Why Do Some People Reject the Bible Because They Think it is "incomplete"?

This is the long-promised post on the issue of those who reject the Bible because it isn't "complete" (by their standards). 

The Bible isn't meant to be a science textbook
The Bible is sufficient to generate faith.  The Bible is not meant to contain all the answers to scientific questions, nor is it meant to be a manual on how the universe works.  It is a guide to God and Jesus.  Just as a music textbook needn't include for instance a section on English literature, neither does a book on God and Jesus have to include sections on music, engineering, science, etc.  However, it is surprising how many atheists expect that the Bible should do all these things! 

What would happen if the Bible DID contain 'everything'?
Let's consider for a moment what would happen if the bible was very "complete" (by atheist standards).  This would result in a huge and lengthy tome which no-one would ever read! Even with the life expectancy of today, even a Bible scholar may never finish reading such a Bible in their lifetime, defeating the purpose of having a Bible at all. And as alluded to earlier, irrelevent material would make its way into it, diluting the important message. 

Aside from the issue of length, there is also the issue of faith.  If the Bible contained "everything" that an atheist wanted, it would also contain complete proof that God existed.  In that case, believing in God would be a total no-brainer; a mere act of deductive reasoning instead of requiring faith.  I am not dismissing deductive reasoning in and of itself (it is critical in many jobs, e.g. scientific research).  But deductive reasoning is not a tool we can solely use to come to believe in God and Jesus; a leap of faith is required no matter how otherwise convinced we might be. Just as Christians cannot prove the existence of God, neither can atheists disprove it.  Something beyond mere reasoning is required - otherwise one side or another would have "proved" their case by now. 

Thus, if the Bible contained absolute complete proof of God's existence then we would only come to God through deductive reasoning - a "no-brainer" process, instead of coming to him through faith.  Faith, I believe, triggers our spiritual development.  Spiritual does not mean "ephemeral" - it refers to a dimension of our life which is difficult to detect by our usual physical methods but is nonetheless there, solid and concrete.  Since God is involved in that spiritual dimension, I would expect that He would want us to come to him via that dimension (i.e. by faith) - not via deductive reasoning (which is a "lower" process - not much higher than, say, eating, for example). 

Remember: the Bible is sufficient to generate faith.

The Bible isn't meant to be taken 100% literally
One difficulty, even among Bible scholars, is interpreting the Bible.  This is because there are some parts of the Bible which are supposed to be taken literally and other parts which are not.  It is not always easy to discern between all instances of these, even for Christians. 

Many atheists, surprisingly, have no trouble with metaphors and analogy in other works (both fiction and non-fictional), yet appear to insist that the Bible be taken 100% literally. When the Bible doesn't make sense taken literally, they reject the Bible. 

It is true that the Bible doesn't "spoon-feed" people, and this is part of why we must all read it carefully and think how to interpret it.  The Bible makes people think, but is still pitched at a level that humans can understand (e.g. via parables, use of plain language, etc).   Unfortunately some people have trouble with the notion that each individual needs to read the Bible himself or herself and think carefully about how to interpret what is read.

Remember, the Bible is pitched down to our level (not up to God's level). We are like babies trying to learn Calculus when we try to comprehend spiritual matters.

What would happen if the entire Bible granted us "unshuttered" access to God's ways?
We would not be able to comprehend the Bible easily if it were given in an extremely direct way.  It would literally be like placing a calculus textbook in front of a baby and expecting him or her to understand calculus. 
"My thoughts," says the Lord, "are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.

Isaiah 55:8-9

In fact, the most "unshuttered" part of the Bible already has people getting confused.  This would be the chapter of Revelation.  Many atheists dismiss John's vision given to him by God as the delusional ravings of a schizophrenic.  Yet these atheists are the very people who insist the entire Bible be given literally - and choose to disregard it when they realize it isn't.  This behavior is exactly like a baby asking to learn Calculus from first principles and then getting angry when he or she doesn't understand it, yet refusing to accept an approximated version that he or she would be capable of understanding.

The fact that even many Christians have trouble with Revelations is telling: it means that an entire Bible pitched further away from human understanding and more toward God's level would simply confuse all humans.

Some atheists think that the Bible is not grounded in historical accuracy
Many atheists who complain that the Bible was merely "invented" and that Jesus didn't really exist, have surprisingly never bothered to make any kind of investigation or do any reading into the accuracy of Biblical records.

Indeed, as the French philosopher, Jean Jaques Rousseau, said: "The doings of Socrates, which no-one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ" - Emile, or On Education (1762).

For a rigorous analysis of the evidence for Jesus investigated by a journalist, read "The Case For Christ" by Lee Strobel. Interestingly, the author was initially an atheist and was, in fact, seeking to show insufficient evidence for the existence of Jesus. Instead, what he found was so convincing that he actually became Christian.

The Bible may not match up with pre-conceived notions of God!
Some people reject the Bible because they have a pre-conceived notion of God.  To use the words of C.S. Lewis, this incorrect notion of God often involves
"...a senile benevolent who, as they say, 'liked to see young people enjoying themselves' and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, 'a good time was had by all'".   - The Business of Heaven - Readings for the Year, by C.S. Lewis: January 10 "The Difference Between Love and Kindness"
This doesn't mean that God wants us to have a bad time - just that he is not the sort of senile grandfather that people expect (or even want) him to be.  

Sometimes this rather poor view of God occurs because someone thinks back to what he or she learned as a child in Sunday School! Just as the Bible is pitched down to a level we humans can understand (as opposed to God's level), the Bible is pitched down by us even further to children at Sunday School.  This is not to say we are incorrectly instructing our young; simply that the very young have limited understanding and we must give them an approximation until they are old enough to read and understand the Bible for him or herself. 

There is no point in rejecting the Bible because of pre-conceived notions of God learned in childhood or from others.  Better rather, to read the Bible and reject the pre-conceived notions.

If you found this post interesting, you might also like these related posts on this blog:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

An open letter to atheist parents of young children

The same sky that Adam saw

Prayer and works - how to know which one to do when