Last week I briefly touched on the fact that Christianity is science, as opposed to religion. A radical statement, in most people’s view. Yet I have come to this conclusion not only on the basis of a detailed study of the bible, but also through what I believe to be conviction of the Holy Spirit. I underline the words “what I believe to be” to emphasise that this is purely my conclusion and not prophecy or inspiration.
The first thing I did upon becoming a Christian was I decided that I would put all previous doctrine and beliefs aside, and would read the bible from a completely unbiased, neutral perspective. I did my first “helicopter” reading of the bible in my first ten months of becoming a Christian, and by early (January-February) 2016 I had gone through every page from Genesis to Revelation.
What I discovered from that first reading surprised, and even shocked me, and so I decided to do a second, more in-depth and analytical study. I have just finished the Old Testament right now, and am studying Matthew in the New Testament. I use two bibles: the New World Translation, as well as the New International Version (NIV) study bible. The former is my primary reading material, and I then use the latter to cross-check, but mostly for its commentary section.
The New World Translation bible is the bible translation used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most people deem it a controversial translation mainly because of certain verses that have been altered as a result of the Trinity doctrine argument, as well as the fact that they (JWs) do not like to say that Jesus Christ died on a cross. I know of, and therefore can compensate for those few areas of disagreement. But outside of these controversies, I use that bible mainly because it has an extensive cross-referencing system, which is significantly better than even that of the New International Version bible study. At the end of the day, it is also actually not very different from the NIV translation, if it is different at all.
I use the NIV bible study because when I first decided to buy a study bible, I did my research (Google) on how the various translations came to be. The NIV translation is a modern-day translation done by a large spread of translators from various Christian denominations. In other words, it (hopefully) distils out the impact, errors and biases inherent in denominational translations. It also takes into account earlier and more accurate manuscripts of the bible that have been discovered in recent years. It is the second most popular translation after the (New) King James Version (N)KJV today.
“Why not the NKJV?” you may ask. That translation was done by the Church of England, and part of the mandate of the translators was to capture the church’s thinking and doctrine. It was and still is based on later manuscripts of the bible which have been proven to be distorted versions of earlier manuscripts. It thus contains acknowledged inherent errors and deviations which have been carried through its various translation updates. In short, it has been infiltrated by doctrine, perhaps in a similar way to the New World Translation!
Going back to the subject at hand, as I read the bible, I realised that the bible, far from being a book of moral pontification, is actually a very well-organised and coordinated work. Despite it having been written by over 40 people dispersed across space and time, there are, in my opinion, four central themes, or core objectives behind the bible which stand out throughout all the books:
- Demonstration of God’s centrality and over-arching power over both heaven and earth.
- The role of Jesus Christ as the Saviour, Redeemer and Messiah, and of the Holy Spirit particularly in the New Testament dispensation.
- Documentation of the history of mankind from beginning through to the end (both historical and prophetic accounts).
- Documentation of standards for living (righteousness) and consequences of sin, mostly through “case studies”, poetry and outright instruction.
What fascinated me the most, though, was the fact that it is written from a point of authority. It is absolutely factual, rather than being a quest for truth, an attempt at explaining something, or a documentation of findings. It contains no factual error, and does not even try to justify or substantiate itself. Much like the person of Jesus, when He was on earth.
Perhaps let me put it another way; when someone asks you directions to a place you know, you answer them convincingly on the basis of knowledge. They can also tell from the way you speak that you know what you are talking about. If on the other hand you were not sure of the directions, your answer would also reflect that fact, and the person you are speaking to would also be able to pick it out from how you answer.
The proof of your knowledge would also then be demonstrated when that person followed your instruction, and they actually got to the destination.
The same thing applies to the bible. No one disputes, for example that the Pentateuch (first five books of the bible) was written way before the events that subsequently happened and were again documented in the same bible. The disobedience of the Israelites, the plagues and hardships that would follow that, right to the point of exiling of the Israelites. Even the coming of Christ and His role as Messiah was documented by Moses.
Reading through all the prophetic books and their fulfillment leaves you in no doubt that the bible was not only an accurate record of events, but also an accurate predictor of the future (most of which is now our past).
Most of the bible dwells on moral and social issues, from the perspective of God. It outlines “righteousness”, and also “sin”, and gives innumerable stories that demonstrate the two and their consequences. From a personal point of view, the bible teaches not only what one must do to be righteous, but even to be successful (blessed). These moral principles have applied since time began, and apply even now, when we think as a race that we have gone beyond the “primitive” dictates of the bible.
The disasters that the bible tells us result from “sin” still happen up to now. Plagues follow sexual immorality. Natural disasters befall wickedness. Misery follows the rule of the wicked. Sadness and despondency follow wickedness and unrighteousness. And that thing we call “karma” invariably catches up with bad deeds. In short, the laws of the bible apply as intact and as concrete to us as they did to the Israelites and the Jews millennia ago.
The bible’s historical accuracy as well as it moral uprightness are things that we can prove and apply in the natural, i.e. in the so-called real world. History verifies everything contained in the bible, and in actual fact many archaeological finds were made as a result of referring to biblical accounts. The life and works of Jesus are well-documented historically, even from sources outside the bible. Our very dating system (i.e. BCE/AD) is based on that!
If you study all of what we call life coaching, success coaching, best business practice – even the legal system – all of what we consider to be best practice today is actually derived from the bible. Political governance systems, tax systems and even personal hygiene, all of those things come from the bible. So much for us wanting to say we have outgrown it. All we are doing is expressing it in different ways and then claiming our revisions as original works.
In short, theme 2, 3 and 4 are self-evident and beyond dispute. Perhaps what we can discuss is the first one, and that will be the subject of my next blog post. Does God exist?