|God, from AMC’s TV Show, “Preacher”|
The Gallup Company has a motto: “Extraordinary Impact Through Analytics and Advice”. One of their products is called “StengthFinder” and purports to help you nail down your strengths. Having taking the “test” and received the results, I was sitting in a conference room with my fellow senior managers and a few directors. We each had to share what we had learned.
“Mine says my main strength is ‘learner’.” I told the group. “But that’s not me.”
The room exploded in response: “That is SO YOU!!”
Suddenly seeing yourself through the eyes of others happens to all of us. And it is usually a shock. We don’t know what we don’t now about ourselves. And as a group, we humans don’t really know what being human is.
But there is a book that purports to tell us.
A typical response at this point would be: “Well, I’ve read the Bible. That is, I’ve opened the book and read some of it. A lot of it really… most of it. It just really doesn’t make sense. And I certainly don’t plan to use it as a guide to act like any of those people. The General Gideon is an abject coward. King David sends one of his troops to die so he can have his wife. Everyone has multiple wives. Psychotic Abraham wants to kill his son. And Noah was just crazy!”
The bible doesn’t make sense because the humans in it act crazy? Have you been paying attention around you? That’s exactly what humans do.
Isn’t it crazier to think that a book for the ages would be written so that it is an instruction book tailored to a 21st century American?
Or maybe, since it purports to be God’s Word, it was meant for all people, across the globe, and across the millennia? What would that kind of book look like? Would it need to be approached a bit differently than a washing machine manual or a self-improvement text?
To answer that, recall how it was “written”. The Bible as we know it today was mostly completed within a generation or two of the death of Jesus. The believers included those books of the Old Testament that faithful Jews revered and combined that with first hand accounts of Jesus and letters from the preachers of the day who knew Him.
If you’ve ever read an anthology, you will notice the authors stay with a theme, but each has a distinctive approach and style. More so with the Bible where, for many hundreds of years, the stories grew as historical events took place and new generations memorized the stories to retell them to their offspring. It was an oral tradition. Few could read or write.
This alone would dictate a certain style of story-telling where any individual fact is not as important as the “moral of the story” or, perhaps, the theme behind the story.
|Discovery Channel’s Reenactment of Early Society
We still tell stories around a campfire
Just as in an anthology, the entire book does have a theme. It is not, as some suppose, “the physics of the universe” or “the history of man”. It is meant to answer deeper questions such as “who is God?”, “who are we?” “how should I act now that I know these answers?”.
To be taken seriously, these questions cannot be answered by any man or woman. Just like my experience with a StrengthFinder exercise, no human can really know themselves.
Now here is where it gets interesting. In a human anthology, there are many authors and one anthologist. It is a little bit different with the Bible.
With the Bible, the authors must be individuals not so close to the issue. The Individual who created man would be the perfect author, so He acts as the single Muse through the many authors. The anthologist (i.e. editor of the anthology) would be a group of people with similar understanding of the answers to these questions, people of the same Faith. So they could be consistent in choosing the best stories to include.
So if the Bible is a church’s collection of books written by different people but inspired by the same God, what did God have in mind as this process took place over the millennia?
He wanted to tell his human creatures who He is, and who they are. That should be sufficient to guide them back home.
How would you go about doing this if you were given the task? Remember, hardly anyone is literate, no one is paying attention, and most people are stupid most of the time.
At some point, from deep thought or just frustration, you would start interacting with humans. You would tell them pieces and bits at a time, hoping that some of it stuck. “I am who am!” “I created all of this!” “I am your Lord.” “I am Just.” “I am merciful.” “You are sometimes cowardly.” “You are sometimes lustful.” “You are sometimes faithful and brave.” “But at all times, I love you and want the best for you.”
Since you are God, you can inspire people to pass along the best stories and discard the worst without interfering with their free choice.
In the end, a Church pulls together the best stories and prints a book that appears to be a blathering hodgepodge on the surface, but at a deeper level answers all the most important questions.