, blast the heater, and drive to the nearest rest stop so I can get into some dry clothes. As the journey continues I get caught in the wonderful "road-work traffic jams", see homeless on the side of the street, and countless other things. Eventually I get so fed up that I throw my GPS out of the window. When you ask me why I did that I say, "This GPS is worthless! It didn't tell me what happened to the people in the car accident or why it happened. It didn't warn me that a flat tire was coming. It didn't give me the reason why there was road-work on the road. It doesn't answer any of my questions about all the things I am experiencing in this trip. So I got rid of it because its worthless. If there really was a satellite up in space guiding me why wont it answer my questions? From now on I am just going to drive aimlessly and find my own way. I think Ill have better luck doing that."

How would you respond? A slap on the side of the head would probably be most appropriate. A GPS is not meant to answer those questions, but without it you will never get to your destination. You will get lost and have no idea where you are. Similarly, the Bible is not meant to answer all of our "why" questions. While the Bible gives more answers than any other book in the world,[1] it simply is not meant to be an encyclopedia that we go to to find answers about every deep philosophical inquiry that we have. What the Bible is is a GPS, a map, and a guide. If we follow it faithfully we will arrive at our destination and the awesome part is this: At the destination we find God and it is he who will answer all of our questions.[2] So in short, its not the Bible that gives us all of the answers its God[3] but the only way to ask him is to follow the directions the Bible gives us to get to him. So don't throw your faith away simply because the Bible doesn't answer every question. It's not meant to. But what it promises is to get you to the one who has the answer to every question you will ever ask.

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[1] It is super important to remember this point: The Bible does in fact provide a myriad of answers not found anywhere else in the world. It provides answers about the past, the present, and the future and those who make it their study have found that it satisfies their deepest longings. The point, however, is not that it doesn't provide answers. It most certainly does. The point is that it is not intended to answer every minute question. 
[2] This is not to say that we can't experience God in the here and now. We most certainly can. God connects with humanity in real time and we do not have to wait to go to heaven before we can experience his presence, love, and power in our lives. All of that can be experienced in the here and now. Nevertheless, there are questions that will not be answered in our present experience but in the world-made-new.
[3]There is a prevailing theology that the Bible is not the guide, the Spirit is. As a result those who teach and believe this don't place their trust in the Bible but in what they feel is the "Spirit" guiding them. I reject this notion. I believe that the Bible is our guide and that the Spirit will never lead us contrary to what it says. So when I say "Its not the Bible who has all the answers, its God" I am not suggesting that the Bible is inadequate and that we must therefore rely on a subjective sense of "Spirit" leading instead of the Bible. What I am suggesting is that we must rely fully on the Bible until we arrive at God's literal presence (heaven). It is at that time that we will have all of our questions answered. 

2 comments:

  1. If the bible is like the GPS, what role does God play in these tragedies? Is he not the all knowing and all seeing? If he has the power to stop these things, why doesn't he? Some people say God doesn't intervene as he wants people to make their own desicions in life, but I don't think the people boarding flight 447 chose to die that day. Could it be he doesn't intervene because he doesn't actually exist? I think that is the more rational answer. I don't know why I have written this as I bet you don't publish it.

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    1. Why wouldn't I publish it? Your comment is both respectful and relevant. I don't mind if people disagree, so long as they do so with civility - which you have done. So welcome to the conversation :D I think the argument you offer is a valid one. But I would say its only one of the valid possibilities. Perhaps he doesnt exist? That is one way to try and make sense of this. Or perhaps he does but there are other variables at play we dont understand?

      The question you raised is basically the "problem of evil" and I'm happy to explore it if you are. Let me know :D

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