We don’t learn

8 02 2009

I have in these blogs in the past confessed that one of my favourite quotes is “the one thing that history teaches us is that history teaches us nothing.” I have been reminded of this because of a certain project I have undertaken. I have read the Bible from end to end (and indeed written verse-by-verse Bible studies on the majority of it) but I have never read it all out loud. Thus several months ago I started a project to read the whole of the Bible out loud. I am, at this time of this writing, as far as the book of Judges, a book which perhaps shows the folly of mankind more than any other book in the Bible. The project as a whole though, has been very rewarding. I have seen some things more clearly than I ever have done before and I think they are worth recording.

First of all, is the gradual revealing of God.  He is revealed in history. This is not the place to go into why we can trust the veracity of these writings but it is the place to challenge our approach. I recently encountered yet another foolish theologian who works on the principle, that miracles can’t happen so all the so-called miracles of the Bible are make-believe. Now I don’t know if you realise it but that is an incredibly unscientific approach. It says, I may look at the evidence but I have made up my mind about any possible outcome before I start researching.  That lack both scientific and intellectual integrity and what is amazing is that anyone listens to theologians who work in that way.

Surely the right approach is to examine the evidence of the existence of the documents that make up the Bible, and then what they say and THEN draw conclusions. Where are open minded intellectuals who will ask, “Why can we believe the Bible?” and then go seriously investigating it?  As I have read out loud the first seven books of the Bible – and knowing where it goes – I wonder at the folly of people who just write it all off. Where are serious minded people who will ask, “What sort of God is shown in the Bible?” and will then carry out an open-minded investigation. Ignorant prejudice seems to rule the day!

In Britain at least we live in a society where the vast majority have written off God.  A recent TV programme even asked why people are ashamed to talk about God today. What is horrifying is that the vast majority of the unbelieving population have no reason to not believe other than someone else has told them not to believe. They may not have been told using specific words like “Don’t believe” but sufficient unthinking, ignorant sceptics have appeared on TV that the message has got across and unthinking people just accept it. The vast majority in our society have no real idea what is in the Bible – and appear to have no concern to find out. They will read lots of novels of increasing thickness, they may go to classes to learn languages, they may take degrees on almost anything – except on the incredible book that sits on so many shelves as a reminder of a bygone age, unread. But then so many of those relics of the past are in  language of the past so it is no wonder that even an interested individual is put off. But the Bible can be found in modern language in any bookshop today.

One of the questions that anyone seriously reading the Bible must ask is, “Why should anyone go to the bother of producing all these books, if there isn’t at least an element of truth here?” Back comes the defensive answer, “Because they were superstitious and believed this superstitious nonsense.” Whoops! Showing your presuppositional unscientific  prejudices again! or to put it in more simple language, you show you’ve made up your mind before checking  it all out.

One of the things that has hit me reading out loud these early books, apparently recording God’s dealings with the embryonic state of Israel, is that the ‘Law of Moses’ is simply God’s design pattern for how people can live in harmony with themselves, with others and with the earth. There are odds and ends that are unclear but the vast majority of it (which the sceptics prefer to ignore) is simply how to live well – and it’s very simple to understand. When I compare that with how we live today, I see that modern society tends to ignore all of God’s guidance and is suffering every sort of ill possible.

The book of Judges, which is where I am reading at the moment, is frightening in its clarity (and somewhat depressing because of it). Again and again the new nation of Israel forgot God and ignored His guidelines and got into a mess. When they did they cried out to God, and He sent someone to get them back on the rails and as soon as they were,  peace and blessing followed. It’s as simple and frightening as that. Of course, when you examine these books you see they are pure history and as history they record how things worked or didn’t work. Think about it. Even if 10% of the book was wrong or made up by men (and I’m not saying it was) that wouldn’t in any way at all affect the message that the other 90% conveys, because the message is consistent throughout the whole book. It’s a message about the presence of God, the nature of God and the nature of mankind, and the proof of its teaching has been revealed countless times in subsequent history. Tragically as a society we are behaving like lemmings and ignore our plight and leap to destruction.  Where are the wise who will come without prejudice and learn from the past?




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