Got Questions? August 2016

“Are all the Bible stories true?” Our faith tradition affirms that the Bible is both the sacred word of God AND an imperfect people’s account of their experience of God. The Bible is not a history book or a science book, though it certainly contains history and it does speak of the wonder of nature. At the center of this sacred text is the message that God loves us and all of creation and that God desires good for us and offers graces to us. The scriptures were a way for our ancestors of faith to make meaning of their lives and ponder God’s activity in that meaning-making. The Bible has no single author and no single style. It can be helpful to understand the Bible as part of an ongoing conversation of people of faith as they strive to understand the events of their lives. The Bible is our common language as we communicate with one another and with God. When read this way the Bible becomes a living thing, with fresh perspectives as we read of the struggles and questions our ancestors faced and contemplate how they are alike and different from today.

It might be helpful to consider that there is a difference between “fact” and “truth”. Faith is not science, it is as the apostle Paul writes, “the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the leap beyond facts, not the refutation of facts. This is why faith and science can go hand in hand. Faith does not refute science, it simply is a trusting and hoping in that which is beyond what can be measured or defined. Thus, while Bible stories may not be factual, they are, nonetheless, true. Consider the book of Job which is framed in the linguistic style of a fairy tale, yet it is true in the sense that we all know of people who are good upstanding faithful people to whom bad things happen for no apparent reason. One of the prevailing thoughts of the Ancient Near Eastern culture was that all things (good or bad) happened as a direct result of one’s actions (thus the notion that people could make it rain by performing the right ritual). The author of Job was challenging this notion by arguing (through story) that life doesn’t match this world view and reflects the reality of questioning where God is and what role God fills when bad things happen to us. Though clearly not a factual account of an event, the book of Job, nonetheless reflects the truth of our struggles to understand how and why bad things happen and our relationship with God in the midst of it all.

Got Questions” is a monthly column written by the pastor which seeks to answer various questions church members may have about the Bible, church history, and church/spiritual practices.