Dear Marty Sampson,

We don’t know each other. We live in different cities and move in different circles. But, I’m really feeling for you right now. In fact, that’s an understatement. I’m grieving for you. For all those issues you raised like

            Preachers fail but no one talks about it

            Not many miracles happen but no one talks about it

            The Bible has contradictions, but no one talks about it.

            God condemns people to hell ‘all coz’ they don’t believe. And no one talks about it.

Here’s the thing: The Bible talks about all of those things. Jesus and Paul are startlngly clear on all of the above. They spoke or wrote about these things. These issues are all in the Bible and addressed by the Bible. Your church should have been teaching you these things and talking about these things because they are in the Bible.

Let me show you:

Jesus is wary of miracles even when he was the miracle worker

On miracles Jesus reveals a lot. People desire to see miraculous things for their own self-satisfaction.[1] People fail to see past the miracles to Jesus and so Jesus refused to carry out miracles.[2]  Jesus even taught that miracles will fail to convince people of the truth.

In Luke chapter 16 Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and a rich man. The rich man in death begs that Lazarus might come back from the dead and go to the rich man’s brothers to warn them. Jesus finishes his story with these words from Abraham’s lips to the rich man.

 ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

You can’t get more miraculous than a dead man raised. And yet, Jesus says miracles won’t matter a hoot if people already refuse to accept God’s word in the Old Testament. Miracles are ambiguous and are not a failsafe proof of God.

And if that is not enough, the Bible shows that deeds of power can be done by those who do not know God and indeed, hate him.[3]

Marty, your church should have been talking about these things because they are in the Bible.

The Bible requires careful reading

When it comes to the Bible - it can seem contradictory. For it is really a library of books, 66 in total, written with different genres and styles. But I don’t think it really is contradictory – it needs to be read carefully.

Let’s take the classic issue from Genesis 4. Cain marries a woman. Many people ask – where did this woman come from since there are only Adam, Eve and Cain? But if we read a little further, into the next chapter, we see that Adam and Eve had many more children, both sons and daughters who then went on to have sons and daughters. Cain has simply married one of these. The woman was a descendent of Adam and Eve. Chapter 4 is simply flashing forward in Cain’s life to tell you the next significant event for him.

The Bible is a clear book. Yes, it can take time to understand it and sometimes we need some help. That’s why finding a church that teaches the Bible deeply and clearly really matters. That’s why we Christians need to open the Bible regularly and consistently for ourselves.

And yes, you’re right. People do fail to understand the Bible and people do contradict each other on what the Bible means. But here’s the thing. This is in the Bible!  Jesus fought with the religious leaders of his time over their deliberate neglect of the Scriptures and their failure to understand it and apply it.[4]  Peter writes that wicked men twist the Scriptures.[5] Jesus had to lovingly rebuked his own disciples because they didn’t get it.[6] The challenge to read the Bible carefully and listen closely are in the Bible.

I’m sorry your church and the Christians around you weren’t helping you see this.

This takes us to another failure: a failure in leadership.

The Bible warns that preachers and leaders fail

You cannot read the letters of the Apostle Paul and fail to notice that preachers fail. Paul himself speaks of being betrayed by those he thought were companions in the Christian faith.[7] He even warns with the fiercest language in the book of Acts, that from among the Christians leaders (and therefore preachers) that savage wolves would arise.[8] Yes, Paul warned not only that preachers and leaders would fail but that they would deliberately savage the sheep. Marty, you should have been warned about the failure of leaders because it is clear in the Scriptures.

God’s petty reason for condemning people

And perhaps, what saddens me most is your understanding of God’s judgement. Your disbelief comes from God’s small-minded condemnation of people to hell just because they don’t believe. This is not the picture the Bible reveals.

In John’s gospel this issue is put with searing clarity.

Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

(John chapter 3 verses 18-19)

I’m sure you can see the link. The rejection of Jesus is a choice for evil. Jesus, the light has come but ‘people loved the darkness.’  The Bible makes this clear. People are not condemned just because they don’t believe or trust God. People reject Jesus, ultimately, because they love and choose evil. This single passage shows that God’s judgement is deeply related to justice. This is all through the Bible. It’s why we Christians must engage with what the Bible says – not with verses quoted out of context on instagram but chapter by chapter.

And finally, science

I didn’t mention it earlier but you said ‘science pierces all religions.’ Many people have engaged with the Bible to show that it presents a reality that is not pierced by science. Rather, the Bible shows a reality that underpins science and gives science meaning. A church that takes truth seriously ought to point you to the many excellent resources on this issue.

Marty, can I encourage you to start again with the Bible. Find a church that teaches the Bible clearly and consistently. Pick up a good version of the Bible and start again with the life, words and deeds of Jesus.

Perhaps the issues you shared in your post are not the whole story. Our hearts are deep and our hurts are deep. But healing and spiritual truth are found by meeting Jesus in the pages of the Bible. Go there, seek him.

Yours in Jesus,

Glenn

 

[1] John 6

[2] Mark 6 & 8

[3] Exodus 7, Acts 16

[4] Matthew 2, Mark 7,

[5] 2 Peter 3

[6] Luke 24

[7] 2 Timothy 3 & 4

[8] Acts 20