Are We Wrong to Expect the Bible's Assertions to be Reliable? Part 2 by Steve Stewart

 Steve Stewart was a music pastor in a large Evangelical church who's now a freethinker. 



And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.      -Hebrews 11:6
Why is “faith” so important?  How can people in the 21st Century be expected to believe as absolute truth statements written down thousands of years ago purportedly from God and about God, but without current substantiation to affirm the trustworthiness of the statements?  The fact is, In order to trust God, we must trust/believe
  • The Bible
  • The versions of the Bible we read, and all the people involved in the translation processes from the original languages.
  • The fallible 4th Century men who finally decided which books should be part of the Bible, since God did not “dictate” what the list should include and exclude.
  • The people who actually penned the original manuscripts thousands of years ago that became the Bible
  • The absolute purity of memories of several generations of people who passed the stories and ideas on to others who passed them on to others, etc., down through the years before they were written down
  • The people who hand-wrote copies of the copies of the copies of the original manuscripts, none of which have survived.
  • The absolute integrity of every person involved in producing the Bible, from the first person who gave an account or a testimony of an event or teaching, to the translator of the ancient languages.
  • That nobody who wrote down any part of the Bible, nor anybody who passed on oral tradition before it was written down, had any hidden or private agendas, or had any private point of view which influenced how he/she worded any phrase or sentence.  Further, that no one involved exaggerated, lied, minced words, or altered or added words to the original.
  • All who were part of the process behind the Bible - the hundreds of men and women who lived thousands of years ago, most of whose identities, motives, ethics, life-issues, religious and cultural “baggage,” and intellect or emotional health we know nothing about.


Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases…
                           -Psalm 103:1-3

 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
                          -James 5:14-15

We pray for many people to be cured of cancer and many other illnesses and diseases, but can anyone be named who is genuinely and instantly healed without medicine or medical intervention?  I heard all kinds of excuses which involve “not enough faith,” but I have seen extreme exhibition and demonstration of faith that made no difference at all.  My own brother, who developed pancreatic cancer, was prayed over for months by hundreds of people.  On the day before he died, people with an extreme amount of faith declared to all of us family that he most certainly would recover, because they had prayed in faith believing God for a miracle.  Their assertions were, of course, false.


Praise the Lord, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
-Psalm 103:2, 4-5
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 8:38-39

Why did God choose to kill everyone on the planet – some 20,000,000 we are told, except for Noah and his family - by the horrible death of drowning (Genesis, Chapter 7)?  This is much worse than waterboarding torture, which we humans reluctantly and sparingly use on only the most dangerous people on the planet.   What about the countless “innocent” animals that drowned?  Noah, presumably the best man God could find, wasn’t all that righteous - he became drunk, disrobed, and later pronounced an undeserved curse on the son of Ham, who saw him in his birthday suit.  This curse was tragically cited in 19th Century America as justification for slavery by Christians in the Southern States who had bought innocent people - kidnapped from their native Africa and cruelly transported to the Western hemisphere for that purpose.  Noah’s curse lent itself to that dastardly interpretation in antebellum America, whether anyone today agrees with it or not.
Why does God afflict torment and suffering for no apparent reason on people and other living things He has created?  How can some mortal people show more compassion, grace and mercy for others than God Himself shows?  Many people devote their lives to alleviating as much suffering as they can.  Why don’t I see God doing the same?  James 2:16 rebukes people who would do nothing about someone’s physical needs, but only pronounce a blessing over them.  If believers are supposed to emulate God and live godly lives (2 Peter 3:11), why don’t we see God meeting the physical needs of desperate people?
Similarly, why does God cause or allow physical pain, suffering, torment, privation and martyrdom for those who have sacrificed their very lives and careers for HIM and His plans in full-time missionary work, and are strongly obedient to God and His call?
If how we treat others is how we treat Christ (Matthew 25:40, 45), why doesn’t that apply to God?  He has the power to treat everyone well, and instead lets millions of people go through torture.  Why?


Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
    intent on putting them to death;
but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
    or let them be condemned when brought to trial.  -Psalm 37:1, 2, 32-33

The Bible says, (Ecclesiastes 8:11)Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”  So I don’t understand why God has not acted quickly to execute His sentences against those guilty of mass slaughter of millions, such as Josef Stalin (responsible for at least 20 million deaths), Adolf Hitler (12 million people), Hideki Tojo (5 million), Kim Il Sung (1.6 million), Leopold II of Belgium (8 million), Mao Zedong (at least 49 million people), Idi Amin (300,000 people), Pol Pot (2 million people), Mathieu Ngirumpatse (800,000 people), Saddam Hussein (600 Thousand) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (more than 200,000)?  We humans did not have the power to take them out when they began their evil work.  So why didn’t God?
One of the central stories of the Bible portrays God miraculously engineering the release of “His Chosen People” from captivity in Egypt (Exodus 12-14). Some 3400 years later, why did God allow six million of their descendents to be assaulted and murdered during the holocaust?  Why didn’t God do anything to stop the torturous treatment of His people?
Some have told me that people like Hitler will be punished severely by God for their misdeeds.  But even if those evilest of despots suffer physical burning for a billion billion years, how would that help even one person who couldn’t escape the torture inflicted on them by wicked men?


But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.  -Psalm 86:15
The Bible says God is “slow to anger.”  So why did God strike Uzzah dead for trying to do the “right thing” by keeping the ark of the covenant from falling, when it was KING DAVID’S FAULT that it was on the cart instead of being carried with poles through the rings? (2 Samuel 6).
Why did God give into Elisha’s anger and cause two bears to maul 42 children (2 Kings 2)?
Several years ago well-known pastor/speaker/writer Rob Bell gave a talk “The Gods Are Not Angry.”  But he wasn’t including Yahweh, right?  It’s pretty obvious God got angry and killed people when they didn’t obey God to the letter (at least in Old Testament times).  Was it because of His anger at us humans that Jesus had to be pierced and his blood flowed?  Is God angry every time a baby is born because it is born with a sinful and fallen soul/spirit (and thus is destined for eternal torture in hell)?


I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
   and from the deadly pestilence.

You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble,
   I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
-from Psalm 91

My help comes from the Lord,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore.
                          -from Psalm 121

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  So why is God allowing the spread of HIV/AIDS to the innocent 1,000 babies born with HIV every day?  About 10,380 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015. About 1,250 children younger than 15 years old are expected to die from cancer in 2015. Why doesn’t God care enough about these suffering youngsters and their families to intervene?
Why doesn’t God protect from harm the brave firefighters who risk their lives to protect people and their property from death and destruction?  Couldn’t God have turned away the heavy wind of fire from the 19 young firefighters “Granite Mountain Hotshots” on June 30, 2013?  Their mission was to protect life and property, but they were all burned to death when the fierce wind shifted and pushed the fire – started by a lightning strike - at them.  If God is in charge of the weather, why did God let this happen?  Why didn’t God intervene?
Since God is the One who “changes a wilderness into a pool of water, and a dry land into springs of water” (Psalm 107:35), why doesn’t He supply clean water to the helplessly parched, dehydrated children of the world, 5,000 of whom are dying each day due to dirty water?
Why doesn’t God send His angels to protect and keep safe vanloads and busloads of youth, senior citizens, and their pastors/leaders from churches traveling to and from Christian camps, retreats and other events?  We frequently hear of them being in crashes resulting in major injuries and death.  I know of three godly men serving the Lord who were killed by falling tree limbs.
Church buildings where God’s most faithful people worship Him in Spirit and Truth are randomly destroyed by lightning strikes, gas explosions, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, and other “acts of God.”  Why?
Some pastors say we live in a fallen world where accidents happen, and that we have heaven to look forward to where all this will be gone.  But the passages above give no qualifications about the effects of the fall voiding the promises.  And Psalm 121 ends, “both now and forevermore,” which means the promises are not limited to the “forevermore” part.
In the fall of 2013 a massive 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the island nation of the Philippines , followed a few weeks later by the massive typhoon Haiyan striking the same country — killing perhaps 6,000 people. Approximately 700,000 were displaced ... 11.3 million impacted.  Is God really “in control” as we say and sing in our services?
As a matter of fact, what empirical evidence exists that God has ever done anything to intervene in verifiable history to protect the people and animals on the planet he created from disastrous forces - hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fiery conflagrations, tsunamis, earthquakes - that he himself set in motion eons ago?
Romans 11:34 teaches us that we are not able to understand the mind of God.  That’s fine if we can’t figure out why He would lead someone to attend IU instead of Purdue, but when it comes to Him allowing or causing His sons and daughters to be tortured, ought we not to be able to understand why?


“The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made….The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”  - Psalm 145:9, 14-16  
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?   -James 2:16

In August of 2014 I received a contribution-request letter from Food For the Hungry, stating “Each minute, 12 children die from hunger related causes.”  That’s 720 children who starve each hour, 17,280 every day, 120,960 each week, and astounding 6,307,200 children who starve to death each year.  How can the God “from whom all blessings flow” stand passively by and allow that to happen?  


Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.  –Psalm 37:4

So I [Jesus] say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. - Luke 11:9

And I [Jesus] will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.  - John 14:13-14

 If you remain in me [Jesus] and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  - John 15:7

Why should we need to beg and plead with God to do what the Bible says is His perfect will, such as His desire that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and that we make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20)?  If we really want to do what God asked us to do, why doesn’t God clear the way before us so that we can accomplish the goals He gave us?  More often than not, there are insurmountable roadblocks preventing us from doing what God has told us to do, such as lack of money and other resources, visas not granted, hostile conditions of all kinds, etc.
Why doesn’t God respond when we beg Him for rain or subsiding of floods, fires, and other “natural disasters” that cause His people so much pain and misery?  I have always thought that God is ultimately in control of these things.  Isn’t that true?  We frequently pray for those whose lives have been devastated by floods, hurricanes, tornados, etc.  If God answer prayers for comfort, strength, health and peace for these people, why not just spare them - in the first place - the horrific damage, ruined lives and heartache caused by violent weather, which we call “acts of God”?
1 John 4:20 says, “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.…”   Is it not the same logic for me to say this:  The one who does not observe God answering prayers in the present, physical world (e.g. healing of body, protection from danger) cannot believe God will answer prayers regarding the future, spiritual world (e.g. salvation of soul)?
Are we wasting our time when we ask God for things like financial help, a new job, repair of relationships?  It doesn’t seem like God is interested in answering those prayers.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  -James 5:14-15
I have never seen this promise from James 5 fulfilled, even though the elders again and again followed the directions given.  Why?
I have also never seen the promise fulfilled given by Jesus in John 14:13-14 about requests made in His name.  Why?
I feel so badly when I see the same prayer requests submitted by people in our congregation week after week, month after month.  They seem like legitimate and worthy requests.  Can’t God mercifully grant most of these requests from His faithful servants?   One person who has served God well, faithfully, effectively and sacrificially for many years turned in the same three strong requests for months.
If prayers are answered at all, it seems as if the ones answered are from people whose needs for God’s help at the TOP of the HIERARCHY OF NEEDS pyramid .  Believers seek peace, confidence, comfort, emotional strength.  But it seems to me that God seldom--if ever--hears and answers prayers and pleadings of millions of people at the BOTTOM of the pyramid, who need food, water and shelter, and are thus in FAR MORE physical, mental, and emotional pain than those at the top.  Why is this?
Every time there is a National Day of Prayer, people quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  For years and years people have been obeying the “if” part.  Why haven’t I ever seen God respond with the “then” part?
How much should we pray about something?   Should we “wait on God” for the answer, since He totally knows what’s on our mind even before we pray, or do we risk insulting Him – as if he didn’t hear the first time – by requesting the same thing over and over?
When the books now known as the Bible were originally written, the only way to share a prayer request was by word of mouth or handwritten letter.  Today people post prayer requests to hundreds and thousands of people at a time through email, twitter, Facebook, etc., apparently thinking that more people praying will get God’s ear.  Does God now need 10 times more people imploring Him to respond to a specific request than in pre-technology days?  
None of this seems to matter anyway.  I’m thinking of 25-year-old Rebekah Shinabarger., who was an exceptionally gifted and hard-working servant of Christ.  She seemingly had an extremely worthwhile and successful future ahead of her, ready for great medical and spiritual accomplishments.  But her body was suddenly stricken with a serious illness, never to recover.  Hundreds of people contacted through emails, church lists and Facebook prayed for her. But she died on Christmas morning 2014.  How many more examples like this could be given?  
And where are there examples [other than what can be read in the Bible] where it was obvious and unquestionable that God Himself intervened to heal someone instantly and completely as an answer to prayer?  I’ve never seen it.  

--To be continued--