Why does the Old Testament sound like folklore?

Monday Musings for April 05, 2021

(Caution: adult material follows.)

Good morning, Musers,

I’m going to run three scenarios by you today; they are decidedly adult. The setup is that you and your spouse are making love in the daytime, fully nude and uncovered, and three different people come into the room accidentally (one at a time). They catch you “in flagrante delicto” if you will, and they each process what they’ve seen differently.

In the first scenario, it’s your seven-year-old daughter. She has no idea what she is seeing, so she yells something like, “What are you doing!” Chances are, she simply cannot process what she has just seen, so she flees the room in terror. You comfort her by saying that you are both alright… telling her, this is a special way that mommies and daddies can love one another when they are alone together… and someday she will understand.

In the second scenario, it’s your 16-year-old son who walks in. He yells, “Oh! Gross!”... and closes the door. In the days that follow, he works hard at not being in the same room with you — and when he can’t avoid it, he avoids eye contact. Here, your son has processed the data, but he is immature in his thinking. This shows up in his reluctance to talk to you about it.

In the third scenario, it is your best friend from next door who walks in on you. You and she were supposed to go shopping today — but your husband “distracted” you. Your friend knows that you are a responsible person, and you would have called her if plans had changed, so she assumes there is an emergency and uses the spare key you gave her to enter your house.

Now, it also happens that you and your husband don’t make much noise during sex, so when your friend puts her ear to your bedroom door, she doesn’t hear anything. She gives a quick knock while she pushes open the door… and then goes, “Oops.” She laughs and says, “I’d rather do that than shopping too — but we had a date! Call me when you are through!”

As to processing, since your friend is also married, and since she has a healthy sex life, she understood what she saw, and it was easy for her to process events and make mature conclusions.

When it comes to the textual criticism of the Bible, every one of you is at one of these points of maturity. If you grew up learning Creation Science instead of science — and if you have never challenged that paradigm and progressed in the way you interpret the Bible — when you open the door to textual criticism, your response will be, “What are you doing?” You will be like the child in the first scenario… not being able to understand the excellencies of mature love.

You might, however, be at the point where you are taking a serious look at your parent’s religion. You have received Christ and are saved... but you know that there are problems with a literalistic interpretation of the Old Testament — and you can’t ignore those problems any longer. After all, it’s hard enough to be a Christian! Why add on something you can’t defend?

So you open the door to textual criticism, and once you see what’s inside, you understand that your life will never be the same. You cannot un-see the problem of literalistic interpretations any more than you can un-see your parents having sex. You would be the teen in the second scenario.

I received Christ as a young adult when I was just starting in my marriage and career. As such, I did not have that second-generation Christian experience. I had some version of it, though… cutting my teeth on the King James Bible and interpreting everything literalistically. That's how I was taught — and I didn’t know what else to do!

But it didn’t take me long to start challenging that paradigm. I suspected that it could not be sustainable, but I was new at this so I didn’t understand hermeneutics or epistemology. I saw no way to affirm inerrancy if language still worked under its normal rules.

But here’s the thing: I was genuinely saved — and I had the indwelling Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit did not replace my brain… and the more I studied the Bible, the more I realized that people were interpreting some passages arbitrarily — and by that I mean without warrant. Christians equated holding the most literalistic hermeneutic with holding the “strongest” stand on God’s word. That’s not true. Here’s what I believe now.

If you think that you are locked into believing that the earth is only thousands of years old because the Bible unequivocally says so in Genesis, you are wrong… and you should fix that. Christians should be all about truth, not about what conforms to a fundamentalist idea of hermeneutics. We need to step away from Ken Ham’s teachings at Answers in Genesis and take a step toward Dr. William Lane Craig’s teachings at Reasonable Faith Ministries.

You see, what’s behind the bedroom door will send you packing if you do not disavow Creation Science. You cannot mature as a Bible-believing Christian unless you do. If you remain faithful to the Creation Science paradigm, you will become like the Amish. You will be a pious curiosity, of little use in spreading the Gospel.

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)