The hotel room was pitch black. The air conditioner was on full blast. I was surrounded by pillows and hibernating in a cocoon-like fashion. I was perfectly comfortable so, of course, it was at that moment that I had to pee.
I began to navigate the foreign surroundings in the dark, making my way to the bathroom when, “WHAM!” I discovered a large dresser in my path. I yelped and fell back onto the bed. I’m not certain but it’s quite likely that the word “shin” is Latin for “to find furniture in the dark.”
It was at that moment, writhing in pain and wishing for death, that I recalled the famous passage from Psalms:
“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalms 119:105
If only I had taken advantage of a light I could have avoided so much pain.
The passage is teaching us more than that by reminding us that if more people sought the Word of God (Jesus Christ) in His Word (the Bible) they wouldn’t be trapped in darkness (sin) blindly stumbling through life.
The Scriptures are meant to be a light and they are designed to not only guide us through darkness but to also beckon others to safety. The Scriptures reveal God’s plan, speak truth, and challenge us to change. God’s Word, while timeless, offers timely wisdom for any circumstances or challenges we face. Basically, the Father loved us so much that He gave us His Word (the compass) and His Church (the guide), refusing to orphan His children in a wilderness of sin and immorality.
Still, there are countless people who try to say that the Bible is “unreliable” or “outdated.” Many people – some of whom are well-read and quite intellectual – do everything they can to debunk the validity of Scripture, thinking that if they can exploit seeming “inconsistencies” or supposed “errors” they can somehow do away with Christianity and even God. That’s the first mistake.
When theology is “Out of Order”
Saying that “the Bible has some things I don’t agree with, so the Church must be wrong and God, therefore, is “unloving” or “not real” (or whatever else) is completely backwards. Faith doesn’t begin with the Bible. You don’t use the Bible to prove God’s existence . . . that’s like using the music of Nikki Minaj or One Direction to “prove” that God hates me.
No, we begin with God. Once a soul believed in God, there’s a decision to make regarding whether or not Jesus is God. Next, one must decide whether or not Christ instituted a Church or not. After that, one must understand that the Bible came out of a living Church (not vice versa).
The early Church – the first generation of eyewitness believers – was a Church of oral tradition that slowly gave us written tradition. That’s one reason St. Paul is so quick to remind us to follow the Church (1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).
The Church didn’t “come out of” the Bible, the Bible came out of Christ’s Church.
Prepositions matter. We proclaim – as the early Christians did – that the Bible is the Word of God . . . not merely words “about” God.
These words were written down (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to communicate the truth of the events that had occurred and were occurring. St. Luke, by his own admission, was not an eyewitness (as Matthew and John were), but received the truth of the events from eyewitnesses and ministers (Luke 1:2).
He was so taken by the inexplicable reality of what he heard and saw that he just had to write it down in an orderly way (Luke 1:3), to share this good news (the word “gospel” literally means “good news”). The truth was too good not to share (Luke 1:4). The question isn’t why did they feel the need to share this with all they encountered, the real question is why don’t more people still have a passion to share it?
The next mistake is when modern minds get snobbish, saying that the Bible is “too outdated” or “not applicable” in our current culture. The idea that “old ideas” are not as solid as new ideas is not only stupid, it’s dangerously prideful. Old ideas are often far better because they’ve held up over time.
If you claimed to know better than a group of people in the modern age, you’d sound like a snob; someone claiming to “know better” than a group of people from the past really isn’t any different. Yes, maybe you have the internet, but they knew how to build pyramids without cranes, harvest crops without tractors, heal without prescriptions, and chart stars without telescopes.
Angels are not fairies
Some people try to dismiss the Bible because they say it’s all just fairy tales and myths. Not only are they denying the eyewitness accounts of countless souls who saw loaves multiply or the dead raised or the sea part, but they are also confusing different types of storytelling. Allegory was a popular form of storytelling, for instance. When the writers of Scripture – led and inspired by the Holy Spirit – used allegories as moral parables, they communicated truth to us, even if the truth was not literal.
The Church doesn’t teach that you have to believe God created everything in six 24-hour periods, no. She does teach that everything was created by God with purpose. While the stories of creation may not be “scientifically accurate” as some scholarly types like to point out, it’s important to point out that Genesis was not written as a scientific textbook. The author(s) of Genesis sought to explain the “why” God created, not the “how.” Saying Genesis scientifically proves God doesn’t exist is like saying my love letter to my wife doesn’t prove that I exist – or that the phone book doesn’t prove that gravity is true; that was never their intended purpose!
Now, that’s not to say that everything in the Bible is allegorical…far from it. When Jesus healed the blind man that literally happened. When He multiplied the loaves, again, that literally happened. You can take additional symbolic or sacramental meaning out of those miracles, which only enhance the physical, literal truth of the action. It’s not an “either/or” but a “both/and” kind of miracle.
Finding Yourself in Scripture
Given all of this some still wonder why we even need the Bible anymore. I mean, if we have our common sense, a conscience, and we have the Church, isn’t the Bible – with all its ancient cultural references and accepted “ways of life” – kind of unnecessary?
If anything, we need the Bible more than ever before. It’s dangerous to live in any present where you have forgotten your past. What if the God you “think” you know isn’t the actual God, at all? Many people follow a concept of Jesus that is not historically accurate – a pleasant, politically correct, “be nice to everyone” figure of Jesus that is anything but Biblical. Many people ascribe traits to God that are not even remotely consistent with the God of Scripture.
In the Bible you encounter the God of the universe and see how He moves, thinks and speaks. You’re not merely reading about characters from long ago – you’re reading about your very self. The Bible isn’t merely speaking to you; it’s speaking about you. You are Adam and Eve, standing before God in all of your sin. You are Moses, worried about his reputation as he strikes the rock a second time. You are David, putting your wants before God’s. You are Esther, deciding whether or not to endanger yourself to protect others. You are Peter, being called to lead even though you’re far from perfect. You are the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, or Zacchaeus – being told, by God, that you have worth regardless of your past.
This is what the Bible offers you . . . an invitation to know God more deeply. The Bible helps you to “know” God beyond just your head and to engage Him in your heart. Scripture deepens your prayer, enlivens your worship, and makes the Sacraments come to life in a whole new way.
There’s no need to wander aimlessly in the dark. Open God’s Word, daily. Allow His love and His promise to light your path . . . your shins, and more importantly, your soul will thank you.