Why We Defend the Bible

Much of my time is spent responding to various attacks on the Bible.  There is definitely no lack of attacks to respond to.  I am also someone who appreciates Karl Barth and Barth made this interesting statement:

“The maintaining of the Word of God against the attacks to which it is exposed cannot be our concern, and therefore we do not need to worry about it.  Watchmen are appointed and they wait their office.  The maintaining of the Word of God takes place as a self-affirmation which we can never do more than acknowledge to our own comfort and disquiet.  We can be most seriously concerned about Christianity and Christians, about the future of the Church and theology, about the establishment in the world of the Christian outlook and Christian ethic.  But there is nothing about whose solidity we need to be less troubled than the testimonies of God in Holy Scripture.  For a power which can annul these testimonies is quite unthinkable.” (Church Dogmatics I.21.1)

When I read this, I both agree and disagree with Barth.  In a sense, Barth is correct that we do not need to defend the Word of God.  The Word of God is not something weak that must be defended.  However, in another way there a great need to respond to the attacks of critics.  When I respond to attacks, my concern is not to protect the Bible but to address confusion and misunderstandings of people.  There are people who reject the Bible over some rumour they have encountered and I seek to keep the Bible on the table as something that needs to be considered.  What I do does not strengthen the Bible or change it in any way.  It is only about helping people to see the Bible clearly and allowing them to make sound decisions.  I do not worry about the Bible, but I do worry about what people think of the Bible and how they interpret it.

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19 thoughts on “Why We Defend the Bible”

  1. I agree with the sentiment. I sometimes say that we too often act as if we are God’s defender, and forget that God is our defender. When we speak we do not defend God, we defend our faith in God, and there’s an important but subtle distinction between the two.

  2. Judges 19 was the last thing I ever read in the Bible and that was when I decided I was done with it. Please defend it if you can.

    1. I feel sorry for you if you gave up on the Bible over Judges 19. I see nothing in this passage that suggests God either commanded this action or approved it. In fact, Judges is very much a description of Israel that is struggling to be faithful and is often making wrong choices. To describe an evil act is not the same as approving it. Do you assume news reporters are approving crime when they report it?

    1. I think we should take it as a description of a bad thing that happened. There are many bad things described in the Bible. The Bible acknowledges that people do bad things. The bad things that are described are not offered as examples to be imitated or celebrated but as reminders of why we need God.

  3. I’m with you Stephen. We don’t necessarily defend the Scriptures for ourselves but for others. Apologetics is a form of evangelism…breaking down barriers to the gospel.
    Pastor Adam Barton
    Akron, Ohio

  4. I am not trying to hold God accountable for anything here because the Bible is what is being defended. You have referred to what happened in that passage as “bad”. The Bible does not. In fact, the two horrific points in the story were not singular occurrences. The woman was a slave (she could not leave) and the Bible does not condemn slavery. Also, offering women up for abuse in place of “holy” men also happened with Lot’s daughters. If the Bible held this as wrong, why wasn’t Lot turned into a pillar of salt? I am not trying to be argumentative, I am just trying to get a handle on what part is man and what part is divine scripture.

    1. Bonnie, I would encourage you to read all of Judges and ask yourself if in context, this book is attempting to show Israel at its best or at its worst. It seems clear to me that the entire book is about how far Israel falls when it is not following God fully. That Levite is one of those tragic examples. Does it come right out and say explicitly: “This is bad”? No. But does it really need to? I just read an account of the gang rape in India and no where in the article did it come out and say that this gang rape was wrong. The article assumed readers would catch that. The same is true about this story. With regard to slavery, the Bible had very clear guidelines about how a master would treat their slave and this master did not follow that. What he did was wrong on every level and there is no reason to suggest that the Bible is condoning it.

      Bonnie, if you have decided that the Bible describing an evil deed is the exact same as the Bible condoning an evil deed, no matter what the context, there is not much I can say. I suspect that there is something else going on here and that it is more than just taking a story out of context. I hope that you come to terms with the Bible and that you do not let this misinterpretation prevent you from receiving the beautiful things that the Bible has to offer.

  5. Bonnie,
    What do you mean that the Bible doesn’t refer to what happened in Judges 19 as “bad”? Did you read the very next chapter where the entire Isrealite community is outraged by this and attacks the town? Obviously the men in the story acted cowardly (not giving their lives for the women), but the act that the town commited was considered so vile that chapter 20 says that more than 30,000 Isrealites died attacking Gibeah!

    If you are going to reject the Bible because of a story that it includes, you should at least read the entire context around the story. Otherwise you might be rejecting the Bible because of what you THINK it says rather than what it ACTUALLY says.

  6. Most people I know and love believe the Bible and I don’t doubt that what they take from it is very important in shaping them as the wonderful people that they are. I don’t think, however, that many of them have actually read the Bible looking to understand it. I ask them the same things. I think most people that read passages like this have the same questions. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know”. Is it necessary to have all the answers?

  7. I wouldn’t say that I have all the answers. But I must confess, as disturbing as this story is, it never entered my mind when I first read it that the Bible was actually condoning it. It just seems to make sense in the context of Judges that this is another example of how bad Israel was at the time. I’m sorry you don’t see that.

  8. Christians say we should accept the “Bible” – but the Bible is not a single book, it is a collection of many books, written by many authors over many centuries. Which books belong in the collection? Different churches have different answers. Protestants have 66 books in their Bible, Catholics have 73, Eastern Orthodox have at least 78 books, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has at least 81 books in their Bible, and possibly as many as 90… Whose Bible is the right one? How do we know that our Bible has the right set of books – that it does not contain extra books that it is not meant to, and that it does not exclude any books that it should contain?

    1. The Christian faith is based primarily on the New Testament and Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants agree on the NT canon. As for the other books, even Catholics agree there is a difference between canonical deuterocanonical books.

      1. My understanding of the Catholic position, is that the protocanonical books and the deuterocanonical books are equally canonical, equal in inspiration and authority; the distinction is fundamentally historical rather than theological.

        I think it is a good question – did Protestants make a mistake by rejecting the Catholic/Orthodox deuterocanon? Or alternatively, did they not go far enough? Maybe they should have removed even more books?

  9. Thanks for your response Mr. Bedard. To be honest, I never really considered, before this, that not all of the Bible is instructional and teaching lessons. Interesting. Thank you.

    1. I can assure you that you are not the only one who has felt this way about those passages. I also want to say that I too am revolted by passages like Judges 19. If anyone wasn’t, I would be worried. If you consider reading the Bible again, I would recommend a book called How to Read the Bible For All its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. It is very helpful. God bless!

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