Every day we make decisions based upon our assumptions concerning truth. Consider the popular yet profoundly erroneous assumptions people make today concerning ultimate realities:
- Human existence is the result of evolutionary processes mixed with time and chance
- There is no God, no creator, and no ultimate being that we are accountable to
- God has not given objective revelation of His actions, purposes, or will
- The Bible is a book of stories, created by humans, which has been changed, expanded and edited over eons of human history
- Humans are the ultimate arbiters of truth: we discover, we interpret, we declare what WE believe is true, making 'truth' something not objective, but totally man-affirmed and man-centered
How radically different are the assumptions of the redeemed. When we enter into covenant relationship with Christ and are saved from our sin (the sinful nature and sin's power) by faith, we are spiritually regenerated with the capacity to see and understand all of reality from Christ's perspective. We know that it is Jesus 'in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Colossians 2:3 NKJV), and that knowledge is not infallibly found within our fallen minds, our fallen condition. We must be taught, and the Counselor, God's Holy Spirit, leads, guides, teaches, convicts, and comforts us in a lifelong process of transformation (consider again Paul's words in Romans 12:1-2). The regenerated heart understands that the Scriptures are God's perfect, inerrant revelation to us: 'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work' (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).
How can Scripture do this? Because it is the very Word of the living God. This most fundamental understanding concerning the nature of Scripture MUST BE a part of every Christian's grasp of core biblical doctrine. Indeed, it is a basic postulate of saving faith, since in order to be saved one must believe the word preached about who Christ is and what He has done (Romans 10:6-10). When an individual surrenders their heart to Christ they come to more completely trust the Holy Scriptures in the same way Jesus always trusted them: The Scriptures are wholly true and without error. Jesus said, 'For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled' (Matthew 5:18 NKJV). Such an understanding of all of Scripture ought to be shared by ALL true Christians at all times. We are to close the door on any so-called knowledge that raises itself up against the revealed truth of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). At no time are we granted permission to buddy up to unbelieving secularists just to make ourselves feel like we are being more intellectually respectable.
A Clear Illustration of the Problem
While reading a blog on BibleGateway.com I was intrigued by the August 19, 2011 posting entitled 'The Story Behind the 10 Plagues.' As a Christian Pastor, Bible teacher, and the Director of ABR, I read the article with interest but with ever-increasing incredulousness. Displayed before me was a textbook example of reasoning controlled by humanist and secularist presuppositions. The blog's author not only expressed numerous distortions emanating from secular assumptions, but he recommended an article by author Ziony Zevit found on the Bible History Daily website entitled: 'Three ways to look at the Ten Plagues,' an article filled with human speculation that exalts human reasoning over divine revelation. Should it trouble us that someone from a Christian website urges Christians to read distorted articles by non-Christian authors who do not believe that the words of the Bible are from God? I think it should. I regularly read articles by non-Christians who offer up opinions concerning biblical accounts, but I am discerning enough to note their unbelief and rampant skepticism. There may be some scholarly value in their research and insights, but I am always careful to explain the errors of their secular assumptions to my students. Deeply troubling to me was the tacit endorsement Zevit's article on the Bible Gateway blog: such an endorsement, without any critical evaluation of the faulty theological assumptions feeds into erroneous views of Scripture and can and does trip up new believers who are deceived into thinking that they cannot trust what God has revealed in Scripture.
Examining Some of the Specific Statements
Here are some examples of distortions I encountered on the blog, which quoted directly from the article: 'Three ways to look at the Ten Plagues,' by Ziony Zevit. Please note how all of these comments from the blog and the article ultimately undermine God's authority as the author of Scripture:
'The Story Behind the Plagues' is the title of the blog and reveals that the text of Scripture requires us to discover what the biblical 'story' is really about (the plain meaning of the text apparently needs human reinterpretation and analysis to validate its meaning.) Its one thing to approach a biblical account searching out its historical and cultural backgrounds to better grasp the historical context, but its an entirely different matter to believe that a biblical account cannot be trusted as revelation from God and that it is totally true in its straightforward, plain, and obvious meaning. The implication of the very title of this blog is that the plain meaning of what God has told us is not to be received or believed at face value.
Our Bible Gateway blogger stated, 'I'll bet it's the rare person who reads the story of the Ten Plagues and doesn't find him- or herself brimming with questions: did the Ten Plagues occur exactly as described in the text?' (emphasis mine). This observation echoes what Zevit states in his article: 'Did the plagues actually occur in the order and manner described in Exodus?' Let's just rephrase these questions in plain language: Are we to believe that the biblical account of the plagues are Scripture, from God, and true, or should we use human speculation to try to reinterpret its historical and theological meaning according to the philosophical assumptions of skepticism? The elephant in the room is the blatant arrogance of modern scholars (and bloggers!) who place their intellect above Scripture. Indeed, when we come to Scripture we ought to be asking what God has plainly spoken and then draw clear lessons to inform our lives in obedience to Scripture. The very sort of questions that our blogger seems to think should come naturally first to our minds as we read the 'story' of the plagues reveals a form of intellectual idolatry and distortion that we are called to repent of, not emulate.
Let me clarify that I EXPECT unbelievers to ask questions and make assertions that reflect their unbelief and skepticism. I DO NOT expect responsible Christian scholars and commentators to affirm them in their error and to encourage other Christians to consider their skeptical deductions as something worthy of endorsement. Have we forgotten the counsel of 1 Corinthians 2:14: 'But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned' (NKJV). This effort to yoke ourselves to the unspiritual, natural mind can produce nothing but spiritual death.
'Are [the plagues] metaphorical descriptions of natural disasters or other crises that befell Egypt?' and 'Is this 'just' a historical account, or is there theological significance in the different plagues?'
The real question is, how does one find 'theological significance' in the plagues if they are NOT historical? If the plagues are simply 'metaphorical descriptions' of natural disasters how can they be said to be from God at all? This approach simply reflects a classic two-story approach: since miracles only happen in the fantasy of mystical religious whimsy (upper story), and only normal 'scientific' explanations can validly explain natural phenomena (the lower story), the plain sense meaning of the plagues as literal miraculous events is impossible (in their view.) Note once again the ASSUMPTIONS that are underlying the questions being asked. Note the disaster of how such false assumptions exert a force so great that our blogger feels compelled to find ANY other explanation other than the plain meaning!
'Are there any ancient documents or other types of evidence corroborating that they took place or that something like them took place?'
And why is this necessary? God has declared that these events occurred, and that is all that is necessary, if you actually believe in the inspiration of Scripture. When we do find corroborating accounts or archaeological evidences they can rightly be used to encourage skeptics to understand that the Bible in totally trustworthy in all of its assertions. But when believers encourage other believers to verify in secular records what is in the sacred, prophetic word, the elephant has taken up his place in the middle of the room once again. A sound view of Scripture sees God's word as the center of truth from which all other sources of knowledge find their validity; not the other way around.
'Can the less realistic and surrealistic plagues be explained as natural phenomena?'
'Less realistic and surrealistic'! What a patent acknowledgment that God has not (does not?) act in history and that miracles cannot occur in this closed system of naturalism! Again, how can we as Christians affirm that this sort of analysis has any biblical warrant whatsoever? The God who created the heavens and the earth and who raised Jesus from the dead could and did bring the plagues upon the Egyptians just as He has told us in the sacred text.
These examples provide more than enough evidence to illustrate the pervasive problem we now face. The conclusion to the matter is to challenge sincere Christians, scholars and students alike, to confront the powerful delusion that has overcome this generation. We MUST repent of our love of the gods of Secularism, Reason, and Human Autonomy. We must flee from the distorted philosophical assumptions of this age and pray that our minds would be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of the living God.
Jesus words have never been more true: 'Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall' (Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV).