I’ve scared some people in the past when I explain how I read the bible … especially parts of it where the bible appears to be at odds with modern science. You know the parts; creation, the flood, Jonah and the Whale, etc…
This is not to try to convince you my reading of the bible is correct, but rather to answer the question of how I can continue to affirm the bible is TRUE when I would say not all it’s details are “100% accurate”.
Now I could nuance that question to death by talking about how I believe the bible is 100% accurate in what it is trying to say to us (what’s its purpose is for any given story, passage, etc…). Or I could talk about how the bible is not a scientific manual, but is the story of God and should never be expected to meet the criteria of “history” and “science”, which are much later inventions.
But both of those explanations would take me away from my quick point today, which is to try to give a simple and concise answer to that question; how can I say the bible is TRUE when it may not always be accurate in the way we expect it to be these days?
The answer — it’s all about perspective!
Let’s try a quick comparison … look at the picture above. If I were to say sunrise today was at 5:28 AM and sunset will be at 9:02 PM, would this be a true statement?
While most people would naturally answer “yes”, the actual correct answer has to be “no”.
Why? Because the sun does not rise or set. We rotate around the sun and the spinning of our planet on its axis gives us the experience of a sunrise and sunset, but the sun does not move in relation to us (rising or setting in the sky); rather we move around the sun.
So, while the information put forward in today’s weather forecast may be technically incorrect due to the fact it does not meet with what we now know about science, in another, more real, way it is most definitely true.
From our perspective on this blue dot of a planet we call earth, the sun does rise and set. Our experience of the sun on a daily basis tells us that, in fact, the sun moves from its rising in the east to its setting in the west. This is true and anyone can give you explanations for how it actually happens, but from our vantage point — our perspective — these explanations are nothing more than the technical details that explain how it happens that we experience a sunrise and a sunset.
My belief is that the bible has come to us in much the same way. The Holy Spirit inspired its writers to explain truths about God in language and terminology that would make sense in their culture and environment. To force the bible to provide technical details goes beyond what can reasonably be expected. People write about what they know to be true – how God is the creator from their vantage point and understanding of the universe for example. Getting the technical details incorrect because they did not have the equipment required to understand the actual scope of the universe does not invalidate the point they were trying to make.
We simply need to take what they were/are trying to tell us about this God and convert to our new lived experience — our new perspective. (We should also hold our ways of explaining God loosely enough to allow that some further discovery could very well prove our perspectives incorrect as well.)
God cannot be fully described and any language we use to try to explain his working in the world will necessarily be limited, but that doesn’t mean it is not true.
Knowing God is creator, sustainer and redeemer is more true than the fact the sun rises and sets each day — and you can set your watch to that!