Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Understanding of the Bible

The God the Atheist doesn't believe in does not exist. It is a ridiculous and impossible figure, conceived of in changing states of technology and fragile cultural artefacts. That God cannot build a bridge that God could not cross. That God is self sufficient and needy. That God is powerless to impose a will and useless to their followers. That God is not the God of the Bible, but sometimes even the followers of the Bible do not know that. The God of the Atheists has many expressions, none of which match all of his descriptions.

There is a God who is the Alpha and the Omega, who is wisdom and strength and worthy of all praise. But not a computer or program that is artificially intelligent. In many ways, a person might be described as a computer with a software program. But to describe God thus is as inaccurate as to describe a person thus. It is a diminution. It is also a temptation for those wishing to understand who God is.

God's own followers don't know precisely who God is, although they try. The Bible is a key to it, but not a key in the way a keyboard is to access a computer. As an example, in Exodus 4 24-26, Moses has negotiated with God over the plagues and the petitions he will make to Pharoah. He won't speak directly, because he stutters, but he uses his brother as an intermediary. And Moses has a new born son. And suddenly, we read God is going to kill Moses. But Moses wife, Zipporah intervenes and circumcises Moses Son, and Moses is no longer being killed by God. It is a particularly opaque piece of scripture. But it illustrates how we should respond to God, and the scripture.

The Bible has come to us from many different people at different times spread over about fifteen hundred years. It has a structure based on the history of how it was compiled. Early books are written from an oral history and the voice of Moses. Later books are reflective of the work of prophets and activity of God's chosen people whom He trained. Catholics have an Apocrypha which are books Protestants feel don't relate directly to Jesus. Then there is the New Testament, the Gospel regarding Jesus, and various letters from the disciples. No one today knows precisely how it came together. How much is stone age peasant understanding and how much is inspired by God. I would argue that both apply, it is a stone age man's thoughts, and it is entirely inspired. It means what God intended it to mean. What it is not is a code to a future, unveiling plans for a rocket ship to go to Mars. And it isn't as if the author is writing for perfect understanding of a future self. In fact, the writing seems to be for someone who was present. Then the shorthand would make sense.

Exodus 4 24-26 is a very early account with Moses' voice. It is an interlude between Moses negotiating with God over how to approach Pharaoh, and the first approach. But Exodus in this passage does not make sense. Not now, and not three hundred years later when David and his family struggled with it. How long was Moses sick for? How quickly did Zipporah come to the realisation of the cure.? Rabbi wanted to know because they wanted to get close to God too, but the words were not there. The information was gone, as the assumption is that 'everyone knew' as they had first hand knowledge. But nobody now knows as that first hand knowledge is lost. And all that is left as a record are those few, terse words. And so later writings of the old testament included more words, more detail. But the detail doesn't necessarily bridge the gap. We examine the text and try to learn as much as we can, but not all of what we'd like to find is present.

God exists. He is the alpha and the Omega. He has a plan for you, a plan that will let you grow and prosper. He is not diminished to be what we would like so that we understand Him. It is natural to want to learn who God is. The Bible does that. But not by diminishing the work to be a code for the future. Instead, it is the inspiration, the dream, of people who knew God then, and walked with him. Like you can too. The God that atheists don't believe in does not exist, but God exists.

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