Pastor's Perspective: A book for all seasons
Old. Out of touch. Unscientific. Irrelevant. Doomed. These and other negative adjectives have been used lately to describe the most amazing book in history: the Bible.
I often describe myself as a bibliophile, or book lover. And, as anyone who has seen my library can testify, that's not an exaggeration. But of all of the books I own, either on paper (my preference) or in electronic versions, none come even close to the Bible as far as I am concerned.
The Bible was written by more than 40 authors over a period of roughly 1,600 years – from about 1500 BC to about AD 100. It was written on three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) and in three languages (Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament, and Koine Greek for the New). Its authors include kings, priests, prophets, farmers, shepherds, scholars and fishermen.
It has been a perennial bestseller, far outstripping any other title each year. And it is also the most widely-quoted piece of literature in history, with many phrases like Good Samaritan, by the skin of my teeth, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, working their way into ordinary speech with the speakers often not even aware that those phrases were coined by the writers of Scripture. (One saying, "God helps those who help themselves" that a lot of people believe is from the Bible is actually from Aesop's Fables!)
The Bible has a timeless wisdom that is larger than any era, more durable than any society and more coherent than any system of situational ethics. It shows mankind in all of its awful greatness and badness, painting "warts and all" portraits of both its heroes and its villains. It uses multiple genres seamlessly, history, poetry, morality plays, parables and simple teaching all being brought to bear on the greatest questions of humanity.
Many of the people who claim that the Bible and its ethics are irrelevant and out of touch with the times are usually those who disagree with its ethical code. But if what the Bible says about itself is true, and I absolutely believe it to be true, its ethical code did not have its origins in any society, but in the heart of God himself, who inspired the words that are contained between the pages of our Bibles. God's ethics are never outdated, irrelevant or behind the times. Instead, they transcend all human institutions and all human philosophies, being rooted in eternity.
As John Clifford wrote in his poem, "The Anvil of God's Word," the Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers. The words of Scripture have been assailed by unbelievers all throughout the ages. But in the end, those unbelievers have passed on without leaving a mark on the words of God. Those who oppose the words of Scripture, or try to expunge them from the public sphere, should take a lesson from that history.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (New International Version) that "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Man's ways, man's morals, man's views, have all proven to be transient and continually shifting, without any firm place upon which to stand. But the words and ethical standards of the Bible, though controversial to some, have proven to be firm, eternal and a solid place to not only stand on, but a solid foundation on which to build a successful and godly life.